Margaret and Hal, Part One

Sometimes, immersing in the music contemporary to a novel’s setting helps. With my current WIP, A Scandalous Reputation, it’s essential. As an avant-garde literary personage and a musician herself, Margaret’s taste in music flavored the whole story, not just the playlist, and often when I’m working on this mss, I’ll listen to the era-appropriate music.

This is what you might have heard as a guest, like Hal, at Blackstone House in 1910-11.

1. “Dreaming” – Metropolitan Trio (1909)

One of many songs played on the Gramophone that Margaret and Hal dance to together. Several popular artists of the day, including Albert Campbell and Harry Macdonough, recorded it, but I like the Metropolitan Trio’s better than a solo voice.

2. “The Cubanola Glide” – Billy Murray (1910)

Songs based on either a dance, or an “exotic” locale like Italy, “the Orient,” or Cuba, were extremely popular themes in Tin Pan Alley songs. This one has both, and the lyrics include dance step instructions. Several other “glide” dances, like the Grizzly Glide and the Gaby Glide, would become popular at this time.

3. Les Pêcheurs de Perles: “Del tempio al limitar” – Enrico Caruso

Margaret would have prefered this “imperfect” opera to Bizet’s later and more popular composition, Carmen. By the time Margaret was entertaining at Blackstone House, Caruso’s recordings were readily available… but she likely would have met the celebrated tenor at a London hotel dinner party as well.

4. “I Love My Wife, But Oh, You Kid!” – Billy Murray (1909)

Doubtless Margaret would not have been able to bring herself to play or dance to this sprightly Tin Pan Alley song, no matter how catchy. Even if played for comedy, the song about husbands having a little side-dish would have struck too close to home.

5. “Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland” — Henry Burr (1910)

Even at her most cynical, Margaret might have felt a sentimental flutter at this song’s lyrics.

6. “That Mesmerizing Mendelssohn Tune” — Pat Phillips (1909)

Mendelssohn was not one of Margaret’s favorite composers, but she would have appreciated the incorporation of the classical references with the popular music in this Irving Berlin tune. I can imagine Hal bringing the music for this knowing it will make her laugh.

7. “The Ragtime Dance” – Scott Joplin (1906)

Margaret was fascinated by rag-time music, both to dance to and to play. As a young, titled, unmarried woman in her family home, she would have to play something like this surreptitiously, since no proper young lady of her station would engage in “piano thumping.”

8.  Gymnopédies – Erik Satie

An eccentric French composer, Satie often broke down the elements of classical composition, simplifying or stripping away the overdone “Romantic” elements in a modern way. Margaret loved the melancholy atmosphere of these three pieces, and would particularly appreciate their composition based on several works of French literature.

9. Miroirs – Maurice Ravel

This lush, eloquent five-part composition is just the type of thing Margaret likes best. With melodies that move in unexpected ways, and impressionistic tones, this piece is innovative and challenging without being utterly disruptive.

10. “Mister Othello” – Ada Jones (1909)

Along with her frequent duet partner, Billy Murray, Ada Jones was one of the most popular recording artists of the early 1900s. This song is certainly not the first time a girl has fallen misguidedly for the hero of a literary work, something that Margaret would find amusing, and something I included for the meta-meta-ness of Romance MMCs. (Although if I want to be meta-meta-meta, I should include Jones’s “I Want to be a Merry Widow”!)

If you’re interested in hearing some of these tunes for yourself, click here.


One thought on “Music for Writing: Edwardian Romance

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