Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Album Cover

When I was about 8, I came across a picture I drew as a younger child.  I don't remember at what age I drew the picture, but I was quite amazed by it.  My eight year old self was quite impressed.  It was a picture of the album cover of The Sound of Music. 

My parents used to play the record and I would listen to it.  I suppose at some point I picked up a pencil and paper and I began to draw.  I don't remember how old I was, nor do I even remember drawing the picture but it was evident that I tried to recreate the album cover.  As you can see, Maria was the focus of the picture on the album.  I drew her the same way, with a guitar in one hand, a bag in the other, and a billowing skirt as she made her way over a mountain of green.  I drew the seven children and the Captain as stick figures, partly because I couldn't draw them, and partly because they weren't as important to me as Maria was.  Then, just as on the album cover, I wrote "The Sound of Music" in my childish, undeveloped handwriting.  It was a great picture.  I wish I had kept it.

As far back as I could remember, I always knew the songs from the album.  I remember my father singing Edelweiss in his deep baritone.  I knew all the lyrics to the songs sung by children.  I didn't really think of the songs beyond what they were, just songs.  I had no idea of the correlation between the songs and the album cover.  Then, the summer I turned six, the movie was released in India.  Back in those days, it took quite a few years for an American movie to make it to the other side of the world.  My parents sent me to watch the movie with my older brother.  I had been to the movies before, but I don't remember them ever holding my interest.  I had to sit still and quietly through them, and it was a lot to ask of a six year old.  But this was different.  This was The Sound of Music.  I watched the movie.  That's when everything fell into place.  I began to understand what the songs had to do with the album cover that I used to love to draw.  That was my light-bulb moment, if ever there was one.

I settled into my seat in the movie theater.  As the familiar overture played over a picturesque view of the camera panning over rolling green hills, a speck appeared on the screen.  David leaned over to me.  "That's Maria."  I watched, breathless, as she twirled around and burst into song.  "The hills are alive with the sound of music, with songs they have sung for a thousand years."  I began to hum along.  David shushed me.  Even though I was just six years old, I knew I was watching something special.  The songs I had known forever took on a whole new perspective when paired with a visual to add meaning to it.  I settled in for what I remember as the best three hours of my life (or at least, that's how long it seemed).  The movie went on.  "Maria", or as I used to call it, "How Do You Solve  Problem".  "I Have Confidence". 

Then, just as Maria met her charges for the first time,  I was introduced to the children.  I didn't remember their names, but it didn't matter.  Being a child myself, I could so relate to them, especially the younger of the seven.  I remember the youngest, Gretl.  She was adorable!  Cute as a button, and 5 years old, which she indicated by holding her hand up, with all five fingers in display.  

I got deeper into the movie as time went by.  I just loved when Maria sang,"My Favorite Things" during a thunderstorm.  I watched as she took them to a picnic and taught them to sing, "Do Re Mi."  Although I didn't quite understand it back then, I remember being happy for the children when their father had a change of heart and sang with them.  I remember the actor I now know as Christopher Plummer, singing the song Edelweiss. I remember thinking that he didn't sound quite so good as my father.  And so it went.  I don't know if it was because I knew every song or if it was watching the songs come alive with the movie, or if it just was the fact that I was now old enough to appreciate a good movie, but I know that the whole experience had a profound effect on me.  I wanted to watch it again and I did that summer.  I had never watched a movie more than once before.

Fast forward to four years later and the movie was released again.  This time my parents took my younger brother and I to watch it.  I watched the rolling hills once again, and the little speck of a person amid all that green.  I leaned over to my younger brother Jonathan.  "That's Maria," I told him, just as David had told me.  I noticed a lot more this time around of watching the movie.  I understood better what the song, "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" was all about.  The romance that developed with Maria and the Captain was not something I really thought about when I was six.  I definitely took notice this time.  I thought it was awesome when they married each other.  

As the years went by, I watched the movie again and again.  No matter how many times I watched it, those rolling hills and the speck of a person at the beginning of the movie gave me the chills.  Each time, it took me back to when I was six.  Every subsequent viewing of the movie came with new realizations.  Songs to which I didn't pay much attention began to make sense.  The title song, "The Sound of Music", used to be kind of boring when I was six.  It was just a whole lot of big words with a melancholy tune back then.  So was "Climb Every Mountain".  But when I heard these songs through the ears a girl who had grown up, the words were so profound, empowering and filled with promise.  I could really appreciate the genius that was the music of Rogers and Hammerstein.  

The timelessness of the story and the songs are what make The Sound of Music pure magic.  The movie is now two years shy of its 50th birthday.  

That is why I balked at the mere thought of a remake.  Why try to mess around with something so perfect?

Just as I thought, the remake for television was a horrible idea.  Nobody, but nobody could take the place of Julie Andrews' Maria.  Not even Carrie Underwood, a singer who I actually really like and admire.  None of the actors, not even the children, were good.  The whole project seemed to be a mockery of the original.  I just about tolerated five minutes of it, after which I could not watch anymore.

When I was a child, I used to draw a picture of the album cover.  Come to think of it, it is quite possible that I drew it after watching the movie for the first time. Maria was the focus of the picture.  As I said before,  I used to draw her with a guitar in one hand, a bag in the other, with a billowing skirt as she made her way over the mountains.  I drew her in great detail.  Nobody was as important in the drawing as Julie Andrews as Maria.

I cannot begin to fathom ever wanting to draw a Carrie Underwood Maria.