I'm listening to Ralph Vaughan Williams's orchestration of "Greensleeves" on one of my dad's old vinyl records. This is one of my favorite songs, and this record is more muted and dull than many of his others. I don't mean dull in a bad way, which I guess means I am fishing for a word and coming up with the wrong one. It's a fifty year-old album, give or take, and probably got some use. It's not scratchy or crackly, but a little flat— maybe from wear, maybe it was never a great recording to begin with. But this flat, faded, almost AM radio sound works for "Greensleeves," that mournful, elegaic tune about... what, lost love? Williams's version is instrumental and I don't know the lyrics of the folk song it's based on, but I think it is a man remembering a woman he loved. To me the melody is so sad and beautiful that it must be the longing of someone around ninety, and not just for a long lost love but for a whole world, for an era and way of life that is now gone. What had seemed so alive, what was so alive, some gorgeous young woman in her distinctive green sleeves-- not only does he miss her, he mourns her, and not only her but his youth and everyone and everything he knew. That's what the song feels like to me, and the aged, faded quality of my dad's old record makes it more apt to the emotional core of the song than any higher fidelity recording.
Today would have been my mom's 81st birthday.