01 March 2014

3rd Annual Challenge of Music :: Personal Playlists

Welcome to the 3rd Annual Challenge of Music!

This year for the third annual Challenge of Music, I thought we should take a walk down a musical memory lane. As I mentioned in the invitation post, I wanted us to relive the songs of our past, the ones that connect us to our personal history and that hold a special place in our hearts.

I decided that I would pick three years that were pivotal to my life. There were lots of different years to choose from... 1978 when I moved from my childhood home in Crystal, MN to my current hometown of Stevens Point, WI... 1986 when I graduated from high school... 1992 when I got married to my best friend and high school sweetheart... but I decided to go a different route.

I selected the years of 1968, 1998 and 2001.

1968 was a big year. The Vietnam War was raging... we lost Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy to assassinations... the Civil Rights Act was passed into law... my parents were married on February 3rd... and I was born, five weeks premature, on August 11th.

The music in 1968 was pretty awesome, too. There was a huge variety of hits that year from 'Chain of Fool's by Aretha Franklin to 'Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay' by Otis Redding. The Beatles released their 'White Album' to critical acclaim. For a few weeks I had settled on doing the #1 song of 1968: 'Hey, Jude.'

While I like that song, I just couldn't come up with something that grabbed me. I listened to it over and over. I read the history of the song. I read and re-read the lyrics. Nothing. So I went back to the Billboard Top 100 list. And that is when I spotted it at number 89:

Scarborough Fair/Canticle by Simon & Garfunkel.

The hit movie The Graduate was released in 1968. The soundtrack music focused on Simon & Garfunkel songs, and this was part of it.

I remember my mother singing a lot when I was a child. She seemed to gravitate to singer-songwriter types, folk music and anything with tight harmonies. I am quite sure that she would have sung this song to me as a baby. And it is where I get my same love for that type of music making.

Everyone seems to be familiar with this song. Even my 13 year old daughter, when I sang the first two lines. While Simon & Garfunkel popularized this song, it is really a medieval tune. Scarborough Fair is an actual place along the seaside in Yorkshire, England where people from across England and as far away as Denmark and Norway would converge for 45 days starting in August to conduct business, make trades and buy and sell their wares. Of course, there would be revelry, entertainment and the blossoming of relationships.

This song tells the story of a man who appears to be a jilted lover. He sets out a series of impossible tasks (make a shirt with no seams or bring in the harvest with a sickle made from leather) and if she does them, then she will prove her love. However, the line that stands out the most prominently is the repetition of 'parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.'

Herbs, plants and flowers have had a secret language all their own for centuries. And it would stand to reason that these four herbs are a code for the lady to interpret. That was my focus. I created a pendant for each of the herbs, using my own hand-drawn image (I even brought home these four fresh herbs from the grocery store for research!) and a quote on the back appropriate to the meaning.

Parsley = comfort.
Parsley aided in digestion and is thought to remove bitterness.
He is hoping for comfort for his lady from the bitterness of their parting.
"Love frees you from the bitter prison."

Sage = strength.
Sage has long been a symbol of strength and wisdom, even immortality.
He would wish for her to make wise choices and have strength until they meet again.
"Love gives you strength to dare to dream."

Rosemary = love.
Rosemary is often included in wedding bouquets or in wreaths adorning the bride - even to this day.
He wants her to be faithful in her love for him.

"True love stories never end."

Thyme = courage.
Ladies would embroider or pin thyme leaves in the tunics of their knight for courage in the battle.
It is also known to relieve sadness.
He wants his lady to persevere through these impossible tasks and return to him in happiness.
"Loving deeply gives you courage."
The minstrel wants his lady love to know that if she will gather the strength and courage to see him again, to remember their happier times, and be faithful in her love, he will eventually return to her and they will be reunited.

Simon & Garfunkel put their own twist on this traditional song by adding some echoed verses. These were rewritten lines from a previous song of Simon's called 'The Side of the Hill' and have an anti-war sentiment that further catapulted it into popularity in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War. It was rare for them to perform it with these added lines, but I found a video where they sang it live on the Andy Williams show.

I added a blood-tinged sword point and a glass sparrow bird (from Thornburg Bead Studio), an enameled leaf (from SueBeads) along with the perfect botanical ceramic heart (from Mary Harding). The 'sprinkling of leaves' and a russet raw silk ribbon for the 'cambric shirt' complete the effect. This is both a charm bracelet and a necklace.

As an aside... While I was searching for a version of the song to share, I came across the audition of a heavenly singer named Celia Pavey from the Australian version of The Voice that aired in 2013. She took 3rd place, and this rendition is stirring. Watch it if you like! (I seriously cannot get enough of this girl! I have been watching her amateur YouTube videos all afternoon. Amazing!)


I became a mother in 1998 with the birth of my son.

The song I settled on right away from this extra-ordinary year was 'My Heart Will Go On' by Celene Dion. I started to make a piece that had a decidedly 'Titanic' flair to it. My husband and I went to see the movie the Saturday before he was born, our very last date without the need of a sitter. I remember that I had one of those gut-buster sodas and refused to leave the theater to go to the bathroom, as you can imagine I desperately needed. All that rushing water! So this was an easy pick. After all, it won all those Academy awards the very night that I welcomed my son to the world!

But I thought that the 'Titanic' theme would be a stretch, and not really exploring the song, but borrowing from the movie images. So I decided I would revisit that another time.

I went back to the Billboard Top 100. I was struck by how crass and tasteless a lot of the songs were. But I noticed one that stood out.

Truly, Madly, Deeply by Savage Garden

This song was #4 on the list, but it does have a more impressive title. This simple and catchy melody spent a total of 123 weeks on the US Hot Adult Contemporary chart making it the #1 in number of weeks in all of history of that chart. More than half of 1998 found it on the Top Ten list. And it is a classic that is still getting played today, despite the fact that Savage Garden went their separate ways in 2001.

Not to say that I don't love my husband truly, madly and deeply, but a mother's love is something different entirely. My son was a living, breathing part of me. I never really knew what it meant to love someone so truly, so madly and so deeply as I did when I held him in my arms. It is at that moment that you realize that your heart is going to walk around outside of you...forever. (And I am sure that as an almost 16 year old he would cringe that I say that!)

I wanted to keep this jewelry simple, like the melody itself. Last weekend we celebrated my daughter's birthday with an Olympics theme, I asked the girls to give me a three word phrase, or three positive words to describe them.

Victory Medals
Then while they played games and ate junk food, I hammered those words onto metal tags in gold, silver and copper, hung them from a black leather necklace and called them Victory Medals. And I did one for myself with the title of the song: truly, madly, deeply. Because that is what I feel every day. For my family. For my art. For my life. A good layering piece and a good reminder.

What would your Victory Medal say?
2001 was the year my daughter was born. And I am sure that I danced around the living room singing the song

Drops of Jupiter by Train
After all, it was the #4 song of that year.

There is just something about Train. Or more specifically, Pat Monahan, the lead singer. I can't get enough of their sound, but their lyrics are what light me up. Sometimes they are quirky (like in '50 Ways to Say Goodbye') and sometimes they are heartfelt (like in 'Marry Me'). This particular song is filled with so many powerful images. So I had to know more.

Turns out that the band was struggling to finish their album and the record execs were pressuring them for a hit. At the time, Pat's mother was diagnosed with lung cancer after having been a heavy smoker. He would call her from the road after every performance from a payphone (before cell phones were everywhere). When she died, he returned home to Pennsylvania and was staying in his childhood home when he woke from a dream with the phrase 'back in the atmosphere' dancing in his mind.

He explored the idea that when someone dies they are never really gone from us, being absorbed by the atmosphere and at one with the cosmos. He envisioned his mother going on a journey through time and space, getting those drops of Jupiter in her hair, but returning because she misses him, the one with a 'permanent scar' on his chin from a car accident. It reminded him that now is the time, that your soul doesn't get to come back from that vacation, so take a look at what is around you and start growing, loving and living while you are alive.

Of course, the 'drops of Jupiter' imagery really captivated me, so I found crystal briolette drops for the necklace. I used some Crystal Clay to make a jewel-encrusted constellation complete with shooting stars and orbiting the moon (played by a lovely beaded ring that I'm pretty sure my friend Kristen Stevens made for me). Oh, and a shooting star gold-toned clasp.

This one is a dazzler! 

Thank you for taking this long, rambling journey through my personal playlist. If you are playing, please add your link to the InLinkz below. Now to fix myself a cup of coffee and se what everyone else made!

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Jean Katherine Baldridge said...

I will be adding mine on Sunday, but I have to say that, as Sinead
O'Connor sings, "Nothing Compares" to you,Erin!!! xox jean

wow! all songs I adore. all songs you beautifully add to with your creations! I loved and love them all. thanks so much for the beauty, as always.

Ann Schroeder said...

These necklaces are gorgeous representations of the songs. And it was really fun listening to each song as I read about the necklaces and the meanings. Thanks.

Silver Parrot said...

As usual, I am stunned not only by your designs but also the fact that you did them in such a short time frame! Fabulous job and I had to smile when I saw you picked "Drops of Jupiter" as that was a serious contender for me, too. I love the design you did for that song...perfect!

Anonymous said...

Oh! Miss Erin! You went ALL OUT! I love all the work you did but the herbal messages and Scarborough Faire resonate with me. That was also the year my daughter was born. I remember the movie, I have sung that song many times and still do. Your mom and I would have lots in common on that one. The lore behind the song is wonderful to know. Beautiful work!

Bobbie said...

I always love your creations, but I especially love the stories and deep thought behind each one. These are wonderful songs, and wonderful pieces to commemorate them!

Sarajo Wentling said...

Lovely work, Erin! And thanks for sharing your personal stories... I didn't know you did some of your growing up here in the Twin Cities!

Thanks to you I have Scarborough Fair stuck in my head...I'm sure I'll pick up other ear worms when I have time to hop around. I love what you did for that song with your little pendants. There is a novel inspired by this song you might enjoy... "Impossible" by Nancy Werlin. The women in the main characters family live under a curse related to the song...

I think my very favorite is your Drops of Jupiter necklace. It is just stunning in all it's shiny glory!

EB Bead and Metal Works, LLC said...

Wow - just wow Erin! Your pieces are truly inspired by each of your songs. They are just breathtaking and I am just in awe of your creations!

Shai Williams said...

Wow! First of all, I want to thank you for introducing me to a new singer. I don't usually care for female singers but she is great.

All of the designs are gorgeous! And they so fit the songs. It is really hard to pick a favorite as I know that I would wear the Truly, Madly, Deeply a lot as I love to layer necklaces and this one is just perfect.

I love jewelry that makes noise. It comes from the fact that I walk really quietly and tend to scare people. So if they listen, my jewelry will sometimes warn them. Anyways,I can just hear the faint clicks that Scarborough Fair would give off. And the charms you made. Will you be selling them? I have a good friend that is a Master Herbalist and a design worked around a couple of those would be the perfect Christmas present.

Drops of Jupiter is a dazzler for sure. The focal is to die for. And all those crystals. I can just picture someone wearing it with a low cut black formal. To be honest though, it is my least favorite because the gold in the clasp just doesn't seem to fit. Not even sure why because I love mixing metals.

Alice said...

Thank you for sharing not only these wonderful songs with us but also how they move you. I remember sing Scarborough Fair in choir class and thought it was the greatest song. your herb pendants are fabulous, as are the victory medals. I enjoy listening to Train but don't get to do that often enough.

Thanks so much for hosting another great challenge, and I look forward to the next one.

Mal said...

Lovely Erin, I am about to head off again so unable to be part of the Challenge but LOVED so much your mindful, thoughtful and beautiful thoughts and creativity in this. It reinforces for me what is the POWER of each piece, the story that is behind it, within it. And, how great that two of your musical choices had such an Aussie accent! Much love, Wendy M

Niky Sayers said...

Wow, just wow, I LOVE this post! The songs you have chosen are amazing, I love Scarborough Fair and thank you so much for introducing us to Celia Pavey, what a stunningly magical voice!
Your herb charms are so very cute, your tag necklaces are such a thoughtful gift but that Drops of Jupiter necklace is just amazing!
Thank you for hosting such a great hop x

Tanya said...

Oh my goodness! You always knock my socks off, but this .. wow! I love all of those. The charms in the sage, rosemary and thyme necklace are all perfect and I love the touches of red.

The truly, madly, deeply necklace is fabulous and I love how simple it is and the message it carries.

The Jupiter necklace, though .. yowzers! I love the pendant you made. The constellations are awesome and I could totally see that as something you should put in your shop.

Thank you so much for hosting the challenge. I always look forward to them and am so inspired by all the creations.

Wendy D. said...

Erin, this is one of the most creative, enjoyable blog posts I've ever read -- thank you! :). Simon & Garfunkle were the soundtrack of my undergrad years -- lots of memories. "Bookends" was the theme of our senior memory book.

I love your concept of the victory medals -- and your extending them to your daughter and her friends. What a thoughtful way to support their development of (sometimes fragile) identity!

I made myself a special necklace of personally-meaningful beads the year that I became a gram. It was a lovely, reflective process that captured the essence of my experience. Now I think I'll take a look at the music from that year. Thank you for the inspiration!
Wendy D.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous Miss Erin, just fabulous! I love all three of your creations, each so different (as is each event you have celebrated here, even though they have a common thread). But that last necklace, wow!
Thank you for once again hosting an inspiring and thoroughly enjoyable challenge!

Caron Michelle said...

Absolutely sensational - I love your playlist - such beautiful sentiment, you know how to touch one's heart!

rosebud101 said...


Maneki said...

Very nice selection of songs (though I'm trying to figure out if I've heard Tears of Jupiter before. Was quite into britpop in the 90's and this song has some of that sound so maybe I've heard this song but forgot, confusing it with other bands from around that time). I've got both albums Savage Garden did (not counting their best of album), but hadn't heard Truly, Madly in a long while so it was nice to hear it again.

As for your interpretations in jewellery, I really liked how you focused on the symbol in the first song. Flowers and plants so often figure in historical songs and often they mean more than a modern listener might think. And of cause, jewellery that can be worn in different ways are always interesting.

The Victory medals were a great idea, simple but filled with meaning. And the Drops of Jupiter has great sparkle and colour. The star clasp is perfect.


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