Today is Paul McCartney’s 67th birthday. I remember hearing him sing on my mom’s Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band record album when I was thirteen years old. She had told me that she had listened to the album from start to finish every day after she bought it, and it gave me a connection to her younger, teenaged self, which–at the time–seemed to me like another person entirely; but with the perspective of my own years, I know is still very much there. I associate the album with a phase I went through where I obsessed with the late 60s and early 70s, when I wanted to wear hippie clothing, read everything I could about the Vietnam war, identified with Kevin’s older sister on The Wonder Years, and then found a copy of Go Ask Alice. That book stopped me dead in my tracks and scared me straight before I’d had a chance to sow any oats.
But I digress…
On Sirius Classical Music Channel 80 today, I was surprised and delighted to hear that Paul McCartney had written an English Choral Music piece called Ecce Cor Meum (Behold My Heart). Sirius’ Martin Goldsmith conducted a fantastic interview with McCartney about his inspiration for the project and his writing style.
As it turns out, McCartney was commissioned to write Ecce Cor Meum in the years preceding his wife, Linda’s, death. He was brought to a standstill when she died, but realized that music would help to heal him if he could manage to get back to it. He started with the very bleak Interlude for the piece–a moving solo by a lone oboe–and used that as a doorway into the rest of the work.
He spoke about his writing style, saying that he writes about three hours a day, the way he used to with the Beatles. For Ecce, he said he envisioned his audience dressed up on opening night, with the lights dimmed, and imagined how the music would begin. I loved the idea of imagining the audience in the act of taking in the music for inspiration.
When I saw the movie The Jane Austen Book Club I was very moved by the montages of the characters reading the books. They were quick, set to music, and meant to transition between scenes, but they highlighted the intimacy of the act of reading in a way I hadn’t before considered.
Reading is intimate–it’s often done in a bed or a favorite chair. It’s tactile. It’s close. It’s interactive. Listening to music can also be intimate. It often moves the listener to physical action (or reaction) and becomes closely identified with life moments like births, deaths, vacations, or pre-adolescent identity exploration.
Paul McCartney is undeniably one of the most talented artists of all time. The interviewer remarked that it was a testament to McCartney that he continued to make music and take on new challenges in his sixties, when he could surely sit in a room reveling in the fact that he was an icon. McCartney responded that he was still thrilled with the learning process associated with making music, and conveying his ideas on the importance of love, peace, truth, and nature.
McCartney continues to inspire people everywhere even as he approaches his seventies.
Happy Birthday, Sir Paul.