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Friday, April 19, 2013

"Koningslied" - Song for our new king

As you may know, our current Queen steps down in two weeks time, and we will have a new king, Willem-Alexander.

When the Chinese emperor died and a new emperor gained power, long ago, the reference pitch of the fundamental tone of Chinese music was changed because basically a new emperor meant a new cosmological order. Willem-Alexander's rise to the throne is generally not seen as a cosmological change in the Netherlands; instead of a new musical system we therefore satisfy ourselves with a new song.

We are a modest people.

This new song, called "Koningslied" ("The King's  Song"), has put the country in turmoil. It is writtten by one of the most prolific popular songwriters in the Netherlands; it is sung by a whole horde of national (semi-)celebrities; all revenues will be donated to a charity. No news there, one would say. The musical style is popular and bombastic; there is a sing-along chorus and there is rap in it as well; the lyrics are full of pathos. No news there, again. It is rumoured that the song was not written for the occasion but was lying on the desk of the composer waiting for a good occasion to be used. No news there, either (Bach recycled his music extensively).

So, everything that could be expected has happened. But the curious thing is that, in certain circles (I don't know which circles, I must admit), an enormous movement against the song has started, including a Facebook page which allows people to apologize to our future king for the song - over 32,000 likes as I write, whereas the official Koningslied-Facebookpage has 767 likes. And over 19,000 people signed a petition against the Koningslied.

Those of you who know me a little by now will not be surprised that I am not going to sign the petition or like the anti-Koningslied Facebook page. Or the pro-page, for that matter; the question whether or not I like this song is a personal question of little consequence. There is, actually, only one question to be asked, as usual: What the hell is going on here?

I invite you to send me your interpretations of all this. I will start with two options. It may have to do with the feeling of many people that the King is given a  present in their name but that they would never have chosen this particular present themselves. Or, in other words: there is a lot of talk about 'us' and 'our country' surrounding the song, and many people seem to think that that means by definition 'me' and 'my country'. Option nr. 2: it may have to do with the feeling that the song is just another commercial product written by a serial song writer, whereas the new King deserves more 'quality' - whatever that may be (read composer Merlijn Twaalfhoven's well-meant reaction suggesting that the song should have been 'new' and 'fresh' rather than commercial and without quality - his words, not mine).

So, what the hell is going on? Is the argument that it's not my taste? Or rather that it's not my quality? Or something else? Help me out.

Meanwhile, to remind you of the fact that all this will pass, listen to Danny Schmidt's 'This too shall pass' ('better carve it on your forehead or tattoo it on your ass'), a song where a King plays a role in the final verse.

1 comment:

  1. Contrary to what I had been expecting, because I had been expecting to go 'meh' about anything to do with the whole inauguration/coronation/whathaveyou, I did give this some thought. The prompt: listening to the song after hearing complaints about it. I didn't intend to look the song up on the internet but now I did.
    I found it hideous. That's okay, hideousness happens when one has tastes and everyone does so it is unavoidable. What bugged me about the song though, apart from it's musical atrocity, was how music and lyrics make 'us' Dutch people out to be complete and utter idjits. This is only partly because of the music and lyrics.
    If this is what around 50 of our best (in popular Dutch music) musicians could come up with when they work together, it would be one big piece of shame-on-us. But that is not the case. It is worse: it is a missed opportunity. It is because of what could have been: the Netherlands is teaming with absolutely BRILLIANT musicians and composers - and this is what is supposed to be our ultimate song for the King. Ugh. My heart bleeds for all those musicians struggling to get by, and then money is spent on this drivel.
    It doesn't exactly reflect kindly on how our nation perceives music, perhaps.