Friday, August 12, 2011

For a Song: Galileo

Indigo Girls: Galileo


I bought a book from Amazon a while back, called Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, by Charles MacKay. The book is well known in the world of finance, particularly for its account of the Dutch Tulip Mania. It also discusses alchemy, dueling, and supposed holy relics, among other things. The book dates from 1841, so the use of language is somewhat archaic, and MacKay rambles, so it’s not exactly an easy read.

Well, it got to be early May, and I got an e-mail from Amazon asking me if I wanted to sell back my text book. Huh? What text book? And then I read the rest of the e-mail. Apparently, Extraordinary Popular Delusions is used as a text book for some college courses. And apparently, no one at Amazon can imagine anyone in their right mind reading the book for fun. And that is exactly what I am now doing, and I am having fun. I don’t what that says about me, but there it is.

What does any of this have to do with music? Well, Galileo is one of my favorite Indigo Girls songs, so I decided to share it this week. The song opens with an interesting percussion sound, which carries through whole song. The vocal features the wonderful harmonies of Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, aided in this case by Jackson Browne and David Crosby on backing vocals. The fiddle part sounds like an entire string section, but used really well. And if you think from all of this that I never completely heard the lyrics before, you’re right. So, now I have, and that’s what reminded me of the book. One of the major themes of the book is that a society can get an idea in its head that just grows and grows, regardless of the fact that it never really made sense. This can also happen to an individual, and in the song, the idea is reincarnation. The narrator gets into her head that she has had a number of past lives, and these past lives become both an excuse and a burden. For her, being responsible for just one life was burden enough. But as I said, the idea grows and grows. The whole thing is delivered in a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek way. Maybe reincarnation is real, but it doesn’t follow that every person would be better off for knowing that.