Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Wolf in Music

The Wolf in Music

There have been thousands of songs written about wolves. I've written a few myself. The songs are both about the wild animal and the wolf as a metaphor, and they tend to defame or misrepresent the wolf. Some of the Pop and Rock songs include:

"Wolf Moon" by Type O Negative
"Wolf to the Moon" by Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow
"Run with the Wolf" by Rainbow
"Wild Hunt" by Inkubus Sukkubus
"Black No.1" by Type O Negative
"Howl" by Florence and the Machine
"Unchain The Wolves" by Destroyer 666
"Lone Wolf Winter" by Destroyer 666
"Wolf" by Iced Earth
"Wolf Among the Flock" by Immolation
"Living With Wolves" by Jorn
"The Sea Wolf" by Slough Feg
"Wheeler's Howl" by The Rhythm Methodists
"Wolf And Raven" by Sonata Arctica
"Wolfmoon" by The Vision Bleak
"Wolves" by Machine Head
"Wolves From The Fog" by Moonspell
"Lock Up The Wolves" by Dio
"Bark At The Moon" by Ozzy Osbourne
"Wolves at Night" by Manchester Orchestra
"Of Wolf And Man" by Metallica
"Howling" by Abingdon Boys School
"In the Year of the Wolf" by Motorhead
"Killer Wolf" by Danzig
"She Wolf" by Shakira
"She-Wolf" by Megadeth
"Wolf Like Me" by TV on the Radio
"Wolfpack" by DYS
"Wolfpack" by Sabaton
"Wolfshade" by Moonspell
"Wolf City" by Amon Duul II
"Wolves" by Wu-Tang Clan
"Where the Wolf Bane Blooms" by Nomads
"Running With The Pack" by Bad Company
"The Wolf" by Heart

"Hungry Like the Wolf" (1982) by pop band Duran Duran is probably the world's most famous "Wolf" song. It is relatively sympathetic to wolves, but the misrepresentation is despicable. "I howl and I whine, I'm after you, Mouth is alive all running inside, I smell like I sound. I'm lost and I'm found." Yech! Poetic license at the expensive of the wolf's reputation. Written by the band members, the song was released in May 1982 and reached the top five of the UK Singles Chart. The music video was placed into heavy rotation by MTV resulting in the song peaking at #3 in the U.S. in March 1983.

"The Hungry Wolf" is from the album "Under Big Black Sun" (2001) by X, a band from Los Angeles. One side babbles on about "poetry", "roots rock punk style" and "greasy hair", and the other side is about things like "out of work actors", "L.A. sucks" and "critic darlings". Neither side makes any sense. "The Hungry Wolf" wasn't played on major radio stations in the 1980's like all the other "punk" or "alternative" bands of the day. It was usually heard on smaller radio stations and by X fans who bought the album. Here are the lyrics:
I am the hungry wolf and run endlessly with my mate
I see the gutter feed on the foolish, outrun and kill the strong at daybreak
I roam awake to who follows me, I roam I roam
I am the hungry wolf and run endlessly with my mate
Welcome to the dripping jaws, the altar of your death at daybreak
I roam ready to tear up the world, I roam I roam
The hungry wolf stares from the hill at the villagers around the fire
She loves her mate as he loves her and they live together for life
I am the hungry wolf and run endlessly with my mate
Look across the street, my friend
We're waiting for you to slow down at daybreak
I roam, eyes in the back of my head, I roam I roam"

"Will the Wolf Survive?" is a song by Los Lobos from their album "How Will The Wolf Survive?" (1984). Los Lobos is Spanish for "The Wolves". The band from L.A. uses wolves as a metaphor for the difficulties of human life. It has relatively profound lyrics and a catchy tune. The first verse:
Through the chill of winter
Running across the frozen lake
Hunters are out on his trail
All odds are against him
With a family to provide for
The one thing he must keep alive
Will the wolf survive?"

"Dire Wolf" is by the Grateful Dead. The studio version is on the "Working Man's Dead" (1970) album and has relatively clear lyrics for those unfamiliar with the tune. There are countless live recordings as well, most of them with a bit more enthusiasm and life. It features a jaunty rhythm and a strange melodic chorus "Don't murder me". The song tells a story of a card game with a 600 pound wolf. The first verse:
"In the timbers to Fennario, the wolves are running round,
The winter was so hard and cold, froze ten feet 'neath the ground.
Don't murder me, I beg of you, don't murder me.
Please, don't murder me."

In August 1966 the rock band Sam The Sham And The Pharaohs had a #1 hit song written by Ronald Blackwell titled "Li'l Red Riding Hood". It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. The novelty song is built around "Little Red Riding Hood", but ends before grandma makes her entrance. It explicitly uses the ambiguity of "wolf" the animal and "wolf" the man with sexual intentions. The "wolf" remarks on "what big eyes" and "what full lips" Red has, and eventually on "what a big heart" he has. He says that he is disguised in a "sheep suit" until he can demonstrate his good intentions. One of his lines is "You're everything that a big bad wolf could want." The song is a major plot element in the film "Striking Distance" (1993) with cop Bruce Willis after a serial killer, and is featured in the plotless film "Wild Country" (2005) about a werewolf after a group of kids. Here is a link to the song in a "Betty Boop" cartoon music video: Too bad the wolf is portrayed in the cartoon as a villain. Here are the complete lyrics:

Who's that I see walkin' in these woods?
Why, it's Little Red Riding Hood.
Hey there Little Red Riding Hood,
You sure are looking good.
You're everything a big bad wolf could want.
Listen to me.

Little Red Riding Hood
I don't think little big girls should
Go walking in these spooky old woods alone.

What big eyes you have,
The kind of eyes that drive wolves mad.
So just to see that you don't get chased
I think I ought to walk with you for a ways.

What full lips you have.
They're sure to lure someone bad.
So until you get to grandma's place
I think you ought to walk with me and be safe.

I'm gonna keep my sheep suit on
Until I'm sure that you've been shown
That I can be trusted walking with you alone.

Little Red Riding Hood
I'd like to hold you if I could
But you might think I'm a big bad wolf so I won't.

What a big heart I have--the better to love you with.
Little Red Riding Hood
Even bad wolves can be good.
I'll try to be satisfied just to walk close by your side.
Maybe you'll see things my way before we get to grandma's place.

Little Red Riding Hood
You sure are looking good
You're everything that a big bad wolf could want.
Owoooooooo! I mean baaaaaa! Baaa? Baa"

For the kiddies we have "The Three Little Pigs", an animated short film produced in 1933 by Walt Disney. The filthy ugly pigs are the good guys and the wolf is the villain. "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?", the song from the cartoon, was a best-selling single, mirroring the public's resolve against the "big bad wolf" of The Great Depression. The song became something of an anthem of the Great Depression, with the wolf symbolizing the disaster. Here is a link to the cartoon:

Disney also produced "The Big Bad Wolf" in 1934, and here is the link: In 1936 Disney created "Three Little Wolves", and here is the link:

"Crying Wolf" (2006) is a two-act musical by Brent Lund Bruning suitable for children of all ages. The fantasy aspect of five well-known wolf fairy tales ("The Wolf and the Seven Goats", "Peter and the Wolf", "Little Red Riding Hood", "The Three Little Pigs", and "The Boy Who Cried Wolf") attracts the youngest viewers, while media manipulation and political undertones address more mature audiences. The styles in the musical include: pop, rap, swing, tango, cha cha, an Irish ballad, as well as quotations from Prokofiev, the Beatles, and Simon & Garfunkel. Wolves are social pariahs in the town of Grimwood. G Bay, the corrupt mayor’s daughter, cries "Wolf!" for all to hear. She tells a terrifying story of the wolf she saw which becomes even more frightening when reported by the local news anchor, Hype Masterson on W.O.O.D. News. But is this the truth that the citizens of Grimwood are hearing? "Crying Wolf" portrays the wolves as heroes and the humans as villains. The 2 hour musical is about outsiders and their attempt to escape the image that the world makes for them. Bruning chose the wolf as an outsider, because in fairy tales it is almost always the villain. The wolves, social outsiders in the village, are considered fearsome beasts. But the young generation of wolves will not tolerate this anymore and try with the help of a journalist to educate the humans about the true nature of wolves. Unfortunately, there is no happy ending.

"Peter and the Wolf" (1936) (Петя и волк) Op. 67 is a composition with music and text written by Sergei Prokofiev in the USSR. It's a children's story spoken by a narrator and accompanied by an orchestra. In 1936 Sergei Prokofiev was commissioned by Natalya Sats and the Central Children's Theatre in Moscow to compose a musical symphony for children. The intent was to cultivate "musical tastes in children from the first years of school". Prokofiev accepted the commission and completed "Peter and the Wolf" in just four days. The debut on May 2, 1936 was a disappointment. Prokofiev said, "Attendance was poor and failed to attract much attention." The duration of the work is approximately 25 minutes. Characters in the story are represented by different instruments, and it's the horn section for the wolf. Each character in the story also has a musical theme played by different instruments and The Wolf's Theme is played by French Horns. Many recordings and adaptations of this famous piece have been made in various languages.

Pioneer Peter, a young boy, lives in his grandfather's home in a forest clearing. One day Peter goes out into the clearing, leaving the garden gate open, and a duck that lives in the yard takes the opportunity to go swimming in a pond nearby. The duck starts arguing with a little bird: "What kind of bird are you if you can't fly?" the bird asks. "What kind of bird are you if you can't swim?" the duck replies. Peter's pet cat stalks them quietly, and the bird--warned by Peter-- flies to safety in a tall tree while the duck swims to safety in the middle of the pond.

Peter's grandfather scolds Peter for being outside in the meadow, asking "Suppose a wolf came out of the forest?" Peter says, "Boys like me are not afraid of wolves." His grandfather takes him back into the house and locks the gate. Soon afterwards "a big, grey wolf" does indeed come out of the forest. The cat quickly climbs into a tree, but the duck, who has excitedly jumped out of the pond, is chased, overtaken and swallowed by the wolf. Peter fetches a rope and climbs over the garden wall into the tree. He asks the bird to fly around the wolf's head to distract it, while he lowers a noose and catches the wolf by its tail. The wolf struggles to get free, but Peter ties the rope to the tree and the noose only gets tighter.

Some hunters have been tracking the wolf, and they come out of the forest ready to shoot. Peter persuades them to help him take the wolf to a zoo in a victory parade that includes himself, the bird, the hunters leading the wolf, the cat and grumpy grumbling Grandfather. He asks, "Well, and if Peter hadn't caught the wolf? What then?" The story ends with the listener being told that "if you listen very carefully, you'll hear the duck quacking inside the wolf's belly, because the wolf in his hurry had swallowed her alive."

Peter and the Wolf is scored for the following orchestra:

Woodwinds: a flute, an oboe, a clarinet in A, and a bassoon
Brass: 3 horns in F, a trumpet in B-flat, and a trombone
Percussion: timpani, a triangle, a tambourine, cymbals, castanets, a snare drum, and a bass drum
Strings: first and second violins, violas, violoncellos, and double basses

Each character in the story has a particular instrument and a musical theme:

Bird: flute
Duck: oboe
Cat: clarinet
Grandfather: bassoon
Wolf: French horns
Hunters: woodwind theme, with gunshots on timpani and bass drum
Peter: string instruments

Here is a link to the music and the complete original story: