Monday, February 8, 2010

Solitude: Visa fran Utanmyra

Jan Johansson: Visa från Utanmyra


Swedish pianist Jan Johansson made nearly a dozen records before he died in a car crash in 1968 at the age of thirty-seven. The most revered one was the 1964 classic Jazz På Svenska (=Jazz In Swedish), which featured instrumental renditions of traditional Swedish folk songs.

The most famous song from this his most famous album is the opener Visa från Utanmyra (literally "Song from Utanmyra" - Utanmyra being a location in the province of Dalarna). Just how old the song is is unknown, but an early version had lyrics and was titled O Tysta Ensamhet. Which is English would translate into O Silent Solitude - a title that makes perfect sense when you hear the song.

O Silent Solitude was told from a first-person perspective and expressed a nearly maddening desolation and all the burdens that come with knowing you can never have the one you love. But with the lyrics removed and with Johansson's nimble piano-playing the song takes on a rather different form. One which just barely promises the tiniest bit of light on the horizon. A faint ray or two breaking through the thick, grey clouds.

If O Silent Solitude almost hinted at a longing for the grim reaper to put an end to the protagonist's lonely existence, Visa Från Utanmyra gives him the strength to go on for at least one more day.

If there's a lesson to learn here it would be that of perseverence. Why throw in the towel today when what you've been waiting for might arrive tomorrow?

Photo (slightly cropped) taken in Dalarna by Keith Vertanen

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