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AMERICAN TUNE by Paul Simon/September 5, 1974





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Published on Mar 21, 2008

ANNE L SAID: "I have only discovered 'an American Tune' in the past 2 or 3 years - about time of original article. It certainly has powerful lyrics that don't seem to have been well thought of or much noticed in the '70s, judging from some reviews. But as a singer of traditional, medieval, Renaissance & Baroque music the tune catches at me ironically in view of Simon's title. Not only did he crib it from J.S. Bach (I presume) but Bach cribbed it from Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612). It's from his 1601 'Lustgarten, Deutsche Lieder zu vier, fuenf, sechs und acht Stimmen' (Pleasure Garden, German Songs for 4,5,6 & 8 voices) & appears there as a rueful little lovesong of at least 3 verses called 'Mein G'mueth ist mir verwirret' (My mind is confused). There the tune isn't solemn at all but one of the bouncy, syncopated dances popular then. Who knows? As our knowledge of truly old music deepens it wouldn't be surprising to find that Hassler borrowed an even older dance. So Simon also knows a good tune when he hears one. Understanding a tune's past uses deepens our appreciation of its present & this one's proved its universal staying power."


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