Re Annie's Song: when did people first start mixing up "lay" and "lie"?
Mixing grammatical prescriptionism with the idea of a Hesiodic golden age is pretty dangerous.
The other question that immediately comes to mind is, the year 825 where? Any song about a horse would be incomprehensible anywhere in North America more than a few centuries back.
Yes, while I generally go for "Anglophonie," Modern English only goes back so far, and then you're having to deal with magically enabled translations of some sort. But yes, fields of wheat, riding on your horse, etc. is much earlier for Old World than for New; corn depends on which meaning of corn you're using (generic grain or maize).
I'm reminded of Glory Road, wherein the protagonist travels to a foreign land (or parallel dimension) and is revered as a great epic poet after his dramatic recitation of "Casey at the Bat". This is all much easier if you don't have translation powers and can get by on intonation and body language.
That said, the first song that comes to mind that I think would work pretty universally is Oingo Boingo's "Insects". I suppose "They know they'll rule the world someday" is based on notions of mass extinction that weren't so much in vogue in 825, but the sentiment is quite comprehensible.
Sappy bullshit like "When You Wish Upon a Star" would also probably pass muster.
Edited at 2015-03-24 06:37 pm (UTC)
Yeah, sappy bullshit is a good choice for this. "Nature Boy" only really requires the rise of monarchies, for example.
This is unexpectedly good at getting rid of earworms. "Oh hello, song, I do like you, but NOT NOW. Hmm, alarm clock, television, the idea of a set of chords, at least part of an audience for whom it is at least provisionally all right if the narrator is an atheist," and the earworm is gone.
Glad to help!
The other earworm tricks I know are 1) sing the song in the style of Bob Dylan; 1b) if it is a Bob Dylan song, sing it in the style of William Shatner; 2) sing the theme song from Disney's Robin Hood.
I suspect that #2
only works for me and my mom, but it works beautifully
Of course, then we have the theme song to Disney's Robin Hood in our heads, but I'm told one can't have everything due to storage concerns.
A lot of hymns need relatively little explanation. They tend not to be classified as "popular songs," despite being known and liked by lots of people. (More so before personal music gadgets, and even more before radio/jukebox.) The most popular are explicitly Christian, so that's Christian era. But quite a few are just monolatrous, and that's comprehensible WAY back.
I'm not sure a reference to the "dark side of the moon" relies on any concrete astronomical concept. A person might think of going to the moon by magic (or when pigs fly) and discovering fantastic things behind it.
Yeah, actually we had more fun thinking of what hymns wouldn't pass for the entirety of the Christian era (I'm looking at you, "Earth and All Stars"!).
Pretty well rules out all the Queen anthems of my youth...
Slinking off to sulk now.
Actually, "We Will Rock You" only requires streets and canned goods. And if you use the mistaken lyric "kicking your kind" all over the place, you're pretty much good back a loooooong ways, providing, of course, that "rock" can be understood in ways like "the earthquake rocked the city." I expect Roman soldiers would love "We Will Rock You." Visigoths, too.
Then, of course, there are the songs that have such a narrow range of comprehensibility that they're not suitable for now. The Beach Boys' "Surfin' Safari," for example: the only reason I know that a Woody was a faux wood-paneled station wagon is because of that song. If you asked a young person now what a Woody was, they would, depending on age, either reply, "The cowboy from Toy Story," or, "Aunt MaRISsa! Gnr gnr gnr."
This has caused me to realize probably no young kid knows of Woody Woodpecker, now.
I continue to be pleased by the image of the Jazz age cover of "Gangster's Paradise" being sung to largely comprehending inhabitants of the 1920s.
I am also glad that this game has prompted so much discussion.
I was thinking that "Symphony of Destruction" was more dependent on knowing the Pied Piper story than anything else, but it uses "robot" as well. The version of "Shout" I'm listening to seems fairly time-traveler proof, though you'd run into problems with someone from before the advent of theories about the soul/hell, or people who hadn't encountered the metaphor of a broken heart or having a guard (vs melee/unarmed attacks).
We were thinking about the temporal distinction between "robot" and "cyborg" regarding TMBG's "Robot Parade."
I suspect I'm now going to spend some time trying to think of Pete Seeger songs other than "Turn, Turn, Turn" that would work well back in history.
He's actually quite often very temporally specific.
I'm amused by the fact that the only word in Satyricon's "Dark Medieval Times" that I'm pretty sure would not have been understood in dark medieval times is "medieval".
Not that I would be singing that song in the middle ages or anywhere else.
Yeah, I found that disappointing--seemed to me they could have got around pronouns and prepositions for the search.
I've always had trouble hearing the words of songs. Not only my crap hearing, but because melodies will trigger images, often that have nothing to do with the song.
That would make things doubly difficult!
I think a lot of technology (by which I mean things like roads as well as things like DVDs or cars) is understandable by analogy. Even if you don't have roads of a certain width, you have paths or routes you follow, and the concept of meeting someone on this path or route is going to be understood, for instance. As a kid, I didn't know what a tuffet was, and I didn't even know what curds and whey were, but I still understood that Little Miss Muffet sat down on something--something probably diminutive, because of the sound of the word--and that she was eating something that came in two parts.
Your mention of ballads got me thinking of something else, though: how ballads will mix and match things--so you get the Scottish ballads in the Appalachians, and you'll still have kings and ladies, but the setting will otherwise be very mountain-farming-esque.
Hmm. Yes and no: walking through city streets aimlessly (which shows up in a lot of songs) is sort of like walking aimlessly through field and forest? But sort of really not. And while you could analogize "leaving on a jet plane" to be similar to "leaving in a wagon" or "walking off," there are things about it that are not at all similar.
The setting clash in your second paragraph makes me want to add the caveat that if you time travel to sing for historians and anthropologists, you may give them a headache, human nature being what it is.
This is a fantastic game, and I suspect I'll be playing it in my head a lot now.
I often think about how to explain various bits of technology to people from ages past (fictional or otherwise).
That is, when I'm not mentally shaving off the sticking-out edges of things on shelves or crooked corners or other non-uniform formations in some kind of OCD fantasy.
The Singing To Time Travelers game actually came from Explaining To Time Travelers, which I also do a lot too.