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Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Photobucket)

Scott Fitzgerald


“Moon River is a song composed by Johnny Mercer (lyrics) and Henry Mancini (music) in 1961, for whom it won that year’s Academy Award for Best Original Song.  It was originally sung in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Audrey Hepburn, although it has been covered by many other artists. The song also won the 1962 Grammy Award for Record of the Year.” (Wikipedia) Breakfast at Tiffany’s was based  on a story, a novella, written by Truman Capote, born Truman Streckfus Persons (30 September 1924 – 25 August 1984), and entitled Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958).

(Photo credit: The Saturday Evening Post)

Johnny Mercer

As mentioned above, Johnny Mercer (18 November 1909 – 25 June 1976) wrote the lyrics to Moon River.  His hometown, near Savannah, Georgia was named Moon River in honor of him and this song.  But Mercer moved to New York in 1928.  He wrote the lyrics for approximately fifteen hundred songs.

Setting Words to Music in History

Students of musicology know that setting lyrics to a melody is an extremely difficult task.  Think of all the Masses, the numerous versions of the Kyrie, Agnus Dei, Ave Maria, etc.  In fact, liturgical music is art.  Moreover, think of Operas.  Mozart set to music the words of Lorenzo da Ponte, his librettist.  They worked marvels together. The same kind of relationship may have existed between Henry Mancini or Enrico Nicola “Henry” Mancini (16 April 1924 – 14 June 1994) and Johnny Mercer. In short, we have librettists (Operas), and lyricists (songs), etc.

Programmatic Music

I have read somewhere that so-called “programmatic music” had died.  Has it?  What about film music?  To my knowledge, the term “programmatic” was coined by Franz Liszt who distributed to the audience the program or story of Hector Berlioz‘s Symphonie fantastique (1830), the day it premièred.  Programmatic music is referential music as opposed to “absolute music,” which is non referential music.  A mere title, such as Lullaby, suffices to make a piece of music reverential.  As a result, Beethoven‘s Ninth Symphony (1823) is programmatic music.  Its Choral movement, the fourth, is a setting of Friedrich Schiller‘s “Ode to Joy,” An die Freude, written in 1785 and revised in 1803.  An die Freude is now the Anthem of Europe.

Remembering “Moon River”

The version of Moon River I am featuring is performed by Andy WilliamsMoon River is an American song that crossed many borders and has been interpreted by many singers.  It is etched in the mind and the heart of millions of people.  My WordPress colleague CollTales brought it back to my memory.

P. S.  I may not be able to send links to the News anymore.  I see the word “remove” next to the sites I am using.  I must investigate.

The Montreal Gazette: http://www.montrealgazette.com/index.html
The National Post: http://www.nationalpost.com/index.html
The Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/
The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/
Le Monde diplomatique: http://mondediplo.com/ EN
CBC News: http://www.cbc.ca/news/
CTV News: http://www.ctvnews.ca/
Le Monde: http://www.lemonde.fr/
Le Monde diplomatique: http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/
Le Devoir: http://www.ledevoir.com/
La Presse: http://www.lapresse.ca/
Die Welt: http://www.welt.de/
© Micheline Walker
25 July 2012