Aesthetic Realism seminar: What Music Says about Our
Love Is Intimate & Wide in the Beatles'
"I Saw Her Standing There" by Lynette Abel
day, while attending Fort Hunt HS, in Alexandria, VA, I was asked if I
would be interested in an extra ticket a friend happened to have for an
upcoming Beatles Concert. Wow! Yes, I was! This
would be the Beatles' first live concert in the U.S. to take place
February 11, 1964 at the Washington D.C. Coliseum. And then, like the
thousands of people in that audience, I was thrilled when I heard this:
was—as I’m sure everyone knows—the beginning of “I Saw Her Standing
There” by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. With that unforgettable
1,2,3, Fa, we are catapulted into a joyful, rollicking melody telling
the story of a young man being affected in a big way by a young woman
who stirs him very, very much. Does she, in her mystery and
personal charm, stand for something big, something impersonal, beyond
herself—the world? I think so. In Eli
Making One of Opposites? he asks this:
every instance of art and beauty contain something which stands for the
meaning of all that is, all that is true in an outside way, reality
just so? –and does every instance of art and beauty also contain
something which stands for the individual mind, a self which has been
moved, a person seeing as original person?
those great sentences
describe what is going in this song. The lyrics, sung by Paul
one man’s intimate, personal feeling about a woman while the music
gives his feeling impersonal rhythmic and harmonic form: hand-clapping
in counterpoint with the drums of Ringo Starr, rich blues harmony sung
by John Lennon, and exciting and complex guitar interludes by George
Harrison. Along with the man’s personal feeling, this song contains
something wider, “something which stands for the meaning of all that
progression stays almost entirely within a single key, an E major
blues. And the words are straightforward English. But--at
the moment everybody loves--the song suddenly pulls us out of the key,
to that pure syllable of joy: WOOO! We’ve gone from containment
uncontained, expansive moment that is literally ecstatic, “standing
outside oneself.” You’ll hear that moment twice as I play a
little more including the bridge of the song.
just heard another way the intimate and wide are dramatically,
beautifully together as both Paul McCartney and John Lennon take the
melody in the bridge. Paul sings, “Well my heart went boom when I
crossed that room, and I held her hand in mine.” The way
that word “mieeen,” sung by John Lennon stretches out is just the
opposite of the contracting, ownership way the word “mine” is usually
used. It’s sure personal, intimate, but simultaneously goes way
out. Doesn’t this meet a deep hope in all of us?
I didn’t know when I heard this song at
age 14 that it was solving a question I had. Even though I had
many friends and dates, and was on my high school cheerleading squad, I
often felt locked in myself, painfully separate. I thought I had to be
hidden and strategic, very much with men. In an Aesthetic Realism
lesson that Eli Siegel gave to a rock musician, he said, “Every person
has to make a one of the most secret thing and the most public
thing. And rock and roll…says that can be done.” In a class I
attended early in my study with him, Mr. Siegel spoke to me about how I
saw people, and he asked:
Do you want to really like someone? Or do you think you’re afraid to
[have] other people nuzzling in yourself? Do you think you’re bitterly
devoted to yourself?
Yes, I think so.
If it is wise for you, do it….Do you feel men deserve your
honesty?...When you are with a man is your purpose to be crafty or to
get to your feelings more, to show what you feel?
LA: To be crafty.
tremendously grateful to have learned that wanting to hide my feelings
and try to fool a man was a form of contempt and is what made me feel
empty inside; it also made love impossible. In another class Mr.
Siegel explained, “You’ll never feel good unless you feel kindness and
good will are good sense.” Aesthetic Realism enabled me to feel
this, to have a purpose I can believe in. In this song, the man is
not being “coolly” strategic about his feelings for this woman; he’s
all out: “Well my heart went boom when I crossed that room, and I held
her hand in mieen.” Again, as to that word “mine” (“mi-een”), it
is held across three full measures and then into the fourth, beginning
on a high F#, rising up to a B and then culminating on the high C#.
Through their compositional technique, the Beatles have us feel the
width and intensity of this man’s feeling.
by John, George, and Ringo, Paul screams that famous Beatle
scream. He’s proud to be affected! After that, solo guitar
and drums back up, and give emphasis to, this man’s emotion. “How
large do we want our emotions to be?” Mr. Siegel asked in a class he
gave on greatness in music. “Do we like the idea of having a large
emotion? Music can show us how.” I’m glad to learn more
about this from a song I’ve loved for many years, “I Saw Her Standing