Lynette Abel  | Aesthetic Realism & Life

Lynette Abel


Aesthetic Realism seminar:
What Music Says about Our Lives—A Celebration!
Love Is Intimate & Wide in the Beatles'
"I Saw Her Standing There"
by Lynette Abel

One 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:

That 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 Siegels Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites? he asks this:

Does 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?

I think those great sentences describe what is going in this song. The lyrics, sung by Paul McCartney, Paul, John, George, & Ringodescribe 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 is.”

The chord 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 to an 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.

We 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:

ES:   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?

LA:   Yes, I think so.

ES:    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.

I’m 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. 

Accompanied 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 There.”  



To Aesthetic Realism Foundation
2016 Lynette Abel