A guest blog post by Rebecca Hunt, Music Librarian
For as long as there has been music, there have probably been love songs. The first love song is lost to the mists of time, and evidence of what ancient love songs sounded like is scant. However, some songwriters left behind lyrics for us to discover today. The most famous of these writers was the poet Sappho. Her poems were meant to be sung with a lyre. “When I look at you even for a moment I can no longer speak,” is a sentiment she wrote that would not be out of place in today’s love songs.
Written music, as we would recognize it, began to appear in the Middle Ages. It started in the Christian church. But, before long, the use of staves (staff lines) and notes to physically depict musical notes became used for more secular purposes. Monks of the 11th century wrote songs that sometimes combined sacred melodies with secular words. This was some of the first cross-over music from sacred to secular.There are many existing collections of lyrics to secular songs that were written in Latin. The most famous of these collections is probably the Carmina Burana. Most know these lyrics set to the music composed by the 20th century composer Carl Orff, but they would have been sung at the time they were written. Who could resist such lyrics as these?
The golden god of love
Has power over all.
I put out my hands:
What shall I get? . . .
He gave me a girl
I’ll give her something
She’ll never forget.
If you want to write your own love song, we’ve got books that will teach you how to do that. Song writing can be intimidating for beginners, since both music and lyrics come into play. You may find that you are starting with one or the other, or need help with both. A melody can be composed to go with words from a poem someone else wrote, if you find lyrics difficult. Composers of classical music songs have been doing that for centuries. Likewise, if lyrics come easily to you, it’s possible to use an existing melody. For the latter, think of the song “Ah! Vous Dirai-Je Maman!” Doesn’t ring a bell? If you know “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, Have You Any Wool?” or the alphabet song, then you already know this melody. If you need a more sophisticated example, then the 1982 hit “Midnight Blue” uses a melody from a Beethoven piano sonata.
Want to serenade your sweetie with a love song this Valentine’s Day? The Boston Public Library can provide the music, but you’ll have to provide the instrument and sweetie. What follows is a short selection. To find more like these search our catalog for “love songs” as a subject, and then filter your results by selecting Printed Music under “Music and Sound”. You’re sure to find something that captures what you want to express.
Looking for love songs to listen to while snuggling with your sweetie? We have both CDs and streamed audio to set the mood. Here’s a taste of what the library has to offer you.