Monday, February 28, 2011

Strumming the Mandolin

When I first saw Disney's Return to Oz I remember being surprised that the Mombi / Langwidere character was introduced while playing the mandolin. The mandolin worked well in the film - it provided a screen motivation for David Shire's creepy Mombi music.

But a few months ago I saw that Eric Shanower and Skottie Young's graphic novel adaptation of Ozma of Oz has Princess Langwidere also playing the mandolin. My first thought was, "Oh, Eric and Skottie are referencing Return to Oz, isn't that cute." But Eric quickly informed me that the mandolin was straight out of Baum - and indeed it is - though the fact that Baum's heady Princess played the mandolin was news to me! Here's the panel from Marvel's Ozma of Oz followed by Baum's original text:

"Princess Langwidere's sitting-room was panelled with great mirrors, which reached from the ceiling to the floor; also the ceiling was composed of mirrors, and the floor was of polished silver that reflected every object upon it. So when Langwidere sat in her easy chair and played soft melodies upon her mandolin, her form was mirrored hundreds of times, in walls and ceiling and floor, and whichever way the lady turned her head she could see and admire her own features."

The mandolin was a popular instrument when Baum wrote that in 1907, indeed the mandolin was a very popular instrument from the 1880s through the 1930s. 

The instrument is a member of the lute family. Mandolins were played both solo or in pairs, and sometimes with other instruments. There were even mandolin orchestras! Baum also references the mandolin in his lyrics for the song Niccolo's Piccolo from the 1903 Wizard of Oz stage musical:

Not with the violin,
Sought he my heart to win,
Nor with the mandolin
Came he a-wooing.

You can listen to Niccolo's Piccolo and download sheet music in our TIGER TUNES archive by clicking here. And there are even more Ozzy mandolin connections!

The music book (above) includes a medley from the 1903 Wizard of Oz arranged for mandolin by T. P. Trinkaus. I recently got another neat set of Wizard of Oz mandolin music - an arrangement of When You Love, Love, Love, one of the hits from the 1903 Wizard of Oz arranged for two mandolins, guitar and piano.

If anyone wants to get up a performance and has access to two mandolins, a guitar, and a piano, I'll be happy to supply copies of the music. Youtube, here we come! And if all the musicians are willing to dress up as Mombi, well, that's even better!

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