The first time I ever heard the line “We are the music makers – and we are the dreamers of dreams” was in the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Although the movie came out when I was still a child, I never saw the movie until I was an adult (I can count on one hand the number of movies I went to with my parents).
Honestly, it’s a pretty dark movie, and it could be argued that it’s not really appropriate for children. (There’s an argument that Wonka is actually a child serial killer.) I’ll be curious to see the prequel coming out in December 2023 starring Timothêe Chalamet, which may or may not expound upon that idea.
But as an artist, the movie has always spoken to me, both for its visuals and for the message that we need to embrace our identities as music makers and dreamers, and that we can’t ignore the power of imagination.
(I also love Gene Wilder, who was from my hometown of Milwaukee.)
Since one of my strongest motivators is curiosity and the idea of “what would happen if?”, the idea of harnessing pure imagination is mind-blowing to me – and to the composer/lyricist of the movie, since they made it the theme song:
If you want to go down a rabbit hole of composer Anthony Newley performances, hit up YouTube – he never sings a song the same way twice. Some might call him an acquired taste, but I acquired it when I was very little! This clip is from a variety show in the 1970s and features him and Sammy Davis – can you imagine a nearly 15 minute medley happening on a TV show NOW?
But I’m calling this blogpost “The Music Makers,” so I’d like to reference the original poem which was drawn upon for the line in the movie, and which has been part of my identity for a very long time now.
We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the mover and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
—Ode, Arthur O’Shaughnessy
Arthur O’Shaughnessy (1844-1881) was a British poet of Irish descent (and full-time herpetologist for the British Museum, which I just visited a few weeks ago – worlds collide), and his poem, “Ode” has been set by multiple composers over the years. The above is just the first stanza (there are nine). He died just short of his 36th birthday.
In upcoming posts, I’m going to be talking about the subject of identity and how it should influence your approach to, oh, everything, but specifically, pursuing your path as a singer. I just read Atomic Habits by James Clear, and the whole idea of creating habits based on who you are rather than what you want to get done is mind-blowing to me.