Sergei Prokofiev. Not many people know who he is but he is the man who wrote the music to Peter and the Wolf. (IF you don't have netflicks and want to watch it, it can be seen HERE) His objective was to teach children about orchestral music and so his rather simply story associates different characters with different instruments and musical moods. If you listen to it, you can identify the characters by their music. The bird is "flighty" (a piccolo). The wolf is scary (French horns). Peter is playful (strings).
Tonight I watched a new stop animation adaptation of the story that contains no dialog so that the music and the animation carry the story. Peter's world is a place full of possible delight and pleasure. There are bulies with guns. There are men with big beards. There is the danger of falling through ice. There are hunters firing guns. There are big bad wolves. There is a bird eating cat. And there is a cute girl. But Peter's world is also full of potential for fun. There are baloons. There are fun loving animals. There are the pleasures of ice skating. There is money to be made. And there is a cute girl.
One can't tell exactly if Peter's grandfather is locking him in to protect him from the dangers or to protect him from the pleasures. Perhaps both. All we know is that we like Peter. His music makes us happy. It makes us want to play. It makes us want to open up to the world and all it has to offer. In contrast to Peter we hear the music of the wolf. All we know is that it makes us afraid. It makes us cower. It makes us want to close up and lock ourselves away from its danger.
You can listen to the music HERE if it is not familiar to you.
Watching this movie makes me wonder what my music would sound like if I had music associated with me. If everyone heard my music when I entered the picture, would it scare them? Make them serious? Make them want to play? Make them want to hide their children and lock the bolts? Make them free their children and unlock the bolts? What if everyone had music that would help us to identify whether they were a threat or a friend, a traitor or a benefactor, a kind presence or a preditor?
Ultimately, the story Peter and the Wolf conveys a world that can be dangerous. It can eat your duck. But that it is still worth taking risks. The story and the movie pose interesting questions about the way we present the world to children. We can't visualize a duck, a pet duck no less, being eaten by a wolf in an episode of Mr. Rogers or Captain Kangaroo or Barney. The sight of the wolf gulping down Peter's pet duck is not one that everyone would expose their children to. Even if the story is well animated and the piece a classic in Western Literature and music history. Maybe its time to let it be replaced by stories like Ice Age and Toy Story and Wal-E - stories where the characters that children are induced to connect with and become attached to are not eaten.
Suzie Templeton said in an interview about the film that it took years to make and there there are a lot of themes to consider in it. She changed the ending so that the wolf gets set free, as though the boy realizes that the wolf's violence towards the duck is not something that the wolf ought to be ashamed of. The duck was food.The wolf ate it. Case closed. The types of violence that the bullies exhibit however does appear to bare a different ethical meaning. Their violence is not connected to basic survival. And for that reason gets different treatment.
Its a different retelling of the story than the one Prokofiev wrote. And shows you how time can change the way we want our stories told, from stories we tell children to the stories we are interested in ourselves.
Question for comment: Which of the musical scores in Peter in the Wolf would best describe you?