Wednesday, May 29, 2013

INKI AND THE MINAH BIRD - BIRD-BRAINED MENDELSSOHN

Banned by broadcast TV and not on official DVDs, the Warner Bros. "Inki" cartoon series is often dimly remembered as some kind of hallucination. No words. Some strange philosophy behind life and death or thought and action. And...that music...the trademark loping classical refrain any time the grim minah bird hopped into the scene. Unfortunately his co-star was "Inki," a little African native boy that in name and features some find politically incorrect. It's kept the meager "Inki" cartoon series a cult item for decades now.

Some seventy years ago, "Inki and the Minah Bird" was received well enough to sputter a few sequels, years apart, before being abandoned entirely in favor of the more popular Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck stuff. Nothing remotely as baffling, intellectual or mysteriously appealing would come out of the Warners cartoon mill till "One Froggy Evening" many years later. That one, ironically, was also memorable in part for the music, including the original 20's-flavored song "Michigan Rag."

With no dialogue (or dialect, fortunately), each "Inki" cartoon was a meditation on the frantic violence of a savage world (usually a ferocious lion chasing Inki) and the stoic attempts of the bird, like Poe's Raven, to ignore it with "NEVERMORE" determination and eyes cast downward. Looking more like a distant crow relative of Heckle and Jeckle, he was one of the more intriguing and subtle characters in the Warners stable, especially considering a minah is known as a good talker and they had Mel Blanc ready at the microphone. But…whether to get some peace and quiet, or to see to it that good triumphs over bad, the minah bird would silently choose when to turn from stoic observer into a violently active participant. There was also some question over whether he was on one side or the other, or a total misanthrope bearing allegiance to nobody but himself.

For some, the Warner Bros. cartoon soundtracks were early introductions to classical music. Their music department brilliantly adapted Mendelssohn's "Hebrides Overture," for their minah bird.

It's ironic that a composer who is alternately claimed as both Jewish and Protestant/Lutheran (converting made life less stressful in Hamburg) and sometimes listed as Jakob Felix Mendelssohn or Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, should have several titles associated with his best symphonic work. It's still known alternately as both "The Hebrides Overture" and "Fingal's Cave."

Barely out of his 20's, Hamburger Felix was already a sophisticated composer and a world traveler. In 1830 he visited the Hebrides in Scotland, and was awed by the sight of Fingal's 35 foot high cave. He sketched a tone poem that he called "The Lonely Island." The moody, roiling turbulence in the piece seemed to capture some of the seasickness that made getting to the island less than fun.

By 1832 the finished, more substantial work was now called "The Hebrides." It ended up being categorized as an "overture" even though it isn't. Just to confuse things further, when the piece was actually published for orchestras around the world to play, it was printed up as "Fingal's Cave," apparently due to Felix once again revising the title. No less a genius than Brahms himself declared his love of this salty suite: "“I would gladly give all my works if I had succeeded in composing a piece like the Hebrides Overture."

Below?

I've created a four minute version of "Inki and the Minah Bird" from the original soundtrack, editing out some of the dead air, and sound effects that are just noisy and wouldn't mean anything.

You also get a "real" version of the original "Hebrides Overture" for comparison.

Felix cartooned: Four Minute "Cartoon Audio" Single: INKI AND THE MINAH BIRD by Ill Folks

HEBRIDES OVERTURE - FINGAL'S CAVE Bamberg Symphony Orchestra

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a great post! This cartoon and Fantasia were what make me fan of classical music, when I was just 6 years old! Nothing like this anymore!