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  • Writer's pictureAmy B

Music Connects Old and New on New Years Eve

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

Jubilant singing rings out in a packed Times Square at exactly midnight every January 1st. The old Scottish phrase “auld lang syne” stands out, a small piece of lingual and musical history bridging into the newest year. It’s no coincidence that these words and this melody are what we choose to express the feeling of passing across the invisible threshold into the mystery of a new year.

The phrase “auld lang syne” translates literally to “old long since,” but is best translated as “for the sake of old times.” The lyrics speak of reminiscing and reconnecting with old friends and not taking for granted the many fond memories you share with them. The words act as the perfect counterpoint to beginning a fresh new year–a comfortable reminder of the good old days and that no matter how distant we may grow from our friends as the years go by, the memories we made together will last a lifetime. A sentiment no better expressed than in this oft-forgotten 4th verse:

We two have paddled in the stream, from morning sun till dine; But seas between us broad have roared since auld lang syne.

The lyrics take on a particular poignancy at this time of year, made all the more impact by the deeply familiar, tear-inducing melody. A magic happens at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s–one of the few times in life that everyone takes up a common melody together. We express hope for the future and a fond goodbye to the previous year. The pentatonic (“five-note”) melody finds strength in simplicity. Other five-note melodies include Amazing Grace, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, and children’s songs like Old MacDonald, Ring Around the Rosie, and Rain Rain Go Away; pentatonic melodies and nostalgia go hand-in-hand.

This year, sing out wholeheartedly when the ball drops and “Auld Lang Syne” wraps you up in its long history. Think of old times, and all the new times to come, and how music might help you along the way.

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