The Ninna Nanna

#1
I was very intrigued by the Ninna Nanna (a word for an Italian Folk Lullaby) that is sung over the closing credits. Interestingly, this particular Ninna Nanna (called Ninna Nanna Malandrineddu, and originating in Sardinia) contains a character named Tony (or Anton, to be more precise). It's the story told through the words of a woman to her son, who's father was an outlaw that escaped to the mountains: "Antoneddu, little Anton," she goes on to say, "I'd rather see you dead than a bandit in the mountains."

Ninna Nanna’s, while designed to sound soothing and calming to a young child, notoriously also included very mature, grim content from time to time as well. Elsewhere, this one also includes the lines: “You must grow big and strong / You must grow quickly. / Little son, you must avenge your father”.

"I'd rather see you dead than a bandit in the mountains." What does this refer to? Perhaps Tony’s rejection of his own father’s path? In the lullaby, the father has already become a bandit in the mountains, and the mother would wish her son dead before he takes a similar route. There has been much discussion here lately of the symbolic death of each of Tony’s father figures, perhaps this ties in with that?

Simultaneously, though, the mother wishes that her son avenge his father. For what reason, if any, would Tony Soprano feel the need to avenge his father? In his own eyes, Tony’s father was larger-than-life. It’s interesting that if Tony felt the need for vengeance against anyone in his father’s name, it would be against the very woman who would sing this lullaby to him. Tony struggled his whole life to stand up to his large-looming mother. Livia was also the woman that – in Tony’s eyes – crumbled his mighty father, and “wore him down to the little nub” that he was when he died. Though this point really had nothing to do with the episode, so I'm obviously digressing here.

Back on track, perhaps the Ninna Nanna is speaking to the other Tony: Anthony, Jr. This notion invokes the earlier scene of Tony cradling his “baby” in his arms outside the pool. Perhaps it is A.J. that would be dead before following his dishonest, criminal father as a bandit in the mountains? In the past, it has always been a possibility for us that AJ would follow his father into the business, but now (after he has come down after the initial rush of aiding in the burning of that debtor’s foot with the acid) we see that he certainly has way too much heart to ever fully belong in that life. In fact, it is the Tony Sopranos of the world that are causing AJ so much distress over the evil of the world. Like never before, we are seeing AJ becoming more like his often-depressed father, but also drifting further away by rejecting everything that his father stands for. And as the mother of the lullaby wishes her son dead before leading the life of a bandit, AJ chooses suicide (or at the very least, a reckless "cry for help") before following his father (or his up-and-coming thug friends) into the life as well.

Again, I find the lyrics to another song used by Chase to be eerily perfect and wholly episode-appropriate. How does this guy always land on the perfect song, that not only fits the mood so well, but also has such meaningful lyrical content?

Re: The Ninna Nanna

#2
UP, thanks for the find. I did think this sounded like an Italian lullaby my mom used to sing. I thought the singer sounded really harsh though and barely recognized it.

To me it makes a lot of sense that it is AJ. It could be referencing his suicide, but to avenge his father. Maybe that's precient?

Re: The Ninna Nanna

#3
Terrific post, UP. How does a kid that just graduated high school know so much?:icon_biggrin::icon_wink:

I had no idea about the song or its lyrical content. But your description of its message makes clear that Chase could have chosen it for that aspect as well as for its meloncholic, old-world tune.

If it was the former, it sounds like AJ is the "Anton" intended. The shot of the two Anthonys in the hospital at the end makes it clear that they have at least as much in common as they have in difference. I would say that mother's voice is speaking for Carmela, AJ, and Tony himself. None of them want AJ to follow Tony's paths, either the one to becoming a "bandit" or the one to becoming a self-destructive depressive. Yet AJ is clearly already on the latter path.

Did you do a full translation of the lyrics (or locate one done by someone else)?
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: The Ninna Nanna

#4
Thanks Fly! Actually, I was unable to find the full lyrics, either in English (or in Italian, with the hopes of roughly translating it). When I stumbled upon the full title of this particular 'ninna nanna', I just started typing it into different search engines, and stumbled upon a few different articles that quoted a line here or there. So I admit, my understanding of the lyrical content of this is based entirely on very few facts posted in several different places, and is therefore extremely limited. If I happen to find the full lullaby, I'll be sure to post it in its entirety. Perhaps then will more light be shed on the exact relevance of the song.

Fly, the line "I'd rather see you dead than a bandit in the mountains" makes sense to me, or at least seems to fit the theme of the show (and content of the particular scene) rather nicely. I seem to be struggling to make a connection with the other, most crucial line of the lullaby (crucial to the lullaby, I assume, as it is the most often quoted line, from what I found): “You must grow big and strong / You must grow quickly. / Little son, you must avenge your father”. Do you have any suggestions as to what this could mean to the show (if anything)? Or do you think this particular line is ultimately inconsequential?

Perhaps this is foreshadowing?

Edit: No, not the full translation, but I found a bit more interesting information on the song.
(from the PDF found at http://media.smithsonianglobalsound.org/liner_notes/folkways/FW06915.pdf, on page 6):

Lullaby from Sardinia. The mother sings to her little boy. His father, a brigand, escaped to the mountains and is being followed. She sings: "Antoneddu, little Anton, I'd rather see you dead than a bandit in the mountains." So that she will not have to disclose her husband's whereabouts, she too will go into the mountains. Her son sings: "Mama, Mama, when I live in the mountains, I won't fall into dishonor." In the third stanza the ghost-like voice of the father is heard: "Sing, o beautiful, sing o beautiful, all around me it's quiet and I only hear you singing."

Re: The Ninna Nanna

#5
UP, it's more a reflection on my particular state of mind re the show at this point than anything else, but I'm not too inclined to look for portent in the lyrics you quoted. I'm more in a "wait and see" mode.

Part of that could be due to the fact that the lyrics are in Italian and the song is very obscure. I'm not certain, but I don't think Chase really speaks or is fluent in Italian. So I'd bet the musical tone is what attracted him first to the song and the additional similarities (the name "Anton", the father being a bandit, the theme of a mother not wishing her son to follow in the father's footsteps) were icing on the cake. Would obviously be a great question to pose regarding this episode, though.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: The Ninna Nanna

#6
Just how much time does Chase spend listening to music when choosing which songs to use? This old Italian song and "Chickentown" (from 'Stage 5') stand out as truly inspired but very obscure songs not at all in pop culture's radar.

Re: The Ninna Nanna

#7
You doing a show about an ethnic group, though several generations removed from the 1st generation to land here and start "Genesco Olive Oil Company". Even if Chase doesn't speak the language there still a bit of the old phrases still left in the lingual and I am sure he gets input from people who know the language and "old country" culture than him.

Many of us, lets say in the New York Metro Region, maybe other big city Metro areas where people come from and now spreaded all over the USA, probably 4 generations down, still know phrases, and perhaps even educated ourselves in some folk songs we were passed on as kids. Yiddish, Italian, Polish, Irish etc. All these groups have intermingled and people of other groups know another group's lingual.

I am saying this, because we are talking about Chase's knowledge of Italian, via this song, above. Just thinking of where he is coming from, in relation to living in a similar environ as he did, but another place not so far.

Re: The Ninna Nanna

#8
That's a good point, stu. I suppose this could be a song Chase heard in his youth fairly often and remembered, even if he couldn't do a word for word translation.

As for dad's question about Chase's listening habits, in interviews he has often mentioned that he listens to a lot of music. (His first ambition was to be a rock and roll drummer/musician.) But in addition to what I presume is just listening for enjoyment, he often listens to music to set the mood for what he's writing. I got the impression from something he said that he may sometimes have music playing as he's writing or certainly as a prelude to it.

The recent Written By feature on the Sopranos writers confirmed, for example, that when Chase was meeting with the writers to outline Join the Club, he had them listen to the Moby/Annie Lennox song to set the mood he was looking for. So he obviously knew before he'd even scripted the episode that he was going to use that piece of music.

As we might guess, his brain inspires awe in a lot of people he works with.:icon_biggrin: People are always talking about how he remembers everything and files it away. The Chickentown song was an example of that. Somewhere I read that he heard that song back in the early 80s when he was shuffling around his house and marked it to be used later. So, about 25 years later, it shows up.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"
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