Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A beekeeper reviews Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee

First up, it is excellent that bees finally find themselves represented in the world of music and the arts.

However, is this short piece of music truly a representation, as it claims, of the 'flight of the bumblebee'? Although I have heard the buzzing of many bees, I cannot truly claim to have heard a bee buzz in this particular rhythmic and melodic combination before. Also, bees don't really buzz in harmony, so what's with the chords?

According to Wikipedia, this music appears in the opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan when a prince is changed into a bumblebee "so he can fly away to visit his father". Although I am aware of the larval stage in the development of a bee, there seems to be no stage at which a human prince transforms into a fully-fledged bumblebee. Yet again, bees are misrepresented, although at least not in such a heinous fashion as in the 1978 film The Swarm. Later in the opera, the bumblebee in question stings two evil sisters on the brow, which, although technically possible (bumblebees, unlike honeybees, are able to sting multiple times) seems highly unlikely, as bees of any sort rarely sting unless first provoked. 

Sadly, this music seems to be a hodge podge of misconception and inaccuracy that does little for the noble cause of the bee. It is highly advisable that Rimsky-Korsakov go back to bee school immediately.

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