Auld Lang Syne holds a special grip on new year’s eve – one Robert Burns may never have anticipated when he drafted the verse in 1788. So when we we found ourselves in its warm embrace Sunday morning, either before a performance or participating in one, we can only imagine the many variations that have emerged over the years.
Each performance carries with it the emotional weight one would expect from a song entitled for old good times. From the bewildered casino patrons in the original Ocean’s Eleven who carry-on among each other’s arms in a intoxicated celebration of the new year while Danny Ocean and his crew rob them blind, to Billy Preston and Aretha Franklin’s soulful rendition, or the formal enthusiasms of the BBC orchestra, as by an act of nature, we’ve seen it evolve, mutate and emerge, again and again. The mysterious pronunciation itself would suggest a time of merriment and intoxication. Afterall, doesn’t auld lang syne sound like the gutteral jubilation of a party-goer just barely holding onto their sobriety.
Perhaps this is why one rendition stands apart from the others. Vivian Leigh and Robert Taylor danced to a waltz-arrangement of the song in Waterloo Bridge, and at some point between the film’s release in 1940 and 2006, someone decided to anthologize the movie, the moment, and the song with a synthesizer rendition of auld lang syne. Call it a step into the uncanny valley or a late performance in the theatre of the absurd, but something was wrong.
Back to what one might expect