Well, I did it. Finally finished the last episode of Ken Burns' Civil War miniseries and I cannot say as I have ever passed twelve hours with such rapt attention, even watching as I did in bursts of two or three episodes per night. However, such symptoms have manifested themselves in me as makes me wonder how I ever was able to watch television before. For when I now set fingers to keyboard, I do so in either the voice of a gallant young Confederate or an earnest and committed Union soldier. Sometimes they switch off in mid-sentence, as they just did now. It is altogether unsettling at first, though one gets used to it as one must.
I am further unsettled by the now-constant underscoring brought about by repeated exposure to the same musical motifs throughout the series. These tunes, glorious standards all, are fine and pleasing to the ear when heard for about an hour and a half every week. After lengthy viewing and listening, however, one begins to wonder if the fiddler and the fifer on the battlefield were supposed to know anything other than "The Battle Cry of Freedom" or "The Bonnie Blue Flag". For reasons known only to the heavenly creator, I am blessedly immune from both "Dixie" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", but the other two have so insidiously ingrained themselves in my subconscious that every thought I think and daily task that I undertake is now done with a mournful piano piece underneath. Small daily victories become Phyrric; momentary setbacks become lamentable failures. And every finality is set to the chorus with the high harmonies on top, itself a culmination of a slow and sad--but expertly played--build.
Moreover, I have come away from the viewing most impressed with the ability of the people in the middle of the 19th century to write letters of such a constant length as can be spoken to the tune of Ashokan Farewell, a song written one hundred and twenty years later, and reach their natural conclusions just as the song reaches its own. It is as if invisible hands were at work here, bringing the rambles to their most poignant and concise point just as the violin hangs on the note near the end, letting one final thought linger as the song finishes and the screen fades to black. This letter does not work that way. I have tried it.