“Refrain” (Lys Assia)

Is the “refrain” in the repetition, the singularity of the melody, or the repression of impatience? A bit of all, to tell the truth. As the first Eurovision Song Contest winner (1956), it’s a way to understand Europe’s sense of being at a particular moment. But it’s not a European song inasmuch as a Swiss song in French, which beat out the German Swiss song. This descent down the location ladder is challenged by the inversely proportional desire to sing particularly (here, of an experience), setting up the trax’s loop: the proper way of being and comportment writ large must be miniaturized in order to be magnified. The chanteuse sings in the present to the love of her youth, noting a sense of mutual maturity while lamenting what’s been lost. Instead of melancholy in which what has been lost must eventually disappear into a generalized longing, this could be taken as a desire to differ from one’s self—a need to retain previous identities to register one’s difference from them. What matters is a promise to decide, continually, on the promise of such difference.


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