Back in 2015, I wrote about Marian Call’s cover of “The Sound of Music,” which unintentionally featured a sassy marmot. She is, in addition to being my favorite songwriter, a wonderful human; her shows always have a strong sense of that familial, “we’re in this together” vibe that really only comes from a certain type of artist. That feeling was party because @snarke and I had several friends in the crowd and partly because it’s sort of the nature of house concerts, but also that’s just the sort of ambiance you get when nerds congregate and get to be thoughtful and sad and joyful and silly all in 90 minutes.
We heard the classics we love–“The Volvo Song,” “Good Morning Moon,” “The Avocado Song,” “Nerd Anthem”–but also some deep cuts, and a new track that’s made possible by her patrons.** She and Seth, who has new album out, have such a wonderful vocal blend.
**Marian’s Patreon helps her to create music year-round instead of every few years.
I managed not to choke up during “Highway Five” and the end of “Grandpa Had It Right,” but just barely. On the opposite side of the emotional barometer, we laughed during “The Elements: Expanded” and bobbed our heads to the beat of “Like This,” which is as close as many of us get to dancing. One of the things I love about attending concerts from artists I’ve previously seen is that there’s a flavor of giggling that says “I’m hearing this for the first time, and I love it!”, and another that says “Ah, there’s the joke that I love,” and the two of them together are harmony. It feels like the emotional equivalent of this.
I looked over at @snarke and @kmlawrence, saw the happiness on their faces, along with other Sea Monkeys and Monkey Adjacent friends in one small room, enjoying amazing music and being together.
I stare at the pixels surreptitiously chewing on my screen; the post only appears to be blank, the overly-energetic bouncing cursor a clever ruse. In the reality next door, gliding over the fields of quantum entanglement, this post has already been crafted. It’s sparked meaningful dialogue about A Significant Issue or perhaps a Gentle Glance into the Human Condition, and we all sip on a rather satisfying concoction of insight and entertainment. Fulfilled, I return to watching Season 4 of Torchwood, wondering how Captain Jack manages to perpetually save the Earth with its inhabitants so perilously smitten with inevitable coat admiration.
But in this reality, the sentences and paragraphs are still veiled. Ever the inquisitor, Facebook asks what’s on my mind. Because no reliable structures are in place, I have no answer, so I repost the question, amplifying its resonance. Seven minutes later, Jill says:
“Write on the usefulness of marmots in music videos.”
Well, of COURSE I should.
I’ve met most of Jill’s cats, horses, and dogs, including her excitable, very-much-not-toy-sized poodle, but I can only assume she doesn’t own a marmot. I would have known. Everyone would have, because while life offers few absolutes, one of them is that marmot ownership proves too salient to be anything but a known quantity.
No, Jill is referring to a video that geek-folk chanteuse Marian Call released earlier this week as a reward for her Kickstarter backers. If support exceeded $45,000, Marian vowed that she would climb a mountain in Juneau and sing “The Sound Of Music” in her best Maria Rainer cosplay.
As the video begins, Marian spins in circles while delivering a beautiful a capella melody. At 0:26, the camera captures an unsuspecting marmot just going about its marmot-y day: enjoying the sunshine, mentally preparing a recipe for the organic, free-range flower petals dipped in grass it’ll munch on later, deciding which contractors it’ll call back about the burrow remodeling, etc.
But 5 seconds later, the significance of it all – YouTube, Kickstarter, Marian, The Sound Of Music, mountains – smashes through the tranquil rodent’s consciousness. The marmot snaps to attention like a volatile orthodontic rubber band, its rear paws taking root to the small rock it has commandeered as an ottoman. The marmot is to be applauded both for its unwavering solider-esque stance and the fact that the rock in question looks exceedingly uncomfortable. This is devotion.
For the remainder of the video, Marian climbs trees, sings while sitting on the mountain’s precipice, saunters through the grass and rock, and tosses pebbles into a pond like a purple-sneaked Ponce De Leon. As her song draws to a close, a tourist approaches and questions her apron’s origin. One cannot help but notice that the marmot has been suspiciously absent for the entire second half of the video. Did the mountain police charge it with some manner of fabricated Standing On A Rock infraction? Was it suddenly gripped by an overwhelming desire to reread David Barash’s seminal work Marmots: Social Behavior and Ecology (1st Edition)? Or was it merely asleep, the result of too many consecutive pomegranate benders?
Nay, for this marmot simply knows how to make a re-entrance. As the Credits screen materializes, we realize that Our Hero has triumphantly returned! The marmot stares contemplatively for a second, shakes its head, and bounds off the rocks into untold adventures!
I would submit to you, Internet, that while we can – and should – appreciate the cultural and historical significance of The Marian Marmot, our furry comrade is not a one-trick giant squirrel. There is no addition more valuable to the craft of music video production than the presence of our hibernating herbivorian homeslices.
Consider, for example:
The principal dance sequence in “Thriller” was actually led by a pair of marmots. They are not visible on screen due to a tetchy breakdown of contract negotiations.
The concepts for Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” video are adapted from a dream Gabriel experienced in which he was visited by The Great Clay Marmot.
A yellow-bellied marmot provided the keyboard tracks for “Video Killed The Radio Star.” Because the marmot insisted on wearing a vintage crevette for the video- a demand the director could not accept – the assistant caterer for the shoot was hired to pose as the band’s instrumentalist.
“Money For Nothing” was drawn in real time by a Menzbier’s marmot with exceptional time management skills.
That impossibly high note in “Take On Me”? A marmot.
Those instances represent only a sampling of how marmots shaped our collective video chronology. But are there marmotic benefits to the modern music video director as well?
Four out of five directors agree. In fact:
Marmots are highly social; participating in crowd shots is a reflection on their natural extroverted tendencies.
Their primary method of communication is loud whistling, ensuring that one always knows where one’s marmot is.
Marmots tend to burrow within rockpiles, so their grunge-tinged attire is perfect for punk-pop anthem shoots. As a bonus, the band saves money on hiring wardrobe consultants.
They look adorable or intimidating in gold chains, whichever fits your narrative. Marmots are versatile!
As the originators of pop-rock’s most industrious rock moves, marmots will train your extras and blanket the proceedings with an element of style.
We have only clawed the surface, but I trust we understand each other, you and I. Clearly, marmots are to music videos as a tailored suit is to a media mogul.
Jill wonders how the marmot is related to the photobombing squirrel from 2009.
I have reason to suspect the connection is paramount. But like a wine of exceptional quality and limited release, marmot investigations are best experienced when they are savored.