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A Blog About Culture

Recognition, Situation, Identity, Reality

Image from GoodReads.com

Around Thanksgiving of last year, I read Triad, by Mary Leader (1973). I knew it was the inspiration for Stevie Nicks’ song “Rhiannon,” named after one of the characters, so I wanted to experience it for myself and try to surmise how her artistic mind went there. The answer: I am not quite sure.

I had always interpreted the song lyrics to mean that Rhiannon was a free-spirited woman. In the book (and this is not even a spoiler), she is the ghost of the main character’s psychopathic cousin. Sure, there are ties to the novel, but the characters of Rhiannon in the song and book (and even of Welsh mythology) are completely different women and shouldn’t be confused. I have read some articles and reviews that claim that she only used the name because she liked it, but I think there are enough ties between the novel and lyrics that some similarities were intentional.

How often does that occur in a cultural context? When we, as uninformed viewers, experience cultural performances… or when we as cultural workers design exhibits meant to (re)present another culture to the public… how much is presented based on artistic inspiration? How much do we hear and truly understand? Not saying that Stevie didn’t understand the plot of Triad, but she definitely took a snippet and then went in a totally different direction. When I think about that in cultural contexts, it worries me. It’s like reusing a quote out of context. It’s like disagreeing with one tenet of a major religion and then antagonizing all of its followers because of it. That might be extreme, but it’s the trajectory of thinking that I’m imagining.

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