Songs from Musicals: #42, “Move On,” from Sunday in the Park with George

Honorable mentions: “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Color and Light”

Sunday in the Park with George is not a terribly easy musical to sing along to in the car, so it’s probably cheating to pick the signature song from the show, the one that shows up in high school talent nights. I get that, but “Move On” is the song, regardless of genre, that I find more relatable than any other.

I want to make things that count

Things that will be new

When I was in high school, I ate modernism for breakfast one morning and didn’t expel it from my person until I was in my twenties. In my high school literary club, the adviser suggested to stop trying to focus on, say, creating an objective correlative, and to focus more on the words in a poem or the action of a short story. I thought this was crazy talk, not knowing that Faulkner, to whom I built a little shrine, always considered himself a storyteller first. My fiction only stopped looking like Faulkner drag sometime last year. I was paralyzed by this sad desire to be different, or to say something in a way that was new and unique. I thought that I had the talent to make that possible. In moments of clarity, I accepted that I didn’t have the ability or the determination or the time to be a great writer; in moments of delusion, I kept believing that the purpose of writing was to make something new and different, as if new and different could replace a plot, or humor, or pleasure, or authenticity, or any number of purposes that I had more or less eschewed.

Stop worrying where you’re going

Move on

I’ve criticized “Die, Vampire, Die!” as twee, even though it has practically the same message as “Move On.” The point, according to both songs, is to make things and the heck with the consequences, or even if it’s any good. The fact of making things, even if they aren’t necessarily new, or revolutionary, or beautiful, is important. “Die, Vampire, Die!” is about the haters, though; it’s a negative look on the creative process which focuses on what other people say, rather than what the writer wants to do. To force a metaphor, “Die, Vampire, Die!” is like McClellan, obsessed with what might be on the other side; “Move On” is like Grant, who realized that his opponents were probably as scared of him as he was of them. The writing – or the art, in “Move On” – is what matters, not the reaction to it. It’s a powerful lesson, and one that I’ve tried to take to heart.

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