Shelf Life | Newberry

Shelf Life

“Shelf Life” is a podcast from the Newberry Library about the humanities–and the humans behind them. Each episode features a new conversation with librarians, curators, and researchers about anything from the history of fake news to the secret lives of famous American authors.


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The Meaning of "Fa-La-La"

Non-lexical vocables—your fa-la-la’s and hey-nonny-no’s—didn’t originate as nonsense filler-syllables for brightening up a song. In Renaissance England, they were used to advance a song’s satirical critique of society or as a lyrical surrogate for something that couldn’t be expressed explicitly.

Newberry research fellow Katie Bank tells us all about the history and legacy of non-lexical vocables.

Host: Newberry Fellowships Manager Keelin Burke

The Meaning of "Fa-La-La" by Shelf Life, from the Newberry Library

Songs Featured in This Episode:

Thomas Morley, “Now Is the Month of Maying”

Thomas Weelkes, “Ha Ha! This World Doth Pass”

Thomas Tomkins, “O, Let Me Live for True Love”

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