Grasping at Tranquility Through Weighty Music

"View From Inside the Symphony: Second Violinist's Perspective" Artwork of mine from years ago

“View From Inside the Symphony: Second Violinist’s Perspective” Artwork of mine from years ago

Music is such an interesting human invention. Sometimes if I think long and hard about it, it becomes almost magical, a physical manifestation of raw emotion, tangible yet intangible at the same time. We are so easily moved by it – it seems more than just another incomplete mode of communication between one human brain island and another. It has the power to completely possess the emotions and derail the brain, often more effectively and efficiently than words can ever hope to achieve.

In particular I find myself stuck currently on Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3, Movement I: Sostenuto tranquillo ma cantabile. The recording I’ve been listening to is the 1976 performance with Teresa Erbe and the Baden-Baden Symphony, but if you know this piece and know of a recording you like better, I’m all ears. It’s quite a long first movement, even for a classical piece, and the first several minutes are so quiet, building in intensity, but I feel that just adds to its allure. It was a find I stumbled across, playing in the background while I wrote during nanowrimo. If you don’t have the patience for this style of music you may find no interest in it, but something about it is so dark and yet so beautiful it just draws me in. Give it a listen. Especially if you find beauty in dark things.

If you don’t have the patience, listen to it anyway, starting at about 12:33 minutes in, and listening until at least 18:05. Listen in a quiet place, with your eyes closed and the volume loud. Let the music hit your brain unimpeded.

I started reading about Górecki, a Polish composer who lived during WWII. Something about Eastern European composers living during the late 19th and early to mid 20th centuries fascinates me, I think in part because their music has so much raw emotion – some might attribute that to an art-imitates-life reflection of the bitter pain and suffering in that area around that time. The music is really quite emotive, perhaps not always positive, but still very powerful – something to be respected and remembered.

Maybe I have darkness in my soul, but something about embracing the bittersweetness of life makes everything seem more real, and quite tranquil. Somehow acknowledging the “don’t-haves,” the disappointments, the dead dreams, the previous sadnesses and losses – even and especially if not our own – makes all of the happinesses and successes so much more worth celebrating.

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