It felt like a bird when I held it: almost weightless…

When I first learned the age of the instrument (1721) I was filled with wonder that a delicate piece of craftsmanship could endure for centuries, that something so small and light could do so much, that an instrument made in the 18th century could have so much to say in the 21st. It felt like a messenger from the past and an emblem of the possible, a relic and a promise…

One evening not long ago, I went to see the San Francisco Symphony’s annual concert with the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir. The symphony musicians sat in a semicircle that began with violins and violas and ended with cellos and bass viols, and, thanks to the time I’d spent contemplating David Harrington’s violin, I saw it as a forest of wooden instruments. The gospel singers stood above them, and at one moment when I could see dozens of bows moving in unison in the dimness, see 50 mouths open in song, it felt like some kind of truce between our species and the trees had been struck.

Maybe that’s the promise David’s violin seemed to hold when I discovered how long it had been playing. At my request, he brought it over to my apartment and took it out of its case. I was a bit overawed and ready to spread a clean cloth to lay it on but he put it on my table without any fuss, and let me pick it up. It felt like a bird when I held it: almost weightless, incredibly powerful and extremely delicate. And then I saw Kronos perform one more time, and there it was, in David’s hands, making music as it had for three centuries, seeming strong enough to go on indefinitely.

— Rebecca Solnit, from “‘A truce with the trees’: Rebecca Solnit on the wonders of a 300-year old violin” (July 7, 2022, The Guardian)

Think of somebody who you adore, who’s no longer here.

I’m listening (half listening) to this NPR podcast titled How Art Changes Us and half surfing.

I pause when I hear a familiar voice.  It’s Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic.

For the next 10 minutes, he has my full attention.

So here’s the instructions:

  1. Listen to 10 minutes (from 40:22 to 50:40) of this podcast How Art Changes Us and then,
  2. For the next 4 minutes (from 12:35 to 16:45), watch this Ted Talk: “The Transformative Power of Classic Music“.

Or if you don’t have 14 minutes, jump Step 1 and move to Step 2.


And here’s a few excerpts that lead into the punch line:

Q: When can you remember a time when you played music for somebody and it had a profound change on what was going on around them?

Benjamin Zander: It’s hard for me to remember a time when I played music when it didn’t have that effect on people because that’s the given. I consider music to be a transformational experience. Mendelssohn said that music is a much more precise language than words. And when you think how easily we misunderstand words, and God knows there is enough evidence of that at this time. Music speaks directly to the heart. It speaks through the molecules. It is irresistible…

All the emotions that human beings are capable of feeling can be represented in music. It’s the music that generates the emotion that releases the human experience. It doesn’t go through the brain. It goes through the molecules…

It’s one thing to hear it in your earphones alone. It is quite another to hear it in a concert hall with 2000 other people who are all experiencing it together, and whose reaction and spontaneous enthusiasm at the end is part of the experience…

And on a tour, when you go from one town to another, you have the sense that people come out of the concerts with a different feeling about life, with a different perspective and with a different sense of being. And that’s why we do it and keep doing it and keep doing it. And as I approach my 80th birthday I have no intention to stop doing it at any point. It’s my life blood. That’s where I get my joy from. It’s the sense that people’s lives are really transformed.

Q: You play this piece by Chopin, but first you ask everyone to do something.

Zander: Yes. “Would you think of somebody who you adore, who’s no longer there. A beloved grandmother. A lover. Somebody in your life who you love with all your heart. But that person is no longer with you. Bring that person into your mind and at the same time follow that long line from B to E and you’ll hear everything that Chopin had to say.

(Now for the next 4 minutes from 12:35 to 16:45, watch this Ted Talk: “The Transformative Power of Classic Music“)


Photo of Benjamin Zander

Sunday Morning: Eyes closed. Breath stilled.

Bryan Arias

Henry insists that he is not a spiritual man. He says religion is just hocus-pocus. And yet when we go to a symphony concert together— which is usually one with Mahler on the program —and I glance over at him, I often behold on his creased old face an expression of rapture. Henry is clearly elevated to a higher realm— his spirit soars. I have no doubt that in some meaningful sense Henry has left the building. I too listen to music more and more. Throughout my life, music has stirred me more than any other art form, and now, in old age, I find myself listening to it almost every evening, usually alone, for hours at a time. Lying on the couch in the dark, listening to, say, Mahler’s Ninth Symphony or the Fauré Requiem or Puccini’s “E lucevan le stelle” from Tosca, I too sometimes take off for a realm where self-consciousness and my separateness from everything in the universe fall away. I am lost in the stars. Like Henry, I am hesitant to name this a spiritual experience, but at times it feels awfully close to one. Eyes closed, breath stilled, listening to the exquisite melancholy of Cavaradossi’s romanza to Tosca under the stars as he awaits his execution crying out, “Never have I loved life more!” sometimes— just sometimes— I can feel my yearnings made sublime.

~ Daniel Klein, Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life


Notes:

 

Ode to Flavor


Related Post: Eat

Snowman

driving, winter, snow, highway

Wednesday.  January 16, 2013.  5:35am.

I flip on the weather channel for a read on the highway conditions. (Like it matters, right?)

The weather woman warns that roads will be treacherous – – wet and slippery with snow accumulation.  (A call to arms for the Snowman. Need to get to the office to get a jump on God’s work.)

I’m out the door. Dark. Gloomy. Damp. Shivering. Seats are cold.  Steering wheel is frigid.  Frozen ice on windshield.  (Where are my gloves? I miss Miami. Soft, warm, gentle breezes.  Palm tree fronds rustling.)

No point sitting here, let’s get this engine firing so we can blow heat into this beast.  I back out of the driveway, skidding backwards.  (Not a good sign. I’m a mere 20 yards from the house.)

I arrive at I-95.  Early morning traffic trying to beat rush hour and the interminable snarls later in the day. Cars, SUVs, hulking Semi-trailers – all lurching ahead in a conga line. (It’s looking a lot like Gotham City, except I’m 40 miles away from Gotham.) [Read more…]

%d bloggers like this: