Thursday, April 16, 2009

While we're on the subject of perfect songs...

"White Bird," by It's A Beautiful Day. Why aren't there more rock songs with violins?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Samuel Barber (1910-1981) Adagio for Strings: "Semplice e bella*"

A little off topic.

The first time I remember ever hearing Barber's Adagio for Strings was when it was played at the National Cathedral during the memorial service following the attacks of September 11th, 2001.

I probably had heard it before, certainly while watching Platoon once or twice, but it had never registered with me—I just took it as part of the soundtrack. But in those rarefied surreal days, it became the music of the times—sorrowful, elegiac, mourning, poignant, aching, touching, forgiving—the distilled essence of tragedy and human frailty.

I must have listened to it five hundred times in the months following September 11th, over and over again—during that weird awful period when time stood still, each cloudless blue day melding into the next, the days and nights only marked by the transit of fighter jets far overhead.

Adagio lost its visceral connection with that time for me through the years; but I still listen to it from time to time, and am always struck by its utter...perfection.

Samuel Barber, who bore a resemblance to my father at a similar age, composed Adagio in his twenties, and created one of the few pieces of classical music of the twentieth century to have a lasting legacy.

I don't have the musical vocabulary to describe this accurately, but about 3/4 of the way through, there is a moment where something is expressed in music that I cannot find words for—forgiveness, reconciliation, grace, longing, release; some sorrow or mournfulness expressed earlier is resolved into pure bliss. Without fail, it brings tears to my eyes.

I have heard it said that Adagio is our national song of mourning; it was played for President Kennedy's funeral. I do not know if this is true. I do know that to my mind, it is a perfect piece of music.

By the way: Samuel Barber was a good Irishman, and longtime companion of Gian Carlo Menotti.
*Arturo Toscanini, 1938: "Simple and beautiful."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Today's Luncheon Special

We start off with 3.63 gallons of fresh 92 octane, followed with 18.3 miles of twisting two-laned perfection surrounded by early budding grey forests, alternating sections of white and black three-board fences surrounding lush pastures and paddocks, and unexpected splashes of blooming daffodils, redbud and sprouting skunk cabbage.

Next, peanut-butter and strawberry jam, served with plastic cutlery on pita bread atop a tuft of lush green grass against a sun-warmed dry-set fieldstone wall, beneath a clear blue sky sprinkled with fluffy white clouds and garnished with thin line of distant mountains.

For dessert, another 4.2 miles of two-lane bliss passing through endless flat pastures stretching as far as the eye can see, sprinkled generously with long-horned cattle.