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Friday, March 12, 2010

Music That Makes Me Cry I

I was playing this CD of music by Sir Hubert Parry this morning. It’s a modest enough collection of choral music, and settings of English lyrics nicely performed by the tenor Robert Tear and pianist Philip Ledger. It was this section I was most interested in as a very gentle way of easing into the day.

What I’d forgotten about was the version of Jerusalem, Parry's setting of William Blake's remarkable words and majestically orchestrated by Elgar. This piece comes at the very end of the album, popping up in a dramatic fashion, almost like bonus material on modern day album; a single that wasn’t on the original album.

The shock of the full-on organ and orchestra along with the choir of Winchester Cathedral took me by surprise and held me rapt for its duration.

Jerusalem is one of those pieces which always makes me cry. Every time. Without fail. I lip gets all of a tremble just as the voices launch into “And did those feet in ancient time” and by the time it gets to “Bring me my Bow of burning gold; bring me my arrows of desire”, the tears are inevitably streaming down my face.

Unlike other pieces of music which make me cry which have a connection to an incident or person in my life, I have no explanation as to why Jerusalem unfailingly has this effect on me.

As it’s playing I always feel caught up in some tempestuous force which I do not understand and feel utterly dwarfed by. The time lost in this tumult is short but incredibly draining.

When the music finishes it’s like suddenly being dropped back to earth from a great height, a rough bump of landing which always takes a while to recuperate from.

It has had this effect on me for as long as I can recall and the fact that it has reliably happened to me for at least forty-five years, does not diminish its cathartic impact in any way whatsoever.


ALeks said...

Thats why I love music so well,my favourite kind of language!No need for explanation.I have a same kind of reaction by listening a few other composers and singers.Voices like Rosa Ponselle in Suicidio or Elizabeth Fraser in Silent spring or Bah or Vivaldi or some old Yugoslavian music are making me completely forgetting of this world or problems,intensity of feelings is so powerful that in some cases reminds me of tsunami wawe! Beautiful post,thank you!

Sid Smith said...

Hi there Aleks,
yes I recognise that tsunami feeling also, being totally overwhelmed. That music can make such a powerful connection to us is partly what keeps us human!

steven said...

sid there's something in certain pieces of music that reaches so far beyond hearing them and i wish i understood it but you describe that sensation so well. i have that experience with some of robert fripp's soundscapes, a few of vaughan williams' pieces, and others that won't come to mind at this moment. the sound of a mellotron evokes a world for me. an entire world long past but somehow magically present when i hear a mellotron flute. thanks for this gorgeous post. steven

Sid Smith said...

Some of the RF soundscapes get me as well (particular the last track on Love Cannot Bear) and ditto Vaughan Williams.

I too share that moment you describe whenever I hear a mellotron. It's not so much the flutes for me but rather a certain string setting. Brrr. Makes me go all shivery!

Norman Lamont said...

I just had a strange experience when I followed your link to Testing for Buzz XX William Blake. I listened to the beautiful extract from Andrew Keeling's track and was sure, for about two minutes after it had finished, that I could still hear the choir holding a low chord. Rationally, it was probably the combined drone of three computers on in my room, but experientally - magic!

Sid Smith said...

Hey there Norman - long time no speak. Three computers on in one room? Sounds like micro-wave frenzy and certainly worth a drone!

That piece by Andrew is beautiful though isn't it?

Stephen said...

Dear Sid,

There is a particularly fine version of Jerusalem on Mike Westbrook's Cortege suite, which you may know. I think Phil Minton really does justice to it. Although stripped-down, it still gives me the shivers.

It's ironic that this piece has become a mainstay of the WI and the last night of the Proms - about as middle of the road as you can get - whilst Blake's words at the time were considered pretty opaque and subversive...

Best regards,

Stephen Gadd

Sid Smith said...

Hi there Stephen and thanks for dropping in. I'm going to have to look for the version you mention. I loved Phil's reading of What is the price of Experience from the Mike Westbrook album - chilling stuff!


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