27 November 2010

Music and Identity

Blog buddy Invictus Pilgrim has recently posted a Youtube clip of a beautiful violin piece that he says portrays all the feelings of his heart as he struggles to find his own soul and voice again after years of near-asphyxiation. I've shared favorite musical bits on my blog before like that, but his post prompted me to share another that has similar meaning for me.

Sir Hubert Parry was one of the finest English composers of the last two centuries. Yet he's virtually unknown in the United States except to aberrational music wonks like myself. This really is unfortunate because he wrote some of the most glorious stuff I've ever heard. Including one that has for me the same meaning as Invictus Pilgrim's violin piece does for him: it "seems to reach directly into one’s soul and issue a challenge to defy fate, to embrace and live life in all its texture, to experience sorrow as well as joy, agony as well as ecstasy, doubt as well as faith; to be – in the fullest sense of the word – human."

The piece which does that for me is the last movement of Parry's 5th Symphony. Curiously, Parry gave rather cryptic names to each movement of this symphony, and the last one, already so perfect a picture of life and its joys and struggles, is perfectly named: "Now." Especially for me. Now, more settled and happy and content than ever before. Now, past so much angst and turmoil, conflicts well-remembered but largely resolved. Now, looking ahead to a future brighter than for most of my life I imagined possible. And Parry's music captures it all, including the challenges and struggles that have led me to where I am, before it ends with some wonderful, brilliant resolutions in shimmering, resounding major chords that practically lift you out of your seat.

Caveat: It's 9 minutes long, and it's not background music. It requires your concentration, but trust me, it's worthy of it. If I could pick one piece as the soundtrack for my life, it'd be this one. Hope you like it.


Tim Trent said...

I have enjoyed listening to this movement. I had not heard of Parry before, though I feel I ought to have. I shall look for more of his music.

Chester said...

Thank you for this.

I wish more people were able to reign their attention to focus more on music. So much music out there, and so many of the people that listen to it are so vapid.

I wouldn't say it 'defines' me, but the Requiem by the French composer Duruflé is one of my favorites and has consoled me during some hard times in my life.


Invictus Pilgrim said...

Thanks for sharing this, Rob. I feel like I know you a bit better now. Like Tim, I was not familiar with Parry, but shall look for more of his music.

By the way, I thought your use of the term "near-asphyxiation" was very apt. You do have a way with words.