“On Music”

The Cornell Glee Club

by Thomas Moore

When through life unblest we rove,
Losing all that made life dear,
Should some notes we used to love,
In days of boyhood, meet our ear,
Oh! how welcome breathes the strain!
Wakening thoughts that long have slept,
Kindling former smiles again
In faded eyes that long have wept.

Like the gale, that sighs along
Beds of oriental flowers,
Is the grateful breath of song,
That once was heard in happier hours.
Fill’d with balm the gale sighs on,
Though the flowers have sunk in death;
So, when pleasure’s dream is gone,
Its memory lives in Music’s breath.

Music, oh, how faint, how weak,
Language fades before thy spell!
Why should Feeling ever speak,
When thou canst breathe her soul so well?
Friendship’s balmy words may feign,
Love’s are even more false than they;
Oh! ’tis only music’s strain
Can sweetly soothe, and not betray.

Wozzek

For better of for worse, I’m genuinely not a fan of opera.

Having worked most of my life with trained singers who absolutely love operas and make their living singing through them, it’s created some challenges. For the most part, we work through it.

Though the advent of cancel-culture has created difficulties all its own being as I’m white male, a Priest, a symbol of the patriarchy and all that must be smashed, altered, and destroyed, while many musicians are libertine, do as you wish, dyed in the wool liberals. It’s odd as I’m actually fairly liberal in many areas.

Where were we again?

Ah, yes…

Wozzek.

I actually love this opera.

I was driving to Florida with a friend to visit his family many years ago, we’ll call him Slew. As we drove we listened to a classical music station for a few hours and played “Guess That Composer” because music majors did that kind of thing before we could stare into our phones mindlessly for hours on end. He had just graduated from a prestigious northern university and I had just graduated from UNO (places are only as great as you make them) – yet I won every guess!

Point being, UNO is great in so many areas because some learned professors simply want to live in New Orleans and it’s solid work.

But no, that’s not the point. The real point of the story is that one day whilst NPR was broadcasting their Saturday afternoon Metropolitan Opera bit, I heard something completely fascinating. I went through the process: 20th century; atonal; opera; must be Wozzek.

I was right! Though admittedly it was a no brainer.

It’s so bizarre it’s wonderful.

Atonal theory doesn’t make much sense initially. But because it uses other methods to establish continuity to the ear – it makes sense to the listener in a new and fascinating way. There’s a reason it’s still popular – because as bizarre as it is, it also makes complete sense.

Here’s another bit – it has a lot of interesting starting points. And it’s all very intelligently done.

Stay great, and listen thoughfully.

And be kind to your music friends – no matter how successful they are, they all suffer greatly for their art.

+

The Barber Adagio

This is one of my all time favorite pieces of music (and there are many.) A beautiful, thought provoking rendition, to boot.

Fr. Kenneth Allen