Monday, August 18, 2003

The August 13 edition of that most pleasurable blog, Reflections in d Minor , ruminates a bit on the ability, or lack thereof, of music to make people cry. The very enjoyable entry got me to thinking about my own experiences. Music can, on rare occasion, bring me to literal, actual tears, but, for me, at least, it's not necessarily sad music, but simply music that I find powerful in some way. The example that sticks with me most is the finale to Stephen Sondheim's Pacific Overtures, as performed by the English National Opera on their 1987 recording of the score. That cast recording was my first exposure to the show, and I distinctly remember listening to it in the car one day and becoming overwhelmed by the dramatic finale. That last song, "Next," just pushes some emotional buttons for me; and not because it's a "sad" song - it's not. It is a song that climaxes in the kind of explosive, drum-laden, exuberant and loud rattle and hum that Sondheim almost never indulges in. Even better is that, as it climaxes, at the height of its frenzy, the music is cut off suddenly to be replaced by a quiet Japanese instrument softly plucking away. The Reciter (a narrator character) states some lines, quietly, and then the frenxy comes crashing back in again all of a sudden, with no warning, back at its thrashing height. It's powerful stuff, and it's the kind of music that can get me in the gut. The show, score, recording - all of it - comes highly recommended, for whatever that's worth.

Until whenever.

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