Music for the soul

A couple of summers ago, I went to check on how World War I was going in the classroom of my friend Dave Adams. When I got there, Germany was still posturing, the U.S. was still smug and quiet, and everyone still hated France. While Europe parleyed, music played. I complimented Dave on the music, and he offered to make me a copy of the CD, which he had put together from his collection. He called it his Music for the Soul CD; its contents represented music that resonated deeply for him.

The idea of creating a CD that was filled with music that had special meaning for your soul is right up there with the “10 books for your desert island” meme, but unlike your mythical shipwreck, this is one you can actually do, although I have to say that if you don’t have iTunes, you really really want it on your computer before you try.

I don’t think it would surprise anyone to find that mine is devoid of pop music.

Here’s my list:

  1. Allegretto, mvt. 1 of Symphony No. 2 in D, Sibelius
  2. Prelude, mvt. 1 of Cello Suite No. 1, J. S. Bach
  3. “Juice of the Barley,” an English country dance
  4. Allegro, mvt. 1 of Piano Concerto No. 2 in b minor, Dohnányi
  5. “The Hours,” from the movie soundtrack of the same name, Glass
  6. “Komm, eilet und laufet,” mvt. 3 from Easter Oratorio, J. S. Bach
  7. “Towards the Dream,” from Dreamtime Return, Roach
  8. “Prelude and Fugue No. 7 in A major,” from the 24 Preludes and Fugues, Shostakovich
  9. Fratres, Pärt
  10. Canon in D, Pachelbel
  11. “The Breaking of the Fellowship,” from The Fellowship of the Ring, Shore

The amazing thing about this lineup is that it seems all of a piece. There is contrast between tracks, but there’s an odd coherence about it all. Even the last track, the Fellowship of the Ring piece, segues neatly back into the first track, the Sibelius. One thing that helps the coherence is that most of the works seem to be related to the key of D: D major, b minor, A major, etc.

This CD must truly be my music of my soul, because I never seem to tire of it. I have gone months at a time with nothing in the CD player in the car but this, and it never palls. Even the child has noted that there’s something interesting about the CD, both as a whole and in its parts.

Stylistically, of course, it’s all over the place: baroque, post-romantic, minimalist, new age, movie music, for god’s sake. What could possibly hold it all together?

And why is this music for my soul? What does this say about me? I shall hazard a guess. It’s complex, esoteric, cerebral. It’s melancholy, mostly underneath but occasionally on the surface. It’s coherent, no 12-tone horrors here. It moves, none of it is static, the Glass, Roach, and Pärt notwithstanding. And much of it is inward-looking. Yep, that about sums me up.

5 thoughts on “Music for the soul

  1. Holy cow. It’s about time somebody gave some props to my boy Part. I am sick and tired of that man getting absolutely no respect for his incredible work. The man is all genius and I worship Fratres! Well, that and Tabula Rosa, Fur Alina, Spiegel im Spiegel, St. John Passion, Te Deum, Miserere and his Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten. Truthfully, the man can do no wrong by my ear, save the early Russian nationalist kitsch.

    And while I’m on that kick, how about Vladimir Martryona? He’s very Part-esque but lesser known.

  2. I think you just named my entire Pärt collection, Alex. Except for his new release, Lamentate which is, as usual, searing. I’ll check out Martryona. Any recommendations?

    Later: How do you spell that? I can’t find anything on Amazon or iTunes under “Martryona.”

  3. I realized a few days after I wrote my comments that you would be unable to find any recordings by Martryona because he doesn’t have a recording contract. I was exposed to him by a traveling band of Russian Orthodox singers. Send me an email sometime and I’ll give you access to my ftp server. I have two pieces by Martryona in mp3 format and supposedly there a few pieces of his available on cd in Russia, but I have yet to find them.

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