Sunday, March 16, 2014

I have a friend...

...who was born in the coal-dark and liquor-weird geography of West Virginia.

My friend is admirably self-sufficient. She's flown over the ocean to live in a land where they speak an incomprehensible northern tongue. My friend is remarkably independent. She's bootstrapped herself into dimensions of old and new culture, appreciating extraordinary literature and cool music.  

One thing in particular must be emphasized. It has to do with the music of Johannes Brahms.

It's not every day you run into a person who is drawn to Brahms's music, to his spiritual sound world. There's a distinctive emotional tonality that runs through his music, a diffuse yet cathartic atmosphere that haunts his wordless speaking. It's hard to describe. 

Most people can't be bothered to be amazed by the quality of Brahms's music. Different strokes. But I'm pleased to report that my friend is a friend of Brahms's music. I'm pleased both by the strangeness and the depthness of this phenomenon reflecting my friend's discrete, sovereign soul.   


  1. This was one of my favorite pieces of all time when I was a teen - it was then I learned of certain composers' fascination with ...certain things - like Brahms with thirds. Chopin with sixths, etc. E minor is one of the more somber minors, in my opinion - not harsh and angry, not delicate - just right for this piece - an incredible beauty that soars right out of the minor, so, joyous at the same time. Now, off to listen to the rest of it.

  2. I may have to revise my assessment of e minor. It is so "infected" with its relative major (G), that, really, it is not so utterly somber - but this theory of "infection" doesn't really hold - Take a c minor, f, b flat minor - now, those are dark - in different ways - a spectrum of somber - I don't know how they affect people without concert pitch, but surely they do, in differing ways that maybe can't be named.... f minor has as relative A flat major, which to me, is one of the most ecstatic keys, but f minor remains itself - or I could revise and say, it's thrown into relief - greater relief - certain G major is bright and cheerful, much like A flat - so ... I must be babbling - I should research - the acute beauty of D flat major/b flat minor - etc. As for your friend, that's really cool about her ;wish I could do the self-sufficient thing. To me, this Brahms has all the qualities you so admire in poetry. Would that be a good assessment? true for you?

    1. There are some things in Brahms's music that are similar to things I admire in good poetry -- affective imagination, equipoise, melancholy, irony.

      And then there's a quality in Brahms that I can find no analog for in the other arts. A kind of general spiritual effect that happens on the far side of our words and images. That can be said of any composer's music. But the Brahms Effect is distinctively textured with Time's own sighs.

    2. Before music, and true musicians, I pause in silence and awe.

  3. pardon typos; apparently no way to edit once posted --- should read "certainly G major..." And also, I'm tired of proving I'm not a robot, esp when I am.

  4. Julie, write a descriptive piece on your favorite music--you've already begun one here.

    Savoring your musical sample, Tim, wondering whether I have taken the time to pay proper attention to this composer or not--with gratitude.

    Such delicate themes you have touched upon: friendship, immigration, the movements and efforts of the soul.