Why is there music in every culture of the world?
Why can some pieces of music (for me it’s classical music) bring you to a standstill? Pierce your heart? Make you understand the relentlessness of loss, of death like the Adagio For Strings in G Minor by Tomaso Albinoni? How can others make you smile, bring you peace or joy like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons or Bedrich Smetanau’s Moldau?
These were the last questions that my brother Bob sought to answer before his untimely death. He and I shared books like Oliver Sachs Musicophilia and Daniel Levitin’s The World in Six Songs. We shared thoughts and ideas but we never came close to understanding the universality of music, the power.
Once again, the clever, beautiful and ingenious writer, Maria Popova, the woman behind the stunning website, Brain Pickings, has produced a lyric piece on Aldous Huxley (a man I admired but Bob wasn’t too keen on) that opens the door on why music touches souls, transcends words, shapes lives and shapes cultures.
Huxley wrote about music long before he authored Brave New World or journeyed into the world of hallucinogenic drugs and the publication of his slim but influential book entitled Doors of Perception.
Huxley actually explains why I never liked Wagner! Popova shares this quote of Huxley’s: “Silence is an integral part of all good music. Compared with Beethoven’s or Mozart’s, the ceaseless torrent of Wagner’s music is very poor in silence. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why it seems so much less significant than theirs. It “says” less because it is always speaking.”
And he explains why I’ve always loved the lonesome call of a train as it passes through the back country on its way to I don’t know where…but you’ll have to read about that in Popova’s newsletter.
She outdoes herself on this essay and that, my friends, is saying something. Her newsletter is a weekly labor of love; this one is no exception. Popova offers her research, her writing, herself for free…but accepts donations. I cannot imagine a better person to become a patron for than this brilliant teller of stories.