Thursday, December 25, 2014

DOESN'T EVERYBODY NEED AN I'M-WORRIED-BUT-IT'S-GONNABE-OK PIECE OF MUSIC? MINE IS SCHUBERT'S DOUBLE CELLO STRING QUINTET--specifically the slow second movement, followed by the third.


the beginning of the second movement of Schubert's D. 956 string quintet in C major
The opening measures of the second movement of Schubert's string quintet (from IMSLP)

Right now on this December day when I would ordinarily be panicked about the many details of my imminent departure, I'm sitting out under the pergola peeling apples to the accompaniment of this soothing piece.

I am reminded that I wrote about the Schubert piece earlier in the year in response to a wonderful article I had stumbled upon in "Aeon," a publication I had never heard of:
"MUSIC AND RITUAL
Why we love repetition in music"
by Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis



The subtitle was irresistible:

"One more time
Why do we listen to our favourite music over and over again? Because repeated sounds work magic in our brains"

One reader offered a thoughtful comment:

This is a fascinating topic that goes beyond music...I know one psychologist described years ago children's fascination with nursery rhymes and bedtime stories. "Tell me the one about . . . " is a familiar refrain most parents have heard countless times. Yet, it's not just children. How many grown men like to read accounts of sporting events when they already know what happened? Repetition doesn't spoil the prayer.

Comfort food is often praised as "something my grandmother would make when I was growing up." Why is it that I never get tired of seeing a sunset? Same sunset, different day. Repeat as needed.

I WAS MOVED TO POST MY OWN COMMENT ABOUT MY SCHUBERT PIECE:

As a lifelong musician (piano, flute, and in recent decades, viola), I really enjoyed this article, which I read serendipitously (?) while listening to the sublime Schubert String Quintet in C Major Opus 163, D.956, also known as the Double Cello Quintet.

I have worked on this piece and listened to it obsessively;yet, as familiar as I am with it, I never fail to find the introspective second and third movements heartbreakingly beautiful. Despite their sense of longing, I turn to them whenever I need a soothing stress buster. 

While it's true that the repetition is probably an important element of the work's allure, I also like the way I can change my listening experience depending on whether I focus on the line of my own viola part, or on that of the whole, or whether I just have the piece on in the background, which allows the freedom to zero in and out of it at particularly poignant moments. That's what I'm doing right now. Try the Cleveland Quartet version with Yo-Yo Ma. That's what I like to imagine that my amateur chamber group sounds like!




1 comment:

  1. Made me want to go and read the Aeon piece.

    ReplyDelete