Saturday, May 26, 2007


As I was out driving this morning I was listening to a CD of Mozart's "Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra," a delicate and exquisite work. The second movement in particular, the slow movement, is of such rapturous loveliness that by the end of it I found myself quite teary-eyed. (This, by the way, is why I don't carpool.)

An emotional response of this kind to music is not unusual or especially noteworthy; most sensible people have had it at one time or another. But what I found striking in this instance was that the experience of beauty was accompanied by a terrible sadness, as if the joy and the pain were complementing one another. The phrase that comes to my mind from Gaelic is am brĂ²n binn: the sweet sorrow. Perhaps we are sorry because beauty is so uncommon in the world that, having found it, we want to capture it and possess it; more than that, even, we want to unite ourselves to it... and we can't, of course. Lasting happiness of any kind does not exist on this earth, and even as we are being transported by Mozart we already find ourselves missing the beauty before it is gone, in a kind of pre-emptive grief.

Then again, perhaps it's just me. Like Jaques, "I can suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs." You can judge for yourself by listening to a full MP3 of the Concerto here (the link is near the bottom of the page.)

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