4/15/10

Melody as Death







     In an essay entitled "Melody as Death," the philosopher Raymond Geuss writes that, at the age of eleven, he sat on the floor at his friend's house listening to Richard Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries." He goes on to say this of his experience:
     "I distinctly recall two impressions I had in quick succession that are among the most vivid I have ever received. The first was that of simply being overwhelmed by the richness and complexity of the sound, and the electricity of those crisply executed initial upward reaching flourishes (in B minor, as I now have learned to call it) in the first four bars. More indescribable flourishes on the horns and bassoons followed, and then the alternation of the ascending motif with descending slurred quintuplets in the violins.
     "The second impression I recall is my disappointment, in fact complete and utter dejection, when the horns and bass trumpet entered forte at bar 13, and an easily discernible motif emerged very clearly as an individual theme from the general whirl of sound. I remember thinking, 'Oh no! There is a tune in this after all.'"
     Understanding is perhaps more fatal than anything else.

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