Oct 20, 2023

Life Can Be Very Challenging

Maestro's Monthly Blog. Life Can Be Very Challenging.

Just before the final playthrough of the featured music in our latest televised Discovery Concert© Discover Saint-Saëns’ “Organ” Symphony, I said to the audience: “As we know, life can be very challenging at times. In fact, the list of challenges we face personally can often feel overwhelming…”

Many people the world over are feeling challenged and overwhelmed as I write – including me. When the emotional pain we are experiencing is severe enough, as when we lose a loved one, we sometimes unconsciously shut down so that we cannot feel anything for a while. We are in need of catharsis. We need to cry or even sob, and yet we cannot find our way there. Some inner protective mechanism has taken over.

Thankfully, music has the capacity to both help us connect with and to heal from devastating emotions. I intentionally listen to music that I know from past experience will take me where to need to go. Sometimes this happens accidentally. After my brother Howard died last December, I went into my “protected state.” But one evening after his death I was driving home on Interstate 78, and turning on the radio accidentally encountered Howard’s favorite piece of classical music. The tears instantly began to flow… so much so that I had to pull over onto the shoulder and stop for a while.

As fellow human beings, the composers of classical music felt everything the rest of us on the planet experience. It’s just that they had the creative ability to translate these emotional experiences into wordless abstract sounds. They seem to have channeled it from… I’m not sure where in the universe except that, at least to me, it’s some place that continuously reflects the source of all things. They could write music that is incredibly uplifting and life-affirming as well as music that is utterly despondent… and all of the emotional states in between.

And so, I offer two movements from Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4. The second movement helps us penetrate and experience our sorrow. The third movement, in the key of G Major – even with its brief diversions into the somber key of E Minor – assures us that all is well. All is well. We, like Bach, feel connected to the source of all things.