Feb 1, 2011

What is Maullaria?

The term “Maullaria” was coined by a young student of mine in the early 1980s who had a T-Shirt made which stated: “I have Maullaria.” Amused, years later I decided to use it to describe the state induced in me by music listening.

And what is that state? In attempting to describe it, I can only scratch the surface of what is one the most riveting states I can attain by any means. . .one that I purposely induce every day because it feels so good!

As I mentioned in my first blog entry, The Opening Chord, I was nine when I became aware that other people could apparently be in this state – or not – as the case may be. But on one very special day when I was four I was home with my great aunt Edna. In the mail had arrived a 33 1/3 RPM LP vinyl recording of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, From the New World. My mother, Helen Jordan Maull, an accomplished pianist and accompanist, had ordered it.

Aunt Edna got out the Gimbel Brothers department store chain (I’m showing my age) brand monophonic, portable record player. I remember this device well because the tone arm was not grounded properly, and it would give you a slight electro-shock when you touched it a certain way. Aunt Edna put on the record.

Seated on the living room floor, I felt like I was being electrocuted by the music. This, my first – at least first self-aware – time listening to a symphony orchestra was overwhelming! The timbres of the instruments, the sound of all the violins playing so high, the dynamic effects. . .I was weeping, experiencing goose bumps in my neck. It seemed that the music was playing me as though I were an instrument. I felt as though my heart and head would burst, yet, at the same time I wanted this moment to never end. And when it did, I felt a new completeness – wholeness – I’d never felt before…all of this caused by giving my undivided attention to some abstract musical sounds with no words!

Has this happened to you while listening to music? If you’re reading this blog, my guess is that it probably has. You already have “Maullaria” or more precisely, “YourName-aria” because it describes your own personal, intense emotional response evoked by music listening. And if you’re like me, having once been in this state – having been so powerfully moved – you have probably gone back to this wellspring often to repeat this intensely satisfying experience. In my life there are two periods: Before Dvorak (BD) and After Dvorak (AD). I don’t remember much from the BD period, but AD things have never been the same.