[identity profile] cabaretlights.livejournal.com

Artist: Peter Tchaikovsky
Album: Swan Lake
Year: 1994
:I never feel more faith in humanity than I do when I hear classical music.

For a species to have created and kept something as beautiful as a Vivaldi concerto or a Tchaikovsky ballet ---- there has to be purpose. There has to be something driving us towards harmony and, maybe, one day, love. I can't listen to Tchaikovsky and not feel a million things at once -- tears at the back of my throat, my heart lifting, my cells vibrating and wanting to get up and spin around the room, a sense of rightness, of bliss, of possibility and potential. Classical music aligns me. Like Walter says (or will say, when we get to season 3); like I wrote about last year, with Bach. This year things are a bit different, though. I'm not listening to classical music because I literally can't listen to anything else -- this week, anyway, I've been listening because my brain and my heart feel like they're stirring, and there is no greater accompaniment to feeling yourself swell...than Tchaikovsky.

Last weekend I was reading a book that infuriated me in a lot of ways, but made me think and made me feel and made me remember why literature is such a desperately important medium, one that we need as a society. It was Sunday: the start of probably the busiest [at least, intellectually-speaking] week of 2012, for me. I had report cards due and a project for my thesis I hadn't started, and I had to finish this infernal Scarlett Thomas book, and it was 1pm and Rigaud was this perfect November naked-tree crispy-light sliver of reality, and there was a fresh pot of fresh-ground Viennese coffee, and I was alone, and what was I going to do, really, but put on some classical music?

It's too early for the Nutcracker, but nothing -- nothing -- gets me like Tchaikovsky, especially in November, just before the holiday. I wish I could describe the feeling...a sort of kinetic Russian series of swells and twirls. A sense of shared Slavic and cultural heritage. My heart pushing up and out through my ribcage, my 'state' slipping simultaneously into a little girl listening to music with her father, a teenager pumping waltzes through headphones in the car, an adult with a glass of wine and a paper to write. None of this comes close to describing it: that centred-ness, that bliss, that something ineffable contained, purely and exclusively, in a Tchaikovsky composition.

So I put on Swan Lake and, by the time the Valse began, I was already on my feet dancing. I was stressed, sure: there is always something to do, something to worry about. But god -- this week has been a beautiful mesh of personal progress and some strange, blossoming sense of excitement and joy that I haven't felt in awhile. Part of that is absolutely due to the fact that Swan Lake and other classical masterpieces are all I've been listening to.

Today, I went to Nicolas Hoare to pick up this particular recording of Swan Lake. The upstairs classical music selection has decreased dramatically, even from the time I was there last year. It broke my heart -- for a split second -- until the Gustav Holst proudly pouring from the speakers swept me up and away. I really believe that nothing else, amidst stress and hardship, can arrange a bit of harmony so effectively -- so beautifully.
[identity profile] cabaretlights.livejournal.com

Waltz of the Flowers
Artist: Peter Tchaikovsky ---- as performed by the Orchestre Symphonique du Montreal
Album: 1812 Overture; Capriccio Italien; Nutcracker Suite Etc.
Year: 1985
: Well, nothing says "snowflake" like The Nutcracker. The book, the ballet, the music: everything about that story evokes a sense of European Christmases, snowy nighttime and sugarplum fairies and little girls swirled away from reality to ride across ice lakes. The Nutcracker is as much a snowflake as is an actual physical snowflake, I think: the harbinger of the holidays, the sense of right and beauty and possibility.

My favourite piece of classical music -- and believe it or not, making it onto my Top 15 Songs of all time -- is in fact "Waltz of the Flowers,' but THIS VERSION, and only this version.

I grew up with this CD -- it's one of those albums I know inside and out simply because I listened to it from the time I had ears. My mom even told me she played it for me in the womb, Christmas '85, hah. That may be all there is to my preference, but I really think that this version of 'Waltz of the Flowers' is absolutely perfect. I have listened to dozens of other recordings, and all of them leave something to be desired -- a bit too fast here, too slow there, what the fuck is that weird instrument, not enough passion from 3:45 - 4:17 (perhaps the most beautiful, heartrending 32 seconds in musical history? I am inclined to think so.). This version is perfect. Just enough bombastic, just enough life, so much flow and beauty and it sounds like I am sitting in a Russian palace in the middle of the 19th century and there is no other version that makes me feel that way.

No two are alike.
Each individual snowflake takes on its own unique quality, something powerful and potent all on its own. Who knows: maybe this version of 'Waltz' is just a haphazard snowflake, something that has gained its own significance for me over time. But maybe it's one of those really beautiful, stunning snowflakes, one of the really big ones you don't have to put under a microscope: maybe this version of the song really is perfect.

Either way: 'Waltz of the Flowers' isn't just a snowflake because it's in a snow-set ballet. It's a snowflake because it stands apart, because it set the standard, because it is singular. It is unique -- and this is the song that taught me about uniqueness. It taught me that a remix or a live version are worlds apart from the original, and that no two translations or interpretations (musical or literary) are the same. That, in and of itself, is kind of beautiful: that you can get such different things, feelings, experiences, from what is supposedly the same song/text. It's why I'll never understand people who don't want all the versions of a song on their hard drive, or who happily pick any old translation of a book: STYLE, friends. It's not just the notes, but how you play them.

AND, AND, whenever this song comes on: I feel absolutely whole. Also I get up and start waltzing. It might be a little embarrassing because the extent of my waltz-skills are a few lessons from when I was in Sound of Music, but who cares -- it's the WALTZ OF THE FRICKIN FLOWERS, and it is so beautiful I can never, ever sit still.


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