“Next to theology, I give music the highest place of honor.” –Martin Luther
I finally found a Martin Luther quote that I liked (and that wasn’t grotesque or funny like, “If the wife won’t, the barmaid will,” etc., et al.) It is true that for most people, music has a special ability to move us emotionally and, dare I say it, spiritually. Usually in ways that we don’t really understand. The ancients (and in the turn the medievals) saw Music as a category far greater than just beautiful sounds made by instruments or the human voice. They saw all the movements and motion of Creation as a sort of divine symphony, always playing; the universe in perfect harmony with God. This is what is famously called the music of the spheres. In this theology of music, sin is discordance and discordance is sin. For those composers who were devout (especially those of the early Renaissance, together with people like Bach), the real purpose of the music of men was to be a pious and reverent homage to the Music of God.
Below I post my annotated “canon” of classical music which is too good not to listen to. Much of classical music is considered boring by many, especially of my generation. Much of classical music is boring. However, there is a remnant, so to speak, of music called classical, that is so beautiful, so simple and complex at the same time, so transcendent of history and geography that only a fool would ignore it. Here is some of that music.
There is no particular organization to this list. The list is broken into two parts (the second coming soon) because otherwise it might be a bit cumbersome. These are all examples of the pieces of music in question which I have found on youtube, and are obviously not going to be the best quality. Go buy them at iTunes, or better yet on vinyl. They sound better in vinyl.
J.S. Bach’s Fugue in G minor “Little”
All of Bach’s fugues are incredible. They turn the mind to the infinite, to the impossible made possible. They will blow your mind, and if you listen to them long enough, you’ll start to sound like a pothead. Here’s one of my favorites.
A version played on a really old pipe organ:
A version for the piano with a very cool representation of what is happening. Bach will blow your mind, man:
A more haunting piece of music you’ll be hard pressed to find. A pinnacle of sacred music, never mind that it was written by a complete reprobate. Will someone make sure it’s sung at my funeral? Here is the Introitus and Kyrie:
Chopin’s Nocturne Opus 9, Number 2
Billy Clanton: [as Doc Holliday is drunkenly playing a somber piece on the saloon piano, Clanton speaks, just as drunkenly] Is that “Old Dog Trey? Sounds like “Old Dog Trey.”
Doc Holliday: Pardon?
Billy Clanton: Stephen Foster. “Oh, Susannah”, “Camptown Races”. Stephen stinking Foster.
Doc Holliday: Ah, yes. Well, this happens to be a nocturne.
Billy Clanton: A which?
Doc Holliday: You know, Frederic f#@%ing Chopin.
Whereas this is not the same Nocturne played in the movie, it is every bit as beautiful and my favorite. Oh, and if for some reason you don’t like the scratchiness of a phonograph, well…go Frederic Chopin yourself 🙂
Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata
I was able to play this once, I was twelve, my first (and only piano recital), one of the greatest moments of my life.
Continue with Part 2