Saturday, May 7, 2011

Springtime Melancholia

The sub title of my blog--Mushrooms, Madness and Music--often puzzles me. Aside from the nice alliteration why did I choose it? --the Madness part, I mean. I haven't really touched on the subject of Madness yet, nor, I think, have I exhibited behavior that might suggest it.
Oliver Sacks, the noted Neurologist, has written a book "Musicophilia" which explores all sorts of bizarre, inexplicable relationships between brain disorders or aberrations and music. One of the chapters is titled "Music, Madness and Melancholia..Perhaps what I was aiming at had more to do with Melancholy, or underlying tristesse, than madness

These beautiful springtime images with their seductive efflorescence would seem to mitigate Melancholia and conjure hope in a soul wallowing in darkness. But April and May can be cruel, as we know from the poet, and I often find myself in a bittersweet mood when the darling buds of May come round. No lilacs ever bloomed in my door yard, although they seem to do well in my neighbor's. The squirrels munch on the few scrawny tulips that have emerged, and this year the morels are in very short supply.
Sacks writes optimistically about the power of music to penetrate the deepest states of melancholy in some patients, but I also know that some music can induce this state of Melancholia, or at least complement it, and this is not a bad thing.
Take for example the Schubert Piano Trio in E flat, which I've been listening to lately; in the slow movement there is an underlying C minor shadowy mood, a kind of dark inevitability pushed by an incessant march like movement. This eventually breaks out into a major harmonic world and the sun comes out--but, the pull back to the dark side is ever present; our cheeful, bubbly brook, Franz Scubert, knew Melancholy well.

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