Before I start on the substance of this post, I want to take a moment to express my gratitude for all the thoughtful and supportive comments on last week’s post. To be quite honest, I was floored by the responses.
I had thought I was just posting another rambling, half-baked, barely edited and perhaps of dubious value kind of post, so you imagine my surprise at your kind and encouraging comments started coming.
It inspired me to contemplate what this space is, has been, and, perhaps, will be. It also humbled me when I realized that my words could have implied that any one reader or connection I have made over these years isn’t somehow worth it, that’s it’s all about the numbers.
It’s not about the number at all. I just lost sight of things. And I thank you for reminding me that it really is all about connecting with people. You make it all worth it.
So! With gratitude, on to this week’s post!
As the days get shorter and darker and colder and rainier it calls for cozy sweaters, mugs of hot drinks and music to set the mood.
A lot of these songs make me feel warm and fuzzy due in large part to nostalgia. They are songs that I played or heard or performed when I was younger (and by younger I am including my 20s because apparently that’s my life now), and even if the song is from a more turbulent time in my life, the negative associations don’t seem to exist. These songs still flood my brain with endorphins and make me all happy.
It also makes me think about how important it is to consider what my children are listening to. We don’t listen exclusively to Jewish music in our home, but we do try to listen to a lot of Jewish music in between the Perry Gripp and Avicii, you know, to balance it out.
I’m going to share six songs that make me feel warm and fuzzy. I would, as always, love to hear what songs do the same for you.
Lieutenant Kije Suite, “Troika,” by Prokofiev
This part of the Lieutenant Kije Suite just makes me think “snuggle up, it’s cold weather.” Maybe it’s the Russian connection. Probably it’s the sleigh bells. Whatever the association, it’s great music to listen to while sitting under a blanket, reading a book and drinking tea.
It’s also the type of piece that’s been used in film scores to evoke a mood, and I keep thinking that it was used in Home Alone, but Wikipedia tells me that I’m wrong. Does it remind you of any films?
Dream A Little Dream Of Me – Mama Cass
This used to be a regular in the lineup of sons I would sing at the Golden Spike Karaoke night. It was a local bar in the small college town where I went to school, and every Wednesday was a dedicated karaoke night. They had a proper stage so it really satisfied that desire to perform that is always simmering under the surface for me. We would go with a big group and I have such fond memories of those nights.
This song, with its lazy shuffle beat and accessibly beltable range is a pleasure to sing and also to listen to. But I really like singing it. At the top of my lungs.
Piano Sonata No. 17, mvmt 3, Beethoven
How do I love Beethoven? Many, many, many ways. From a musical history perspective, his works are interesting because they bridge the transition between the Classical period (very buttoned up, very organized, predictable, beautiful music, mainly written for the church or aristocratic events) and the Romantic period (passionate, breaking rules and boundaries, full of emotion and exploring new forms and structures and traditions but still connected to the rules and structures of previous movements).
On a personal level, Beethoven continued to write stunning compositions even after he WENT DEAF. Ode to Joy? Wrote it while deaf! Last five piano sonatas? Deaf! Last five string quartets? Yes! Deaf!
It’s incredible and heartbreaking. Ah, Beethoven.
This sonata is one of his earlier works, and it follows a predictable structure for a third movement of a piano sonata, but in his unique way, Beethoven threw in just a staggeringly beautiful chord progression during the recapitulation of the theme, from 4:27-4:37.
And that’s one reason I love classical music. In seven minutes of a already beautiful movement, there will be a passage that lasts maybe ten seconds but contains such absolute sublimity that I find myself contemplating all the wondrous and miraculous things in my life and the world.
Also, this video is very, very cool.
Only You – Yazoo
So this one brings me way back to a mixed tape a boyfriend made for me back in my early college years. Yes, it was a tape. An actual tape. Like this:
It feels a little weird to write about previous romantic attachments. Honestly, I like to pretend most of the time that my husband is the only one I was every in a relationship with (and, thank G-d, after nearly thirteen years of marriage, that is actually how it feels most of the time), but having lived in the world at large before coming to Orthodoxy, it’s just a part of my past that doesn’t translate very smoothly into my current life. Not because of any feelings of shame or anything, it’s just weird.
Like, I listened to SO MANY songs about love or heartbreak or whatever, and an inordinate amount of my time was spent either getting into or recovering from a relationship, but yet I had no idea what a real relationship was or even what I wanted out of life. Wild.
ANYWAYS, every time I hear this song I just feel all happy. And that synthesizer? It’s so nice. And so 1982.
Make Our Garden Grow from Candide – Leonard Bernstein
This was one of the pieces the All-State Choir sang one of the years I was in the All-State Music Festival. Maybe it was even the first year. I don’t remember. In any case, I was a young teenager, and I have never forgotten how this song made me feel, and it continues to make me feel that way.
Also, the lyrics have some moments of real profundity:
“And let us try,
Before we die,
To make some sense of life.
We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We’ll do the best we know.”
I mean, wow, right? Talk about getting straight to the kishkes of things.
“Let dreamers dream
What worlds they please
Those Edens can’t be found.
The sweetest flowers,
The fairest trees
Are grown in solid ground.”
That particular passage reminds me that while dreaming is important, necessary, and can bring excitement and pep to life, I need to be rooted and grounded to really accomplish anything.
Symphony No. 3 “Organ” mvmt 4 – Saint-Saens
Finally, I’m ending with the finale (I didn’t even mean to do it that way, hahaha) of Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony.
This is another piece that I first experienced in the All-State Music Festival. In Iowa, where I mainly grew up, the All-State Band, Orchestra and Choir were a big deal, and they were physically big ensembles.
The state was divided into six regions and a certain number of instrumentalists and vocalists were taken from each region, and you ended up with absolutely massive numbers. I think the choir was maybe 600 people.
We performed in the gym at Iowa State, in Ames, and it was a powerful experience -to be part of such a large ensemble, to meet musicians from all over the state, to compete for chairs and to play pieces that we wouldn’t necessarily have gotten to play in our local band and orchestra programs.
My senior year I was selected to be in the Orchestra and we performed this piece. It was epic. There’s an actual organ used, and in our performance I think the organ even blew out one of the speakers. So hard core. Don’t let anyone ever tell you classical music doesn’t rock.
That’s all for today! I’m waiting to hear what pieces you’re craving to listen to now. Please share!