“Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber (1936)

24 11 2008

This piece is hauntingly beautiful, written by Barber just before World War II.  It has been adopted by some nations as an almost official state elegy.  It was played at the funeral of one of my idols, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for example, and the Brits performed a beautiful version for us shortly after September 11th, 2001, in solidarity with the States, until some charlatans shot that solidarity to hell.

I’m not an expert on classical music by any measure, but I do know that this piece is considered a masterwork.  The deceptively simple melody is handed off from section to section, building into crescendos of devastating harmonic bliss.  You don’t have to be an expert to feel this is extraordinary.

I don’t think Barber intended this piece to be one of mourning.  I think it’s a testament to the quiet strength we all possess, as individuals and collectively.

Its popularity is evident not only in how often it is used in solemn events, but also in films like “Platoon,” “The Elephant Man,” and “Amelie.”

I like listening to it with my eyes closed.  When I need to remember what it’s like to be human again.

(Thanks to sellaseat for posting this superb video on YouTube.  Someday, sweetheart, I hope you will be able to recognize all of the people and situations depicted in this video.  I’ve got the DVD of “Gandhi” just waiting for you, when you’re ready, as a start).




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