Friday, July 30, 2010

De gustibus vero disputandum est

One night my dear mother (may God rest her eternal Soul!) and I were in the car, coming home from somewhere. Probably from the grocery store, but I really can't remember (because I am old and decrepit). We were listening to the radio. It was a classical musical station, most likely 99.1 FM (Now Joy FM--you happy-clappy evangelicals can go fuck yourselves because you are barbaric boobs who, if you ever attain the Beatific Vision, will be utterly unable to appreciate it because you have shown yourselves utterly impervious to the sublime, but I digress). I have no idea what was playing but shall never ever forget that it was a piece in which violins were quite prominent indeed. For I said to Mother that I thought violins sounded like cat screams. Mother got angry and proceeded to chide me for what by her lights was an obvious aesthetic stupidity on my part.

Right now I am listening to a recording of Bach's works for solo violin, and the violin is miked rather closely. In other words, the violin is rather loud. It does sound like a very raw, shrill scream even when it plays Bach's blissful fugues. But a cat scream is not at all an apt description, of course, and my Mother was right to dismiss it as an idle stupidity of a child who just wants to hear his own chatter. The scream of the violin does not express the ephemeral irritation of a savage id. It expresses the pain of human longing. And if one cannot see the beauty in that, then he might as well be a self-absorbed cat.

I shall be forever grateful that my Mother bullied me into liking the painful sound of the violin. Especially now that she is dead, and even after twenty-two years of her absence, I still long to see her, and the only thing I know that can articulate this enormous, enduring, and ineradicable ache is a persistently screaming violin.

Mutti, ich liebe Dich, and Du gehst mir schmerzlich ab.