AN HONEST RESPONSE TO THE ECSTASY OF CLASSICAL MUSIC!
Updated: Jun 4
Has classical music come back into favorable public opinion? Perhaps, even if public transit facilities are using it more and more to scatter the homeless population taking up residence in underground transportation stations (yes, sadly music and all users of public transit and stations are being so abused!).
Consider Norman Lebrecht (British music journalist) and his list of "The 10 Best Orgasm Symphonies" on his website, SlippedDisc:
"1.Tchaikovsky’s 5th (symphony) can deliver full-body pleasure. 2 Saint-Saens’ 3rd (wait for the organ) 3 Nielsen’s Inextinguishable (he’s still going) 4 Shostakovich 4th (the Lady Macbeth riffs) 5 Berlioz Fantastique (oh, yes) 6 Strauss Sinfonia Domestica (parental warning: includes copulation) 7 Szymanowski 3rd: song of the night (Tristan in bedsocks) 8 Messaien Turangalila (he keeps you hanging on) 9 Rachmaninov 2nd (works for some) 10 Scriabin Poème de l’Extase (says it all)"
I was delighted to find out that last fall I attended the SF Symphony program including the listed Berlioz piece. I paid rapt attention and loved it, but not with any notable bodily reaction. My favorite part was the call and response of two oboes, one musician positioned high in the balcony, the other remaining in the orchestra down below. It was captivating!
The sexual character and possible sexual response to various musical compositions have been debated by the musicology community for decades. Does it exist or not?
Some musicologists like Edward Hanslick refute the contention that sexuality is implicated in some compositions and music performances. I conclude that he might have suffered from serious sexual deprivation or Puritanical ethics, but admittedly I've not encountered any psychoanalysis of him or his position on that matter.
Others (including me), claim that some music can definitely elicit a sexual response. I base that on my personal experience that led to my first sexual encounter when I was in college. Somehow I had wandered into the piano practice rooms in the music department (not my major, which was the much more boring political science). I heard a gorgeous Romantic era piece wafting out of one practice room, peeked in, saw a gorgeous German grad student playing...and the rest was history and ecstasy shortly after he paused and noticed me listening raptly!
Public amusement and attention has most recently been stoked by an apparent sonorous orgasm that one lady experienced during Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony at the LA Philharmonic presentation on May 1. I learned about it it Maureen Dowd's Sunday New York Times column on May 23. You can listen to a recording posted of the notable event on Lebrecht's website.
The conductor Elim Chan told Dowd that she watched the lady out of her peripheral vision. (I wonder how during the act of conducting, she had time to pay attention to that mini-event? Maybe she wasn't conducting a challenging enough piece and should move up?) Chan confirmed that in general she appreciates the audience's audible expressions. This one? Not sure how she felt.
Neither am I sure that the recorded mini-event was real or just imagined. With the advent of AI and the fact that imaginations can be heightened by the congenial use of 420 or other happy drugs, I'm not convinced that the sonorous event (of some kind) was or was not what it has been concluded it was. At the very least imaginations resulted in Twitter postings containing some absolutely hilarious comments and pictorial images of the so-called event.
I like to imagine that at the very least some kind of erotic explorations might have been underway and undercover in the dark since apparently, a date sat next to the lady and was said to "smile" at the time. Who knows what happens when the lights go down on Tchaikovski or Cage?
Maybe I'll pay more attention to peripheral views and sounds on my next visit to the Symphony! In the meantime, let me affirm by the following poem, my belief that music is, indeed, erotic and can elicit quite delicious and sexual feelings in the listener (from my first volume of "Poetical Musings on Pianos, Music & Life - Vol I")
On How Music Enthralls
Music, like sex,
And perhaps will perplex,
By not giving us
What we normally expect.
Syncopation raises tension,
And I’m sure there are ample
Other clear examples.
My point here being
That music and a lover,
As we are now seeing,
Are one and the same,
Not two, but one game!
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