I renamed this blog “Symphony” to reflect my desire to experience more of the world. I’d been focused on science and all the wonders that it can bring to us that I’d neglected so much else of the world – painting, sculpture, dance, literature, and music.

I chose the word because I believe the creation of a symphony has to be one of the premier achievements of the human mind. All those instruments, all those different parts, all somehow blending into a satisfying whole. How do they do it? It’s entirely possible I feel that way because I know next to nothing about the subject. The ironic thing is that when I chose the word I’d never been to an actual symphony performance.

Now that’s changed. For our anniversary, Julie and I went to see the Columbus Symphony Orchestra perform four amazing pieces. They were Bach/Stokowski: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor; Wagner: “Ride of the Valkyries” from Die Walküre; Dukas: L’apprenti sorcier (“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”), and Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra. The conductor was Rossen Milanov.

The first three pieces, all performed before intermission, were fun and exciting. When “Ride of the Valkyries” started, Julie and I, both raised in the era of Saturday morning cartoons, turned to each other at the same moment and mouthed, “kill the wabbit!” “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” was especially thrilling. I’d expected my first symphony experience to be mostly relaxing, maybe a sit back with my eyes closed kind of time. Instead, I was on the edge of my seat. Who knew that a composer, a conductor, and an orchestra could create such a sense of drama and tension?

The second half, following intermission, simply blew me away. I was in tears again (admittedly, no great feat) as the music just carried me away. I found out later that the Strauss “tone poem” (I don’t know what that means, but that’s what Wikipedia calls it) was based on a book of the same name by Nietzsche. What little I know of Nietzsche leads me to believe that his nihilist philosophy is not for me, but Strauss’s interpretation is heart-stoppingly beautiful, deeply dramatic, and incredibly fulfilling. I’ve requested both the book and a recording of the music from Julie’s library (God, I love libraries!)

Beyond the iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey beginning (the part that everyone’s heard), the contrasts between the barely audible whispers and the crashing crescendos in Strauss’s creation, and the beautiful sound of the solo violinist rising above the rest of the instruments, moved me in a way I didn’t know music could.

Julie and I were talking afterward as we walked back to the car. The thing about this piece, and really all the pieces we heard, is that the drama somehow builds to this very satisfying conclusion, a conclusion that leaves you breathless, cheerful, and dizzy with wonder. It’s an amazing testament to the accomplishments of this upright ape from the plains of Africa, not only coming to know its world but to create from its own mind a new one, never before seen or imagined in this universe.

I need to learn more about this world of beautiful, classical music, and everything that goes into it. I’m hooked!

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