Although I came to the ipod scene rather late, I must admit to being a junkie. Although lately I’ve made some effort at cutting down, when I leave the house, more often than not, I put on those earbuds. I just need that fix; that little injection of emotion that comes from mindlessly replaying whatever two or three songs have my fascination at the moment. This is, of course, a completely abhorrent way to approach something as wonderful and fun as music, but habits are hard to kick, and the sleek little black box makes such cheap thrills only an arm’s reach away.
Rewind back a little less than six years ago to the time when I was doing a whole lot of nothing, and you find me wallowing in Wagnerian opera, Mahler symphonies, etc. four hours on end as a sort of pseudo-religious experience. That’s not particularly healthy either (though I suppose the aural fortitude required to do Parsifal in a single go is some kind of asset), and I’m glad I’m no longer caught in that Keatsian limbo.
Anyway, I find myself listening to Schubert’s String Quintet in C again (the Emerson Quartet recording with Msistlav Rostropovich, if you take note of those things), and it remains the lovely, unsettling thing it has always been for me. It’s a young man’s music, but, having been written towards the end of Schubert’s short life, death always seems to be shuffling about in the background. That gives it, and the rest of Schubert’s output from this period, a sort of weird intensity.
One of the reasons why Schubert has had staying power with me over the years is that there is a freshness to his romanticism; he is still classical enough that his forays into the strange, terrible and wonderful really do feel like alien territory is being opened up for the first time. There’s a newness to it which quickly dropped away from the romantic period. Plus, his general melancholia does agree quite well with my own humours (though I have to admit that Winterreise and Die Schone Mullerin can be a bit much).
The sort of unresolved, cosmic longing that underscores so much of Schubert’s music is the polar opposite of the usual iPod approach. After listening to him for a bit, you do have to let the silence linger for a while.
(I’m not quite sure where I was going with this, but having made one stab at talking about music, I thought I’d throw thoughts to the wall and see what sticks)