Saturday, February 15, 2014

Penderecki tested my patience

I had about 10 hours in the car this week, so I grabbed a stack of CD's to listen to. Car time is a great way for me to listen to and enjoy music. It can be a challenge at times because of the wide dynamic range of classical music, so there are frequent adjustments of the volume for the loud and soft passages. But I digress....
One of the CD's I took was Stabat Matar: Complete sacred works for chorus a cappella by Krzysztof Penderecki. I don't know much about Penderecki's music, but I am really enjoying sacred music these days, so this CD seemed like a perfect choice.

When I pulled it from the stack and put it in the CD player, I was greeted with atonal, dissonant sounds. And it stayed that way. I think most of you would agree with me that it sounds like music from a Hollywood horror film. Despite having what I consider a pretty wide palate of musical appreciation, I struggle with dissonant music. I love melody and harmony. And the tension provided by dissonance only seems worth having if it can resolve into something my ear understands.
Well, this CD was NOT that. So what to do? Give up and move on to Dvorak? or Haydn?
Luckily I have a stubborn streak in me that makes giving up very difficult. I stuck with the Penderecki...tracks 1,2,3,4....dissonant, weird, atonal, disturbing...unpleasant.....when will this be over? BUT then track 5 Agnus Dei arrived. Suddenly my ears felt heart felt wonderful. Penderecki had written something that called to lovely and emotional, right in the middle of these disturbing sounds. My patience was rewarded.
The remaining tracks of the CD, 6-9, were once again dissonant and disturbing. But I heard them a different way after I listened to Agnus Dei. Maybe that's exactly what Penderecki had in mind? I am glad I didn't move right past this CD to Dvorak or Haydn. Be patient.

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