Sehnsucht

I listen to the local classical station all evening long, when I have a whole evening, barring those occasions when something self-consciously modern appears on the broadcast of a live concert.

No matter how complex the cathedral of sound, how many cascading modulations and accidentals, everything comes home in the end to the tonic chord, solidly, trustingly, as our actual lives can only long to do.

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7 thoughts on “Sehnsucht

  1. I am totally enamored with this word sehnsucht. Thank you for letting us know. Strange how languages have their own subtleties. In German, “longing” means so much more. I know I will have to do something with this word one day.

  2. “La musique adoucit les moeurs”, listening to classical music is a soul elevating experience when done in a proper atmosphere. It does help keep a sense of perspective and I agree all should end as in a great symphony or a well rounded concerto.

  3. Very beautifully expressed, a musical metaphor of our lives.

    Yes, we need something solid to cling back to in our lives, and this ache or Sehnsucht tends to bring us back to it. Musically, dissonances make us desire for the repose of the tonic and I think contribute quite a lot to the aesthetic pleasure. So in parallel I guess not only the solid anchorage counts in our lives, but the aching desire towards it as well.

    And at times those memories of when we had this painful longing, especially when unfulfilled, are most pleasurable.

  4. Awhile ago my friend Susan wrote saying a photo I’d sent had given her “sausade”, which is the Portuguese translation for sehnsucht given in the Wiki article. I knew exactly what she meant.

  5. what a great word.
    I recently discovered a ‘classical music all day all night’ station and when not listening to NPR I have the music in the background to soothe my soul.

  6. Yep.

    A couple of weeks ago, the Amazon and I went to church — Portland hosts a William Byrd festival for three weeks every summer, and one of the wondrous things they do is a series of High Masses in Latin, with Byrd settings of the Ordinary, sung by a group of scholars from Cambridge.

    One of the reasons I love Renaissance music, particularly Renaissance church music, is exactly what you’ve described here … the return to home, which often seems as though it cannot possibly arrive, so exquisitely complex and wandering is the structure of the music. There is nothing so deeply satisfying as that final resolution … nothing so sweet, nor so fleeting.

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