Author Topic: Despair in music?  (Read 4452 times)

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Online greg

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #20 on: May 27, 2019, 01:00:07 PM »
Sometimes I am in a very dark place.  The music I typically use to connect with this mood doesn't always fit.  Shostakovitch, late Mahler or Tchaikovsky No. 6 are sad but not where I might be at.  If the greatest examples of dark music don't quite match what I need, has music failed me in it's ability to express certain emotions?  Maybe it is too limited.
I also gravitate towards darker music 80-90% of the time... so there's much great stuff in the classical realm, but also a bit limited. You can try metal, there's a whole world of bleak music there, and for some people only very specific subgenres hit the spot- so probably worth exploring to find exactly what you're looking for.
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Ghost of Baron Scarpia

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #21 on: May 27, 2019, 08:51:19 PM »
The darkest music?

My first association is the Sarabande of Bach's cello suite no. 5.

It happens I listened to that piece last night, and I agree entirely. No histrionics, totally detached, yet bleak. A much truer depiction of despair than any of the overblown romantic works.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #22 on: May 27, 2019, 10:08:37 PM »
It happens I listened to that piece last night, and I agree entirely. No histrionics, totally detached, yet bleak. A much truer depiction of despair than any of the overblown romantic works.

Morton Zeuthen sounds as though he doesn't agree to me, I'm not sure, it's hard to make this sort of judgement for me, what do you think?

https://youtu.be/vfH5KklFVKY?t=694

Even more clearly maybe Tunicliffe, and Wolfgang Rubsam. Rubsam a revelation IMO.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2019, 10:17:50 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline pjme

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #23 on: May 27, 2019, 11:27:56 PM »
"In music, despair can be a transitory state en route to catharsis..." 

+1

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Online vandermolen

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #24 on: May 28, 2019, 03:44:40 AM »
Weinberg's Symphony No.21 'Kaddish' would seem relevant here as well.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Online greg

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #25 on: May 28, 2019, 06:31:35 AM »
Lizst's piano piece Gray Clouds is a good one.
The whole chromatically descending augmented chord thing is a great capture of a despairing mood, and something i use a lot in improvisation now and sometimes in my own music as well.
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Offline pjme

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #26 on: May 28, 2019, 09:52:23 AM »
Weinberg's Symphony No.21 'Kaddish' would seem relevant here as well.

On YT there is a Polish performance under Jacek Kaspszyk.
Never heard or listened to any music by Weinberg before....

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/7EmhV-Xkwng" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/7EmhV-Xkwng</a>

Ghost of Baron Scarpia

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #27 on: May 29, 2019, 07:18:57 AM »
When I reflect on the question I am more and more convinced that a musical depiction of despair should not be melodramatic, but detached. Besides that Sarabande from Bach's unaccompanied cello suite in d minor, I think of a prelude by Debussy, Des pas sur la neige (footsteps in the snow). The title does not indicate that Debussy explicitly meant it as a depiction of despair, but for me it evokes the feeling.


Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #28 on: May 29, 2019, 07:53:06 PM »
When I reflect on the question I am more and more convinced that a musical depiction of despair should not be melodramatic, but detached. Besides that Sarabande from Bach's unaccompanied cello suite in d minor, I think of a prelude by Debussy, Des pas sur la neige (footsteps in the snow). The title does not indicate that Debussy explicitly meant it as a depiction of despair, but for me it evokes the feeling.

And what a lovely piece of music it is.
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Online vandermolen

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #29 on: May 29, 2019, 08:09:42 PM »
On YT there is a Polish performance under Jacek Kaspszyk.
Never heard or listened to any music by Weinberg before....

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/7EmhV-Xkwng" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/7EmhV-Xkwng</a>
What did you think of it?
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Online some guy

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #30 on: May 30, 2019, 01:17:44 AM »
I've related this observation before, and here it is again:

The section of Prokofiev's Eugene Onegin where Eugene is talking about how boring girls are has always seemed to me to be as melancholy as it gets. Apparently Prokofiev would not agree. Cynical ennui is not the same as melancholy. Plus, Prokofiev used the same tune that I find so mournful in his comic opera, Betrothal in a Monastery, where the tune is used for words about what a privilege it is to serve a beautiful woman.

Also, not very bleak.

In fact, I would say that the whole business of composers raiding their own works, reusing tunes and motifs in various different contexts, is as good an example as any that whatever emotion content there is in a musical situation is coming from the listener not from the notes.

Offline Traverso

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #31 on: May 30, 2019, 04:56:03 AM »
I think that this Elgar piece comes close in expressing  heartbreaking grief

Sospiri

 I'm not a particular fan of Barenboim but this LP  I  kept after selling most of my classical LP's.


Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #32 on: May 30, 2019, 05:10:05 AM »
I believe the first movement of Enescu’s Cello Sonata No. 2 in C major illustrates despair as I believe the music takes the listener on a journey of grieving of some kind and somehow finding a way out of this grief at the end of the movement.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/acKCGhtKlaI" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/acKCGhtKlaI</a>

This, of course, is what I hear in the music and may very well be different for another listener.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2019, 05:11:56 AM by Mirror Image »
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Ghost of Baron Scarpia

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #33 on: May 30, 2019, 05:28:00 AM »
It strikes me that the last two posts, referring to the Elgar and Enescu pieces, are describing pieces that reflect grief, rather than despair. Grief is the pain of loss, while despair is the complete lack of hope. They are very different, although one may lead to the other. I find it easy to think of music that reflects grief. I find it much harder to think of music that reflects despair.

Of course, it is up to the original poster to specify what he meant by the request.

Offline Traverso

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #34 on: May 30, 2019, 05:41:55 AM »
It strikes me that the last two posts, referring to the Elgar and Enescu pieces, are describing pieces that reflect grief, rather than despair. Grief is the pain of loss, while despair is the complete lack of hope. They are very different, although one may lead to the other. I find it easy to think of music that reflects grief. I find it much harder to think of music that reflects despair.

Of course, it is up to the original poster to specify what he meant by the request.

I think you are right in this,despair is like a "black hole "a kind of wasteland,I cannot give an example of such a state beyond all tears.

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #35 on: May 30, 2019, 05:48:55 AM »
It strikes me that the last two posts, referring to the Elgar and Enescu pieces, are describing pieces that reflect grief, rather than despair. Grief is the pain of loss, while despair is the complete lack of hope. They are very different, although one may lead to the other. I find it easy to think of music that reflects grief. I find it much harder to think of music that reflects despair.

Of course, it is up to the original poster to specify what he meant by the request.

A fair point. I don’t believe I’ve ever listened to (or wanted to listen to) music that has completely succumbed to despair. I’m very much a listener that likes a 'light at the end of the tunnel' so to speak.
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Offline (: premont :)

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #36 on: May 30, 2019, 05:49:57 AM »
It strikes me that the last two posts, referring to the Elgar and Enescu pieces, are describing pieces that reflect grief, rather than despair. Grief is the pain of loss, while despair is the complete lack of hope. They are very different, although one may lead to the other. I find it easy to think of music that reflects grief. I find it much harder to think of music that reflects despair.

Completely agreed. This is also the distinction I made in my choice above.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #37 on: May 30, 2019, 06:51:30 AM »
When I reflect on the question I am more and more convinced that a musical depiction of despair should not be melodramatic, but detached.

A detached despair, or a despairing detachment... Quite the oxymoron, honestly.  :)

Otomh, other than Chopin's Op. 35's final movement and Tchaikovsky's Pathetique's final movement I can't think of any other music that fits in the Merriam-Webster's definition of despair, namely "utter loss of hope". And when I reflect on the question I am more and more convinced that, if a movement seems to fit in the bill but is not the final movement of a work, then attributing despair to it is premature. Utter loss of hope cannot be followed by anything else but silence. If anything else comes after it, then it's not utter loss of hope.

On a general note, it's very rarely that I listen to music in order to match my mood (actually, it happened only once, after I lost my mother last year and for a whole month I listened to nothing but Requiems). If anything, it's quite the opposite: my mood is generally cheerful, nonchalant and happy-go-lucky but I don't listen exclusively to such music; my top 3 composers are Mozart, Schubert and Chopin, and they wrote plenty of serious and profound works which are among my favorites. And now that I think of it, it's true that when listening to, say, Mozart's PC24, or Schubert's D960, or Chopin's Op. 35 I experience sadness, pain and resignation during listening, but afterwards it's as true that I feel intense pleasure, my soul is literally happy --- I think this is the cathartic effect of music, which can literally transmute sadness into joy, pain into pleasure and resignation into enthusiasm! Music is indeed the philosopher's stone that turns lead into gold!

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In eine beßre Welt entrückt!

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Online vandermolen

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #38 on: May 30, 2019, 07:44:59 AM »
Sainton's 'Nadir':
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline amw

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Re: Despair in music?
« Reply #39 on: May 30, 2019, 08:54:38 AM »
A detached despair, or a despairing detachment... Quite the oxymoron, honestly.  :)

Otomh, other than Chopin's Op. 35's final movement and Tchaikovsky's Pathetique's final movement I can't think of any other music that fits in the Merriam-Webster's definition of despair, namely "utter loss of hope". And when I reflect on the question I am more and more convinced that, if a movement seems to fit in the bill but is not the final movement of a work, then attributing despair to it is premature. Utter loss of hope cannot be followed by anything else but silence. If anything else comes after it, then it's not utter loss of hope.
I think that's why my first answer was Sibelius 4 whose last movement plays out a gradual but total loss of hope, or Winterreise, which ends without any resolution or catharsis in Der Leiermann. The St Matthew Passion of course needs to follow up the despair with death and the promise of resurrection, but of course part of despair is the desire for death, which is the central theme of Komm, süsses Kreuz. I think the conclusion of Schumann's Op. 35 Kerner Liederreihe also ends with the open desire for death (although I don't remember the exact text, and the music can be interpreted in....uh.....a variety of ways).

There aren't a ton of examples in the repertoire though, maybe you need to have spent a lot of time in that place to be able to write about it. I'm not sure.