I don’t even remember how I first came across it. It was probably on one of my music meanderings. Back when there were entire stores devoted to nothing but recordings of music, one of my favorite ways to spend a couple of hours was to wander through the store, looking at CD cases, reading reviews and listening to samples of the music. Because music is my real language. Don’t get me wrong, I love words. I can taste them on my tongue with their layers of flavors and an almost electric tingle. But music…..music is my soul language when words can’t get deep enough.
However it arrived, I acquired a recording of Bruckner’s 8th Symphony. All of his music is worth hearing, this man who was a church organist and wrote music for entire orchestras and large vocal choruses that mirrors the rich, full sound of pipe organ music. By the time you arrive at the 3rd movement of the 8th symphony, Bruckner has already taken us to beautiful places throbbing with life and insistent on being heard, so that the whispered beginning of the 3rd movement arrests my attention, calming my soul.
The first time I heard the 8th symphony performed live, I was with my sister. At that time in my life I couldn’t often afford to hear orchestral music performed live, so this opportunity was precious to me and made even more so since I could share it with my sister. Every conductor brings something unique to a piece of music. From the very first notes of the 8th Symphony I was aware of slight changes in tempo or passages that were attacked more forcefully than the performance on my recording. This music that I knew so well was revealing layers I hadn’t noticed before and pushing me to see a well-loved friend from a new vantage point. Even though I knew what was coming, even though I’d listened to my recording so very many times, still my breath caught in my throat as the 3rd movement began. We were seated near the back of the main floor, thankfully, so I wasn’t worried that anyone would see my tearful response.
This music has become my prayer so many times, those times when I have no words, or when the words I do have can’t bear the weight of my heart. The voice of the third movement particularly seems to me to be a prayer. There are the moments of intimacy, where I can sense God’s face, forehead to forehead, nose to nose with my own. There are the moments where the desperate requests of my heart are given expression and substance. There are the moments when I am completely undone by the power of God’s presence, and there are the closing moments when I am drawn into peace and my soul is quieted.
Note: The original draft of this post was written in response to a prompt about heartbreaking beauty during a Story Sessions write-in. What is Story Sessions you may wonder? I’m glad you asked! This is a group of creative and dynamic women who are passionate about words and art, and about nurturing and developing their own distinctive voices. Follow the link to find out more.