Sunday, December 16, 2012


By Camille Saint-Saens

What does this music say to you and how might it apply to Christmas? You won't hear echoes of familiar carols, or reminders of the hearty Hallelujahs of Handel. There are certainly no references to Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, or Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, or any longings for a Yuletide snowfall, so what is this music about? It's urging us to get in touch with some capacity in ourselves, but what might it be? 

Thinking of music as carrying "messages" beyond the obvious literal interpretation of texts grown so familiar as to be rendered meaningless may strike you as a new concept. If so, I hope it may grow on you, for finding meaning while listening between the notes and beneath the surface of great music is one of the primary things that has made life worth living for me.  

The more we learn to love, the more we learn to admire, the more we learn to respect, –– and the more eager curiosity we may arouse within ourselves ––, the better our lives are bound to be.

~ FreeThinke


  1. Something I read recently spoke of how different frequencies in sound evoke different emotions. Low frequencies (7 hz and lower) evoke fear and higher frequencies (above 8 hz) evoke love, according to the theory. I can't make an argument for or against the idea but since this music contains no lyrics it must be the music alone and its sound that evokes pleasure or clamness or whatever other emotion we experience.

    Since I grew up hearing more Rudolph the Red Nosed reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, they evoke more memories of Christmases past. I guess I'm more of a low brow.

  2. I think that this represents the limbic period of the holiday, as in the day before Christmas Eve... a transition from a secular to religious mood.

  3. My first reaction was an emotion relating to mystery, followed by a feeling of mystery revealed or partially revealed so that we may have uplifted spirits.

    Based on the kind of music that Camille Saint-Saens composed, I think that he must have intended for each of us to have our own interpretation, an interpretation that may change over time -- as mysteries themselves do.

  4. This prelude an affectionate evocation of "Shepherd Music."

    Think of them "abiding in their fields keeping watch over their flocks by night."

    Saint-Saens plays with the flute-like motives in six-eight time traditionally associated with some of the ways shepherds amused themselves in their lonely occupation.

    The folk-like simplicity is tinged with longing -- and with a sense of wonder -- that fills the bucolic atmosphere with a sense of ANTICIPATION and transforms it into one EAGERNESS.

  5. Yes, AOW, that's it. We were both writing at the same time, and could not have known each other's thoughts, and yet we think very similarly.

    Proof of a sort that Saint Saens was, indeed, portraying images and conveying a message.

  6. Waylon, from many fine words and solid thoughts you've posted over the years there is no way I could ever define you as a "lowbrow."

    IF you did not have much opportunity to hear great music early in life, that does not mean you are stuck forever with a restricted form of taste.

    Be brave. Dare to allow yourself to be puzzled, mystified -- even bored to tears -- but know all the while you are pursuing something that really does have MERIT and great INTRINSIC VALUE. Not because I say so, but because things have the power to LIBERATE our consciousness from the tedious, earthbound, humdrum, habitual patterns of thinking that keep humanity chained in the dark.

    There is no such thing as a "lowbrow." There are only uninformed, unenlightened individuals capable of lifting their perceptions to higher plains if given the chance.

    I love Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, White Christmas and particularly Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride, which I think a delightful work of minor genius, but "I thank whatever gods may be" that I was educated to understand the vast difference between the sacred and the secular, the frivolous and the profound, the merely cute and the truly beautiful, etc.

    I don't think for a moment this makes me "better" than anyone else, but I know for a fact that it has made my life a much richer and more rewarding experience than it would have been otherwise.

    The great thing about "art" is that it transforms our lives INTERNALLY -- gives us a way of looking at life with freshness, curiosity, and deeper appreciation of seemingly ordinary things.

    Once you have that, no "regime" can ever take it away from you.

    The militant secularist control freaks who always think they know better than we do what's good for us have been busily trying to remove every OPPORTUNITY to develop these advanced, LIBERATING methods of thinking, believing and understanding.

    We must not let this happen.

    After The Golden Age of Pericles the world was again plunged into darkness and ruled by brute savagery for nearly FIVE-HUNDRED YEARS.

    We seem to be headed in that direction again. Devoting ourselves to study and appreciation of the BEST things discovered and developed in the past would be our only hope of avoiding this tragic regression to "Square One."

    Learning to love Saint Saens would help avert disaster -- if only just a little.

    Every good thing humanity has ever done was accomplished by a determined, dedicated pull against inertia.

    ~ FreeThinke

  7. FT, I appreciate your comments and insights. Perhaps it's only human that as humans we can each and all learn some little aspect of the world around us by listening to others and making a sincere attempt to understand what the other is really saying.

    Your post packs a lot of intelligent insight.

    One thing that I think is evident is that the great composers of the past created music. Slowly but surely we seem to have gone off the rails culturally and now seem to be accelerating where what is touted as music could hardly be classified even as noise to agitate the inner being of the person and not as the great composers intended earlier to nourish the soul.

  8. erratum- "liminal" for "limbic" above.

    *shakes head at own stupidity*

  9. And for me it's usually iambic.

    Go figger!

  10. Music does convey and at the same time influence emotion.

    I'm curious why you chose to highlight the Prelude, as opposed to say Tollite Hostias or Tecum Principium.

    Beautiful though, nonetheless.

  11. Why did I choose to feature the Prelude?

    1. As an organist I've performed it many times in the past, and am particularly fond of it.

    2. It's gentle and searching, yet animated and affectionate -- qualities in short supply and desperately needed in these turbulent, raucous, vulgar, quasi-hysterical times.

    3. We are still in Advent. Christmas has not yet arrived, and this piece is especially appropriate for "setting the stage," as it were, for The Main Event.

    It is after all a PRELUDE. ;-)

    ~ FT

    PS: Wait till you hear what's in store for us tomorrow. The World Awaiting the Savior by Marcel Dupré is the absolute antithesis of this gentle piece by Saint-Saens. The mood established by Dupré, a twentieth-century French organist and composer, is also singularly appropriate for this stage of The Season -- especially in these troubled times. - FT

  12. I was looking at those pictures of Saint-Saens while enjoying the pretty music, and the thought occurred to me that when he got older he would have made a wonderful Santa Claus. What a nice twinkle he had in those old eyes! I think he must have been a happy man.

    Helen Highwater

  13. I hear what you mean too FT, about the idea of shepherds in the field the night Jesus was born. It's such sweet music, but there's something a little sad about it too, isn't there? Like I wonder as I wander only livelier.

    Helen Highwater

  14. FT,
    So, I got it right?

    Well, I did have an outstanding music appreciation course in college -- all those years ago.

    You are far and above me with regard to knowledge about music. I'm learning so much from your musical-interlude postings. Thank you!

  15. Thank you, AOW. What a beautiful compliment that is!

    Whatever I have learned it's only because I have always had a natural "feel" for good music.

    I can remember sensing very clearly -- as far back as being a mere toddler -- the great difference between the popular music my parents enjoyed playing on the "Victrola," when they were giving a party, and the classical music we heard on radio broadcasts of the New York Philharmonic and The Metropolitan Opera -- and the records they had of great opera and lieder singers, pianists, violinists and symphony orchestras.

    I honestly don't understand how anyone could be happy without a love for good music, but, apparently, it means very little to the average person, since only a tiny -- now sadly dwindling -- minority actively support the Arts.

    That's what happens in a culture that as been deliberately "ignoranticized" by agenda-driven fiends who want to establish dictatorial control and urn us into slaves.

    ~ FT



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