NOSTALGIA CRISIS: I know I've heard that somewhere...
The tear shed for a lost memory evokes the quote... "Music makes you nostalgic for a place you've never been."
You know you've heard this cello piece before--probably, as is often the case, in a film. Odds are, it was some sprawling emotional epic like Forrest Gump or Shawshank Redemption (or one of the other 1994 best-picture nominees). Obviously it wasn't these exactly, because their every moment is grooved into our permanent mental-emotional finger-print. But it was probably some similar celebration of the human spirit like The Emperor's Club or Dead Poet's Society. I'm going to look it up at the end of this piece, but for now I'm going to do what my ex-therapist often advised and just "sit in it". Sit in the not-knowing, and expose myself to that troubling but very necessary experience of reality.
The first time I ever danced with a girl was in seventh grade. In many ways it was the first time I ever got close to a girl, and standing there with my hands on her hips in a darkened auditorium was mind-blowing. I should say it felt good, but it was more like being in a paralyzing daze. To be objective, she was not particularly note-worthy, not one of the girls I was (up to that point) crushing on. In fact, since she was in a different home-room class, I didn't really know her well at all. We began dancing when her busy-body friend went around during the last slow-song, pairing up everyone who hadn't danced yet. So naturally, a chubby Star Wars goofball and a shy tall girl with no significant personality made a brilliant match.
Due to being in this strange haze of acquiesced pre-sexual acceptance from a not-unattractive girl, I sincerely failed to "take it all in". And that was a big mistake, because this would go on to be an important memory for me. I spent the entire time worrying about what to do with my face, and mentally willing the song to last longer. I was so jacked up on hormones that I couldn't mentally catalog the experience. It was like visiting the Fjords of Norway and having to take a career-ending piss (guilty...).
A few weeks later I heard "Kiss From A Rose" on the radio, and I broke down crying for about two hours. My poor, very supportive dad must have thought I was the weirdest sissy ever. I wasn't crying because "Kiss From A Rose" was the song we had danced to. I was crying because it was PROBABLY the song we had danced to, but I really couldn't say because my neurons had been all over the place and I was unable to re-live the details of this super-important moment with accuracy. I was suffering from a laughably mild dose of the true pain that folks with Alzheimers feel.
I say that it was probably the song we had danced to because the time period was aligned where Batman Forever had come out, and "Kissed.." was the frequent final song at the dances. [To be replaced the following year by "My Heart Will Go On", which, in my opinion, was an unfortunate downgrade from the admittedly cheesy but acceptably soulful post-Boys-To-Men outing from Seal.] Furthermore, the song had a semi-mysterious atmosphere that appealed to the type of emotions which idiot seventh-grade me was swimming in, even if it lyrically didn't apply. This was troubling because I became "suspicious" of the song for perhaps "pretending" to be the song to which I had first slow-danced with a girl. I was terrified that, if I decided to settle on the "Kiss From A Rose" memory once and for all, it would become a truth instead of a fact. And this exact concern is what has kept me from praying and going to church since 2001.
So, to this day, I strike all details of that memory from record, and I retain only the emotional memory--which is pretty unforgettable. It's also probably more important and certainly more informative. But it's as if someone asks me, "How cold was it at the Fjords, was it sunny or cloudy, what color were the rocks? Roughly how wide was the water-way?" And I respond, "I have no idea, I had to piss real bad but the Fjords were definitely bad-ass!" Intelligence may be an experience, but some discipline probably wouldn't hurt to make it more vivid.
So back to our Bach piece on the cello. Is it possible we haven't actually heard this before, but rather the composition evokes the emotion of recognition? That's what the best pop-songs do, while I find that my favorite classical pieces (which are limited because I'm wildly un-cultured) have a cinematic or transportive quality. Perhaps the best of the best have both... They write a visual, movement-oriented scene into your brain, and implant the emotion of re-visitation. To call this piece the very best of the best may not be hyperbolic, because I discovered it by listening to a violinist play it on a TED talk--he said he was borrowing it from Cellists. I searched youtube for "Cello", and this was the very first non-sponsored result.
I'm looking it up now on Google.
Apparently it's one of the most famous classical pieces of all time, and it's been used in dozens of movies, and probably some car commercials. So it's feeling of familiarity may be an intrinsic part of it's composition, but we'll never know because we've all heard it before at one point or another. Enjoy a really moving, lively rendition below. Thanks to one of my editors, Nick, for explaining to me in October of 2009 why I started cried for two hours in October of 1996.
"Time smiles on disciplined minds."- Gordon Downy