Tracks Of My Tears

by Wayne Shevlin

Some grooves make you shake your bootie. A stadium anthem can get you swaying with lighters in the air. And some music brings tears to your eyes.

Image: Ludwig Van Beethoven by Neil Shevlin - All rights reserved

Image: Ludwig Van Beethoven by Neil Shevlin – All rights reserved

There are certain pieces of music that make me cry.  Consistently.  Spontaneously. Involuntarily.  It requires conscious effort to shut the tears off.  The tears differ in kind, are evoked for different reasons.  I am intrigued by music’s ability to manipulate my emotions. I am perplexed as to why, from time to time, I deliberately subject myself to stimuli which I know will result in making me cry.  I can only guess at how unsettling it must be for B to see me standing there, headphones encasing my head, tears rolling down my cheeks.  She must wonder why too.

Sometimes, it is that a piece of music has an association with a specific event in my life. Regardless of its musical or lyrical content, it triggers an emotional response in the same way a smell can take you back to nursery school (something that happens to me when passing by the Swiss Cottage McDonalds – only that branch does it) .  Effective – but this is a superficial evocation.  It isn’t the music per se, but an external relationship between the music and my life which the composer and performer had no knowledge of or control over.   For me, the song Let Her Cry by Paul Bollenback performed by Hootie & the Blowfish is the best example.  It’s not a brilliant song.  It is brutally sad in its own right, but what gives it the power to make me cry uncontrollably is that it was playing on the radio constantly as I drove back and forth to the hospital in LA during the week in which my mother died.   I also found the lyrics strangely relevant -as though Hootie knew the situation and was singing for me.

Thus, Let Her Cry, unintentionally, became the official soundtrack to that short but traumatic period of my life.  I cannot listen to it without that week materialising in my mind as though it were yesterday.  It is painful to remember.  And yet, from time to time, I deliberately put it on knowing full well what the result will be.  Though it rekindles the sadness, it also brings back the memory of my mother more powerfully and tangibly than anything else.  I just wish I had a happy song that had the same effect.

More interesting to me is music that makes me cry not because it is acting simply as a cheap emotional trigger, but that the music embodies emotion within itself and communicates that to me directly.  It becomes part of my internal emotive mechanisms and drives them without my conscious participation.  There are two pieces of instrumental music which make me cry – and for completely opposite reasons: one because it sounds so sad and the other because it sounds so beautiful.

Classical music has many examples of exquisitely sad pieces – Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor and Barber’s Adagio for strings are obvious and well worn examples – but the one that does it for me every time is the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony and specifically as performed by the Columbia Symphony Orchestra conducted by Bruno Walter.  I discovered this piece in a strange way when I was a teenager.  A solo piano arrangement of it was used as the background music in a Peanuts cartoon – the one with Charlie Brown – to evoke Charlie’s sad-sack, dumped on existence.   The music grabbed me immediately and it took some good deal of investigation to discover what it was.

The 2nd of the 7th has been a guaranteed tear-jerker for me ever since.  I don’t know why, but that piece just makes me cry.  What can I say?  Beethoven clearly has his finger on my musical sad-button with that one.  It covers all levels of sadness, running the gamut from a sombre whimper to Burghers of Calais torment – the way the wailing theme is handed back and forth between the upper and lower registers.  Very finely crafted and very, very minor.  By the way, I’ve tried many other versions: Von Karajan, Rattle, Toscanini and many other conductors.  In my opinion, no one gets Ludwig Van like Bruno.

On the other side of the spectrum is an instrumental electric guitar piece by Joe Satriani called Friends from his album The Extremist.  It’s a crunch chords and wheedley-woo number, but unlike most power-rock played by pyrotechnic Strat abusers, it is incredibly melodic and any fretboard acrobatics are all in the service of the music, not the other way around.  Undoubtedly there is a component of admiration involved because I know how much is involved in playing it from a technical perspective.  Perhaps I’m crying because I know I’ll never play that well.  Not really – I just think it’s gorgeous.  The lines soar and lift my heart with them.

Finally, there are songs that make me cry primarily because of the lyrics.  Lyrics are lyrics because they are meant to be set to music.  The two must support and reinforce each other.  It is frequently the case that great lyrics make lousy poems.  There are a number of songs with evocative, emotive lyrics that move me to tears: The Cruel War performed by Peter Paul & Mary,  Sondheim’s Send In The Clowns performed by Judy Collins – but the song that really does me in every time is Comfortably Numb by Roger Waters & David Gilmour performed by Pink Floyd.  Each time I think: “no, not this time”, but as it works its way through the second verse I lose it:  “When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse/ Out of the corner of my eye/ I turned to look but it was gone / I cannot put my finger on it now/ The Child has grown, the dream is gone/ I have become comfortably numb“.

These words, set to the backdrop of the sombre, resigned melancholy of the music – written, I believe, by Gilmour and beautifully arranged – are imbued with such a powerful sense of loss and hopelessness that I feel my entire existence vanish into the darkness. My child’s dream is gone. This is then followed by what is, in my opinion, Gilmour’s most powerful and exquisite guitar solo which cries too, along with me.

So why do I do it?  Perhaps you are worried about me – what’s this guy doing to himself? I am happy to say that in daily life I have few legitimate reasons to cry – so maybe this is a way to empty out the few tears that accumulate over time and have no other outlet.   But I’m not the only person who allows music to move them to tears.   And if it’s not music, then perhaps it’s some other art form such as movies.  Plenty of people (who shall remain nameless) are happy to subject themselves to romantic weepies and blubber away.  Clearly, many of us use art as catharsis.  In some way we need it – this strange enjoyment we get from self inflicted sadness.   Sometimes, for some reason, we need to cry for the sake of it – whether in sorrow or in joy.  Somehow, it makes us feel better.  But by using art we are in control.  We can turn it off or walk away.  The emotional release is in there, but only if we allow it.

Beethoven was not a good “melodist” and he was bad at harmony,”  Leonard Bernstein

Go to 5.18 as Bernstein discusses with Maximilian Schell  Beethoven Symphony No. 7

Lord, Jon ( 1941- 2012)

Jon Lord obituary Organist who infused Deep Purple with classical influences, helping to make them one of the world’s biggest rock bands
 

Written by Joel Mclver, originally published by The Guardian, Monday 16 July 2012

Jon Lord - Deep Purple  REDFERNS   Photo: Fin Costello

Jon Lord’s unique keyboard playing with Deep Purple was often copied. Photograph: Fin Costello/Redferns

‘We’re as valid as anything by Beethoven,” declared Jon Lord of his band, Deep Purple, in an interview with the New Musical Express in 1973. Lord, who has died aged 71 after suffering from pancreatic cancer, was not merely adopting a rebellious stance. An accomplished classical composer as well as rock musician, he believed with some justification that his group’s music was as profound in structure and as significant in cultural impact as any work from the symphonic canon. At the time, Deep Purple were among the world’s biggest rock bands, having built an enormous fanbase on the strength of their classically influenced songs, which lent further weight to Lord’s statement.

Born in Leicester, Lord studied classical piano from the age of five. In his teens, the then-new rock’n’roll and R&B movements made a deep impression on him, in particular the music recorded by blues pianists and organists such as Jimmy McGriff and Jerry Lee Lewis. The contemporary combination of Hammond B3 and C3 organs with Leslie speakers appealed to him, and this became an instrumental setup that remained integral to Lord’s signature keyboard style for the rest of his career.

In 1959, he moved to London to pursue acting, which he studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama. He played the piano and Hammond organ in clubs to pay the bills, initially with a jazz band called the Bill Ashton Combo and then with Red Bludd’s Bluesicians, featuring the vocalist Art Wood. While recording occasional sessions (he contributed keyboards to the Kinks’ 1964 hit You Really Got Me), Lord pursued pop success in the Art Wood Combo, who later renamed themselves the Artwoods and appeared on TV. I Take What I Want was the group’s only charting single.

Lord discovered his trademark sound when he formed Santa Barbara Machine Head, which also featured Wood’s brother and future Rolling Stone, Ronnie Wood. The key to this group’s success was its powerful, organ- and guitar-driven formula, which pointed at the future musical recipe of Deep Purple, and also the meeting of Lord and the bassist Nick Simper. The duo were the backbone of Deep Purple, who formed when the businessman and manager Tony Edwards invested in the new group and auditioned the cream of London’s young talent – the guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, the singer Rod Evans and the drummer Ian Paice among them. This quintet formed Purple’s first lineup in 1968.

Deep Purple spent the following eight years on a path that took them around the world on several occasions, playing the world’s largest stadiums and issuing a series of classic LPs – In Rock (1970), Fireball (1971), Machine Head (1972) and Burn (1974) among them. Personnel came and went, but Lord and Paice remained constant members until the group’s dissolution amid a haze of drug addiction and exhaustion in 1976.

Of the great British rock bands of the 70s, only Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and the Stones were able to operate on as grand a scale: unlike any of those groups, Deep Purple took regular time out to indulge in classical projects initiated and directed by Lord. The most notable of these was the live Concerto for Group and Orchestra, recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in 1969.

It was this equal passion for rock bombast and classical finesse that made Lord such an unusual musician. During Deep Purple’s glory days, he often infused the songs with classical influences, as in the song April from the group’s eponymous album in 1969. His organ playing, which often counterpointed Blackmore’s virtuoso lead guitar, was unique and often copied.

After the split, Lord formed a group with the rock singer Tony Ashton and Deep Purple’s ex-drummer Paice entitled Paice, Ashton & Lord. They released one album, Malice in Wonderland, in 1977. He then joined Whitesnake, the band formed by Deep Purple’s last lead singer, David Coverdale. This group, not to be confused with the 1980s reincarnation that played stadium rock and met with huge success, was an earthy, blues-rock band in which Lord’s organ playing was an essential element. His stint in Whitesnake ended when he rejoined a reformed lineup of Deep Purple in 1984 alongside Blackmore, Paice, the singer Ian Gillan and the bassist Roger Glover.

Many solo projects and collaborations came during and between Lord’s membership of these bands, including Before I Forget (1982), which featured classical piano music; a commission to compose the soundtrack of Central Television’s 1984 series The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady; and guest spots on albums by rock luminaries such as Lord’s Oxfordshire neighbour George Harrison and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour.

Eighteen more years of recording and tours followed before Lord felt he had had enough of life on the road. In a letter to his bandmates in 2002, he requested that Deep Purple take a year off. When this request was declined, he amicably left the group. Solo projects followed, including a collaboration in 2004 with sometime Abba singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad, and the formation of a blues band, Hoochie Coochie Men, three years later. In 2010, Lord was made an honorary fellow of Stevenson College, Edinburgh, and the following year he was awarded an honorary doctorate of music by the University of Leicester.

He is survived by his wife, Vicky, and their daughter, Amy; and a daughter, Sara, by his first wife, Judith, from whom he was divorced.

• Jonathan Douglas Lord, rock and classical musician and composer, born 9 June 1941; died 16 July 2012

  • This article was amended on 18 July. Lord was with Deep Purple’s reformed lineup for 18 years rather than eight. This has been corrected.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/jul/16/jon-lord