I always have to stop myself when I say I like “all kinds of music”. Because, honestly, that just isn’t true, there is really only one kind of music I like. No, not [just] Black Metal, I’m talking about music in a minor key. I mean, I’m a pretty happy guy, but there is something about sad, sad songs that just does it for me. I don’t dislike Vivaldi’s “Spring” and “Fall”, but I far prefer “Summer” and “Winter” (guess which seasons he writes in a minor key). “Satisfaction” is a fine song, but I’d rather listen to “Paint it Black” any day…you get the idea. Basically, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that sting [of soul crushing sorrow and sadness]
This month on Minor Key Monday I talk about the greatest piece of music of all time, OF ALL TIME:
I always feel the need to correct those who accuse me of liking classical music. It’s not that liking classical music would make me not very metal, after all, that ship has sailed. It’s just that, specifically, I like BAROQUE music (and Renaissance and Medieval music too, obv)–why only play one melody, when you can play two or more at the same time instead? You might not think the baroque/classical distinction matters all that much, but it DOES matter and I’ll have no truck with that melody plus accompaniment classical bullshit. And, if you are a fan of baroque music, there is no finer baroque composer than Johann Sebastian Bach.
Bach was like that architect on Ghostbusters in that nobody ever made music like him–the only difference being that there was no question as to whether or not he was a certified genius. Today’s song just might be my favorite out of his vast catalog of brilliant music (I’m speaking, of course, only about his minor key work, the major key stuff might as well just be classical music as far as I’m concerned).
This is the opening chorus from the first of Bach’s two complete surviving “Passions,” essentially an attempt to put the four gospels to music. And while the majority of his Passions are kind of boring (mostly people sing-reciting their way through the bible in German), the opening chorus to the St. John Passion is fucking MONUMENTAL.
I honestly can’t think of another piece of music that moves me quite as much as “Herr, unser Herrscher” (“Lord, our Master”)–that’s right, not even Burzum’s “Det Som Engang Var,” or that remix of Britney’s “Everytime” from B in the Mix Volume 1 can beat today’s track. That slow buildup with those oboes sounding like tormented babies over that achingly ascending melodic line that builds to that fucking THUNDEROUS “bass drop” of the vocals coming in at 1:21. It’s everything I love in music, it’s the song that began the world, it’s the song that will end the world, it’s fucking epic in every sense of the word. Even when it tries to bring in a bit of major key tonality around 4:11 (and a few other brief sections) the inner heart of tormented darkness pulls it RIGHT FUCKING BACK.
The eternal question for me, has always been: “Is Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Mirror my favorite movie of all time due to its prominent use of this song, or due to its own merits?” There’s no way to know, but with a different soundtrack, there is no way this final scene could move me nearly as much as it does. Even to this day, after countless viewings of the film, this scene still makes me positively dizzy with the overwhelming upwelling of emotion and beauty every single time I view it. In fact, listening to this song makes me feel exactly like the actress in this scene feels:
This is the same version of the song featured today, the Karl Richter conducted version from 1964. It might use modern instruments, but its slower pace was the first version I heard, and is still my favorite. Listening to this makes me want to sound a great barbaric yawp just like the kid does at the end of that clip, something which few other songs are capable of doing. Well, this, and maybe that “Everytime” remix too.
That fictional architect has a name, you know, and it is Ivo Shandor. Geez.