There are old souls and stolid souls and gentle souls. And then there are feeble souls like panicles of dandelion fluff that take a nosedive in a sudden down draft.
Twitter, that hell hole where people routinely spend their days biting off one another’s heads in 280 characters or less, oddly provided a soul-lifting balloon the other day when a well-known pundit shared his pick for “the most spiritual piece of music ever written”. Commenters briefly halted their usual locked-in-political-combat mode and chimed in with their own favorites.
It began with Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, which you might recognize from the film “Master and Commander”:
Several people responded with another Vaughan Williams favorite, The Lark Ascending and others with Tallis’ Spem in Alium and with Samuel Barber’s lush Adagio for Strings. There was a shout-out for Schubert’s Ave Maria, and someone else recommended this swoon-worthy clip from Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini:
Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess and Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 Lento e Largo “Sorrowful Songs” were new to me, as was the lovely Tchaikovsky Hymn of the Cherubim
Someone suggested Massenet’s familiar “Thais” Meditation to which I’ll counter that I find Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas “Dido’s Lament more compelling:
But each to his or her own. Other submissions included “anything by Beyoncé”, anything by Palestrina, Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark was the Night” Rush’s “Spirit of the Radio” and Buckethead’s “Soothsayer”. Anton Bruckner’s 8th and 9th symphonies were heartily recommended, as was Elgar’s lovely Enigma Variations. Anything by Bach should probably be appended to the list, just because.
Someone mentioned Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem, from which the Cantique de Jean Racine is one of my all-time favorites:
And I’ll add one more that wasn’t mentioned but which I think belongs right up there with all the rest: Tomás Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor. You might remember it as the theme song from the film Gallipoli. It sends a feeble spirit soaring:
Yes, listening to sad music can actually make you happier. Enjoy, and please send me any other suggestions to add to my “soul-soothing” playlist…