This past weekend my relationship ended with the cosmic whimper of a thousand kittens getting curb-stomped, the end of the best and worst 6 1/2 years of my life. Breaking up is a process, and I imagine it could be long, tumultuous, and ugly depending on the hour, but in the early stages it’s almost exclusively about hearing songs that up until three days ago you just enjoyed and now can’t listen to without losing your shit (current example: “Who’s Lovin’ You?” by the Jackson 5, a brilliantly written song with young Michael at his apex as a singer that I skillfully ignored the lyrics to for years until now). I have no scientific evidence to back up this claim, but I suspect that breakup songs, in some form or another, constitute an even larger percentage of the musical lexicon than hookup songs, and now is the time for me to listen to “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” on loop and cry myself to sleep only to wake up the next morning and start in with “End of the Road” because I don’t have the emotional energy to stand up and remove this Boyz II Men Greatest Hits CD.
Thank God there’s classical music.
Classical music has a vehicle for you to channel everything you need channeled and then some. Need an outlet for the weepy sadness? The Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde‘s got your back. What about when you wig out and go through that obsessive “I’ve got to get her back at all costs” phase? Blaze that shit up motherfucker, because Berlioz has you covered with just the insane opium-fueled fever dream you need, complete with accompaniment for your own descent into madness. When you hit that righteous fury point where you blame all your problems on your ex, Bluebeard’s Castle empowers you to harbor thoughts of the most epic mid-life crisis of the last 100 years – entirely-too-big house, lots of jewelry (seriously, like a fucking ton of jewelry), a self-aggrandizing sense of your own importance that blows past the line of inhuman – and rage for a solid hour. Sibelius chips in with the Violin Concerto for the crippling bouts of loneliness. Mahler 8, in all its overstuffed glory, reminds you that chicks are awesome. And everything Bruckner wrote fills in two gaps: 1) you’re really fucking weird and no one else is ever going to love you and 2) it may not matter because the human condition is bigger than your feeble mind could possibly comprehend.
The history of classical music, especially in the Romantic period, is littered with tales of unrequited love, totally-requited love, betrayal, abject beauty, pain, suffering, and truth, and everybody’s got a story to tell. Some tell it better than others, though, and I have a suspicion that I’ll be going back to a forgotten well in the coming months.
It’s been quite some time since I listened to Mahler (I think the last time was the brilliant KC Symphony performance of the Sixth way back in January). Like any listener, I tend to go through phases where I plow through a particular composer or subgenre like a drunken frat boy, and Mahler’s been out of the loop for six months now. But if there’s anyone who can speak to the universal truth that is the end of a relationship, it’s a man who had his heart broken on more than one occasion and didn’t help his own cause by being an unrepentant dick.
So stay tuned. There’s a 30% chance that this space will soon feature a live blog of the complete Mahler symphonies that will contain 40,000 words, an entire bottle of bourbon, and the destruction of my fingerprints from the sheer repetition. God dammit all if I don’t have the time. And that’s what music is there for…to get you through the dark times and to embrace the light ones. Thanks for the support y’all.