In our small world, it is easy for music to become one’s religion. We have all dedicated our lives to it, sacrificed for it, loved it, needed it, and occasionally been rewarded by it – similar to religion, or some would say a cult. It’s easy to fall in love everyday with something new and undiscovered, or find that feeling in something you’ve heard many times before.

John Adams appeared this week with the orchestra with a program fraught with programmatic music intended to break your heart – Strauss’s popular (and my first tone poem ever) Death and Transfiguration, along with two of his own compositions. The first, Transmigration of Souls was clearly meant to evoke poignant sentiments. Specifically written as a ‘memorial space’ (a term from Adams, similar to a requiem type piece) for 9/11, he wanted it to transcend time, for any horrendous affront suffered by man and repairing the damage done to the human spirit. His careful staging and sound effects by Mark Grey made it happen – our chorus master cried for about 30 minutes after it ended.

For me personally, his other piece, The Dharma at Big Sur, was significantly more moving. Dharma has several meanings and connotations depending on religious or philosophical views, but a common Buddhist belief is that your personal inner peace and happiness is dependent on following dharma. I can’t quite say what it was exactly about the piece that moved me so, but that is the point. To think that your happiness can be changed, to turn a seemingly intangible idea and almost make it something you can grasp – and to think that Adams was able to portray this through his music was inspiring. Take a listen if you can.

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