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We have long tried to explain the mystery of love by comparing it to the euphoria that music can instill in us. “Love is like a fever,” wrote the French author Stendhal in De l’Amour (1822), “it is born and dies completely beyond our control. […] It is because we cannot understand the why of these feelings that even the most sober man is a music fanatic.” Love and music do not merely run parallel to one another, however, they also interact. Since the beginning of civilization, love has been one of music’s main sources of inspiration; on the other hand—as Shakespeare wrote in very first line of Twelfth Night—music is “the food of love.”

In many ancient, traditional cultures, admirers sang to their beloved to prove the depth of their feeling and to stir a reciprocal emotion. With the emergence in the West of instrumental music, however, came the 19th-century notion that only pure music—without references to words or images—truly had the power to connect us with the indescribable, to evoke that which words cannot express.

Love is probably the most basic of these indescribable or unutterable feelings, something that we all feel but have difficulty explaining rationally. Perhaps it explains why many instrumental works by composers such as Vivaldi, Chopin, Brahms or Elgar have become abiding romantic classics—perfect for slipping into the CD player to accompany a candlelit dinner for two. But why these more than others? This remains as great a mystery as love itself, or as the appeal of music.

© Guy Marchand
Translation: Peter Christensen

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AN 6 1014
AN 6 1014
AN 6 1014
AN 6 1014

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