It arrives in 2019 in the form of a radio broadcast from the area near Alpha Centauri, one of the brightest stars in the night sky. Scientists pick up the signal, and everyone who hears it is instantly transfixed by unearthly music from a singer whose voice seems to possess something of the divine.
Humans confer. Nations debate. Then they launch an international expedition. All because of a song. Who the singer is and what his music says lead the reader through a dark forest of ideas thick with the twisted vines of religion and science, love and sex. I read the book several years ago and still think of it.
It seems much of my life has been waiting to hear a galvanizing piece of music, the song which will transfix and transform. I’ve caught fragments of it in Bach cantatas and Russian tone poems. I thought I heard it once in a Monroe Avenue bead shop, but then it morphed into something else, ordinary and familiar.
The daily mystery piece on Classical FM 91.5 at 6:40 a.m. offers you the chance to dig into memory. It takes music out of context and lets it speak for itself, without labels. Some listeners have been struck by new arrangements of old favorites. (“I have not heard this version with the beautiful violin solo. Super!” one e-mailed.) Others are grateful to explore new things. “What I heard was stunning, and I'll look to acquire that little piece of breathless heaven,” wrote a listener from the Southern Tier.
On Monday, June 21 we heard an excerpt from a concerto many consider the most fulfilling ever written for a reed instrument, Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A.
On Tuesday, June 22, pianist Michael Chertock played the main theme from The Piano, a movie about a frustrated musician, based on the melody of the Scottish folk song “Gloomy Winter’s Noo Awa.” The title comes from an Emily Dickinson poem, “The heart asks pleasure first.” It’s the most recognizable composition of composer Michael Nyman, one of those pieces everyone knows and no one can name.
Thanks for listening, and thanks for writing. I hope the spirit of discovery leads you to seek out the song that speaks of you, who you are, and who you want to be.