My soundtrack for the season has been Khachaturian’s Waltz from the Masquerade Suite. I don’t know where I first became acquainted with this piece from the 20th century Soviet-Armenian composer – possibly in the womb. I’m one of those people who gets an urge to hear a song over and over, at the risk of driving others in my household stark raving mad until I reach for the headphones. I’ve probably listened to it a couple of hundred times in the last week. It evokes rich imagery, abstract ideas, and deep emotions in equal measure – so powerful that at times I feel tears welling up and it’s impossible to resist dancing. I’m not close to being sick of it – my need to hear it is as strong as a craving for a particular kind of food. Sometimes I feel that if I listen enough its passion will eventually graft itself onto my DNA.
I’ve thought a lot about passion lately. It’s a transformational part of our human psyche that supersedes its association with sexuality. Sex is just one of many mechanisms, but passion, well passion is the goal. We can find our passion in just about anything – mathematics, athleticism, the natural world and of course in the arts. Passion makes me run faster, fly higher, dig deeper.
Music is particularly good at awakening this part of us which is at once poignantly unsustainable and yet strangely complete. Today it’s Khachaturian’s Masquerade, but Chest Fever from The Band, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue by Richard Rodgers, Youssou Ndour’s 7 Seconds or Philip Glass’s Runaway Horses from Mishima do the same thing to me. There is a certain physicality in passion that makes me want to dance or sing at the top of my lungs, but it far transcends the body. The passion in music allows us to tap into that which is ineffable – conceptual landscapes, memories, associations, the exquisite fabric of the human mind – and enfolds us in its mood.
It’s the arts more than any other activity that bring passion to our doorstep and invite us to dive in and forget ourselves. There is that exquisite paradox again – passion makes us feel truly alive within ourselves and at the same time part of a greater beyond. And it is through art that we can share our passion with others. I don’t know a single artist who isn’t full of passion, who lives to express that passion and share it with others. Is art then a means to keep passion in our lives?
Any child knows passion the first time she’s allowed to roll down a grassy hill in full abandon. Didn’t you dance as a child, bang joyfully on a musical instrument, belt out songs of your own creation at the slightest provocation? And then we are taught to suppress it.
Perhaps the cold, grey time of year awakens the passion in our inner lives, or indulging in festive excess; the magical twinkle of snow in the night air or the proximity to tradition and loved ones. As the year ends and a new era turns over, my wish is that passion ignites the creativity that is your birthright and lets it soar.