the music in the shrubbery

According to Schopenhauer, music — even more than literature, philosophy and science — has the potential to make us feel the essence of existence. Music is metaphysics without reflection. In The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, a 12-year old girl named Mick hears music all the time, in the presence of others, in conversations musicwith them, even while puttering down the street. A desperate urge to translate her experience into music grips her. But she lacks the opportunity and training to shape her desire in a meaningful way. A wonderful passage in the novel portrays her blind quest for music. “There was one special house that played all the good orchestra music. And at night she would go to this house and sneak into the dark yard to listen. There was a beautiful shrubbery around this house, and she would sit under a bush near the window. And after it was all over she would stand in the dark yard with her hands in her pockets and think for a long time. That was the realest part of all summer—her listening to this music on the radio and studying about it.” Mick returned to the house later in the novel. In the quiet secret night, she wandered outdoors and down the street. She walked without direction. Her feet carried her without her knowing, to this fine secret place of hers. Then the music started. Like God strutting in the night. The music was hot inside her heart. “This music was the real plain her.” The music took neither a short nor a long time. Timelessness was upon her. Alive, the music rose in stages, hopeful, angry, excited, sad. “But maybe the last part of the symphony was the music she loved the best — glad and like the greatest people in the world running and springing up in a hard, free way. Wonderful music like this was the worst hurt there could be.” The notes grew soft and slow until she felt herself sinking down slowly to the ground, with the implication that a kind of death has occurred, at least of Mick’s self-awareness, to Schopenhauer’s everlasting delight.

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One Response to the music in the shrubbery

  1. Kat says:

    Fascinating about Schopenhauer and music. Poor Mick! She wouldn’t feel like poor Mick, though.

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