In the music I had heard at Mme Verdurin's, phrases I had not noticed, obscure phantoms that were then indistinct, turned into dazzling architectural structures; and some of them became friends, that I had scarcely distinguished, that at best had appeared to me to be ugly, so that I could never have supposed that they were like those people, antipathetic at first sight, whom we discover to be what they really are only after we have come to know them well. Between the two states there was a real transmutation. At the same time, phrases which had been quite distinct the first time but which I had not then recognised, I identified now with phrases from other works, such as that phrase from the Sacred Variation for Organ which, at Mme Verdurin's, had passed unperceived by me in the septet, where nevertheless, like a saint that had stepped down from the sanctuary, it found itself consorting with the composer's familiar sprites. Moreover, the phrase evoking the joyful clanging of the bells at noon, which had seemed to me too unmelodious, too mechanical in its rhythm, had now become my favorite, either because I had grown accustomed to its ugliness or because I had discovered its beauty. This reaction from the disappointment which great works of art cause at first may in fact be attributed to a weakening of the initial impression or to the effort necessary to lay bare the truth - two hypotheses which recur in all important question, questions about the truth of Art, of Reality, of the Immortality of the Soul; we must choose between them; and, in the case of Vinteuil's music, this choice was constantly presenting itself under a variety of forms. For instance, this music seemed to me something truer than all known books. At moments I thought that this was due to the fact that, what we feel about life not being felt in the form of ideas, its literary, that is to say intellectual expression describes it, explains it, analyses it, but does not recompose it as does music, in which the sounds seem to follow the very movement of our being, to reproduce the extreme inner point of our sensations which is that part that gives us that peculiar exhilaration which we experience from time to time and which, when we say "What a fine day! What glorious sunshine" we do not in the least communicate to others, in whom the same sun and the same weather evoke quite different vibrations.
Marcel Proust, The Captive, pp. 380-381
We're in the middle of one of those very Proustian paragraphs that are, beyond being four pages long (I sometimes make my first year students read passages from Proust, and I always tell them to feel like this man felt but not necessarily write like this man wrote), which has so many extraordinary points that it will almost certainly give birth to four different posts. Marcel is reflecting, once again, on a piece of music by Verdurin and, not surprisingly, takes us to a metaphysical realm. He starts off talking about musical works that he initially didn't like and then eventually loved, and vice-versa. Proust tells us, "Moreover, the phrase evoking the joyful clanging of the bells at noon, which had seemed to me too unmelodious, too mechanical in its rhythm, had now become my favorite, either because I had grown accustomed to its ugliness or because I had discovered its beauty." In turn this made me think of musical works that I initially didn't like but then grew to love, although I like to think that most of the time it was because I discovered its beauty than grew accustomed to its ugliness. While there are many examples, for some reason the one that jumped out to me first off are works my Edward Elgar. Years ago I bought an Elgar CD mainly because I loved (and still love) Jacqueline Du Pru's performance of his Cello Concert to E Minor (which I'm pretty certain I've celebrated on our weekly Discography music discussion). Rounding out the CD was Janet Baker singing Elgar's Sea Pictures Op. 37, which initially was something I just ignored until the Cello Concerto started. However, over the years I began to pay more appreciate Sea Pictures more, mainly because I think I just studied it more, until eventually I began to the CD mainly because of Sea Pictures, especially Sabbath Morning at Sea (not that I stopped loving the Cello Concerto). Again, I would argue it was because I discovered the beauty of Sea Pictures, and not simply because I was bludgeoned into submission.
Now, that was the easy part of the equation, and I'll have to hold off the more complex discussion until tomorrow because I'm presenting next week in our George "Honey Boy" Evans Symposium and somebody is going to have to finish my talk.