Moved to tears ‘Simon met a Pieman’ and piano Concerto by Lang Lang.


You sometimes wonder which of the arts the primary one is. Is it literature, the visual arts of painting, sculpture etc, architecture, dance with ballet, or is it music?

Which of our senses is most aroused by beauty? That is if we claim ‘beauty’ to be the sole arbiter of becoming emotionally or spiritually aroused. Some people might well claim that tragedy and sadness is the one that moves us most. Do people get tears in their eyes when viewing a beautiful painting? I know I have never been moved to tears by visual arts but have (been moved to tears) listening to a beautiful piece of music.

A few nights ago I viewed on television the Rachmaninoff second piano concerto with Lang Lang on the piano. Now, that did move me to tears. It was held in the Sydney Opera House in 2011. Not that viewing the beauty of design in Sydney’s opera house would ever move me to tears. The visual versus the auditory are different and evoke different responses. If tears are the arbiter of emotional responses music would have to be the clear winner in reaching deeper into our souls than anything else.

When Lang Lang performed at the opening of the Beijing Olympic Games it is claimed 40.000.000 Chinese children took up the piano afterwards. That’s twice the entire population of Australia. Now, that’s what I would call a rousing response to music. Music would have to be an art form that seems essential to us humans reaching our potential in nurturing emotional intelligence, sensitivity and awareness… It is known now that babies, while still safe inside their mothers, already react to musical sounds. Take any group of toddlers and start up music and in no time they will dance, move about and clap hands.

With books and stories we might get closer to tears. Films are also very capable of evoking tearful emotions, but… a good filmmaker knows that the music is essential during beautiful, harrowing and emotional scenes and it plays an important role. I can’t imagine a scene of great sorrow and loss but accompanied by the music of ‘three blind mice, or Humpty Dumpty’ could easily induce tears in an audience. I vividly remember in the Visconti movie of ‘Death in Venice’ Gustav Mahler’s piece the adagietto of his 5th symphony moved many to tears. Would it have been the same with the music score of ‘Simple Simon met a Pieman?’ I doubt it.

In the ‘best movie’, the ‘best director’, nominated for ‘ten awards’ movie ‘The Artist’ there was no dialogue but this was compensated more than adequately by its glorious music, (and the spitting image of our Jack Russell ‘Milo’). Yet, a non-documentary movie with only dialogue but without any music would be difficult to not become boring, perhaps even unwatchable. The era of silent movies always had live music being played. This was sometimes achieved by a tinny phonograph, a solitary man or woman playing the piano, or an entire orchestra. The music score was essential in bringing an audience to appreciate the movie and its story during the era of ‘silent movies’.

I feel that music might well be the foundation corner stone of the ‘arts’, but of course many will claim this to be owned by Shakespearean written words or  Picasso’s Guernica or Rembrandts Night watch. It’s what moves us is what is important. Who knows, for some it might be just looking at the stars and the moon?

It just never stops.

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17 Responses to “Moved to tears ‘Simon met a Pieman’ and piano Concerto by Lang Lang.”

  1. Lottie Nevin Says:

    Interesting things that you’ve pointed out here Gerard and certainly food for thought. Supper is almost on the table and I have guests but I shall think more about this question later. For now just briefly here are my thoughts.

    I can and have been touched/moved by paintings, photographs sculpture or installations for example. Their powerful and often moving images burnt now onto my retina.

    But, it is music, always music that brings me to my knees, makes me weep or sends me to some euphoric place that I was not expecting. Why? I don’t know, it’s just the way that it is.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, some music is the one that brings the tears. Strange that musical notes in a certain order evokes so many different emotions. While modern music brings out the rock and roll in me, it just rarely moves me the same as classical music. That might be because of a limitation on my part. I don’t seemed to be wired up for heavy metal or thump thump thump notes.


  2. Andrew Says:

    I read this a little earlier and wanted to reflect on it. I regret I have never been moved to tears by paintings. Indeed I almost lost a close friend once when she and her husband took me to the Kunsthalle in Düsseldorf. We walked round an exhibition of modern ‘art’ and she asked me what I thought of it. Being an honest cove I remarked that the pieces all reminded me of the potato prints we had done at primary school. There was a frosty silence that lasted several hours. Some films can move me greatly. However I have to confess that music is indeed the one that soothes this savage beast. Although I have a very catholic taste in music it is classical pieces that usually pierce the armour. I recall recently linking to Allegri’s Miserere for Lottie. Fabulous stuff. Some Mahler can push me over the edge too. I met him through Death in Venice, like you. Mozart is indeed divine. So too Schubert, and although I am not a great fan of the fiddle, if you let Anne-Sophie loose on Bruch or Beethoven I am sure I will weep. Jacqueline Du Pre and the Elgar Cello Concerto is enough to start me crying buckets and Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine is gorgeous. I heard Brendel play in Frankfurt and cried at the concert. I’m not sure about books. I love literature but does it move me to tears? I don’t think so. I am intrigued as to Lottie’s second stab at this. Stabat Mater, I know, Stabat Lottie will be a new one.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I do like and enjoy modern art. In fact more than the heavily brown varnished variety. I admire the life-like interpretive skills of past master such as Rembrandt, Jan Steen, Vermeer etc, I prefer a Vincent v Gogh, Gauguin or even Pollock’s blue poles.
      I am with you on classical music and am inclined to switch of pop music, especially high pitched singing of ‘I luuuf youuu with foreeeveeeer till the end of tiiiiime etc.
      I love Sibelius especially his Valse Triste, but am prejudiced having a lovely Finn as partner.


  3. Patti Kuche Says:

    I think I might be one of those emotionally labile people – I cry whenever I watch Singing in the Rain. The song, True Love, from High Society, brings a lump to the throat. I could go on and on about the books, paintings, songs, pieces of music etc but I suspect most of my tears are tied to the emotion of certain memories, certain discoveries and the pleasure to be had in beauty. As fleeting as it is. If my father had sung Simple Simon to me, well, I might shed a tear!


  4. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    I seem to weep at many things. Art, music, a tender love story, anything about dogs or horses.


  5. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    Oh my. As I did two weeks ago when our dear son-in-law passed. My condolences to you and your wife Gerard. Our children are not supposed to go before us.


  6. Christine Says:

    I enjoyed reading this column so much. I agree music is the clear winner. And I offer my condolences.


  7. paul walter Says:

    I do believe I was listening to Lang Lang playing this on Adelaide’s community radio station yesterday.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, so did we a few days ago on the ABC TV which came after a program about Lang Lang. When young and being taught the piano, his teacher gave up on him and said you are just so hopeless; You have potatoes for fingers.


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