I am, however, happy to see the creators of this challenge added the caveat “or nearly” onto this one. While I get a huge emotional rush from great music, it’s pretty unlikely that it would manifest itself in actual tears.
In fact, the only times I have actually teared up have been at live performances, at the end of particularly substantial works. Most recently, for example, I was lucky enough to hear Mahler’s 8th Symphony, and the Chorus Mysticus that ends that piece was just gut-wrenching.
In fact, my all-time favorite concert was a performance of Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion. Bach is pretty much the master of gut-wrenching emotion, but the last 12 minutes of that concert – starting with the final Bass Aria, with its feeling of utter resignation, and concluding with the final, overwhelming chorus – left me dumbfounded and unable to talk for a good 10 minutes afterwards. My concert-going companion and I simply left the concert hall in silence.
But no tears.
There are a few shorter songs that can have a similar effect on me – a visceral feeling in my core, but I don’t think I have ever wept openly at a piece of music. Here are a few that always get me:
- I’ve Seen It All (Björk) – Really, her whole soundtrack from Dancer in the Dark (a film that could break the hardest heart) is fantastic, but this track (a duet with Radiohead’s Thom York) just feels like giving up.
- Ederlezi – I have way too many versions of this traditional gypsy song from the Balkans. It’s difficult to pick just one. Regardless of what the lyrics are (I have no idea) to me, this is one of the saddest songs ever created. Here are two versions by Goran Bregovic – one from the Emir Kusturica Film Time of the Gypsies and another he did in collaboration with Greek singer, Alkistis Protopsaltis.
- Nine sile Nebesinye (Alexander Sheremetiev) – I first heard this Russian choral piece in the film C.R.A.Z.Y., although it turns out I owned a copy on CD already. It features prominently in that film, and always at the most poignant parts of the story. But the music is weep-worthy without the film.
- With this Love (Peter Gabriel) – Gosh, there seems to be a lot of soundtrack music here. Okay, this is the last one. From the film The Last Temptation of Christ, Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack is hit and miss, but there’s some great stuff, including this one. The plaintive sound of the oboe is what gets me.
- Full Circle (Loreena McKennitt) – I’m mostly to the point that I don’t listen to Loreena much anymore, finding most of her music sounds too similar – but this one still gets me. I love when she sings “elsewhere, a snow fell. The first in the winter” – not so much for the lyric as for the backing music and her voice.
- The Finale from Les Miserables – This musical has some of the saddest music going (and some of the greatest melodies). This was another instance of me welling up in the last minutes of a large-scale live concert – when all the dead characters reappear – and it’s carried over to any time I hear a recording of the finale.
- Fairytale of New York (The Pogues) – Not so much the fast parts, but the slow bits, and the ending. The music behind “The boys in the NYPD choir were singing ‘Gallway Bay.’)
- The Briar and the Rose (Tom Waits) – Much like the oboe in With this Love, the clarinet throughout Tom Waits’s Black Rider album is both sweet and plaintive – and nowhere is that more evident than on this track. Unfortunately, I can’t for the life of me find a sound clip for this track. You’ll just have to take my word for it.