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Classical Notes

The Cruelest Month

Posted at 12:29 AM on March 15, 2006 by Valerie Kahler (2 Comments)
Filed under: Musical philosophy

While TS Eliot said April is the cruelest month, City Pages’ restaurant reviewer Dara Moskovitz had this to say:

February [is] the cruelest month. Yeah, I know it's supposed to be April, but this is Minnesota, and our winter is so, so long that I've contacted the legislature about some updates. Let's call February the Cruelest Month, if only so we can call April "I'll Kill You, I Swear to God, If You Don't Give Me the Remote, I Am Not Even Kidding, You Are Just Like Your Mother, Just Give Me It, Quit, I Said, Quit It."

Given this week’s meteorological unpleasantness, I’m casting my Cruelest Month vote for March. I mean, it was FIFTY-SIX degrees last week. And then a foot of snow? That’s just mean.

Every winter, I make it through the first few months thinking, “Well, this isn’t so bad! Here it is February already – we’re almost out of the woods.” How can I forget about March EVERY YEAR? But forget I do, so the spiteful late-winter snows catch me unawares.

Ah, but there’s always a silver lining. Two, in this case. 1. Because snow shovels are SO last season, I was able to procure one at a steep discount. 2. A springboard, if you will, for a discussion of seasonal music. My husband and I were talking about this very thing a few days ago. Now, I don’t mean seasonal music like a Christmas carol or an Easter mass. I don’t even mean seasonally-titled music (Four Seasons, Summer Music, etc). No, what we’re getting at here is something much more ephemeral and subjective: music that feels seasonally appropriate to you, for whatever reason. For example, my husband said that every year as winter creaks into spring, he gets an itch to listen to the Rolling Stones. A teenage boy who was around for the conversation agreed, saying his fondness for techno was entirely winter-specific. An old orchestra colleague of mine always associated Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 5 with summer gardening. For me, Bach is a year-round favorite but I usually reach for the Cello Suites in early spring. I also have a perverse need to listen to Duran Duran when I spring clean. I don’t quite understand it – I think it has something to do with my college years and operant conditioning.

What about you?


Comments (2)

I think the idea of seasonal music is a good one. Personally, Journey is a summer-time travel type music. Probably because of the year I spent commuting back and forth from Calabasas, CA, to U of Southern California via PCH.

My Irish music tastes dominate March (gee, I wonder why) and late summer and fall as the Rennaisance Festival is in motion. Summer pops work means a desire to listen to major motion picture soundtracks nearly non-stop.

There are some types of music I'm willing to listen too all year round, but yes - there are times of the year when the desire to hear certain sounds prevail over other sounds.

Julie Amacher just asked a few minutes ago if "Rhapsody in Blue" was appropriate for Spring. I say wholeheartedly yes!

Posted by Liz | March 15, 2006 1:54 PM


March is a cruel month because it is a month of transition. For example, the robins showed up in our yard, then we had an ice-storm. (A case of when NOT to be an early-bird.) They might have found a wormscicle or two out there, but that's about it.

Winter music to me is about strings. Spring and March bring to mind literally and musically, winds. It may have something to do with the return of the song-birds outside the window when the days start to get noticeably longer.

One warmer spring day a Mozart concerto for flute and harp was on the radio as I was washing the car (for the first time in months), and now, when I hear that piece I remember that experience. It reminds me of a warm, calm, spring day even though it may be snowing out now, and it's so windy out that there are white-cap waves on the duck pond, and the rescue squad needs to pluck the local tax service's mascot dressed as the Statue of Liberty from a maple tree, swept up by a mighty gust. (It is spring though, and I understand now that one of the firemen carries a torch for her.)

Spring is in the way. Strike up the harmony music, strike up the band.

Posted by ted vasilow | March 16, 2006 11:31 AM