Tag Archives: A Thousand Words for Love

One day, you finally see her across the room and your eyes meet.

In my post, A Thousand Words for Love, I talked about how I want to start writing about what it means when I love something. So today I’m doing my first post in that vein, though it’s more about how I fell in love with a piece than how I love it.

There’s a piece by Bear McCreary in Battlestar Galactica that I feel in love with in a way that reminds me a great deal of how I feel in love with one of my high school girlfriends (who I actually met in orchestra). And this piece is important because it was this piece that really made me realize that I felt something for McCreary’s work that was deeper than with other soundtracks.

As an aside, I should note though it’s still not the post I promised in The Mind of the Composer (though as a hint, I’ve already referenced a couple of the pieces that will go into that post). That one is coming still, really!

Today’s post is actually appropriate as the first of my “how I love this piece” series because it’s actually, in the mind of the composer, as close to a “love theme” as you’re going to get on Battlestar Galactica.It is the Roslin and Adama Theme.

I didn’t really notice this theme when it first occurred during the series. But that’s pretty standard: I don’t really get deeply into the music of film or TV score until I listen to it on it’s own.

In terms of audio recordings, this theme first appears on the Battlestar Galactica: Season Two Soundtrack. I got the soundtrack when it was released in June 2006. I already had the soundtrack for the pilot as well as the season one soundtrackand was happy with both of those, though honestly, not really blown away.

The theme is track thirteen out of twenty-two, so it’s buried in the middle towards the end. I listened to the soundtrack several times through July and early August, enjoying it, with some pieces starting to stand out more than others. But not this piece. No, this piece was still lost in the crowd.

Then one night in late August, my wife had gone to bed and I was up by myself. It was hot that night (for the Pacific Northwest at least). I was on our computer puttering about, drinking a gin and tonic (ideal when it’s hot) and listening to the Galactica season two soundtrack. It was background music really, since nothing had yet really stood out.

As track twelve, Epiphanies,

finished and the quiet, gentle combination of the acoustic fiddle and piano of the Roslin and Adama Theme started playing, it caught my attention suddenly and I started listening closely. I was struck by the gentle cadence of the piece moving forward, gently but steadily. The acoustic fiddle standing out in front by itself so prominently had a poignant, almost sad quality, particularly when the theme twists slightly on the B flat, giving it that richness I love with minor keys. And then, about two-thirds of the way through, when the guitar comes in and the tempo picks up, all of a sudden the sad quality becomes joyful and the piece ends on a note that is for me, positive and hopeful and loving.

Here was a piece that I’d been listening to for a couple of months and hadn’t really stood out from the rest. And now, all of a sudden something clicked and I feel in love with the piece.

The way I fell for this piece would later remind me of when I feel in love with K when I was a junior in high school. We were in orchestra together and would see each other once every four or six weeks. It was rare enough that I didn’t catch her name and not wanting to embarrass myself didn’t ask her again, hoping that I could figure it out when someone else called her (“Hey K!”). Alas, my great plan failed and six months after we met, I was forced to ask her her name. And while we’d talked and been friendly she didn’t stand out of the crowd of people I knew there. But the, after seeing each other in orchestra for seven or eight months, all of a sudden one night something clicked and I fell in love with her. And as I fell, hard, it was wonderful, beautiful and intertwined with music, poetry, springtime; it was all those things that falling in love at that age is supposed to be.

Indeed, I even today when I hear Smetana’s Moldau

I remember her and that spring and still remember what it was like to feel that.

Of course, it was high school, so we won’t talk about how it worked out: you know how it worked out.

But the important thing isn’t how that relationship turned out: it’s how it started and how magical it was and how my experience with McCreary’s Roslin and Adama Theme mirrors that. How both of them were instances where one day, you finally see her across the room and your eyes meet and then magic happens.

A Thousand Words for Love

So, let’s get the facts out of the way: the Eskimos don’t have twenty-four or some other inordinate number of words for snow.

While this is an urban legend, the concept it tries to highlight is a real one; it’s called “focal vocabulary”. Linguists use that as a term to highlight instances where humans develop words to distinguish nuanced differences when necessary. The multiple words for snow faux-example illustrates a further aspect of this: that nuanced distinctions that are so clear to one culture so as to require separate terms can be glossed over by another culture by using just one word.

There’s a better, real example that we’re actually familiar with: “love”. In English, we use “love” to denote a number of different, nuanced emotions. Many of us are familiar with the fact that in Ancient Greek there are multiple terms that we translate using “love”, for example agape versus eros. But most people are OK understanding the differences because they have some awareness, even if unconscious, of the distinctions implicit in the English word, if only based on usage and context. No one mistakes “I love you, man!” for “I love you, darling”.

But when we lack discrete, distinct terms, it’s easy to miss distinctions. For a number of reasons, even before we may have been made aware of the different terms in Ancient Greek, we knew there were different kinds of love between people. We knew because (most of us at least) felt the differences when we used the term with our parents and then our romantic partners because the differences are stark and clear to nearly all of us.

But if the differences are nuanced, subtle, and there’s nothing to prick our awareness to notice the differences it’s easy to go through life and never recognize that distinction. And in a way, when we miss distinctions like this,our experience of life is poorer for it. We miss the chance to understand, glory in, and relish the differences.

And so when our awareness is pricked and we become aware of distinctions that language and usage have left us previously blind to, it can be an amazing and rewarding process of discovery. Because, once you understand there are differences you’ve been blind to, you first want to understand all those differences, understand what makes this one what it is and what makes that one what it is.

What does this have to do with music and this blog? Simple really. As I was contemplating the post I promised in The Mind of the Composer, I was going to write about how I love the music that Bear McCreary has done. But I love other music too, and I love his work ways that are different from those other pieces. Contemplating the different ways I love (and have fallen in love with) those different pieces, I found myself thinking that it would be an interesting exercise with the blog moving forward, to try and understand those different kinds of “love” the underpin the same word. When I say I love McCreary’s Passacaglia

how is that different from how I love Barber’s Adagio

or even from McCreary’s The Shape of Things to Come

which is a piece that is very similar and yet different from Passacaglia?

And so it struck me that there’s a whole angle to take in my writing here, one that tries to understand the differences in pieces that I love. Not from the point of view of technical differences, historical differences but rather from the simple point of view of understanding what I mean, what I really mean when I say I love something or have fallen in love with it.

My friend Jenny has always said how she loves me sharing my music because she loves what it means to me, how my sharing that is sharing a part of me and that my love for it is infectious. And,Juli-Ann in her comments on Aufersteh’n, ja aufersteh’n noted “What I really appreciate about your writing approach is the deep emotional connection you make with music. It is a vivid reminder to me to simply experience the music and enjoy the emotional journey. To allow myself to forget the years of music theory and analysis, turn off the intellectual side, and feel the music in my body and soul.”

When I think about that all, I realize that trying to understand what I mean by “love” is really a more directed exercise to those points they both raise. So, I think I’ll be doing some posts from time to time, now, that try to explain what I mean when I say I “love” something.