–There is feeling’s immediacy, a short-circuiting of having to describe and explain. It’s like a shattering or ushering in: Judith’s high C in Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle, the Baroness’s “Lulu” at the end of Berg’s opera, the vibraphone’s signaling of Tadzio’s entrance in Britten’s Death in Venice, the after-sounds of the guillotine slice at the end of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites.
Sublime or uncanny is too big a word to pin down these moments. It matters in ways I can’t explain–explanation as when one reason leads to another in an infinite regress–that the music of Orff’s Antigonae captures more in and of the moment than Honegger’s Antigone. These can’t be proof-read.
–So what? Maybe I’m being too hard on “description” and not hard enough on “explanation.” Virgil Thomson, the composer, put it that “a good critic does not voice opinions, he describes; if his description is succinct, accurate and imaginative, the opinion will automatically shine through.” I like that adverbial property of “automatically.”