Saturday, March 20, 2004

Beautiful Irish Songs and the Longing of Sehnsucht

I swear that two of the most beautiful melodies / songs I have ever heard in my life are on one album: a compilation of current-day Celtic artists, called Celtic Legacy (Narada, 1995).

Here I am typing away, after having gone for an hourlong stroll on this Spring-like day with my precious and sweet 2 1/3 year-old daughter, and playing Irish music (as I am highly prone to doing this time of year).

Merciful heavens!: the wistfulness and longing these songs evoke . . . (one review described it as "the sweetly despairing type so familiar to lovers of Irish music"). Is it because of having Irish and Celtic blood, or being a Romantic, or just being weird? Or all of the above? LOL

Nothing can bring forth in me more quickly than traditional Irish music, that inexpressibly powerful, painful yet simultaneously strangely ecstatic feeling of what C.S. Lewis called "Joy" or what has been called sehnsucht (a term, I believe from the Romantic literature). Lewis made an argument from this longing for heaven itself.

I believe it, because I can feel it so deeply -- soul-deep. It makes no sense that mere music can evoke such feelings and senses, unless there is something deeper to it: God Himself has put inside of us this longing for beauty and fulfillment in ways that nothing on earth (not even the greatest things, like my lovely daughter and wife and three sons whom I adore) can fulfill. When I listen to these songs, it is an experience. I "see" (feel?) Irish sunsets and mists and green fields and Romantic medieval-ish and fairy-tale like vistas.

The only other music that can immediately usher me into the fantasy (or hyper-real) land of sehnsucht is Van Morrison's (himself an Irishman) and Richard Wagner's.

Anyway, the songs are If Ever You Were Mine, by the fiddler from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Natalie MacMaster (it is reminiscent of the lovely folksy string music in Ken Burns' documentary The Civil War), and An Cailin Gaelach, by Maighread Ni Dhomhnaill, from Ireland. As the latter is sung in Gaelic, I don't understand a word of it, but who cares? Music (like love) can carry all sorts of meaning without words (which is part of its great wonder and unique pleasure).

Even if you think I am a hopeless Celtic Romantic Nut (which is fine; I would take that as a high compliment!), if you want some gorgeous, first-rate Irish traditional music, buy this album. And no, I don't work in the advertising department for Narada . . . LOL

You might want to check out Natalie MacMaster's official website.

And a Barnes and Noble Index page for seven of Natalie's albums (all with sound clips).

Check out the website for Maighread Ni Dhomhnaill's album Gan Dha Phingin Spre (No Dowry) (1991), where the above song appears. You can hear sound clips of all the songs.

I defy anyone to listen to this and deny that it is one of the most gorgeous things you ever heard . . .

And here is another page with sound clips for her album, Idir an Da Sholas (Between the Two Lights)

Enjoy and let me know what you think. You're allowed to comment even if you're neither part-Irish nor a fantasy-immersed romantic . . . :-)

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