O Magnum Mysterium – Morten Lauridsen

It seems to be a New Year, and as I suppose music is among other things my form of prayer, I’d like to send this one out into the world today also.

A word of introduction:

So there I was one cold January night, around 3 or 4 am, wondering why the Percocet that had been prescribed, while dulling the fairly astounding quantity of pain my body had decided to start producing several days before, all the same made me feel even worse. As in a good four or five of the apparently not uncommon side effects – nausea, abdominal cramps, headache and more… On top of which – consciousness had entered some murky, sludgy, really undesirable zone… With all of that going on I tossed and turned for a week with very little sleep until the condition passed.

All through the night I would listen to Vermont Public Radio – sort of. The pain and the drug combined to produce a weird kind of hovering, opiate-dream-state of awareness, with little sense of time. I remember that every third or fourth piece seemed to be by Telemann (but isn’t that usually the case?)… And there was a Schumann symphony, no. 4 I think, and other things which failed to engage but served at least to hold out a kind of life-line to the world.

And then, as I say around 3 or 4 in the morning, something began radiating out of the speakers which I actually heard. More to the point, it went through the ears and straight down into the center of my chest – warm, healing spaciousness. And though only about 6 minutes long, that night the piece just went on and on and on. I had no sense of it moving through time, but felt suspended and protected within what I can only call its loving embrace.

And here it is, in a recording I just heard tonight, having previously known only the one by the Los Angeles Master Chorale. All the more spine-chillingly magical for being live and sung in the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge.

May wisdom continuously arise. May kindness and compassion prevail.

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