A Wagner Matinee, by Willa Cather

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Today it’s perfectly normal to have your own personal sound track for every occasion. Plug your earbuds into your smartphone and take off to wherever you want to go. Or, barring that, there’s scarcely a soul left in the industrialised world without some sort of computer or at least a radio or two (or three, or four) at home. But what would it be like to live out on a barren Nebraskan prairie for decades without electricity and with nothing but an old pump organ and the local Methodist church choir for musical nourishment? Willa Cather tackles the experience of this prospect, and the immense sacrifice it entails, in tonight’s story.

Or, as Wagner himself put it in his Tristan and Isolde:

Friends! Look!
Do you not feel and see it?
Do I alone hear
this melody
so wondrously
and gently
sounding from within him,
in bliss lamenting,
all-expressing,
gently reconciling,
piercing me,
soaring aloft,
its sweet echoes
resounding about me?

In the heaving swell,
in the resounding echoes,
in the universal stream
of the world-breath –
to drown,
to founder –
unconscious –
utmost rapture!

A Wagner Matinee, by Willa Cather {24:18}

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