Showing posts from September, 2019

Memorials to our beloved

We all know someone who died too young or too soon. Some of us have friends and relatives that were killed in a vehicle accident that we memorialized in a roadside shrine. Some have added a tribute to their own vehicle or inscribed some bit of graffiti on the side of a building to remember their loved one. In the past it was popular to compose a poem to our dearly departed and this habit goes way back . . . past the Victorians, the Renaissance, the monks of the Dark Ages, all the way back to the Romans. Sometime after 120 A.D., a grieving Terentia visited Egypt. She was so moved by its beauty and the death of her brother that she inscribed the following poem in the limestone of The Great Pyramid. Open Culture records it: I saw the pyramids without you, my dearest brother,  and here I sadly shed tears for you,  which is all I could do.  And I inscribe this lament in memory of our grief.  May thus be clearly visible on the high pyramid the name of Decimus Gentianus….

"Dies Irae" at the Movies

You've heard this piece before in many, many, many creepy movies, but why do we find it so creepy? First, the Dies Irae was written by 13th-century Catholic monks as a funeral dirge for the funeral mass (that's pretty creepy). But that's not really why we find it so creepy. It's not as if we subconsciously connect a funeral dirge to creepy things. We find it creepy because the first four notes of this music are in a minor key . . . and minor keys are always creepy. In western culture, our ears are trained not to "like" those notes, especially when they are played together, or go down the musical scale. As pointed out at Open Culture: "Of course, we know these notes from the iconic, oft-parodied Amadeus scene of Mozart composing the “Dies Irae” movement of his Requiem in his sickbed, as ultimate frenemy Salieri furiously transcribes. Once you hear the magisterially ominous sequence of notes, you might immediately think of Wendy Carlos’ themes for