Music that has a hold of me beyond understanding

I just took a musical bath. I listened, for the umpteenth time, to Puccini's La Boheme. I can't begin to understand how someone could ever create such a thing of beauty. There are many 'songs' that compete in their individual beauty, but no other opera, play, or body of singing that even comes close, for me. You?


Often Bill Frisell transports me away. 

Bits of Erik Satie can do it. 

Art Prpper. 


I always worked 4-12 in the ER.  I would often listen to KXTR classical radio on the drive in.  The DJ was the greatest.  Played an eclectic bunch of music.  One day he played some Django Reinhardt.  I actually pulled off the road to listen.  Still grabs me.  Opened up a whole different area of music to me. 

There is so much music that has this effect on me.

Music that has a hold on me, transports me, alters my mental state, on different levels, for differing reasons, describes the vast majority of my music collection. If it didn’t, I would not have much reason to listen to it.

All the music I listen to, even though they are from different genes, has more in common than differences, at least in the way I look at music.

Those things that the vast majority of music I like have in common, in no particular order are: very high levels of musicianship, complexity, deep and broad emotional and/or intellectual content, (usually) long form, (usually) does not follow verse>chorus>bridge song format, no need or desire for catchy hooks or even singable melodies. Although, not all of these have to be present, but the more that are, the better chance it will have the effect on me,

The 3 main genres that most often have most or all of the above attributes are, and has a hold on me:

Prog and most of its subgenres (classic, Zeuhl, avant-prog, Canterbury, prog-metal).

Classic -Yes, King Crimson, Anglagard, PFM, Deus ex Machina, Genesis, etc.

Zeuhl - Magma, Setna, Eskaton, Corima, Zao. etc.

Avant-prog - Henry Cow, Thinking Plague, Univers Zero, Art Zoyd, Yugen, etc.

Canterbury - National Health, Hatfield and the North, MannaMirage, Zopp, etc.

Jazz (post-bop, spiritual jazz, fusion, chamber-jazz, avant-garde):

Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, Steve Coleman, Oregon, Eberhard Weber. Allan Holdsworth, Anthony Braxton, Miles, McCoy Tyner, many more.

Classical (avant-garde, serial, modernism, spectralism, atonal):

Elliott Carter, Luciano Berio, Charles Wuorinen, Rebecca Saunders, George Perle, Alban Berg, Stefan Wolpe, Gyorgy Ligeti, Jon Tower, Per Norgard, and many more.

Almost all of my huge classical collection, is from post 1950. I have tried many times to get into earlier eras of classical music, and for me, they do nothing.

No other genre that I have found, has that effect on me besides these genres. Although, I have been slowly getting into Indian classical music, and it may have this ability for me. But my exploration is very new.

“Chi il bel sogno di Doretta” from La Rondine*

Wonderful that the OP started out with Puccini.

I suggested that a friend take a listen to a few arias I particularly like. “I hate opera” said my buddy, politely yet firmly refusing my offer. OK, understood.

What if it’s not opera, asked I?

What if it’s just beautiful women singing beautiful songs in Italian?

To his credit, he paused and had no reply.

Fast forward: We’re hanging out, tunes are on, listening to ones he digs. “Man, this sounds amazing!” said he. “Thanks. Would you mind listening to one of my faves”, asked I. “Of course not” was the reply.

Streaming Doretta’s song from Tidal. Wide-eyed, his only comment was “Goosebumps”. His only question was “Would you mind playing that again”?

He still hates opera. And now he loves beautiful women singing beautiful songs in Italian.

Sure, it’s about the gear. But mostly it’s about the goosebumps.  

 * The descending bass line that foreshadows the soaring vocals. How is it possible that human beings are capable of this? La vita e bella. 

Renditions by: Renee Fleming, Sara Brightman, Kiri Te Kanawa, Elizabeth Jenkins, Jackie Evanko et al.

+1 for Bill Frisell.