Psychology in the music of Johann Strauss

. 1 min read

It so happened that I attended a Johann Strauss concert a couple of weeks back. The composer himself was naturally not present, but there was an orchestra, and they played beautifully. People were all dressed up, and there was champagne, and the seats were nicely cushioned. One problem, though.

The music lacked half of its soul.

I hadn't been familiar with Strauss's music before the concert (yes, I'm an ignorant bastard), and I had, rather naively, expected something Wagner-like. (And when I say Wagner, I mean romantic sturm und drang.) Strauss turned out to be happy-go-dancing music all the way through. Major key, every piece.

The music lacked the component that Jung would have called the shadow. The notes never visited a minor key which, if composed skillfully, could represent the beast within. A mix of both major and minor could become a dialogue between the rational being, trying to do the right thing, and the dark, unpredictable shadow side, trying to escape and destroy the vessel's morals.

Therefore I was unable to see any meaning in the music, or relate to anything in it. The piceces were one-sided. Only happy, no melancholy; only light, no darkness. People have reason and feeling (or brain and heart), and an ethical system and carnal desires - the duality and the conflict between the opposites creates interesting tension and a possibility to do the right thing despite the shadow. If you cannot hear the same in music, it's very hard to find it worth listening to.

I guess I should try a Wagner concert as well and see how it makes me feel. Reflective? Scared? Bored? If Hans Zimmer can cause different sensations in my mind, surely the works of some other composers could, too.

Then of course, some people simply like upbeat music. Even when it's classical. And even without deep psychological interpretations.