Music Monday: And the Waltz Goes On


Full circle, the Waltz comes ’round and ’round again.


Sometimes we do things in our youth that come back to haunt us.

…Unless you’re Sir Anthony Hopkins, in which case you compose a waltz, and hear it live for the first time with a full orchestra under the command of André Rieu 45 years later.

Talk about coming ’round again!

There’s something magical in the waltz. Even in writing, it’s not “a waltz,” no. The thing we call “the waltz” is much more than just a catchy tune in 3/4 time. To borrow a line from Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, “It’s not science; it’s storytelling.” Though Stoppard’s characters were talking about determinism and the loss of heat by way of entropy, I think that they might be on to something here, too.

This waltz, like anything called the waltz, is a machine. It rocks like a boat. It chugs like boiler. Then it opens all the valves and the music really gets moving; round and round again, like a propeller, or the wheels of a locomotive. The three count measures roll by over and over (and over) again, the melody caught by the brass mountains or woodwind forests keep on passing by. Through it all, there’s always the feeling that the song is going somewhere.

But then, somewhere between the count one cymbal crashes and the curious flitting lines of the wind section, one can make out that there’s an orchestra out there doing everything it can to just hold on. The melody returns again—an old friend now, and suddenly realizing that maybe it won’t come around much more. In come the woodwinds. In comes the brass. In comes the percussion. It’s glorious.


Scientifically, there’s a lot going on there. But one cannot just write a catchy tune in 3/4 time and call it “the waltz.” Because the waltz isn’t science, not any more than a good journey, or a life well lived. The waltz is the highs and the lows. The waltz is fast and slow. The waltz goes round and round until everyone is dizzy and laughing, and the waltz goes on until we’re all too tired to waltz anymore.

And that’s not science—that’s storytelling.


Photo: Jack inMotion/Flickr


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