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Cosmic Corner: Pleasure & Desire

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Taurus (April 20 – May 20)


Taurus is about pleasure, pure and simple. Pleasures of the body, which bring peace to the soul. This is why, along with making for great foodies, the sign of Taurus is often listed amongst the signs with the greatest aptitude for music. Looking back, it is the Tauruses of music history who have brought us some of the most deliciously sensual music around. The opera Thaïs by Jules Massenet (May 12, 1842) may be largely forgotten, but its famous Meditation remains one of the most enduringly popular pieces of all time, loved for its soaringly serene melody. Listening to Gabriel Fauré’s (May 12, 1845) Requiem is like sinking into a warm bath, with seven movements of gorgeous textures and melodies that feel as good to play as they are to hear. And in true Taurus fashion, Fauré didn’t write his Requiem in memory of any particular person, but simply “for the pleasure of it.”

Let’s have a closer look at how this sign can express itself through the lives and work of three composers:

Claudio_Monteverdi_1

Claudio Monteverdi (May 15, 1567) was one of the most innovative composers in Western music. Not that Tauruses love change — far from it! Barring any other influence, they’d rather stick with what they know. On the surface, it would seem Monteverdi breaks type in this regard; but if we look more closely, we can see that his work was all in the service of his Sun sign…

Monteverdi was born at the end of the musical Renaissance, at a time when music was meant only to guide the listener’s mind toward the heavens. The music of that period has an ethereal quality, full of symmetry and soothing textures. But a movement was afoot to bring music down to Earth and, essentially, to unleash its power to arouse every possible sensation in the listener. How Taurean is that?! And Monteverdi was the single most influential composer in bringing this movement to fruition. Breaking all the old rules, he brought music into the modern era, filling it with drama, urgency, ardour, and downright sexiness. Notice how the two voices languorously rub together and breathlessly chase as they muse over which body part to start with in this song from Monteverdi’s Seventh book of Madrigals – “Vorrei Baciarti” — literally, “I want to kiss you.”… Hot.

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Venus, goddess of desire

The keywords for Taurus are “I Have.” It is a sign concerned with assets, with the ‘stuff’ that gives us the pleasure we crave and which makes us feel secure. It doesn’t mean that a Taurus will inevitably have everything he or she wants — very often it is the opposite, because the flip side to all this having is… desire. Taurus is ruled by Venus, the goddess of desire, and it is this aspect of the sign that resonates most strongly in two prominent composers from the 19th century: Peter Tchaikovsky and Johannes Brahms. Both were born on May 7th. Both, in their personal lives and musical output, were defined more by the not-having than by the having.

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In Tchaikovsky’s case, the issue was his homosexuality. Though the Putin regime will vigorously deny it today, Tchaikovsky was gay. Then, as now, Russia was not an environment where this could be safely and openly expressed. He existed in a sham marriage that made him miserable, and pined after men he could never hope to approach, let alone have. His music is full of big emotion, of anguish and, of course, sensuous melodies. His tragic ballet Swan Lake overflows with these characteristics, as does his music for the star-crossed (read: unfulfilled) lovers, Romeo and Juliet. The hallmark of his symphonic output rests with his Sixth Symphony. It is known as the “Pathétique,” referring to passion or pathos, and was his final work. Some historians view it as a musical “suicide note,” as Tchaikovsky died not long after its premiere.  How he died is still under question, but whether it was from cholera as originally reported, or by his own hand as some suspect, there is no question that it marked the end of a life full of frustration.

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Johannes Brahms
, who lived a long and prosperous life, was also plagued by great and unfulfilled desires, but he was somehow able to live with it. Brahms spent his adult life yearning for a woman he could not have. The phenomenal pianist, Clara Schumann — a woman of tremendous depth, intelligence and musical acumen — was married to his ailing friend and colleague, Robert Schumann. Out of loyalty to Robert, Johannes and Clara kept their mutual feelings forever in check. But Brahms remained close with Clara, seeking her advice and opinions on his work, and dedicating some of it to her, at times covertly.  The opening strain from the slow movement of his G major string sextet, he said, was the symbol of his love for her. That piece is an irresistible unfolding of sumptuous tenderness and desire. And there’s plenty more where that came from! The melody that opens the Andante from his Piano Quartet in c minor, coveted by cellists everywhere, is just as sensuous and seductive — and if that weren’t enough, it is quickly joined by the violin in a vivid love duet that, if played well, should make you blush! Inside all of Brahms’ work are the sometimes languid, sometimes urgent rumblings of desire, be it in his symphonies, his solo piano works or chamber music. There is always the visceral churning of yearning — which is why, of all the Taurus composers to walk the earth, he is my favourite: He makes desire a pleasure in itself!


By
Kathleen Kajioka
Host of “In The Still Of The Night,” Saturdays & Sundays, 1 am-5 am
Musician-at-Large and Resident Astrologer

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