Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thaïs: Méditation on Coming Out

I wrestled with what to title this post, as well as what lead photograph to use.  As to the title, if I were asked to identity a couple of songs or works of music which most aptly depict or portray the emotions I have felt during my coming-out process to date, one of those songs would definitely be Méditation de Thaïs, from Jules Massenet’s opera Thaïs.

To me, this exquisitely beautiful piece of music is a meditation on the process of coming out, which I explain more fully below; thus, the play on words in the title of this post.  The Méditation is a symphonic entr'acte, written for solo violin and orchestra, performed between the scenes of Act II of Thaïs.  “The piece opens with a short introduction by the harps, with the solo violin quickly entering with the motif. After the violin plays the melody twice, the piece goes into a section marked animato, gradually becoming more and more passionate. The climax is reached at a place marked poco piu appassionato (a little more passion) and is then followed by a short cadenza-like passage from the soloist and returns to the main theme. After the theme is played twice, the soloist joins the orchestra while playing harmonics on the upper register as the harps and strings quietly play below the solo line” [Wikipedia].

Here is my favorite performance of this piece, featuring soloist Joshua Bell, the audio version of which I have listened to dozens (if not scores) of times since last October:

Now, as to the lead picture, I wavered between the one I finally chose and this one:

I can just hear the “WTF’s” out there. Or possibly, “I’m glad he chose the one he did.”  Why would I even consider the above photograph?  Let me explain.  When I listen to Méditation, an image is evoked in my mind of a ballerina.  Not a male ballet dancer, mind you, a ballerina.  I think the reason I see a ballerina rather than a male ballet dancer is that she represents the feminine, artistic side of me that has for so long been encased in a cocoon of repression and self-doubt.

At the beginning of the piece, she is curled on the floor like a flower bud ready to blossom.  Then, as the music starts, she, like a bud gradually opening, slowly rises and begins dancing.  Her dance is symbolic to me of the gradual opening of my self, experiencing rushes of excitement and discovery, sweetness and light, mixed occasionally with shades of darkness, climaxing in a crisis of doubt (poco piu appassionato).  This crisis is then followed by a reaffirmation of the theme, at the end of which are a series of sweetly ascending notes, evoking an image of the dancer confidently walking toward the bright future.  Suddenly, however, something causes her to turn to confront one last crisis of doubt.  Here, the image bifurcates:  At times, in my mind’s eye, I have seen the ballerina turn back to continue her confident journey into the future; at other times, I have seen her sink back to the floor to resume her position at the beginning of the piece, depicted in the photograph above.  Each variation carries rich symbolism.  

There are many wonderful performances of Méditation that are available.  I have chosen to conclude this post with one by the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring soloist Mayuko Kamio.

"Happiness is the ability to feel endless beauty in every moment."

— Igor Boutenko
(Hat tip to Wyatt Darling – Thanks, Wyatt)


  1. what you write here is really beautiful: so poetically and articulating expressing the confidence and freedom of one's identity when coming out as well as its fragility when faced with fear and unknown ... seeking shelter in shadows.

    all these movements are beautiful as is your path: its pain and its joys. thank you for being you: opaque and transparent, masculine and feminine, confident and doubtful, loving and reserved.

    and thank you for the beautiful musical meditation too. it fills me with lots of feelings. merci!

    je t'embrasse ..

  2. The music you included by Josh Bell is one of my all-time favorites. It is so beautiful that words fail me in how to aptly describe it and its impact on me.

    (Years ago, while visiting a family member in Southern California, i was invited to attend a Stake Women's Conference. Instead of a lot of talks, as normal conferences had done in the past, this conference was dedicated to uplifting and beautiful music. This piece you put by Joshua was one of the pieces played. The Stake had invited Elder Oakes' daughter, Jenny, also a gifted and recording violinist, to play this piece. I had heard the song only a few times before that, but since, it has been one of my all time favs.)

    Thank you for posting it.

    Love and respect, always.