Monday, April 27, 2009

Unfinished symphonies

On Saturday night, I went to the final season performance of the Boulder Philharmonic. The evening followed a program I attended which featured a very inspirational speaker. It was delightful to listen to the orchestra and think about the new things I had learned.

I don't know squat about music, but I've been fortunate enough to have attended most of the Boulder Phil's performances for the past few years, and I've discovered that my favorites are the ones that featured violin or piano soloists. This one had a guest pianist who was out of this world. The orchestra accompanied him on Braham's Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-Flat Major. The other piece was Schubert's No. 8 in B Minor ("Unfinished"). Yes, it actually says 'unfinished' in the title.

I'm such an ignoramus when it comes to music. Several years of piano lessons were totally wasted on me. It's ironic that one of the people I go to the concerts with is my former piano teacher!

"Unfinished Symphony" makes me think that the music must just stop mid-measure somewhere. I imagine how surprised the orchestra would look. Now what? Of course, the music doesn't do that, but instead the piece has just two movements when the traditional symphony has four. There are different theories as to why this is. Some scholars debate that there was a sketch for a third part and perhaps Schubert just never got around to finishing it. Some feel that he never intended it to have four parts, that he said all he needed to in the first two.

Apparently Schubert left behind many half-finished works. He was only 31 years old when he died in 1828 and, like many musicians who have become famous, he nor his music were very well known until after he died. In fact, and this is the part that just amazes me, he probably never even heard his music performed! Maybe that's the reason he gave up on it.

I can't imagine the dedication it would take to give your life to something, knowing that you may not ever even see or hear the finished product. It got me to thinking about other people who have done the same. There's Korczak Ziolkowski, who had a vision to carve a sculpture of Chief Crazy Horse in a stone mountain in South Dakota, back in 1938. He knew that he would never see the project completed, but he dedicated his life to it, and now his family carries on the dream.

There's the Unfinished Cathedral in Barcelona, Spain. Antoni Gaudí worked on it for over 40 years before his untimely death in 1926. I'm sure he didn't intend to die, leaving it unfinished, but he must have suspected it could happen, considering how long it was taking to build.

I think about my own life and what I would dedicate myself to, even if I knew that I might never live to see the "finished product." The only thing I can come up with is my children. Supposedly our job is finished when kids reach the age of 18, when they're all spit and polished and ready to go out into the world. We may be done paying insurance and food and housing (hopefully), but people are works in progress,even if they live to be 100. We raise our children the best we can, and pray them through the rest, and hope that they become happy, healthy, contributing members of society. Much of the time, we really won't know the outcome, at least not for a very long time.

We're all given gifts to use in our lives. We can ignore them, but hopefully we'll use them to enrich our lives so that when we're gone, perhaps we'll leave a bit of a song or at best some piece of beauty for the rest of the world to enjoy.


Jen said...

I loved the last inspiring on your cold day...with 4 wont want to hear this but I was just laying out in the will come your

Hoping your dreary day way.

Lynne said...

Great post, Karen. I think we're all "unfinished works in progress."

I've always told my daughters and granddaughters - learn something new every day. You're never too old to learn something to enrich your life.

Judy said...

So maybe you don't know squat about music.

But, you DO know much about life. REAL life.

And, you can write. REALLY write!

Melissa said...


You have a dear heart. Thank you for your kind words.

Love Melissa

Xandra@Heart-of-Service said...

This was an awesome post. It reminded me that although some of the things we do may be thankless, we are still leaving a legacy behind especially where are kids are concerned.

For someone who's an ignoramus about music, you appear to be well informed!! LOL!


Becky said...

What a great post, Karen. Such wise and insightful thoughts. Do you know, just FYI, that I LOVE Boulder, Colorado. We were there a few years ago, and stayed at a nice B and B just on the way up the mountain. We walked those streets of outdoor shops and drank coffee at the Starbucks there, which was the largest we had ever been in.

And I had heard of your snow. Just when you changed your profile pic to something so spingy

Hang in there.

Jerralea said...


You did an awesome job on this article - very professional - and certainly gave a lot of food for thought!

Joyce said...

Karen, that was a beautiful, thought-provoking post.

I would agree with you that my life and heart's work was/is my children. I do seek to be faithful to God in all things, in the little things, too. What I've been aiming at and striving for, though, is to parent these dear ones energetically, creatively and graciously. May God bless the work to His glory!

Renna said...

That was wonderfully written, Karen. It is so true that we get caught up in this temporal life, often not taking time to think of the far reaching 'eternal' effects of our actions, and simply day-to-day lives.

Brenda said...

And when the children have homes and families of their own, I look to the garden as my "work in progress." Seems a natural progression after awhile! I'm so glad to have found you. Thanks for coming to visit. I've bookmarked you to come back.

diana said...

lovely post. it must be a real treat to hear the symphony. and i could listen to piano solos all night long. it's my favorite.