A High F
I frequently get obsessed by little things. Currently it's a single note, a single high F played by the first violin in Shostakovich's String Quartet #5 in B-flat, op. 92. This little high note sneaks in and stays there, becoming obtrusive, uninvited, a subtle, taut note that becomes a thread, a thread of fear or terror stretching itself tighter and tighter, until it connects the first with the second movement — or, rather, dissolves between them, like it has succeeded in its task to get a perceiver to face something it desperately wishes to ignore, gently, ominously pulling aside the veil of false security from the animated, tight, obsessive, (in)tensely playful and intentionally awkward first movement into a staggeringly motionless, almost catatonic second movement, a movement that is one of the most pregnant, poignant, eerily topographical (ie: suffocatingly claustrophobic yet dimensionless) pieces of music I've come across, as powerful and expressive as any of Beethoven's last quartets and piano sonatas. It aches with life yearning to break out of unbearably thick confines, resignation imbuing an ether of silence between tenuous melodic lines that don't want to succumb but don't know how to escape from the fog of oppression they move through. It's no wonder that its first public performance had to wait until Stalin's death. Absolutely incredible. A great artist at the peak of his powers finding a way to express the politics of his time through the most abstract of mediums.