Adagio For Last-Minute Essays

Last night had to be one of the most chilled last minute desperate essay rushes ever.

Having been obsessed with Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings over the past couple of days, I had Adagio for Strings, Agnus Dei (its choral arrangement) and William Orbit’s version of the work on repeat in WinAmp, and it’s interesting how each version creates a mood of its own quite distinct from that of its counterparts.

The strings arrangement gives me a feeling of overwhelming grief, tempered with dignity. The sort of grief that is tight-lipped and painfully controlled in public but collapses into shattering sobs in private. You feel almost disrespectful if you don’t stop what you’re doing and listen. (This didn’t help the essay-writing process much)

In contrast, there’s little or no sadness in the choral arrangement. I think of worship and reverence, buoyed by quiet hope. This is obviously also due to its title and lyrical content, but even without my Catholic consciousness of what Agnus Dei means, I get a distinctly different feeling from this one than the strings arrangement.

To me, the William Orbit version lacks the warmth and depth of the previous two. It’s a wash of synth, from which I get little or no feeling at all. I just keep thinking of that beloved tribal gesture of trance clubbers, usually made while one track is seguing into another – the “raise your upturned palms in the air as if you are a lightless people and have just seen the sun”. Hmm. Sounds like a Godspeed You Black Emperor! album title. Where was I? Oh, the William Orbit version. I guess this illustrates my point – it’s just really forgettable.

It was almost cosy. Me, Samuel Barber, and the European Court of Justice.