“Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber

Kunk Fu Zoby Kung Fu Zu3/2/17
The video below is a recording of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”, perhaps the most beautiful piece of music ever written. If it is true that one can have a religious experience through music, this is a composition which was composed for such a purpose.

I was introduced to the Adagio some forty years ago, and was immediately transported to another place.  The power of the piece is such that, today four decades later, it still touches my very soul.

As I listen to it, the picture which comes to mind is of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. I see him kneeling, praying.

Much is written about Christ’s passion and how great a gift was given humanity, but I find words often fail. For me, the Adagio brings me as close to understanding and experiencing Jesus-the-man’s passion as is possible.   Through this piece, one can sense Jesus’ yearning to forego the pain, yet if it must be borne, his sublime knowledge that the pain to be endured is the supreme sacrifice necessary for the salvation of mankind. What greatness of soul!

Yesterday, March 1st, was Ash Wednesday, the traditional beginning of Lent, that period of reflection and remembrance which culminates in Good Friday and finally Easter Sunday. Whether or not one celebrates Lent or even believes in Christianity, it is not bad to reflect on what the story represents to the world.

And…If Jesus is the Christ and only begotten son of God, then listen to this piece and rejoice for all earthly pain is as nothing to the heavenly reward awaiting the faithful.

Kung Fu Zu is a conservative prognosticator who has traveled widely and lived outside the United States. He also likes strings of Asiago cheese. • (1049 views)

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42 Responses to “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I find that we have a copy of this in a CD set of film classics, so I suppose it appeared in a movie sometime. It wasn’t familiar to me previously. I’ll have to listen when I get a chance.

    • I first heard it on a CD of classical music from various artists and was immediately drawn to it. I had never even heard of Samuel Barber at the time. As for movies, it was used in Elephant Man and Platoon among others. It was really nice to hear it again after many years. As I listened to it now and thought about the passion of Christ, I became very emotional. I suspect the music and the passion will be forever linked in my mind.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        As I listened to it now and thought about the passion of Christ, I became very emotional. I suspect the music and the passion will be forever linked in my mind.

        I am glad to hear this. Sometimes we need more than just words.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    StubbornThings proves itself again to be a budding online virtual monastery. Have you ever tried listening to classical music, let alone God, in traffic noise?

    You can’t. That is why I’m trying to urge members and regular participants here to make sure they do not get caught in the mindless traffic jam of the daily drama.

    I still hear horns blaring and see lights flashing even while trying to listen to this beautiful music. If you can ruin your taste buds with bad or over-seasoned food, surely you can ruin your soul with too much bitching, griping, and partaking in just the general cacophonous and rude noise that now passes for normal in our culture.

    I won’t pretend to have the spiritual vibes that Mr. Kung is describing. I’m still trying to carve out that space. But I’m glad he’s added another side chapel to this online cathedral. Maybe I will find some peace there.

    • Tom Riehl Tom Riehl says:

      Turn the volume up, Brad, until it rules. Let it penetrate. Interesting observation about the side chapel. I visit this site very regularly for that reason.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:


      Music has always been a big part of my life. When I was younger, I was not one to listen to background music. If I played a piece, I listened to it and did not like any distractions, including people talking to me.

      I have become a little more flexible in this regard, but not a lot more. My belief is that if the piece is worth listening to it is worth listening to. Otherwise, I don’t really want to waste my time.

  3. Anniel says:

    KFZ – Thank you. My soul is still. Annie

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I am glad to hear this.

      The feelings this piece engenders are very powerful. There is Christ with his Apostles nearby, but in fact alone before God. In the end, we all are.

      The music sets the mood which is somber and somewhat foreboding. It builds in tension as if mirroring Christ’s anguish as he begs God to turn “this cup” from him. Then the high point comes with the realization that his fate cannot be avoided.

      There follows a deep sadness, which is then replaced by his acknowledgement and acceptance of what must come. The tension eases as his resolution to see the thing through takes over.

      In the end, there is a a quite determination. Peace.

      Of course, this is a vague idea as to how I feel the music. What I truly experience is not possible to verbalize.

      Amazingly, Barber is able to create this mystical mood with what is a very simple piece. I thing his use of dynamic range is most responsible for the power of the piece.

      • Tom Riehl Tom Riehl says:

        I got the MP3 immediately. Love. Your observations are spot on. BTW, my good wife gave me a digital real piano for Christmas, so I’m off to a rocky inept start at creating my own moods. Starting from scratch, so woo-hoo! Music is my avenue for real adventure. I’ve even got surround sound par-excellence in my fifth wheel trailer.

        Thanks so much for pointing me to this beautiful music, KFZ.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I can imagine the fun you are having with your piano. Music can give so much joy and frustration, but it should never be boring. Play on!

          Thanks so much for pointing me to this beautiful music, KFZ.

          As you may know, I have traveled the world and seen much beauty and wonder in my life. I often did this alone. Many has been the time when I saw something particularly beautiful or experienced something wonderfully new yet I could not share (a much overused word today) it because no friend was with me. This includes hearing music.

          So, I am so very happy when I am able to share something with others and they get it. To know others have experienced similar feelings, emotions and yes sometimes possibly something close to ecstasy is very gratifying. We should always try to point out beauty in the world.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I saw quite a bit on our journey and from Greece and our stay there. Unfortunately, I was too young to appreciate it properly. Now I could no longer afford to go there, and probably couldn’t manage the journey physically. Life can be like that. I have at least seen the Parthenon in Nashville, with its version of the great state of Athena — which is no longer available in the original.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              I drove through Greece in 1978. Among the many places I visited was the Acropolis in Athens. Since I was with a friend this was a shared joy.

              The Greek Islands were also wonderful.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                We took a trip once to several Aegean isles, including Mykonos (and Delos), Patmos, Kos, and Rhodes. The main thing I remember visiting was John’s cave on Patmos. I visited the Parthenon twice, once with my family and once on a class field trip.

          • Tom Riehl Tom Riehl says:

            I also traveled quite a bit alone. Used to fly about 100,000 miles a year on international business. Hearing the Tokyo crows yelling was an aural gift. Imagine having to go to Venice twice on business. Lucky me. The good news is that the frequent flier miles I racked up got my wife and me to Italy, business class for free. Three weeks of pure bliss. Took 1,100 pictures.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              When I first married, I was lucky enough to be able to take my wife with me on many of my business trips. My only proviso was she had to understand that my main purpose was for business and she would have to entertain herself most of the time. She had no problem with that and got to see much of the U.K., Central Europe, North America and Asia.

              Nevertheless, I traveled alone much more often than with her. And since I started traveling internationally when I turned 18 and only married in my early 30’s, I traveled by myself for years.

              By the way, I lived two years in Tokyo and loved it.

              I have a little story about Venice which I may write one day.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                Elizabeth lived in Tokyo as an infant, but doesn’t remember it. Most of their time in Japan was in the Fukuoka-Kokura area.

  4. Timothy Lane says:

    I just played it, but didn’t get any particular reaction to it. Elizabeth initially thought it was tranquil, but responded “Could be, could be” when I mentioned your comparison to Christ praying at Gethsemane. She thought it was vaguely familiar — she probably had heard it sometime long ago. I didn’t recognize the music at all.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      As they say, “different strokes for different folks.”

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Elizabeth initially thought it was tranquil, but responded “Could be, could be” when I mentioned your comparison to Christ praying at Gethsemane.

      I’ll take Elizabeth’s “Could be” as a good sign.

  5. oldguy says:

    Ah yes, Platoon.

  6. Anniel says:

    KFZ, You could teach us all music appreciation 101. I for one would love it.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I don’t know about that, but I do love music. Words cannot do it justice.

      I like the ancient idea of the “music of the spheres.”

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    One of the things Mr. Kung is too kind to say (hey…I’m just playing the bad cop) is that music of such angelic hue is a stab into the heart of materialism.

    Again, speaking precisely, such sublime music proves no one’s version of God. But it does ardently disprove this idea that “matter is all there is, will be, or ever was.”

    The Doobies perhaps said it best: Whoa ho ho…listen to the music. And it is arguable that some people can indeed listen to a very deep kind of music akin to the “deep magic” written of in the Narnia books.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      One of the things Mr. Kung is too kind to say (hey…I’m just playing the bad cop) is that music of such angelic hue is a stab into the heart of materialism.

      You are too liberal in your praise. But it is true that this type of music is such that it does not require external stimulants to touch you. Where ones listens to it is also not terribly important. In fact, I believe it transports a person to a place where the crassly material is irrelevant, if only for a moment.

      It is hard to compare things which are so different, but the joy one can receive from this music is much more valuable than the many meaningless baubles which are thought to be of importance in today’s culture.

  8. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    (Allow me to drop names. I so rarely am able to do it.)

    I was just informed last night by a multiple Emmy winner that Jon Gomm is one of the most promising songwriters of today. A Brit. Tastes vary. I just thought I’d put this forward. At first glance, this is exactly the pussified kind of music I detest most. But to each his own. Maybe this song isn’t a good example. Maybe I just can’t appreciate good music. Who knows? At least it’s not rap.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      It was fine until he started singing. He should have simply played guitar and kept his voice to himself. One of the problems with modern music is everyone thinks he can sing, especially if he is a songwriter. It is not so.

      Not being a guitarist, I also wonder how much of what he does on the guitar is simply to different?

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        It was fine until he started singing.

        Isn’t that the truth. I’m not a fan of contemporary music. If angels have wings and their presence helps to lift mere mankind, then this is the kind of music that provides inspiration.

        Fill my heart with song
        And let me sing for ever more

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Sounds like Bob Dylan. He wrote some very interesting songs, but he was a poor singer.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          The multiple-Emmy guy I talked to last night got a little nicely warm under the collar in regards to Bob Dylan. He says that Dylan stole a whole bunch of material from someone else.

          Whatever the case may be, it must be true that the West is not developing talent (the Left ruins everything it touches) if they have to reach back to give this guy a Nobel Prize. I’m not anti-Bob Dylan but I never was much of a fan of hippie folk music…unless done by A Mighty Wind.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Well, I have a large folder of MP3 images of songs by Peter, Paul, and Mary. I also once saw a concert of theirs on HBO. The picture was scrambled, with the left side on the right and the right side on the left, but the sound was unaffected. I also saw an Olivia Newton-John concert this way, too. I was in an apartment complex, and we got any channel anyone in the building got. I got the Movie Channel for a while unscrambled — and one Halloween night videotaped Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, and The Mummy.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Well…it’s mostly the self-righteous crap I can’t stand. But, yeah, I like Peter, Paul, and Mary. I like a lot of that old stuff. But you see, now that we’re seeing the results of this vapid moral posturing, it’s just hard to get very nostalgic about some of this crap.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I suspect you sensed other undercurrents as well.

      This blurb was in his Wikipedia bio:

      Jon Gomm has rejected mainstream music industry values and practices and avoids playing chain venues and corporate festivals. His appearances are generally organised with independent promoters in venues like real ale pubs in rural areas, theatres or arts centre

      As I know, musicians can be an odd, self-righteous lot.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I just want to stand up and shout “Sing like a man.” People are intentionally aping this wussy style. Puts some lead in your pipes, man.

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