Music To Drive To

This semester I’m driving from New Haven to Boston and back once a week, and have started to use the time to listen to music, which unfortunately I don’t have as much time to do as I once did. Two pieces have really grabbed me, one exceptionally well-known, one not. The first are Chopin’s Nocturnes. Everyone has heard them at some point, and Chopin is sometimes put down for being too “pretty.” I disagree. Listened to closely, the Nocturnes are just heart-breaking–bittersweet, deeply emotional. Barenboim’s recording of the Nocturnes is especially fine–and a real bargain.

The second piece is much less well-known–Scriabine’s Etudes. I first heard this at the Tsai Center at BU, and it reminded me why it is sometimes worth hearing music in live performance. The Etudes are a real work-out–the pianist (I wish I could remember who it was!) seemed completely drained at the end, as was the audience. I don’t recall ever hearing such a rapturous wall of applause after a performance. If you don’t know the Etudes, I strongly encourage you to listen to them, straight through, alone—a fine use of your time on a long drive. Quite different in some ways from Chopin, but similar in its deep emotional seriousness.

Author: Steven M. Teles

Steven Teles is a Visiting Fellow at the Yale Center for the Study of American Politics. He is the author of Whose Welfare? AFDC and Elite Politics (University Press of Kansas), and co-editor of Ethnicity, Social Mobility and Public Policy (Cambridge). He is currently completing a book on the evolution of the conservative legal movement, co-editing a book on conservatism and American Political Development, and beginning a project on integrating political analysis into policy analysis. He has also written journal articles and book chapters on international free market think tanks, normative issues in policy analysis, pensions and affirmative action policy in Britain, US-China policy and federalism. He has taught at Brandeis, Boston University, Holy Cross, and Hamilton colleges, and been a research fellow at Harvard, Princeton and the University of London.