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Sound and Fury That Signifies Something

One of the great treats to me in this last Thanksgiving break was a television concert presented by the Philadelphia Orchestra. It was Eugene Ormandy's eightieth birthday, and to celebrate it he led the orchestra in the Second Symphony of Sergei Rachmaninoff. Rachmaninoff had been a personal friend of Ormandy. Before the concert, in an interview, Ormandy told how when he had first received the work from Rachmaninoff's hand, he proposed certain cuts or abbreviations to be made in it--eight in number. Rachmaninoff reviewed the proposed cuts, accepted seven of them, but said that the eighth cut could not be made. He said, "If you take that part out, the whole composition will no longer make sense." Following the directions of the composer, Ormandy so performed the work and has performed it many times since. It is a master work, sublime and beautiful; the performance was magnificent in every way.

But as I listened to it, what kept coming back to me was this: As you look at the symphony of the human experience, you discover in it all kinds of discord and dissonance, much sound and fury--kettle drums and cymbals--but often it seems to signify nothing. That's the reason so many, when they listen to the symphony of life, opt out, either by suicide or losing themselves in an orgy of self-indulgence, which is a suicide of its own kind.

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