January 4, 2016 | by Sadie Stein
One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats. —Iris Murdoch
The New Year comes as a relief: it’s like the morning after a good cry. You feel exhausted, yes, and hollowed out, but unburdened, too. What do you do? Well, you go back to work. You listen to music, return e-mails. Your calendar slowly fills, even though not so long ago January seemed like it would never come. “Happy New Year” is the one thing everyone can say to everyone else with confidence, and clearly we enjoy this, it’s a good way to begin a year, all together. Large things give way to small. There are friends, and there is kneading bread, and then there are the little shaded candleholders you picked up, supposedly discarded from a defunct restaurant in Central Park—and they do look pretty, even given the state of the world outside their little flames. Maybe you watch the movie about the narcissistic puppet or the ten-hour series about the miscarriage of justice in Wisconsin. Perhaps you KonMari your closets or take a month off drinking. Whatever you do, don’t panic.
For my first post of 2016, I wanted to share with you something beautiful, something I love. I’m a little embarrassed to do so, because the piece of music I’m about to mention is not “serious”—in fact, it’s part of a film score. Specifically the love theme—“The Love of the Princess”—from the 1940 fantasia The Thief of Bagdad.
Of course, it should go without saying that Miklós Rózsa was a serious and respected composer, both for his film and classical work. His orchestral and choral works are many and varied; his Violin Concerto, Op. 24, is a stunning showcase for Jascha Heifetz. His many scores are legendary for their scope and beauty, and his contribution to The Thief of Bagdad has all the drama and whimsy and over-the-top quality of the film. (Which, after all, contains a giant, a sort of murderous sex toy, and a flying horse. To say nothing of an Orientalism so romantic as to warrant its own category.)
But know, please, that “The Love of the Princess” is absolutely shameless. It uses every trick of melody and rhythm known to music, science, and manipulation. Your heart soars and the hairs on your arms stand up and you will cry. Give yourself over, and enjoy the relief that comes with it. And it is a relief. It will be okay, in some sense. At any rate, we are all in it together.
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.