#374: Why Does Music Move Us So?—Morten Lauridsen

#374: Why Does Music Move Us So?—Morten Lauridsen

The emotional, some say spiritual, effect music has on us is notoriously difficult to put into words. It’s sort of like analyzing why something is funny. The reality ever exceeds our verbal grasp.

Why are minor chords sad and majors happy? Why, when you hear a song from your childhood is there a superglue of emotion attached, bringing you instantly to those moments long ago?

This week’s guest is one of the greats in the choral music world. If you enjoy music with a lush, cinematic sound created for multiple voices on the exquisite side, Morten Lauridsen is your man.

The most frequently performed American composer of choral music, Lauridsen is a National Medal of Arts recipient (2007), he was composer-in-residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale (1994–2001), and has been a professor of composition at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music for more than 50 years. His work has been recorded on over 200 CDs including five with Grammy nominations.

We’re talking serious musical gravitas here.

On November 11, 2018, a massive concert for international television is being held at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany to mark the centenary of the end of World War One. In addition to Welsh composer Karl Jenkins’ Mass for Peace, the other piece selected is Lauridsen’s beautiful Lux Aeterna. I predict not a dry eye on that night.

You can imagine my surprise when, during the interview, the great man spontaneously began playing a portion of his classic O Magnum Mysterium to explain why the notes for the word “Virgo” ground the piece in a special way!


In this interview, you will learn:

  • Why every artist has to risk failure; as not trying guarantees failure
  • How Lauridsen became a late bloomer as a composer, at age 50, and maybe how you can, too
  • Why poetry deserves a massive revival
  • The importance of stillness and quiet for human serenity and creativity
  • The mysterious way in which music connects us to the divine

Resources mentioned in this episode:


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