There is this unique sickness called called the Jerusalem syndrome, widely reported to come across first time visitors of Jerusalem. Architect Daniel Libeskind describes it as “…the mingling of ancient ghostliness and modern holiness that sickens those who suffer from the syndrome. Every step they take lands in a footprint left long ago, and caught up in the city’s historical choreography, they become entranced by its architecture and fall under the delusion they are angels, prophets, or saints”.
This alchemic connection of the past and present is with us as we perform. When we play a work, we are walking in the very steps the countless performers of history and the composer. There is an aura around pieces like that of Jerusalem.
Bach, for instance, is a composer whose compositions astound musicians everywhere. It is uniquely terrifying and gratifying to play his work and puts one in a different state of being.
While we don’t lose our minds like the victims of the Jerusalem Syndrome, I think the balance of the “ancient ghostliness” of a piece and the “modern holiness” we can bring to it is a fascinating and confounding trait of music.