Yes, friend, I’m afraid it is. This is one of the few holidays that strikes deep, bone-gripping fear into both the singleton and coupleton.
To singletons, it’s about survival. For the unhappy singleton, you survive another round of Those Who Won’t Die Alone (And I’m Not Talking About Their Cats) getting an “atta-boy” and a UN-sanctioned pat on the head; another round of mooney stories from smug, self-satisfied couples about the amazing flowers/chocolate/card/gift they received until you want to take said flowers/chocolate/card/gift and throw them into a wood chipper. Even to happy singletons the day is a royal pain – everyone assumes you’re unhappy about being single and you spend the whole day fending off attempts to make you feel better about being so very, very, very alone.
To the newly partnered, it’s Everything Your New Partner Does Or Says Is A Sign Of Your Long-Term Compatibility Day, or, worse, Everything I Do Or Say Will Be A Signal To My New Partner And Soon After This They Will Decide This Was A Bad Idea Day; the day in which you don’t have a blind clue whether to get flowers or not (“I mean, it’s classic, right? But, they’re dead, and then they start to smell bad in a few days, and it’s also just so cliche, and maybe it’s also, I dunno, clingy? But I really like her and if I don’t get flowers…”), or chocolate or not (“did he say he was lactose intolerant? I thought he mentioned lactose once…#$%! I’m such a bad listener…), or a card or not (“Where are the cards that say ‘I really like you and I know it hasn’t been that long but I think we have a future, unless you don’t, in which case, that’s totally cool, I never really liked you anyway?'”). And to those that have been coupled up for ages, it’s It’s Been Six Years Since The Last Time I Tried To Surprise Him Maybe He Forgot And This Time I’ll Nail It Day, or, way worse, What Was That One Thing She Said She Really Wanted Dammit No Really What Was It Day.
In sum: Valentine’s Day is, basically, Fear Day. Enter King Kahchei and his infernal dance from Stravinsky’s “Firebird.”
I don’t often post live recordings, as you’ve no doubt noticed, my eagle-eyed, international readership, but this one hooked me. First of all, the tempo is absolutely perfect; it’s just fast enough to make you think it’s about to go off the rails, but, obviously, never does. Second of all, it’s in such a bonkers time signature that I always wondered “How on earth do you conduct this?” So a tip of my hat to Michael Tilson Thomas. I become entirely mesmerized watching his direction here. And third and finally, this video gives you a good sense of the immense scale of Stravinsky’s orchestration. There are not only tons of musical parts, but there are tons of people playing each musical part. It’s massive – you can kind of see the whole lot of them at 2:34 and 3:52. (Oh, and the music starts at 0:29.)
To my single and be-coupled readers, enjoy this calm before the storm. I’ll be back tomorrow with some fresh Fear Day funk to see you through.