Gesualdo: Moro, lasso, al mio duolo

The early hours of the morning are host to some of the more sublime experiences in an introvert's life. As the rest of the world goes to sleep, as the stress of the day fades away and the air in the room grows still, it becomes possible to corral, through music or poetry or some small act of creation, this ineffable sensation of eternity, of lineage and deep connection to the past. So we close our eyes, embrace it, and the common experience of silence fastens us to the timeline of Man, through Proust and Nietzsche, through Bach and Luther, through Galileo and Monteverdi, and so on, back to Earth's earliest storytellers.

One such figurehead of darkness is also one of the most fascinating figures in all of musicology. Carlo Gesualdo was an Italian nobleman infamous for murdering his first wife and her lover upon discovering them in an act of adultery. Depressed, guilty, and socially isolated, Gesualdo found expression through his compositions, which were arguably the most ecstatic and brazenly chromatic of the Renaissance, even the entire 17th century. Progressions of the sort found in his music were not seen again for 200 years.

Gesualdo's music is egoless, terrifying, and gorgeous. It's the mote of dust that you can't quite grasp. It's sleep paralysis. It's the realization that you're ultimately alone. It's absurdity. It's more than you or I can take.

Moro, lasso, al mio duolo,
E chi può darmi vita,
Ahi, che m'ancide e non vuol darmi aita!
O dolorosa sorte,
Chi dar vita mi può,
Ahi, mi dà morte!
I die, alas, in my suffering
And she who could give me life,
Alas, kills me and will not help me.
O sorrowful fate,
She who could give me life,
Alas, gives me death.