Concentrated Feels

Last Updated:
2017-08-03 (Added “Day is Done”)
2017-08-04 (Elaborated about “Gates of Dawn”)
2017-12-24 (Added the Civilization 6 launch trailer)
2018-03-21 (Added “I Am Australian” and “Gentle Arms of Eden”)
2019-09-09 (Added Fantasia 2000’s segment for Stravinsky’s Firebird)
2020-07-15 (Added Joe Scott’s presentation of the Voyager Golden Record)

No matter whether we stand unmoved in the face of tragedy, or cry at the drop of a hat, we all have those moments which stand out in our memories as having touched us like nothing else.

For me, it’s music and certain types of deeply poetic insight that reaches through my emotional armor and, even then, only incredibly rarely. So, I decided, what better excuse for a blog post than to list the handful of pieces which brought a tear to my eye. …because, highs or lows, it’s emotion which makes life worth remembering.

NOTE: I’m not the greatest at listing my own memories, so I will extend this as I remember more things.

Poetic Insights

A Reading from Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan
This beautiful telling of our place in the universe, set to music from Sagan’s original Cosmos documentary series, was the first YouTube video to move me, and it’s something I wish everyone could hear at least once in their lives.
A Universe Not Made For Us by Carl Sagan (ed. Callum C. J. Sutherland)
It should come as no surprise that the second video on this list is also by Carl Sagan. (In fact, it’s an edited down chapter from the same source: The audiobook release of Pale Blue Dot)
In this case, what moves me is the ending, where, after a slow build up, it finishes with “If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.”
The Story of Human Rights
At first, this is a good, but otherwise fairly ordinary educational video… but it’s the reading of the Eleanor Roosevelt quote, at the end, set into all of the context the video provides, which does the trick:

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.


’39 by Queen
IMPORTANT: I strongly recommend you listen to this song before reading my description and again after, since guessing what it’s actually about is a lot of fun. With that said, onward…
This bittersweet piece is about a group of space explorers who return home in triumph to find all of their loved ones dead of old age. I always get a tear in my eye when the final verse rolls around and changes one of the recurring couplets from “Write your letters in the sand for the day I take your hand” to “All your letters in the sand cannot heal me like your hand”
Shy Heart by Ponyphonic
Don’t let the fact that this is technically a My Little Pony fan-song turn you off. It never explicitly mentions the series and there are plenty of other people, both real and fictional, who fit this moving piece just as readily.
In this song, it’s hard to point to a specific part which always bring a tear to my eye and a hitch to my voice, but the portions of the chorus with a touch of vocal harmony and the final few bars of the violin solo are especially beautiful.
Day Is Done by Peter, Paul, and Mary
For those who have never heard it, this stunningly beautiful Vietnam-era protest song needs no war to remain poignant. Comforting a fearful child and being faced with trying to explain why sadness exists in the world are timeless aspects of the human condition, as is the sense of hope a parent feels in their child’s innocent optimism and the worry over the world they will inherit. Add in audience participation during the chorus and this song has an emotional power which ensures its status as a timeless classic.
For something I found less moving but no less beautiful, I’d also recommend “Lemon Tree” and their version of Blowin’ in the Wind.
Gates of Dawn by Secret Garden
This one is somewhat conditional. It doesn’t do anything for me anymore, but I did like it so much that I practically listened to it on repeat until I got sick of it. I remember that it used to move me at least some of the time.
The song is, in essence, a musical expression of the sense of spiritual awe we feel when we look at the majesty of the world around us and wonder.
Whether or not it moves you, it can’t be disputed that it’s a very beautiful piece.
The Jurassic Park Theme by John Williams
…and, I’ve saved the best (of this initial batch) for last. In the movie or on its own.
Where so much music tries to be a tribute to our sense of wonder, or the accomplishments of a single person or small group of people, this piece is a soaring salue to the power of our vision and ingenuity as a species… and the “big reveal” portion moves me so much that I have trouble keeping my eyes open.
(Though I do have to qualify that. Not all recordings do it for me. Sometimes, the people playing the instruments just don’t manage to convey that sense of emotion in how they play those notes at the climax of the melody.)
I Am Australian by The Seekers (written by Bruce Woodley and Dobe Newton)
I may be Canadian, but this is what a patriotic song should be. Not only did it bring a hitch to my voice and moisten my eyes the first time I heard it, it painted a picture I wanted to be part of while in the grips of the experience.
The atmospheric backing track that it leads with does a beautiful job of setting up the atmosphere but the two things which really make the track are Judith Durham’s characteristically gorgeous and powerful voice and the feel the song exudes of being “a family of disparate cultures” without the choice between jingoism and cheap ego that American patriotism seems to exude.
Gentle Arms of Eden by Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer
Another one that I’ve listened to a lot, yet, whenever I come back to it, it still manages to hit me. Specifically, when it begins the chorus with that line, “This is my home. This is my only home. This is the only sacred ground that I have ever known.”
It just feels like a warmer, more emotional expression of the sentiment in the famous excerpt from Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot which I linked to further up this list.
That said, while that’s the part which really hits me, I also love the overall narrative expressed. To me, it feels reminiscent of (yet distinct from) both Gates of Dawn and the latter half of the second verse of “I Am Australian”, where Judith Durham is singing about the environmental characteristics which make Australia what it is. (from “I’m the hot wind from the desert” through “The spirit of this great land. I am Australian.”)


The Civilization VI Launch Trailer
Set to an instrumental version of Christopher Tin’s Sogno di Volare (“The Dream of Flight”) (the game’s title theme), the launch trailer for Civilization 6 is probably the only trailer of any kind to ever bring a hitch to my voice and a tear to my eye with its combination of triumphant music and narration about the nature of the human spirit… and I’m apparently not the only one as Christopher Tin himself was moved to tears when they were recording the backing track.
The Firebird segment from Disney’s Fantasia 2000
I chose not to file this under “music” because the animation is so essential to the emotional effect that just listening to Stravinsky’s Firebird on its own wouldn’t do it for me.
For those who haven’t seen or don’t remember Fantasia 2000, the segment follows a spirit of nature, awakened from a drop of meltwater by a stag, as she brings about spring. Tragically, her curiosity about why her greenery won’t grow on the mountain (volcano) looming over her forest prompts her to accidentally awaken the spirit of destruction within. It proceeds to consume her forest and her with it, but life springs eternal. After being breathed back into existence from the ashes, she discovers that her tears still bear the power to summon forth new life, prompting a triumphant and emotionally moving climax where she regrows the entire forest and covers the slopes of the now slumbering volcano in greenery.
Maybe it’s just because all the work I put into my synopsis caused it to hit me harder than usual, but this was the first time I’ve ever had a piece of media graduate from making my eyes wet to actually having to wipe a tear off my cheek, and I’m surprised it took me so long to remember to add it to this list.
The Golden Record segment from Voyager At 40: Humanity’s Eternal Message In A Bottle | Answers With Joe
…because Joe managed to put together the most moving presentation of what’s encoded on the Voyager Golden Record that I’ve yet seen.

How about you? What hit you in the feels more than anything else? Share in the comments and maybe we can build up a list guaranteed to move any visitor.

CC BY-SA 4.0 Concentrated Feels by Stephan Sokolow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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1 Response to Concentrated Feels

  1. Jane says:

    Christopher Tin’s Baba Yetu is very moving as well.

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