If we are fortunate, we have one or a few sustaining relationships that are emotionally intimate. Intimacy implies a deep-reaching trust, confidence and reliance that express key elements of Faith. Passion nurtures it and regard for the loved one(s) guides it.
Technical and Analytical Readings
- Debra J. Mashek and Arthur Aron, eds., Handbook of Closeness and Intimacy (Psychology Press, 2004).
- Anita Vangelisti and Daniel Perlman, eds., The Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationships (Cambridge University Press, 2006).
- Kim Bartholomew, "Avoidance of intimacy: an attachment perspective," Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, May 1990 vol. 7 no. 2 147-178.
- Elizabeth A. Povinelli, ed., The Empire of Love: Toward a Theory of Intimacy, Genealogy, and Carnality (Duke University Press, 2006).
- Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, A History: From Obedience to Intimacy, Or How Love Conquered Marriage (Viking Adult, 2005).
From the dark side:
- Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Olga in an Armchair (1917)
- William Blake, Angel of the Divine Presence (ca. 1803)
- Jane Smiley, The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton(Random House, 1998).
- Hisham Matar, Anatomy of a Disappearance: A Novel (The Dial Press, 2011). "Where Matar's first book was largely about the narrator's intense bond with his mother, the second novel is all about the son's struggle for intimacy with his distant father."
- Hisham Matar, In the Country of Men (The Dial Press, 2007).
- Henri-Pierre Roche, Jules et Jim (1953).
- Sally Rooney, Normal People: A Novel (Hogarth, 2019): “In chapters that alternate between two perspectives, she dramatizes, with excruciating emotional insight, the intertwined lives of Connell and Marianne, beginning with their final year of high school in the West Ireland town of Carricklea, and ending with their final year at Trinity College, Dublin.”
- Alejandra Zambra, Chilean Poet: A Novel (Viking, 2022): “At the novel’s heart is the relationship between Gonzalo, an aspiring poet, and his stepson, Vicente, who grows up to become — you guessed it — an aspiring poet. Zambra uses their bond, forged through care rather than blood, to think through literary (and literal) inheritance.”
- Lina Wolff, Carnality: A Novel (Other Press, 2022): “Lina Wolff’s new novel is about strangers who meet in Madrid and become entwined as deeply as two people can: sexually, spiritually, criminally.”
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Presenting the composer’s spirit in two close-knit voices, Brahms’ distinctly Romantic sonatas for violin and piano are the very soul of intimacy.
Alexander Borodin, String Quartet No. 2 in D major: this masterwork of Russian romanticism paints a musical picture of an evening between two people who are romantically involved and deeply in love (performances by Borodin String Quartet, Borodin String Quartet and Borodin String Quartet).
- First movement, Allegro – moderato: the opening movement evokes images, perhaps from mid-afternoon, of preparations for the evening.
- Second movement, Scherzo: allegro: here the preparation and excitement build, as evidenced by the quicker tempi and rushes of notes. Perhaps they have gone out for the evening.
- Third movement, Nocturne: andante: our couple has returned home, and we hear one of the most romantic movements in music. As the movement winds toward its conclusion, the couple winds down toward sleep.
- Fourth movement, Finale: andante – vivace: reinvigorated, the couple sound hints – and only that – of discord. Perhaps it was an unkind remark from one of their other companions earlier in the evening. No matter, the incident is quickly forgotten as the lovers return home and climb into bed.
Maurice Ravel, Piano Concerto in G major, M. 83 (1931): though the second movement most obviously expresses the theme, the emotional commitment, in the French romantic style of the late nineteenth century, runs throughout. Gershwin’s influence is obvious, especially in the orchestral responses to the soloist. Here are links to complete performances by Tiberghien, Bernstein, Argerich, Grosvenor and Haas.
- First movement, Allegramente: The beginning of the concerto suggests the excitement of something new (:44), perhaps a new romantic relationship. Before long, a more introspective mood takes over (1:25): what is happening, and why does it seem so meaningful? Everyday life continues (1:57) but the theme of excitement (2:45) returns again and again. A quality of reverie emerges (4:40), only to be interrupted by questions (4:58). The emotional involvement deepens (6:25), then is reinforced by the orchestra (7:25) before doubts re-emerge (7:46). Humor tries to save the day (8:24). What we have is unclear, but we have something (8:39).
- Second movement, Adagio assai (begin at 8:59): This, the longest of the three movements, has a dreamy quality that evokes someone deeply in love.
- Third movement, Presto (begin at 17:53): The brief final movement is almost frenetic. Perhaps our two lovers have made themselves late for an appointment.
A close interaction between the two voices, viola and harpsichord, characterizes François Couperin’s Suites for Viola da Gamba. The accompanying harpsichord comments on and affirms practically every passage from the main instrument.
Obviously, trombonist Natalie Cressman and guitarist Ian Faquini enjoy a close personal affinity. This unusual pairing of instruments, in these hands, evokes intimacy:
Dora Pejačević’s chamber works express the playfulness of intimacy:
- Koechlin: Sonata for two flutes, Op. 75 (1920)
- A tight, loving interplay between the soloist and the orchestra characterizes Ireland’s Piano Concerto in E-flat Major (1930).
- Along the same lines as Borodin’s second string quartet, though less overtly romantic, is Schumann’s String Quartet No. 3 in A Major, Op. 41, No. 3 (1842).
- Bax, String Quartet No. 1 in G Major (1918)
- F. Bach, 6 Flute duets, F 54-59: two voices, intertwined
- Baksa, Celestials (1995)
- Harold Danko, “After the Rain”: these images on solo piano are in tribute to John Coltrane; I hear the soul after emotionally intimate love-making.
- Jane Ira Bloom, “The Nearness”
- Keith Oxman, “Two Cigarettes in the Dark”
- Marc Johnson & Eliane Elias, “Swept Away”
- Christoph Croisé & Oxana Shevchenko, “Joachim Raff: Complete Works for Cello and Piano”
- David Orlowsky & David Bergmüller, “Alter Ego” (2022): clarinet and lute, to hypnotic effect
On these albums, the intimacy is in the performance - the sound of intimacy:
- Renoud van Mechelen, “Oh, ma belle brunette”
- Kate Lindsey, “Arianna”: “Lindsey sings here with delicious intimacy, at times as if she were whispering into our ears.” [Lindsay Kemp, Downbeat magazine, February 2020, p. 74.]
Film and Stage
- Jules and Jim is a story of intimacy denied, as a duo of longtime friends morphs into a romantic triangle. One of the men prevails but it turns out that no one can hold the indomitable Catherine.
- Entre Nous(Between Us), a film about the need for intimacy
- When Harry Met Sally: a comic look at sexuality and intimacy, including one of the great comic-sex bits in film
- Silent Souls: two male friends, separated by many years in age, find a kind of emotional intimacy when the younger man’s wife dies and chooses the older man to assist him in a tribal ritual
- Before Sunset, the sequel to “Before Sunrise” (which could also have been listed under intimacy): the film explores the confluence of sexual attraction, emotional intimacy and “how rare it is to meet someone you feel an instinctive connection with”
When you came, you were like red wine and honey.
And the taste of you burnt my mouth with its sweetness.
Now you are like morning bread,
Smooth and pleasant.
I hardly taste you at all for I know your savour,
But I am completely nourished.
[Amy Lowell, “A Decade”]
Books of poetry:
- Florence Gander, Be With (New Directions, 2018) is “a book that probes, among other things, the sudden death of Gander’s wife, the celebrated poet C. D. Wright — explores a related question: How do we know where we ourselves begin or end? In many ways, the book’s focus is strikingly inward, showing how grief sounds in the body, mapping paths, making previously hidden regions visible.”