Since 1868, Americans have set aside time at the end of May to visit the burial sites of veterans. The date of what used to be called "Decoration Day" was chosen for practical reasons: If you're going to place flowers on a grave, what better time than when plenty of flowers are blooming? But it's appropriate timing on a symbolic level, too. The contrast between seasonal beauty and the ugliness of war is an apt metaphor for the bittersweet combination of fond memories and painful loss that lies at the heart of Memorial Day.
It's a complex mix of emotions that music has long explored. Here are a handful of selections that lie in the meeting place between love and loss, war and peace, beauty and discomfort.