Death is on my mind today. Long-time readers of this blog will, of course, recognize that this isn’t really unusual, since I think a lot about mortality and our treatment of the dead. And certainly with an unusually awful early hurricane season combined with seismic activity in Mexico, I’m thinking about, and praying about, the dead and their survivors in Chiapas, in Mexico City, in Texas and Puerto Rico and Barbuda and beyond. But today I’m thinking specifically about Earrach of Pittsburgh, whose funeral is this afternoon.
I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about what it means to be an artist. Who gets to be an artist? Who gets to own that? What are the obligations of an artist? If they keep it to themselves, if they share to the world, what does that mean? As a writer and teacher these questions have been floating around in the back of my mind for a long time, but a few interactions recently have really amped them up for me.
There’s a certain lift that can happen sometimes, when singing. Or, I suppose I should say, there’s a certain lift that happens to me sometimes when I’m singing, a moment when the composer has written a particularly stirring chord progression. Perhaps it’s a suspension where one line rises, aching, tipping on the edge of dissonance before resolving into the cadence. Or perhaps an unspooling of harmony, the voices calling out in unison and then peeling off until the music shifts from one monochromatic tone to a welter of harmonies intertwining. Or the inverse, a tangling near-cacophony of complex lines combining as if by magic to ring out one spare, simple motif.
Yesterday I was talking with a good friend, catching up on each other’s lives after a couple months only ‘seeing’ each other on social media. He asked me how I was doing, and I paused a bit to think before responding “I think… I feel like I’m changing. Not in a bad way, and not like a total upheaval, but still: a definite shift.” He nodded. “That matches what I’ve been seeing from you online.” It’s good to have that kind of validation, because it’s a very odd experience to see these processes happening; usually they’re only clear in hindsight, so it’s more than a bit disconcerting to feel like you’re observing the building blocks of your life in motion, and to feel like there’s an extent to which they’re moving beyond your direct control. Continue reading “Imbas and change”