Music and Death (2016Feb28)


Sunday, February 28, 2016                                               1:34 PM

I’ve just been listening to a bootleg CD, a gift from my friend, Chris, of a live concert of Peter Blegved at St. Ann’s in Brooklyn. It filled me with the sense of music being both powerful and personal—you pick your own words, you tell your own story, you make up your own tune. What could be more empowering? What could be more intimate?

I appreciate all that from a distance, though. You won’t catch me onstage in Brooklyn singing to a crowd of people (like they’d have me). There has to be a motive force to get a person onstage—I have nothing I wish to share that urgently with other people—typical of someone who’s always had trouble communicating. To me, it’s a struggle. It’s so easy to be misunderstood—and that’s when people are paying attention to begin with. All it would take is one heckler and I’d be outta there. I think of entertainment as show business, emphasis on the ‘business’—music, itself, is another thing entirely.

I guess that’s what I’m trying to say by posting thousands of piano videos on YouTube—I love music, but I’m no entertainer. I don’t really invite people to listen to my playing—more that I’m asking people to share my love for the music I’m struggling to recreate (in the case of the classical and other sheet music covers). I put the improvs out there because I don’t mind people listening to them, not because I think I’m the second coming of Tchaikovsky or something. Perhaps an illustration would help clarify—sometimes I listen to one of my better improvs and I think to myself, “Hey! That almost sounds like real music.”

It might help my self-esteem if I didn’t have such a deep appreciation of music—I’ve always been a fan of classical music, first and foremost. I like all the other kinds, but if I had to pick just one—classical. I like rag, swing, jazz, rock, blues, funk, folk, and show-tunes, too. Between the great composers and the great performers, the virtuosi and the rock-stars, Glenn Gould to Jimi Hendrix to the Bulgarian Soviet Female Vocal Choir, my mind is awash in the glory and the diversity and the ecstasy of centuries of great music. So when I plonk away on my Mason-Hamlin baby grand, it’s unlikely that I’ll get a swelled head.

Conversely, I never have to worry that I’ll run out of things to do—there’s always more music to learn, there’s always more music to invent, there’s always room for improvement in my technique—it’s an infinite hobby that offers nothing like an endgame—perfect for someone who’s feeling his years.

My illness has been serious enough to offer ample opportunities to contemplate death. I consider it unhealthy to dwell upon, but only when it remains in some distant sometime—when you hear it knocking, it’s only natural to give it some thought. Funny that my one great fear, it turns out, is the embarrassment—‘He was right in the middle of something—he actually thought he was going to keep on living—what a schmuck!’  I imagine the dirty clothes I hadn’t got around to putting in the hamper—all the loose ends that a person assumes they’ll ‘get to’ eventually. I could almost spend the rest of my life making sure I leave a neat room behind me, with no unfinished projects lying around. How sad for my family to have to tidy up after what I presumed would be the rest of my life—you know?

I don’t think anyone fears the actual dying itself—it’s the absence of the life that’s impossible to get my head around. What good’s a universe without me in it, right? At some point, I will no longer have a vote on what constitutes reality—I’ll be completely non-participating. That just doesn’t seem right—it’s eerie.

And it is unhealthy to dwell on—I’ve found that being sick enough to feel compelled to face death is a horrible curse—we’re not meant to face the infinite. Our lives are meant to be lived as if they are open-ended—admitting death’s inevitability spoils that. So I really shouldn’t even be writing about it—it’s not fair to you, dear reader. Forget I said anything.

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