Monday, July 09, 2007

Memorial Music for Mourning

Someone I hold dear died yesterday. She was the wife of my law partner. They both loved music & supported musical organizations.

Now I wonder, what
music is appropriate for mourning?

There are a few "sad" classical music masterpieces that I recognize on a list of twenty-nine such items, identified in a posting on Wanderlist (2005). The first composition on the list I recognize as the "saddest" (in the minds of many) musical piece ever written.

Ironically, just a few days ago, I came across a wonderful posting, dated July 5, 2007, on the website of Chamber Music Today™, which relates anonymous "Conversations about Ensembles, Artists, Composers, Compositions, and Audiences".

The posting is entitled "Remembrance: Retrieving the Right Requiem". It contains an exchange between one person grieving a loss (DSM), and another (CMT) answering his question: "What’s good for farewells? I’m craving very, very sad pieces of chamber music right now."

I quote from the posted conversation, which appears rooted in great musical exposure & personal sensitivity to the situation:
CMT: Fauré’s Requiem in D Minor? Shostakovich’s [Symphony] 15th; Duruflé’s Requiem; Silvestrov’s Requiem for Larissa? Mozart’s unfinished Requiem in D minor?

Among Romantic Era composers who composed Requiems, you could do some Hector Berlioz, Anton Bruckner, Carl Czerny, Gaetano Donizetti, Antonín Dvořák, Charles Gounod, Max Reger, Camille Saint-Saëns, Robert Schumann, Franz von Suppé, and Richard Wetz. They all wrote requiems. And Edvard Grieg’s ‘Sorgemarsj over Rikad Nordraak’ is, I think, acoustically ‘sparse’ enough to be suitable for your remembrance * * *.

And, among 20th Century composers, you have Vyacheslav Artyomov, Alfred Desenclos, Herbert Howells — his ‘Master Tallis’s Testament’ is atmospheric and well-matched to the spirit of a brave [man] who refused to give up.

Or, what about Cyrillus Kreek, György Ligeti, or Meredith Monk? Their elegiac compositions might be a good fit.

Or Knut Nystedt’s ‘Pia Memoria’? How about Krzysztof Penderecki, or Terry Riley’s ‘Requiem for Adam’? Or the Finns! Einojuhani Rautavaara — the Lacrimosa movement of his ‘Requiem in Our Time’? Or Erkki-Sven Tüür’s ‘Elegy for String Quartet’?

DSM: Those are all good choices. Schnittke’s Requiem is too angst-filled and thematically explicit. Stravinsky’s, too. The ones you named are good, though.

CMT: Some elegiac pieces are too large and grand. Not intimate enough — many choral pieces are like that. After all, we’re considering who the person was, and how wide or narrow was the scope of the lives that the person touched.

DSM: And some elegiac pieces are quite appropriate for a person of advanced age, but don’t fit at all with a young or middle-aged person or a child. Brahms’s Requiem is beautiful, but it doesn’t match the personality of my friend.* * *

CMT: Schnittke’s Requiem is sufficiently abstract to be a match for your friend, but it’s too thematic and punitive. Same with the Stravinsky. Your friend was a software developer? What about Jesper Kyd — Denmark-born composer of soundtracks for computer games and films. He’s composed several Requiem pieces. * * *
The conversation continues into a discussion about more abstract musical pieces that might be better-suited to the character of the middle-aged person who died, and also be better-matched to the grief experienced by that questioner.

Hoping that the anonymous authors of this public conversation do not mind, I copy below the web links they posted about musical, artistic & general resources applicable in the situation of death, loss, mourning, & recovery:

You may wish to read that entire posted conversation here.

Update: 07/11/07:

I received two kind messages, which I greatly appreciate, at my Gmail address regarding this posting.

Julianna G. Van Duyne, a Trust Officer with Univest National Bank and Trust Co., of Souderton, PA, made a comment, and then offered a reflection:
First, let me say that your blog is a wonderful resource for anyone who works in the estates, trusts and elder law area. I consult it frequently and share the information with my co-workers, who are equally appreciative.

Although it wasn’t entirely clear whether the mourning music suggestions were intended for use at services or for the grief-stricken to listen to in private, your post brought up the bittersweet memory of my uncle and godfather’s funeral last fall.

He was ill for some time and jotted down his funeral instructions in anticipation of the inevitable, including the type of music to be played at his graveside. It was such a relief for the family to know that the send off they arranged was appropriate, and your post highlights yet another area where a person can ease the burden on their family by leaving specific instructions and planning in advance.

By the way, his choice for the graveside service: a Dixieland jazz band.

Thank you and keep up the wonderful work!

My friend & fellow blogger in PA, Charles ("Charlie") R. Goerth, Esq., made a comment, and then directed me through a link to a posting on his own blog:

Neil, my sympathies on the death of your friend.

Your posting on mourning music was beautiful. It also prompted me to recognize how I could be of help to my clients.

Read Charlie's post, entitled Do you want “That Old Rugged Cross”?, for his thoughts & tips related to music for memorials & mourning.