TheEye is in a reflective mood. The early, untimely death of a loved one has made her think about how music defines how we would like to be remembered when we are gone and music lingers on.
In a recent article by Mark Vanhoenacker in The International New York Times – My Deathbed Playlist – Vanhoenacker says: ‘Some people find it meaningful to specify the music they would like played at their funeral. But before then – just before then, in fact – many of us will face a time when we are still able to experience music, but can no longer choose it for ourselves. Hence my advance directive for music, or what I like to call my singing will‘. Vanhoenacker talks about a close family friend, ‘a loving presence to me for my entire life’. In the last week of her life in hospital and only partly conscious, it occurred to her family that she might like to hear some music. When his friend died ‘on a warm July afternoon, she was listening to a cello piece by Yo-Yo Ma‘, whose concerts she had often enjoyed. Vanhoenacker regards the music they played was not just a gift to her, but also a final present from his passed away friend.
Singer Paul Simon once said that music should continue ‘right up until you die.’
TheEye has long held this opinion and has devoted many thinking moments to compiling not just her singing will, but a continuously running soundtrack, the loop she wants to be continuously playing for as long as it takes … and longer.
The Threshold Choir was founded by Kate Munger in 2000. Choir members sing in homes, hospices and hospitals in around 150 communities worldwide. The music is varied and includes folk songs, Bach’s Mass in B Minor ( a remarkable, beautiful, emotionally rich masterpiece).
It’s been proven that music helps chronically disturbed and autistic children to people suffering from dementia…
On occasion, TheEye has helped out at a remarkable residential old peoples’ home where art and music are a successful therapy. It lifts the spirits to see the elderly residents singing and clapping along to old favourites they remember, triggering happy memories from their past.
Leonard Cohen, whose death at 82 was mourned by all who adored his mournful voice and his beautiful, poetic lyrics. Several of Cohen’s songs will feature on TheEye‘s personal Playlist – ‘Bird On A Wire’, ‘Suzanne’ and ‘Hallelujah’ of course. Ironic to think his last album released a few weeks ago, ‘You Want It Darker‘ was one of his best. According to his son, Adam Cohen, he said ‘I’ve got some work to do. Take care of business. I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s it for me.’
‘Marianne‘, which featured on his first album ‘Songs Of Leonard Cohen‘ (1967), was written for a former lover Marianne Ihlen who died in July. He must have regarded her death as an omen and commented, ‘Well Marianne, It’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.’
Professor Gregory Melchor-Barz, an ethnomusicologist (no, TheEye hasn’t a clue either but it sounds very impressive) at Vanderbilt University, studies musical rituals around death in AIDS-stricken regions of sub-Saharan Africa. In his mother’s final days his siblings and him sang to her and with her. At one point she shouted out ‘Coconut Joe’, a song they hadn’t known she even knew but guessed it must be a song from her childhood in Hawaii. She had articulated her final musical wish, which the Professor described as ‘a digital memorial not just to my mother, but to our final days together’. Hence the singing will.
So what will be on TheEye‘s list so far (and being constantly amended and updated)? – Well, don’t laugh.
It includes the Leonard Cohen songs, plenty of Dylan, Billy Holiday, Nina Simone and The Ronettes. A fair sprinkling of Simon & Garfunkel, Carole King and Judy Collins. Some Beethoven and Mozart. The haunting ‘hummingbird’ chorus from Puccini’s Madame Butterly.
In the lead, in poll position, is TheEye‘s all time favourite song by The Crystals ‘Da Doo Ron Ron‘ and probably by the time it’s played to her for the last time, as the words say, ”Yeah My Heart Stood Still’, her heart will probably have stood still (stopped) but she will still be dancing.
But the list is far from complete … even writing this brings more favourite pieces of music to mind.
And it beats having to select just 8 pieces of music for Desert Island discs!