On Hearing Notes Composed in Mourning

I attended a concert of classical music this evening. The final piece, “Ode to Lord Buckley,” composed by David Amram, was written after the death of the titular entertainer. Amram knew him well. What follows is a scant account of the performance’s sublimity, composed by myself.

The saxophonist scoops notes penned in memoriam and hurls them high into the air. They hang there—weightless—until Vagitanus spikes them hard on the back and into my ears like cold wind to my eyes. Remember to breathe. I push at still-forming droplets from the pink creases. The notes are for a life passed, a friend of the composer, we were told by the saxophonist’s introduction just a moment before the pianist pressed deeply into wires by way of ivory. Had I not known, would I have been so moved?

My mind could not rationalize the crashing emotionality of my bodily response. When I was able to apply a grain of logic to the moment, I understood a truth I have known but left unnamed for these three decades. Art begot of death fills me with passions that swell and edge and breach to a pulsating meniscus then linger there but briefly before they breach the confines of their boundaries and find refuge in the spillways of my sinew. Play on, music of mourning! T’were though mortality existed solely to conceive your sweet countenance. If I could listen eternally, I would sacrifice myself to lend you but one movement more.

This, if only this, I was reminded in that hallowed hall of music: I have a soul and it is tender.

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