Monday, April 22, 2013

Music and grief

Our elderly and Highly Opinionated tortoiseshell cat, Cleopatra, died Saturday morning. She's made it to her 20th birthday last month, which astonished us all. Privately, I think she wasn't about to let the dog outlast her. (Oka, our wonderful German Shepherd Dog, died on Wednesday.)

It's a bit much to take in, the loss of two pets within a week. We're keeping an eye on the black cat who was Oka's buddy. He wanders around the house, clearly looking for Oka. (He still has a cat friend, one-eyed lady pirate Gayatri.)

I've been studying piano as an adult for about 7 or 8 years now. I play mostly classical, but add in fun stuff, too, like music from The Lord of the Rings. Earlier this spring, I began working on "Into the West." It's an easy setting, and it's flowing nicely, although in a key I can't sing. That's okay. Since Oka died, I've played it with tears streaming down my face. "All dogs pass...into the west." The music brings up grief in a way words can't. A healing way, a gentle way that lets me go as deep as is right for me at the moment. It's not the same as listening to music because I'm inside of it, I'm creating it right now in this moment and no two performances are ever the same. It reminds me poignantly of how pets live in the "now."

Today's practice was a little different. One of my serious pieces is the 3rd Gymnopedie by Satie. The tempo is Lento e grave. I slowed it a bit, focusing on the full tone of each chord, and realized I was playing it for both animals. The right hand melody soars above the funeral bass rhythm in that aeolian mode. Sweet and sad and profoundly honoring the memory of these friends-in-fur.

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