Features Thursday, October 09, 2014 - 05:30
By Amit Bararia "All at once, in the same moment my heart fills with your music & lies twisted at the news.Did you know death may lurk between notes?" In 1971, Don McLean wrote and sang the famous line “The day the music died” in his song ‘American Pie’. He was lamenting the news he read one morning, of the death in a plane crash of three giants of rock and roll of that era. More than four decades later, it feels to me today is the day the music died again. Strangely though, I have begun to know you only on the morning you died. As that day wears on with every channel scrolling the news of your dying, more and more I feel profoundly touched by your music. I had heard of you, yes, but I had only ever listened to other kinds of music with careful engagement. But despite the pain of your passing, no, I won’t say I rue my misfortune for entirely missing out on your life while you lived. I'll explain: It would be so easy to say you live on in the magnificent music you leave behind. True of course, but I’m unwilling to segregate the darkness of your death from the glowing brilliance of your music quite so soon. Perhaps I never will. I’d find it personally unethical. After all, you didn’t die for nothing. Do stay with me a little longer on this. On this video on YouTube, while the notes you conjure run capering off your fingers, the fingers which have held their own and more alongside legends of world music, I ask: How will you coax those riotous young fingers, so artful in extemporaneous innovation, to begin to profoundly commune with disaffection and anxiety of your adult life? When circumstances seemed bleak and dark? As time raced on, is all I can say, you may have filled your being with light. For, I believe towards the end, your personal difficulties and sorrows had begun to burnish your music in ways which made it brim with heartrending exquisiteness. You may see now, as I do, how the poignancy of a troubled life and untimely death doesn’t merely tincture the magnificence of your music. It also illuminates it. Yet even so, my heart fills with searing pain at the news, as I play your video over and over in a loop: Oh Mandolin, young angel, prince of music, you really were like none other who came before you. Yes, all at once, in the same moment my heart fills with your music and lies twisted at the news. And ruminating, I watch your beautifully shaped, precocious little hands do magic on the mandolin, plucking out cascades of perfectly contoured notes. Your right is an unfaltering metronome, breaking down time into fragments arranged in flawless symmetry. Your left, an exalted ballerina who glides over melody and scale with breathtaking refinement and loveliness. Oh, but I only see the back of your hands, just the outsides. Like the darker notes of your life which you concealed from view, do you hide what lies in the lines engraved inside of your hands? Those lines, could you have changed them like you changed broken strings on your mandolin, could you? Did you know death may lurk between notes? Would you have kept out of fate’s way if you did? There are lines from another song of Don McLean I’ll tell you about. It was written for Vincent Van Gogh, calling upon many of his paintings but mainly The Starry Night. Vincent, a genius much like you, lived a tormented life which ended tragically. These are the lines: …And when no hope was left in sightOn that starry, starry nightYou took your life, as lovers often doBut I could've told you VincentThis world was never meant forOne as beautiful as you… Alas, young Mandolin, I say the same of you. You are beautiful too, so is the music you make.How end times come, how lives end, is another matter. And finally, during a time when rituals are done to venerate the departed, then in the starless skies above, when a desolate andforsaken eighth-house Moon may conjunct a fallen Saturn, the dark may close in. Do not fear and let it all go. Your mother, she who is mother of all art, she’ll come to light up your way and sing you to sleep. Amit Bararia writes on many issues including music.