Excerpt from Before Their Time – Memorial Songs and Music Volume I: Joy S. Berger, D.M.A. *MusiCare Coordinator*Hospice of Louisville
Music is a language of time. It pulses and measures, with tempos and movements. A language of the soul, music voices that which is often inexpressible: crescendos and crashing accents, softness and tranquility, harmonies and dissonances, accelerandos and ritardandos, subtle nuances, and interplays of sound and silence. Music provides a here-and-now microcosm, a container for experiencing opposites and paradoxes. It engages its participant through familiar forms and takes one into unexpected twists and turns of sound.
Grief is a language of time. It pulses on…and on… and on. Whether with anxious turbulence or languid sorrow, grief beats on in our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls. The realities of a loss are experienced differently six months after a death, than on its onset. Looking back ten, twenty, and fifty years later, the loss will have influenced larger “movements” in our lives. Like a grand symphony, meanings of the loss will have traveled through countless “developments” and “recapitulations.” Like a seasoned folk song, grief can move us into solitude or community, into expression or reflection.
Music and grief have partnered each other through all of time, as is evidence in all cultures, religions, and civilizations. While grief is a universal experience, music provides dialects of expression. Examples are rampant, from Greek odes to tribal dances, laments, dirges, Tibetan chants, African-American spirituals, classical requiems, Scottish bagpipes, Hmong reed pipe players and drums, country ballads, and on popular MTV videos. Even today from your and my TV sets, professional news reports are pained with music to set moods or honor flashback memories.