Listen to samples from Meditations on Life - Death, a two-CD collection of music and contemplative readings on the nature of mortality. Designed as a comforting and inspirational resource for bedside care of the dying. Music includes works by Bach, Brahms, Barber, Carter, Elgar, Haydn, and other composers performed by the chamber choir Voces Novae. Meditative readings include poetry and prose from Epictetus, William Shakespeare, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Henry Thoreau, E. E. Cummings, Walt Whitman, and others.
By Voces Novae
ISBN: 0971390207 (set of two audio CDs)
This is a two-CD collection of music and contemplative readings on the nature of mortality. Voces Novae, an amateur chamber choir, compiled the project as a way of examining their own ideas about death, with the hope that the wisdom of these words and music would be of use and comfort to others as well. They consulted no focus groups, hired no professionals, and sought not to over-produce the recordings in an effort to keep them immediate and human.
The project origins date to 1986, when the Reverend Larry Hill, conductor and founder of the Back Bay Chorale in Boston and its sister organization, the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, announced in rehearsal one evening that Michelle, principal flautist of the orchestra, was dying of cancer. She was thirty years old. That night, the Chorale recorded some hymns for Michelle. Larry Hill then arranged for some of Michelle's friends to read to her, and together with recordings of music made by the orchestra and chorus he assembled tapes for her to listen to each night. She died a few weeks later. Larry Hill himself died unexpectedly of cancer within a few months of caring for Michelle. The recordings on these CDs are a tribute to the legacy of Larry Hill, and it is his voice you hear speaking the invocation at the opening of each meditation, an invocation he originally recorded for Michelle.
The two CDs are structured around distinct meditation themes in the process of coming to terms with impending death.
Each theme has associated music and readings drawn from Western music and literary culture. Meditative readings include poetry and prose from Epictetus, William Shakespeare, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Henry Thoreau, E. E. Cummings, Walt Whitman, and others. Both CDs are included in an attractive 59-page hardbound gift book. As would be expected with a collection from such European and American sources, references to God and in some cases Christian themes can be found, but the work is not designed as a specifically religious experience. The majority of the readings reflect a humanist perspective. The text includes transcriptions of all of the readings and musical lyrics. It's illustrated throughout with reproductions of art masterpieces related to end of life by Matisse, Monet, Picasso, van Gogh, and other artists.
Music includes works by Bach, Brahms, Barber, Carter, Elgar, Haydn, and other composers. Some of the music is soothing and pretty, such as the Barber, the Elgar, the Welsh hymn and others, but some of it is intense, dense, and dissonant, reflecting the pain and struggle that resolves at the end into acceptance and unison. The combinations of text and poetry sung by the choir are used to good effect.