Music to pass by

On the plane back from Brisbane on Thursday after a wearying day, I had my headphones on listening to music when for reasons unknown I began pondering the music I’d select for my funeral (assuming that one day I pass away).

I’ve written about this before, though not in detail. The music should be reflective of me and given my eclectic tastes, it’s my preference that there are a variety of musical genres.

I nominated Glen Gould’s version of the aria from Goldberg Variations previously. He was a great pianist, and his version is not just sublime, it’s incredibly intimate. This would be played as background to a reflective phase of the ceremony.

One of my favourite pieces of classical music is St Matthew Passion. Funnily enough, it’s another Bach tune, but he does seem an apt composer for funereal events. His music was written for the church, and every bit of it has a profound spiritual dimension. Passion is an utterly sublime and deeply moving piece of music, and the choral elements join the worldly to the spiritual. This is the music either walking in, or more likely as the ceremony ends.

A part of me wonders if I should include another classical composer to speak for the other parts of my soul – and I think of Beethoven and his vivid, lived-in, stormy music. If I were to choose a piece by him then it would be the 2nd movement from the 7th Symphony, music I have always found immensely stirring as it builds upon itself, swelling sinuously to a point that invites wonder. Bach’s music is fit for the human condition striving for something more holy; Beethoven’s music is a soundtrack to vivid living.

Other classical pieces I might have selected was Mozart with his Masonic Funeral Music or, less likely, his Requiem, or probably his Clarinet Concerto, which is a celebration of life  – each of these is marvellous pieces of music and a further example of the infinite treasures you leave behind once you are gone. You wonder how you can live without these things – but then, cometh the time, that’s not the problem.

The rest of the music would be more contemporary, a mix of the solemn and the life-affirming. I want to be honest though.

I’m inclined towards My Way, but every man and his deceased dog now have that for the funeral, even the most craven follower, almost as come death everyone wants to proclaim an independence we never had in life. For that reason alone I rule out this song – I don’t want to follow that crowd. I might choose another Frankie song though – maybe The Best is Yet to Come? It Was A Very Good Year is not a bad option too, though it’s the sort of phone that makes you want to get on with it while you’re in the here and now. And That’s Life – very descriptive for me.

Would Hurt be too bleak? It’s a wonderful, raw song, and for me it must be the Johnnie Cash version. It’s not a happy song, but it’s true. It might bring a few tears (I hope!) on a solemn occasion, but I won’t go to my grave oblivious.

Warren Zevon has always struck me as a songwriter who well described the travails of existence in his music. I find many of his songs an apt soundtrack to the ups and downs I’ve encountered. For my funeral though I think Keep Me In Your Heart is just about perfect.

Other suitable choices are Bittersweet Symphony by the Verve, maybe Paul Kelly with Dumb Things, and I Won’t Back Down by Tom Petty.

It’s an interesting exercise. Hope someone out there is keeping notes.

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