John Adams on the meaning of transmigration [from an interview was originally posted on the New York Philharmonic web site in September of 2002], a meaning the matches well with his intent to create a “mind space” for meditation.
And I don’t just mean the transition from living to dead, but also the change that takes place within the souls of those that stay behind, of those who suffer pain and loss and then themselves come away from that experience transformed.
His goes on to caution against a simple reception.
I am always nervous with the term “healing” as it applies to a work of art. I am reminded that we Americans can find a lot of things “healing”. These days a criminal sentenced to death is executed and then we speak of “healing”. It’s perplexing. So it’s not my intention to attempt “healing” in this piece. The event will always be there in memory, and the lives of those who suffered will forever remain burdened by the violence and the pain. Time might make the emotions and the grief gradually less acute, but nothing, least of all a work of art, is going to heal a wound of this sort. Instead, the best I can hope for is to create something that has both serenity and the kind of “gravitas” that those old cathedrals possess.
Perhaps the gravitas is also related to scale. As David Schiff writes in the liner notes to the CD [On the Transmigration of Souls] reprinted from an essay that appeared in the April 2003 issue of The Atlantic Monthly
In the months that followed the catastrophe, 9/11 became a source more of civic pride than of nationalism. The heroes were policemen and firemen, not soldiers; a mayor, not a president. The names read on television and the short biographies in the Times reminded New Yorkers of their diversity and their commonality. […] He has created a music the mirrors and exalts the public wisdom.
In an NPR interview Adams likens the naming of names in his piece to the AIDS quilt (The Names Project). This lead be back to a “mind space” of my own and finding the Canadian quilt online and remembering Chris Ingold “chemist, leatherman, dead by his own hand, fighting” and I now learn that there is a bursary in his honour at Queen’s. And Tubular Bells just came into my sound stream – Chris would have loved that.
And the recitation of names as a form dates back to long ago…
A calendar, or obituary register, was maintained, in which the names of all those entitled to commemoration were entered on the appropriate day. As the years went by the number of anniversaries naturally multiplied, but it was enormously increased by agreements between monastic communities for mutual commemoration, and one of the attractions of such great confederations as the Order of Cluny was precisely the interchange of names for commemorative purposes. The result was that by the twelfth century some of the registers of names contained thousands of entries, ranging from kings and bishops to ordinary monks and laity. (p. 152) [With a marked impact on the distribution of food to the poor that was the custom to mark these anniversaries…] By the middle of the twelfth century the great abbey of Cluny itself was overwhelmed by its cumulative obligations to the dead and was obliged not only to abandon the attempt to commemorate every monk and benefactor individually, but also drastically to cut down its distribution of food to the poor. (p. 153)
Howard Colvin, Architecture and the After-Life
Of mourning there shall be no end… Mark 14:7 “For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.”
I return to listening to Tubular Bells and remembering Chris.
And so for day 1466