Thursday, February 13, 2014

Final Solace

I recently completed the last chapter of a short story called "Final Solace," based on music that I created during and after the illness that took my mother-in-law's life nearly two years ago. It was also the final chapter in over a quarter-century of grieving that began with the death of my own mother and included the sudden death of my father.

To date the music hasn't earned a dime, though I'll be happy if it earns much more than that. But money was never the point; it was – then and now – a means to promote and help support my continuing creation of artificial experiences that convey what are (to me) meaningful ideas, observations, and feelings that others might benefit from. "Final Solace," in all its incarnations, is among the most meaningful of those creations.

My mother-in-law, Alice Sampson, was perhaps the greatest fan of my art, which was a great compliment coming from one of the greatest people I've ever known. I say that in all honesty, not just because of our relationship, but objectively because of the way she lived her life and the impact she had on all around her. The first half of the first track of the album, "Getting By," was created before her condition took its tragic turn, as I thought of the long days she spent reading and watching T.V. It was her strongly positive reaction to it that convinced me to create related music as events unfolded.

While the music tracks honor the last year I knew Alice, they also resonate with similar memories of my own parents, which I drew on while composing them. Creating music for me has almost always been a channeling directly from my subconscious to an instrument such as a computer, followed by some more thoughtful editing. I felt those experiences, and the music flowed. The result, as with almost all of what I create, is snippets of a soundtrack, like what I've payed in my head, and often hummed, since I was very young.

Alice's last days had a lot in common with what I experienced with my mother, which was the most stressful few weeks of my life. Diagnosed with cancer when it was too late to treat, my mother chose to die at home with my brother and me, aided by Hospice, an organization I can't praise enough. My father died suddenly of a heart attack after working years without a break; the track "Memories" best matches how I remember that time, and my struggle to pick up the pieces of a life that totally depended on his guidance.

A few months ago, after publishing the individual "Final Solace" tracks for wider distribution than the album, I decided that context was needed for the people who might listen to them. In the mean time, having listened often to the music, I had been thinking of it as more of a soundtrack for how anyone's final days might unfold. It made sense on that basis to write a short story, told from the first person. With a better understanding of how the world might look when I'm elderly, I had my main character inhabit such a future, and created a family that I'll never have. Personal details are intentionally vague, including the protagonist's gender, but the main elements that I want to convey are, I hope, crystal clear.