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Here Comes The Sun



Around the time of various holidays celebrating or highlighting death, Leland Music explores the relationship between death and music

Here Comes The Sun

“Without music, life would be a mistake.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

Nevermind life, I think the passage to the after-life without music would be a mistake.

Have you thought about your funeral? No me neither. Well, not until recently.

A death in the family suddenly brought it all into my present, rather than a (hopefully) distant future. The person who’d died had liked music but wasn’t by any means a fanatic, yet it felt important to get the soundtrack right. They had been ill for a long time but what they wanted at their funeral had been a taboo subject, and so the details became a bit of an issue. The collective relief when some carefully noted ideas were found was palpable.

Some hymns were listed, but for me The Shipping Forecast (aka the 1963 composition ‘Sailing By’ by Ronald Binge) and The Beatles ‘Here Comes The Sun’ were the highlights, and leaving the service to George Harrison’s gentle tones was the most perfect synchronisation of feeling and sound.

I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
It's all right

A discussion in the office was prompted – what music would you have playing at your funeral? Depeche Mode ‘Waiting For the Night’, The Smiths (so many appropriate titles with highly unlikely lyrics), Primal Scream’s ‘Shine Like Stars’, Tori Amos’s jaunty ‘Happy Phantom’, Pulp’s ‘Space’… Chase N Status? Could I get away with the bangin’ drum n bass of ‘Pieces’? “I used to feel something, but now I’m just cold inside…”

One staff member currently has Aphex Twin’s ‘Windowlicker’ written into their will, whilst another’s mum was called Eileen, so, come on, they had to celebrate her life with Dexy’s sound tracking her final knees up.

Another knows someone called Rosie who happens to be a Neil Diamond fan, so there’s apparently been family quips about using ‘Cracklin Rosie’ as her exit music.

However, some in the office were dismissive. Not bothered what music would be played – hey, they’d not hear it after all. Wanting the mourners to choose totally unrelated music, so that his death didn’t forever taint the tracks they chose.

Music is such an emotive medium, so of course every time I hear ‘Here Comes The Sun’ from now on there will be sadness, but also I truly believe remembrance is one of the greatest things you can do for someone when they’re gone. With that melancholy comes memory, and history and comfort. I feel it would be cruel to take that away from those left behind by banning them from using music they, or their dearly departed, have a personal connection with. 

How are you feeling? After all this talk of death? Openly discussing what you want before you die is a problem for many, perhaps the UK in general. I recently came across a film in development by Whalebone called Coffin Club. A short documentary following two vibrant women called Kate (both of them) who want to offer people an alternative funeral experience and to bring the discussion about death wishes into the mainstream. Amongst the moments of heartache involved in losing someone I think it’s comforting, and a relief, for those left behind to know what “they would have wanted”. It’s an immersive, unavoidable experience and knowing upfront how your loved one’s funeral should look, feel AND sound is surely beneficial and positive.

Across much of Europe and the America it’s now that time of year when deathly things are allowed a brief moment of national publicity. The roots of Day Of The Dead and Halloween are similar but the Latin American celebrations have a totally different feel. It’s not perpetuating the fear of what happens after life, it celebrates ‘real’ family members who’ve passed away, and shows them respect. Grave visiting, the laying flowers and toys, enjoying their favourite tipple, and the act of remembrance on a national, joyous scale.

China also has a similar event, Qingming Festival in early April. Whilst on my travels I was surprised by the violent noise of firecrackers ricocheting around the Li River valley near Yangshuo, in Southern China. Fearing mass murder it became clear it was a loud and exciting way of celebrating dead relatives rather than creating more. Family don’t fade quietly out of mind, their memory is ritually shaken alive with sound and gifts.

The Russians also have a comparable festival as part of their Orthodox Christian Easter… so why have we turned the dead into ghouls and distraught zombies that we run from??

It’s hard to find time in our hectic lives for what I see as the important and cathartic act of remembering the dead. So here starts my campaign for a national UK holiday where we all get the day off, trip out to those leafy cemeteries and drink booze to our favourite tunes… who’s with me?

These days there’s a playlist for everything, so here’s our office death list and a playlist from Kate of Coffin Club reflecting the real life choices people make.

Katherine Melling is an Executive Assistant at Leland Music

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Leland Music, Tue, 06 Nov 2018 15:21:12 GMT