Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the connection between grief and singing. I know these can be thought of as pretty disparate concepts; one is filled with anguish and the other is (usually) associated with beauty. And yet I can’t help but think they are inextricably linked.
I’m reminded of a poem by Jane Hirshfield called “If the Rise of the Fish”. In this poem she writes, “If the leaves. If the singing fell upward. If grief./For a moment if singing and grief.” I love these lines. What would happen if singing and grief existed together in the same space for a moment? What would that look like? Would it be a mixture of light and dark? Would it look gray and muddled or luminous? I’m not quite sure but I love the fact that Hirshfield plays with this concept.
As far as my own creative process is concerned, I tend to write when going through a hardship. Tension, living in the gray and unknown is what moves me to write. And this creative process is helped along by music. Most of my process has been influenced by the belief that tragedy is not necessarily found in the process of enduring a rough time; the real loss would be doing nothing to turn hardship into something beautiful.
There is a song by RED that I find myself going back to. It’s called “Hymn for the Missing.” Although these guys are pretty hard rockers, they compose some beautiful instrumentals. And I think this song illustrates the concept of melding grief and beauty really well. The lyrics clearly convey loss: “Where are you now? Are you lost? Will I find you again? Are you alone? Are you afraid? Are you searching for me? Why did you go? I had to stay. Now I’m reaching for you. Will you wait? Will you wait? Will I see you again?” So many questions. I can’t help but think of this verse as depicting the bargaining stage of grief. The uncertainty leads to questions, but questions don’t always lead to answers. And still, we put them out there. In the backdrop of this song is a beautiful piano arrangement that crescendos into an absolutely gorgeous, full instrumental – a reminder that grief and song can complement each other in the most heart-breaking, stunning way. Listen to “Hymn for the Missing” here:
As I mentioned before, Red is a rock band so I wanted to showcase what they can do. Check out their face-melting performance on Conan back in February: