Grappling With The Ultimate Question

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Where do we go when we die?  I don’t normally sit around the office wondering that, but eventually, it is a question we all get around to either answering or actively avoiding.  I mention it now because for the next five days, you can still catch one of my favorite composers, England’s Jocelyn Pook, premiering her radio piece for BBC 3 called “When You’re Gone, You’re Gone.” 

Such as simple statement, such finality.  But Pook clearly isn’t so sure that death and what comes after are either simple or final.  This 27-minute meditation uses her music sparingly and effectively; much of the content consists of various responses to the question.  Most memorable are Pook’s own mother, recorded before she died last year, talking about the research she’d done on the subject of the afterlife; and an Irish woman who matter-of-factly recounts seeing angels and souls. 

I have been a Pook fan for something like 20 years.  She’s probably best known for her film scores (she did Kubrick’s last movie, Eyes Wide Shut, for example), but I’ve always loved her vocal works, which often pair “found sound” – including London soccer chants, messages from her phone answering machine, and interviews with neighbors being evicted to make way for a new highway – with live voices, often singing in Latin.  There is a bit of that here.  But “When You’re Gone, You’re Gone” is more what radio and publishing people call a “think piece.”  Still, the final piece of music, about 24 minutes in, is a poignant, moving offering from one of England’s most underrated musicians. 

You can hear the whole program here

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