To Herb Meyer’s Memory

 

Over the years, Ricochet has inspired lasting friendships, not least of which is many members’ friendship with @tommeyer, who’s not only a great guy, but someone who rendered Ricochet great service before he moved on to other things. When Herb Meyer, Tom’s father, died, the outpouring of thanksgiving for Herb’s life was tremendous. At the time, I dedicated a motet I was working on to Herb’s memory, but life having gotten in the way, I haven’t had a chance to share it with the Ricoverse until now:

I composed the rough draft of this motet a few years ago. Psalm 42 (41 in the Vulgate) is one of my favorite psalms. A penitential psalm, it describes not only thirsting for God — feeling the lack of God’s “waters” — but also of the deep sound of God’s waters, and what it’s like to be overwhelmed by them.

Get close to a waterfall of any great size, and you hear it not only with your ears, but through your feet, your breath, your spine. Like music itself, it’s something to hear with your whole self.

Abyssus (ad) abyssum invocat in voce cataractarum tuarum; omnia excelsa tua et fluctus tui super me transierunt.
Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me.

My setting opens with each voice outlining an octave in turn, which is both a fairly literal-minded way of showing one depth calling to another, and a means of giving the voices somewhere to descend from, as waterfalls do. Rising vocal lines describe the waves’ crests, falling lines the waves breaking, the water falling: This short piece is an exercise in tone-painting the obvious way. Even the decision to cadence in the relative major on “cataractarum tuarum” is fairly straightforward: it expresses the joyful sorrow of repentance or mourning. Repentance is hard, but ultimately joyful: it is moral healing. Mourning loved ones is painful, but also thankful: we miss their presence blessing our lives because it was a blessing.

The day Herb died, I was editing this motet. In his honor, I added a few bars, to better express the grief of his loss. Church-choir members (and I know I’m not the only choir nerd here) are often called to make music for dead they’ve never met, an admittedly strange way to affirm someone’s life, but important nonetheless. I never got the chance to meet Herb in life, but I did get the chance to honor his life in its loss, a loss so keenly felt because the one lost was so beloved.

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There are 11 comments.

  1. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator

    In case the embedded video doesn’t play, here is a link to it on Google Drive. Hopefully one or the other works for everyone!

    • #1
    • August 13, 2019, at 3:44 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  2. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Thanks, Midge. It’s very beautiful and I know he’d have loved it.

    • #2
    • August 13, 2019, at 3:45 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  3. Vectorman Thatcher

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    In case the embedded video doesn’t play, here is a link to it on Google Drive. Hopefully one or the other works for everyone!

    Thanks for the link!

    • #3
    • August 13, 2019, at 4:00 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  4. Ansonia Member

    That’s beautiful, Midget Faded Rattlesnake.

    • #4
    • August 13, 2019, at 6:09 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  5. Gary McVey Contributor

    Wow, is that moving and beautiful! I can’t believe we have someone with that level of talent among us! 

    Got any of these jobs scheduled in the 2035-2040 range yet? I figure it pays to make a reservation early…

    • #5
    • August 13, 2019, at 7:57 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  6. SkipSul Moderator

    A true artist cannot always create. He does not tyrannize his muse. His inspiration will invariably leave him, only to come back again. However, when he is inspired, he knows that he is in a position of a supplicant. He is called. He is one of the elect. A divine utterance has touched his keen hearing. Since he is called and summoned, he feels himself to be before a Presence. And when he stands before this Presence, he doesn’t see many different possibilities that dependent on his own arbitrary will. He sees only a single creative necessity, which he must seek and find. This seeking and finding is his service.

    By creating, he sees. He sees with the eyes of the spirit that open only in inspiration. He creates from a certain inner, spiritual self-evidence. It commands him, but he has no authority over it. This is exactly why creativity is not a free act

     

    Ivan Ilyn, as translated and quoted here: https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/alightsolovely/2019/07/17/what-is-art-part-ii-of-an-essay-by-ivan-ilyin/

    • #6
    • August 14, 2019, at 8:54 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  7. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    Got any of these jobs scheduled in the 2035-2040 range yet? I figure it pays to make a reservation early…

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    A true artist cannot always create. He does not tyrannize his muse. His inspiration will invariably leave him, only to come back again. However, when he is inspired, he knows that he is in a position of a supplicant. He is called. He is one of the elect. A divine utterance has touched his keen hearing. Since he is called and summoned, he feels himself to be before a Presence. And when he stands before this Presence, he doesn’t see many different possibilities that dependent on his own arbitrary will…

    Ivan Ilyn

    Perhaps one of the many things Ivan Ilyn is suggesting here is that it might not be wise to attempt writing bespoke funerary motets. That said, practically speaking, much art is commissioned.

    The brief description of how I put the piece together was pretty analytical, making it sound as if I “chose” straightforward tone-painting for the words and then wrote a piece based on these choices. That gets things a bit backwards, though. My longstanding affection for this psalm prompted these tone-paintings to choose me, after which it can take a bunch of analytical fiddling to organize what chose you competently enough that you don’t let it down. This is, in a way, not too different from “doing the math”, as described by Pascal,

    Within mathematics, Pascal spoke of an esprit de finesse that leaps ahead of reason and draws it onward. Polya would later quite charmingly call this intuitive spirit just “guessing,” though Polya would make guessing into an art. Polanyi would point out that this intuition, though not emotion itself, demands emotional commitment. Pascal opposed l’esprit de finesse to l’esprit géométrique, the “geometric spirit” of articulated, deductive reasoning – the faculty of the mind that, however persuasive it might be, is often just on janitorial duty, tidying up the syllogisms after l’esprit de finesse has passed.

    To get a musical idea right, I must spend the bulk of my efforts on janitorial duty, and in that sense the janitorial duty is “more important”. But the goal is tidying up something that deserved the honor of tidying it in the first place.

    • #7
    • August 14, 2019, at 10:21 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  8. SkipSul Moderator

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    Got any of these jobs scheduled in the 2035-2040 range yet? I figure it pays to make a reservation early…

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    A true artist cannot always create. He does not tyrannize his muse. His inspiration will invariably leave him, only to come back again. However, when he is inspired, he knows that he is in a position of a supplicant. He is called. He is one of the elect. A divine utterance has touched his keen hearing. Since he is called and summoned, he feels himself to be before a Presence. And when he stands before this Presence, he doesn’t see many different possibilities that dependent on his own arbitrary will…

    Ivan Ilyn

    Perhaps one of the many things Ivan Ilyn is suggesting here is that it might not be wise to attempt writing bespoke funerary motets. That said, practically speaking, much art is commissioned.

    The brief description of how I put the piece together was pretty analytical, making it sound as if I “chose” straightforward tone-painting for the words and then wrote a piece based on these choices. That gets things a bit backwards, though. My longstanding affection for this psalm prompted these tone-paintings to choose me, after which it can take a bunch of analytical fiddling to organize what chose you competently enough that you don’t let it down. This is, in a way, not too different from “doing the math”, as described by Pascal,

    Within mathematics, Pascal spoke of an esprit de finesse that leaps ahead of reason and draws it onward. Polya would later quite charmingly call this intuitive spirit just “guessing,” though Polya would make guessing into an art. Polanyi would point out that this intuition, though not emotion itself, demands emotional commitment. Pascal opposed l’esprit de finesse to l’esprit géométrique, the “geometric spirit” of articulated, deductive reasoning – the faculty of the mind that, however persuasive it might be, is often just on janitorial duty, tidying up the syllogisms after l’esprit de finesse has passed.

    To get a musical idea right, I must spend the bulk of my efforts on janitorial duty, and in that sense the janitorial duty is “more important”. But the goal is tidying up something that deserved the honor of tidying it in the first place.

    Ilyn says this later (emphasis mine):

    A true artist has suffered in spirit, then created. He suffered not only for himself and created not only for himself, but for others. For everyone. And so, he bore his creation like a babe in the womb and was illumined by it. He created. Through him the Most Important Thing spoke itself into being. And through it, he himself was healed and became wiser. He created a new kind of life. A new path to spiritual healing and spiritual wisdom.

    • #8
    • August 14, 2019, at 10:33 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. Suspira Member

    Beautiful.

    • #9
    • August 15, 2019, at 10:12 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Percival Thatcher

    I love this, Midge.

    • #10
    • August 15, 2019, at 7:57 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. Gary McVey Contributor

    For many years, the fine arts have put themselves on a glide slope that carries them away from wider appreciation. This divergence in tastes and interests was subtle, at first; the Fifties and early Sixties were full of middle-brow, postwar appreciation for formerly elite-only art. Gradually that faded, and by now it’s a point of pride not to engage most of the country.

    Serious, soul-stirring classical music like Midge’s is something that conservatives ought to reflexively support. It might never truly be popular in the sense that Childish Gambino and Jay Z are popular, sure. No one outside of utopia would expect that, but there was once, and may still be an intelligent audience without, as I think Loren Hollander put it, “sissy ears” who would understand and like this musical piece without preconceptions.

    Herb Meyer was a devoted, patriotic and celebrated American and the nation will miss him.

    • #11
    • August 16, 2019, at 2:06 AM PDT
    • 4 likes