why I believe in music, or “I Was Born For This” – Austin Wintory

by richibi

joan-of-arc-on-corronation-of-charles-vii-in-the-cathedral-of-reims.jpg!Large

  “Joan of Arc upon Coronation of Charles VII in the Cathedral of Reims (1854) 

        Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

                ____________________

many years ago, while I was volunteering 
at our hospital’s palliative care unit, nearby, 
recently installed as a response to, among 
other pressing preoccupations, but most 
urgently then, the AIDS crisis, I was asked 
to sit by a lady in profound distress, her 
family, Western Buddhists, would go to 
lunch while I would sit by her to comfort 
her as much as I could

she was dishevelled, of course, completely 
disconcerted, all ajitter, lost, and evidently
confused, in her profound isolation, not to 
mention in the crumpled state of her 
harried bedunable to communicate, or
reason

I found a chair, sat by her with earnest 
concentration, my partner had died 
there, only recently, on that very unit, 
and I was expressing, to all of those 
concerned in his unparalleled care, 
my unlimited appreciation

I lay a hand gently upon her arm, to let
her feel, at least, the safety that my 
touch could allow, to let it settle on 
her, however removed might be her 
remaining consciousness, began to 
sing quietly a chant I’d been intoning   
from a creed I’d turned to for comfort 
in my own personal anguish, at the 
loss of my own friend, a call, an 
invocation, the continuous iteration 
of a line that brought solace, Om Nama
Shivaya, I prayed, over and over again, 
with the greatest intention, whatever
that phrase might’ve, I’ve forgotten, 
meant

she relented, found her space, little by
little she became, as though grace had 
descended upon her, calm, by however  
infinitesimal degrees, while I continued, 
now, my hopeful, helpful, it appeared,
manifestly mystical, intervention

she had become restful, I’d 
accomplished essentially, I gathered, 
my primary mission, though I 
continued, with some sense, perhaps
even a glow, of personal pridemy 
soulful incantation

then in a voice not much louder than a 
whisper, but much less distraught than 
a moan, she began to join in with row, 
row, row your boat, tunefully, over and 
over again, accommodating herself,
though, naturally, exceedingly weakly,   
to my rhythm, I felt I was experiencing,  
right there, and then, through the    
power of cadence, a miracle

when I looked back, upon hearing 
behind me a rustle, standing at the 
door was her family, wrapped in 
equal consternation 


here’s something with someone singing 
in several inscrutable languages for 
most of us, mostly, words from historical 
texts, in Greek, Latin, Olde English, 
Japanese, and French, I Was Born For 
This

that title, of one of the segments of 
longer work, Journey“, by a contemporary 
composer, Austin Wintoryis indeed a 
translation of Joan of Arc‘s words on the 
cross, “Ne me plaignez pas. C’est pour cela 
que je suis née.”, do not pity me, she says, 
I was born for this, Joan of Arc, my own 
personal Jesus

Shostakovich has an entire symphony,
his 14thcomposed of music to 
accompany classic poems, all in a 
variety of foreign, to him, tongues, but
translated back into Russian for his 
purpose in this particular, and not 
uncommon, instance, nevertheless 
pointed reference to music as superior
more direct, communication – note, here, 
the word, communication – it, the 14th,
is profound, extraordinary, read here 
first, then listen


R ! chard

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