I suppose the title of the post gives away what I am writing about. I am sick. Again. Still? This is a continuation of a sapping sensation which I have no words for. I am exhausted, of course. I haven’t written much in the way of anything lately, just an article about virtual pets and how to choose the best one for you. I really should be doing a lot of things instead of writing what amounts to a love letter to a man old enough to be my Grandfather, but here I am at six AM before I have to run around town to try and keep housing… doing just that.
For those of you reading this who do not know who Stephen Sondheim is, he is a composer and he has written songs that are not just listened to but experienced. I have written before about how music is essential to my being alive, without music I hurt more. Without music I breathe less. Without music I am more aware of the precipices I stand on when afraid. I am still afraid rather often, but then with so many reasons to be I still think I do rather well. Sondheim is the source of one of the few regrets I have when dealing with disability, though this is hardly his fault but that does not stop my longing. If you are not well versed in his work, I recommend Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods for stater courses. If you are, then perhaps its Sundays in the Park with George. I cannot sleep until I write this, so here’s an open letter to Stephen Sondheim:
Dear Mr. Sondheim-
You recieve thousands of fan letters everyday I am sure. You recieve requests from people to listen to their music, to let them sing your songs, to become stars in your name. This is not one of those letters. To be a star as you have doubtlessly seen requires quite a bit of luck and I misshuffled the deck for that one. I am writing instead to compliment you, which I am sure you recieve plenty of letters that do this as well. I want to thank you however, from the perspective that few may mention. Thank you from an Autistic Synesthet with PTSD and brain damage who is very easily moved not just by music but by the stories that she ends up seeing, hearing and tasting with in the music. Simply put few composers manage to tell the story in the musical in the notes like you do, most also do not manage to explore the depths of tonality. I do not think I have ever heard an a tonal work from you. I rarely enjoy atonality, personally but it is also the default most use to show strife in the stories of their music.
I do not need to tell you how lucky you are. Via timing of birth, the people you met, the moments that you lived you ended up learning the skills needed to unleash your music on the world. From there again through timing and people, as sucess takes quite a bit of luck and skill to achieve you ended up writing more music than most contemporary composers. Sondheim is in everything. The soundtrack to the fabric of the 20th century has been written in large part by you, from my perspective. Yet I am often left to wonder how someone who has so much privilege manages to capture the minds of so many characters with what appears to be relative ease. The best example of your stepping from perspective to perspective may be Sundays at the Park with George. Your music without words shows the obsession the character has, his need to create fantasy in art based on reality, to make things perfect. Your music too is like the paintings by Seurat, which of course was your intent but you succeed. Seurat’s work is something that draws me in as well. I wish we had more of that.
I am fascinated with what your music and stories tell me about you as a person. You and your writing partners tuck away life lessons without morality rather often, the lessons are hidden in the inner workings of the plots of the stories but each song stands alone in strength and beauty. Each song is texturally different, but underneath it all there is a consistent style in the instrument choices and perhaps pacing that tells me when its Sondheim. I started to look into who wrote the music I like so much recently. Your work dominates my mind when my own music is not enough. (Of course I write music, just like most who contact you in some manner).
No I will never track down a mailing address for Sondheim. Its Sondheim after all, but my mind won’t leave me be until I write and write and write again. The timing is bad. I am not sure if its the impending birthday on Friday, my connecting that a lot of the best songs that I always ‘need’ had the same underbelly or the increased potency of the larger synesthetic moments but I just want to reach out sometimes and talk to the people who create things.
Part of it is my looking to see who composed what and finding its Sondheim and not Webber that I like. I have less and less want, enjoyment or love of Webber’s works. It doesn’t help that at least on the surface of the media Webber is unpleasant but his work lacks the ability to be worn, sung, and used without degradation through time or just general wear and tear. Sondheim’s does not. Maybe its the french horn use or the violin use or the right singers? Maybe? I doubt it since some of Sondheim’s works are overly sung by singers trying to make a name. Ill abused notes, that still withstand the test of time.
Perhaps it is just the way the music makes my brain respond? This is likely. I see rivers, trees, I feel things, I do not escape but grow stronger. I gain a better childhood with some songs, I get my dreams of singing without the pain in others, I feel loved with even more. Not all music makes me whole, complete, and sometimes even his songs show me the swiss cheese holes in my life experiences but I discovered Sondheim is the only composer who can sway me consistently.
His music is the only music that leaves me dreaming of the what if. I am not sure if that is good or bad, to dream of the what if. To dream that my moments on the stage didn’t end with just a few steps. To dream that I could still move my body in dance, outside of my head my feet going where they are supposed to. To dream. (No he did not write the Impossible Dream, he just inspires them). I dance again in my waking dreams to Sondheim. I do not do that much anymore.
With this unshakable sick my mortality is there again, whispering its awareness in my ears. Maybe this is my realizing how much I still want to do. I’m dreaming again. I considered auditions at a theatre today.
Maybe its that I do sing when alone, perhaps with people again but adult range changes from injuries make me hesitate there as does my lack of air. I can’t hold the notes like I used to… but… maybe its that a lot of that is coming back.
I am going to go try to sleep again, dreams of Demon Barbers await me. Either way, I am just grateful that Sondheim’s music is in my life. I hope in two hundred years his music is sharing breaths with other composers of past Eras. He’s the only composer who I think will last from our century as composition is not treated as the artform it is anymore.