Leaping forward and back

Posted on Feb 5th, 2012 by Jeanne Golan

It’s a leap year; I find myself mentally leapfrogging between last year’s events and this year’s as if they were occurring linearly.  Driving through snow tunnels last year juxtaposes with the sprouting crocuses I spied this week.  A blueberry bread pudding as the chosen recipe to warm the spirits has supplanted last year’s lasagna, and yet each taste and smell is equally present to my senses.

In advance of preparing a Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) program for the Spertus Institute, I’ve been considering this notion of time and how it’s associative aspect is far more powerful than it’s chronological counterpart.   I just attended a panel discussion about the music of Terezin.  Part of the debate centered on how each of the composers embedded recognizable musical quotes in their pieces.  The thought was that they used this device to secretly communicate their defiance of imprisonment to an audience that looked to the arts for the strength, humanity and maybe even courage to live in an environment that sought to obliterate them.  Not a simple issue.  It bears further pondering, for even with the conversations I’ve had with survivors, one can never completely know another’s experience or perception.

But we need to leap forward as much as back.  There are whole new generations who are coming to hear this music for the first time.   As wonderful and worthy as comprehending historical context is, they’ll forge their own associations with and relationships to what they’re hearing.  After all, the moment of listening is always ‘now’.  And the music ultimately speaks for itself.  As much as we honor and learn from the past by continually grappling with it, music from the past is still a living, breathing, often messy, organism.  The wonder that it sustains each of us so viscerally in the present  — it’s a beautiful thing.


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