I cannot send you this letter in the usual way. But I can write it in my usual style. And you know we creatives have to create, particularly in response to emotional content — and many of us have to create publicly. Themes of our Discontinuities communications are still at work.
Photo taken 2018-08-02 in Vancouver.
You’ve taught me more about strange loops than I taught you. Do you know how delighted I felt upon opening the program to the VSO Centennial, knowing that they had commissioned a piece from you, to find that your original contribution was named “Strange Loop”? I cannot remember the music as such, but it has reverberated in me ever since.
In some of our last communications, you alluded to there being a dark side to strange loops. Well, last night, at the Orpheum I was “betroffenheited” by dark news about yourself. Otto had warned us he had bad news to deliver. But I could not have imagined it (and still cannot). I exclaimed “Oh my god!”, which I’ve said to myself over a dozen times since.
By some seemingly mystical coincidence, the first piece on the program last night was the Canadian Premiere of Linda Catlin Smith’s Nuages. That fitting, beautiful, elegiac piece blanketed me.
You would recall that a few years ago I drafted sections about art and grief for the Discontinuities book. I wrote you at the time saying “I have been playing Halcyon, the individual piece, on repeat (for hours) last couple of days, as inspiration for a document on art and grief.” I don’t want to revisit the text now. But I am forced to reflect on the process of grief. I agree with Michel Aubé that the purpose of grief, like that of all emotions, is to try to nurture helpful relationships. Evolution seems to have designed mammalian brains not to take for granted that who or what seems to be lost is truly lost. Evolution also implicitly “wants” us to learn to nurture and protect our other current relationships, and future ones. Thus, a common emotion felt by people left behind, which I certainly experience, is more or less vague guilt, “what could I have done better?”
You know, my health glitches of late 2018 persisted and eventually forced me to put Discontinuities and some of my academic projects on the back burner. Not entirely on ice, but significantly “reniced” in favor of Hookmark. After several false hypotheses and false hopes, I finally resolved them in 2022, getting 90% of the way there, and in Feb-March of this year, I basically had it all under control. It was a surprisingly epic journey of progressive problem-solving considering how simple and common the problems were. Oh well. The book’s delay is why I hadn’t yet pestered you for pointers to the specific sheet music you committed to the book. And, of course, we continued to talk about the core concept of your piece, strange loops. You asked me about the selection, “would it be good to share something weird, or something more normal/obsessive?” and we settled on the latter. I will need to find a knowledgeable musician to help select some bars from your Strange Loop and build the conceptual bridge — preferably someone who knew you.
BTW, I noticed your disappearance from social media a while back, well before the Musk-related exodus. You had told me you meant to. And certainly, the pandemic made social media worse.
Last month, upon an Icarus Landing, I was mauled by the/a “black dog” — for the first time since my 30s. I am fortunate that, in my case, the source of negative affect is always exogenous. I’m grateful that I emerged from my 30s determined and well-equipped to deal with life’s setbacks. So, I increased my already high level of exercise. I called upon my network. I used the cognitive shuffle to take control of my sleep. I addressed the exogenous issue. I focused on four pillars of “happiness” from Timothy J. Wilson’s Redirect: finding meaning in life; understanding life’s setbacks; having hope and optimism; and having a sense of purpose. (For instance, I am trying to help someone in my close network who is dealing with a psychosocial setback. I also did a bit of sleep coaching recently. Helping like this is a vector of purpose and meaning; and it also leads to understanding setbacks.) In sum, I pulled out all the “stops” and put the dog down.
I shake my head while thinking of another recursive irony of writing this letter. For, as I mentioned to you previously, I took up your favorite Kundera book, L’immortalité. I think you even told me it was your favorite book of all. This sad irony is compounded by the knowledge that you are one of the few who would understand the irony.
Another coincidence [and please forgive me for pointing out the obvious fact that it’s another strange loop] rattling in my head is that earlier this week, I picked up Richard Wright’s The Weekend Man, from which I learned many years ago about thundering ironies of life.
It used to bother me that one of my favorites, Schubert’s no. 8, was Unfinished. But you’ve made me realize it is an emblem of existence. And isn’t it through celebrating limitation that we can transcend it? I’m sure George Kelley would have approved of this construal!
Regarding Earthfall, the piece that I first contacted you about, … you told me a while back that:
Victoria Symphony have made a video of it that they’re planning to post at some point in the near future too, they just emailed me yesterday.
Here it is:
I hope the Canadian classical music community pulls together and records and publishes a compilation of your music that hasn’t yet been (adequately) published — or at least agree to publish the archival pieces.
In departing, you primed the themes of the Discontinuities project: mental perturbance, grief, epistolary communication, strange loops, love, art, mind, great minds (yours!), and so much more that I would like to continue discussing with you. There were such deep seams to our knowledge-building on topics we both value(d). I wouldn’t know precisely where to start, though grief is the most salient theme now. But this is not the place for further communication.
You once told me
For me [creating] is sort of like talking to myself, and also communicating with a collection of other beings who may or may not exist.”
Et donc je continuerai nos conversations, comme Brel chanta JoJo.
- Jocelyn Morlock passed away on March 27.
- Discontinuities: Love, Art, Mind blurb on Leanpub.
- photo. Photo taken 2018-08-02 in Vancouver. Jocelyn gave me permission at the time to publish it.