The last thing you’ll ever hear: what is the world’s best deathbed music?

The makers of a new show about the perfect musical farewell turned up a lot of names, from Celine Dion to U2 to Susan Boyle. But there was one clear favourite: the light-filled music of Estonia’s Arvo Pärt

Why is there so little music for the dying? Maybe we’re shy of these fragile moments, feeling they’re too intimate to intrude upon with any extraneous sounds. But a deathbed doesn’t need to be hushed. French monks at Cluny in the 11th century practised extensive dying rituals, singing Gregorian chant for as long as required. Sometimes the chanting went on for weeks. In a 21st-century parallel, Rufus Wainwright described how his whole family sang to his mother Kate McGarrigle as she breathed her last. “One of the nurses said this could go on for four days,” he recalled, “and we had already exhausted the back catalogue.”

Matthew Lenton is the director of Vanishing Point, the Glasgow theatre company whose new co-production with Scottish Ensemble explores the role of music in end-of-life care. “I haven’t died yet,” he says, “so I don’t know whether the idea that music helps you transcend – well, I don’t know whether it’s valid or bollocks, just a romanticisation of what happens when we die. But there’s something intriguing in it.”

Continue reading…

Previous Post
Next Post