About death. A musical lecture.

What does death mean?

Dealing with this big question since a long time, I have now created a musical lecture which combines music and texts in a chronological order, like a playlist. The texts and music are meant to complement each other. You can listen to the music and read the texts below.

Schnittke: Konzert für Chor, IV. Complete this work

“Complete this work
Which I began in hope
And with Your name,
So that my singing may become healing,
Curing the wounds of body and soul.

If my humble work is finished

With Your holy blessing
May the divine spirit in it
Join with my meagre inspiration. Do not extinguish

The revelation You granted,
Do not abandon my reason,
But, again and again, receive praise From Your servant.

The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if distant gardens were withering in the skies.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”

And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in the loneliness.

We’re all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. It’s in them all.

And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely gentle, are holding up all this falling.

R.M. Rilke

Death. Is it farewell?
Is it a new beginning?
We often fear death.
It remained through all times an unexplainable matter.
Are we going to paradise?
Are we reincarnating?
Are we judged after our life?
Will there be a Last Judgement?
A doomsday?
Do we have to expect penalty?

Death is out of any human control.
Is death part of God‘s plan?
Or is death evil?
Is death the antipode of God?
Is it the Grim Reaper who comes getting us?
Or does death finally give our life a meaning?
What would we be without death?

It is about time. Death means the end of our time on earth.
We come to this world with nothing and we leave this world with nothing.
When we are facing death, we are all equal.


Feeling the silence.

Alfvén: ‘‘Om alla berg och dalar‘‘

“Om alla berg och dalar de voro utav gull,
allt vatten vore vändt uti vin,
allt sammans ville jag våga för din skull,
du som är allrakärasten min”

“If all the mountains and valleys were of gold,
all water would be turned into wine,
nonetheless I wanted to dare for your sake,
you who is my love”

I believe that when death closes our eyes we shall awaken to a light, of which our sunlight is but the shadow.
A. Schopenhauer

Feeling the silence.

Bach – Violin Partita No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1004: V. Chaconne, piano transcription (arr. F. Busoni)

In den Tiefen, die kein Trost erreicht,
lass doch deine Treue mich erreichen.
In den Nächten, wo der Glaube weicht,
lass nicht deine Gnade von mir weichen.

In the depths no comfort is reaching
let me feel your loyalty.
In the nights, where faith departs,
Do not let your mercy leave me.

Auf dem Weg, den keiner mit mir geht,
wenn zum Beten die Gedanken schwinden,
wenn mich kalt die Finsternis umweht,
wollest du in meiner Not mich finden.

On the way, nobody goes with
when thoughts for praying fade away,
when darkness wafts me coldly
may you find me in my misery.

Wenn die Seele wie ein irres Licht
flackert zwischen Werden und Vergehen,
wenn es mir an Trost und Rat gebricht,
wollest du an meiner Seite stehen.

When the soul flickers like a mad light
between genesis and extinction,
when comfort and advice fail me,
may you stand by my side.

Wenn ich deine Hand nicht fassen kann,
nimm die meine du in deine Hände,
nimm dich meiner Seele gnädig an,
führe mich zu einem guten Ende.

When I can not take your hand,
may you take mine in your hands,
may you take graciously take care of my soul,
lead me to a good end.

Justus Delbrück, from a Sovjet prisoner-of-war-camp

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

Bach. Kreuzstabkantate BWV 56, Chorus

“Komm, o Tod, du Schlafes Bruder,
Komm und führe mich nur fort;
Löse meines Schiffleins Ruder,
Bringe mich an sichern Port!

“Come, O death, of sleep the brother
Come and lead me hence now forth;
Loosen now my small bark’s rudder,
Bring thou me secure to port!

Es mag, wer da will, dich scheuen,
Du kannst mich vielmehr erfreuen;
Denn durch dich komm ich herein
Zu dem schönsten Jesulein.”

Others may desire to shun thee,
Thou canst all the more delight me;
For through thee I’ll come inside
To the fairest Jesus-child.”

Mendelssohn string quartet op. 80, IV. Finale. Allegro molto

Die Gestalt des Gerichteten und Gekreuzigten bleibt einer Welt, in der der Erfolg das Maß und die Rechtfertigung aller Dinge ist, fremd und im besten Falle bemitleidenswert. …Die Gestalt des Gekreuzigten setzt alles am Erfolg ausgerichtete Denken außer Kraft.

The figure of the Judged and Crucified remains in a world, in which success is the measure and the justification of all things, strange and in the best case pitiful. … The figure of the Crucified crumbles to powder every thinking that is oriented to success.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Bach, Matthäuspassion, Chorus

“Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden,
So scheide nicht von mir;
Wenn ich den Tod soll leiden,
So tritt du dann herfür;

Wenn mir am allerbängsten
Wird um das Herze sein,
So reiß mich aus den Ängsten
Kraft deiner Angst und Pein!”

“When I once day must depart from here,
Then do not depart from me.
When I must suffer death,
Then step forward next to me!

When most full of fear
I am in my heart,
Then pull me out of my fears,
By the strength of your agony and pain!”

Feeling the silence.

Sibelius, Andante festivo for strings

“I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love,
even when there’s no one there.

And I believe in God,
even when he is silent.

I believe through any trial,
there is always a way
But sometimes in this suffering
and hopeless despair
My heart cries for shelter,
to know someone’s there
But a voice rises within me,

saying hold on my child, I’ll give you strength,
I’ll give you hope. Just stay a little while.

I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love
even when there’s no one there

But I believe in God
even when he is silent
I believe through any trial there is always a way.

May there someday be sunshine
May there someday be happiness
May there someday be love
May there someday be peace.”

by a Jewish Prisoner in a Concentration Camp

I believe that the fear of death
is the fear of unconditional love.

God is for me unconditional love.
What would happen if we would take this love?
If we would welcome this love in our hearts?

There would be nothing anymore we would be afraid of.
Maybe our biggest fear is not the fear of death.

Maybe it is the fear of this love.

It transforms you.
There is no way back anymore.
You remember who you are.

This love has nothing to do with
what is nowadays commonly understood of love.

It is bigger than you can dream of.
It goes beyond any word or music.
And it heals.

May we all be healed.

Alissa Rossius

by me