The Rest Is Noise: For Peter Maxwell Davies. The death of the eminent British composer has me thinking about how hard 2016 has been so far on musicians and artists. First Bowie, of course, and then Glenn Frey, but also Natalie Cole, Paul Kantner, composer Stephen Stucky, George Martin, Maurice White of Earth, Wind, and Fire, Keith Emerson, Vanity. And of course Harper Lee and Alan Rickman, when broadening to other art forms.
What gives? Is 2016 a more fatal year than other years? Well, probably not, thought it’s easy enough to do the comparison in Wikipedia of notable deaths per year (2016, 2015 and so forth). I think what’s happening for me in particular is that musicians (and artists) who helped shape who I am when I was in my teens (meaning they had produced notable works at most 20 years before that) have now hit a particular point in the actuarial curve. It’s kind of a variant of the pathetic fallacy; the underlying drivers are more likely basic human actuarial trends, substance abuse tendencies in musicians active in the 1960s and 1970s, and the worsening of the American diet over the last 30 years than anything more profound.
And yet. It’s hard to escape the feeling of childhood slipping away. The older I get, the more I’m aware that a chunk of what I think of as “me” is defined in terms of how I relate to things outside myself, and while the death of Peter Maxwell Davies does not negate any of the art he produced, his being gone makes those relationships that much more tenuous.