A Sad Farewell to Luna (2004-2016)

Our Beloved Cat Luna

It is through tears and with the heaviest of hearts that we say goodbye to our beloved Luna. She passed away quietly and peacefully this afternoon.

Since suspending treatment, I have endeavored to keep her happy and comfortable and surrounded by love. The cancer continued to spread and over the past week it was clear just how much pain and difficulty she was in. It was my last gift to her to let her go and be free of the pain. Knowing that, it hasn’t made it any easier to say goodbye.

Luna and I were an inseparable team for over 11 years, years filled with love and fun and adventures. Over time, we became very in tune to each other’s emotions and needs, and have given one another strength and comfort through many challenges and crises. Indeed, she would always be able to instantly when I was sad or in pain, and come over to sit on my chest and provide comforting and healing purrs. This time she isn’t here to do that. Fortunately, I have friends and family, and this wonderful community around CatSynth to draw on. Thank you all for wonderful support you have given during the past year and a half, and beyond.

I am still processing what happened today, and only beginning the grieving process. I will have much more to say over the course of this coming week and in the weeks after that. For now, I leave you some music that speaks to this moment (including the track from Blackstar that we shared on Friday), as well as a modified Mourner’s Kaddish that I will be using, with both Hebrew transliteration and English translation.

RIP Luna (November 30, 2004 [est] – October 31, 2016)


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Mourner’s Kaddish (Modified)

Yitga-dal v’yit-ka-dash sh’may raba,
v’yam leech mal-chu-tay,
b’alma deevra chi-roo-tay,
b’chai-yay-chon uv-yo-maychon, uv-cha-yay d’chol bayt yishvay tehval,
ba-a-ga-lah u-viz-man kareev, v’imru oh-meyn.

Y’hay sh’may ra-ba m’va-rach l’olam ool-ol-may ol-may-yah.

Yit-bar-rach v’yish-ta-bach, v’yit-pah-ar v’yit-ro-mam,
v’yit-na-say v’yit-ha-dar, v’yit-a-leh, v’yit’halal
sh’may d’kud sho b’richu;
l’ay-la min kol bir-chatah v’shee-rata,
tush-b’cha-ta v’ne-cheh-mah-tah, da-a-mee-ron b’alma,
v’imru, oh-meyn.

V’hay sh’lo-mo ra-ba min sh’may-yah,
v’chay-im olaynu v’yal kol yishvay tehval
v’imru, oh-mayn.

O-seh shalom bimromahv.
Hu ya-ah-seh shalom.

Aleynu v’yal kol yishvay tehval,
v’imru, oh-mayn.

Mourner’s Kaddish (Amended) — An English Translation

May it be magnified
and may it be sanctified
Your great name

in the world you created according to your will.
May the world establish and fulfill

in your life and in your days
and in the life of all creation

soon
and near in time
and say, Amen.

May your great name be praised
forever, and ever and ever.

May it be praised
and may it be blessed
and may it be glorified
and may it be upraised
and may it be elevated,

and may it be honored
and may it be exalted
and may it be extolled,

the name of the Holy One, Blessed Be,

beyond all words of praise, words of song,
words of blessing, and words of comfort
that are uttered in this world,
and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and for all G-d’s creation; and say, Amen.

May G-d who creates peace in the celestial heights, create peace for us and for all creation; and say, Amen.

Originally posted here]

Dollar Days, Blackstar, and Luna

David Bowie, Blackstar

A lot has already been written about David Bowie’s final album Blackstar. But it seems particularly poignant in a personal way at this moment in my life.

I should start by saying it’s a great album. I would even assert that it was his best since the classic albums of the 1970s. it mixes complex and dark elements with some catchy hooks like on Low. The jazz and fusion elements on Blackstar, which features a band led by saxophonist Donny McCaslin, also take me back to another of my favorites, Station to Station, with its funky vibe. Indeed, some of the initial responses to the album that focused on his use of a jazz band seemed to leave out the connection to his funky bands of the mid 1970s. But coming back to the present moment, it’s the song “Dollar Days” on Blackstar that seems to stand out the moment. It is melancholy and its verses feature ballad-like chord structure, descending root notes resolving back on itself. The chorus has a simultaneously anxious and soaring quality. And the lyrics seem to be self-reflective and prescient of his coming death just two days after the album’s release, especially when coupled with the next track “I Can’t Give Everything Away.”

Cash girls suffer me, I’ve got no enemies
I’m walking down
It’s nothing to meet
It’s nothing to see
If I’ll never see the English evergreens I’m running to
It’s nothing to meet
It’s nothing to see

I’m dying too
Push their backs against the grain
And fool them all again and again
I’m trying to
We bitches tear our magazines
Those oligarchs with foaming mouths come now and then
Can’t believe I just run second, now I’m forgetting you
I’m trying to
I’m dying too

Dollar days ’til final checks, honest scratching tails, the necks, I’m falling down
It’s nothing to meet
It’s nothing to see
If I’ll never see the English evergreens I’m running to
It’s nothing to meet
It’s nothing to see

I’m dying too
Push their backs against the grain
And fool them all again and again
I’m trying to
It’s all gone wrong for on and on
The bitter nerve is never enough, I’m falling down
Don’t believe in just one second round for getting you
I’m trying to
I’m dying too

Specifically, that line “If I’ll never see the English evergreens I’m running to” hits home. Bowie died in New York and had probably not seen the English evergreens in a while, and was aware that he likely wouldn’t. One part of Luna’s decline that has affected me greatly is the realization that we won’t experience some of our favorite things together anymore. Some have already gone, such as playing with toys, clamoring for favorite treats, and running up and down the stairs at night. I have no way of imagining what this feels like to her, but it can’t be good. And that, too, is a painful realization. Sadly, cats don’t have the ability to express their feelings in words, let alone with the lyricism and eloquence of David Bowie. The sharing of his thoughts about his mortality is one of the gifts in Blackstar, along with the music itself.

Luna’s continued decline has good days and bad, and we are spending as much time together as we can, including sitting on the floor and listening to music, cuddling and purring.

Mensa Cat Monday: Iggy and Bowie

Iggy and Bowie

 

Mensa Cat Monday tribute to Iggy Pop and David Bowie.  By J.B. of Vacuum Tree Head.  Text adapterd from I Need More by Iggy Pop.

Boulez and Bowie

In the span of just one week at the start of this new year, we lost two musical heroes (whose names, coincidentally, both begin with “B”). Pierre Boulez and David Bowie may seem worlds apart musically and stylistically, but they both had strong influences on where my own music and performance has gone especially in the last few years.

By Joost Evers / Anefo (Nationaal Archief) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Joost Evers / Anefo (Nationaal Archief) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I am most familiar with Boulez not as a composer but as the founding director and god father of IRCAM in Paris; and as a renowned conductor. One fun memory of the latter involves one of his recordings conducting Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia. It was a favorite of mine, and when I got the chance to present it to Berio for an autograph, he declared his dislike of the recording, but signed my CD atop Boulez’ face. As a figure who loomed large in the world of avant-garde music, and then electronic music, he certainly evoked strong opinions from others. There is no doubting the influence of his leadership at IRCAM in both my electronic-music composition and research, even as I disagree with aspects of the institution’s culture, such as strict control and division of music and technology research. But it’s worth stepping back and looking at Boulez as a composer. His masterpiece Répons combines electronics with an acoustic chamber ensemble in ways that make the electronics disappear at times. It also has a very visual quality to it, evoking a complex film scene or theatre piece.

By k_tjaaa (Flickr: David Bowie Mural) [<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0">CC BY 2.0</a>], <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ADavid_Bowie_Mural.jpg">via Wikimedia Commons</a>

By k_tjaaa (Flickr: David Bowie Mural) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The theatrical is one of many ways David Bowie’s influence comes into the picture, along with the use of gender experimentation and constant stylistic reinvention. His gender-fluid and sometimes overtly feminine presentations on stage were “transgressive” for the time, but have certainly impacted many of us and made space for our own expression in music and in person. It set an example for me to be able to first come out on stage and then eventually in person. In addition to gender, Bowie’s onstage persona gave freedom to be decadent and glamorous, something which many styles of music seem to lack. Now when I perform Boulez-influenced music, it is definitely with Bowie-influenced staging and theatrics. And of course the costuming.

But David Bowie was himself a talented musician and writer. In the same ferment of the 1970s in which he developed his personae, he also pushed the use of synthesizers and electronics in music that was still referred to as “Rock”. His song Subterraneans is a prime example of both technology (ARP synthesizers, backwards bass guitar) and theatrics in his music, as illustrated in this tribute video.

The album that includes this song, Low, was preceded by Station to Station, one of my favorites for its funk influence, including the song Stay. The funk and soul sound of this album, along with his more unambiguously masculine persona in the album art (at least to my sensibilities), exemplify his ability to change and reinvent quickly from one project to the next. It’s the album I have returned to primarily after the announcement of his death on Sunday night. But I do want to close with one if his most hauntingly beautiful songs: Drowned Girl is one again something different altogether.