Processing Death through Music- Thoughts after a Composition Recital

I went to my friend's composition recital last night. After all those days of seeing him walking around, lost in his own world, or coming to breakfast with a book of poetry instead of homework, eyes red and drinking the cafeteria coffee even though we all knew it tasted terrible, we finally got to hear what he had been creating in his head. And it was beautiful.

We lost a professor, Dr Sam Hsu, my last year of college, a year and a half ago. He was the chair of piano, teaching piano and music history. We all interacted with him, in and out of class, since we all but lived in that tiny music building together, but to some he was also a mentor. He ate lunch with the students almost daily, and many times supper too. He frequently had tea and theological conversations with some of his closer students. He was a man of great wisdom and many metaphors. Everything was about music and everything was connected in his mind, but the core of it all was Christ and love.

The saxophone recital that I accompanied was the last that he heard.

It was a hard a time for all of us. No one expected him to go so suddenly, and we still had to finish our semester and finals and everything that comes at the end. And no one felt like it.  I remember hearing this music coming through the walls during one of my classes. It was very faint, but I knew what it was immediately, and the rest of the class was a blur.  

The weekend after he died I sat down and wrote about my memories of him, as specifically as I could, because I didn't want to forget. It was my way to process and to pay homage to his memory, even though I've never shared that document with anyone.

My friends and those close to him didn't really talk for the rest of the semester. But when I went to this composition recital,  I got to hear a little of my friend's processing in the form of two pieces written in tribute to Dr. Hsu, one shortly after his death, and one a year later. It was beautiful and tragic and very sobering. But Dr Hsu would have been proud.