Friday, March 28, 2014

Silence at the Heart of Things (2009)

Silence at the Heart of Things (2009) [Documentary by E. Thalenberg, by Stormy Nights Productions]
     Oliver Schroer died in 2008, one month after his last concert, which he devised and performed while waiting for his death from cancer. I knew nothing about this remarkable man until we saw the last few minutes of this film last summer on TVO. This time, we saw the whole movie. As a documentary, it’s very well done, intercutting archival footage, interviews, and the concert. The filmmakers have a good sense of how to stitch together the bits and pieces of other people’s relationships with Schroer and his own words (and music) to give us a portrait of a great human being.
     And it’s that human being, Oliver Schroer, that stays with us. He touched many lives, I think because he never hid himself from other people, he didn’t put on the masks that most of us use to protect ourselves from intimate contact. He understood that music is more than entertainment, it’s a means of creating community, and a path into one’s self.
     At one point he talks about music as a sacrament. Yes, it can be, and Schroer shows us why. Listening to his long flowing explorations of melodic lines, I felt that the music was familiar, that it took me to places that I recognised, but could not reach any other way. Susanne Langer in her Philosophy in a New Key (1942) quotes a musician: Music sounds the way feelings feel. Yes, and music can reveal ways of feeling that we didn’t know we were capable of. Feelings are the essence of what we think of as our personal experience; they make the world we live in. Schroer says that music grows out of the silence at the heart of things. His gift was to share his music so that we can follow him into that silence, where grief and joy are reconciled.
     You can find several videos on YouTube and Vimeo. ****

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