MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Remembering Julian

Remembering the victims on this 25th anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing, especially the brilliant Julian Benello. After graduating from Yale, Julian was studying cognitive sciences at Cambridge and helping assemble a commemorative anthology in honor of his father, the sociologist C. George Benello.

The composer Gavin Bryars also lost a dear friend in the carnage, the sound engineer Bill Cadman. In his memory he composed the Cadman Requiem.

“I felt a real need to write something,” Bryars explained in an interview two years ago for WQXR, “perhaps the only time for me that this has been an almost physical necessity — and so I wrote this requiem, and it was incredibly cathartic.”

In the first place, although neither Bill nor I were practicing Christians, a requiem still felt like the right thing to compose. I was reminded of being at Cornelius Cardew’s funeral, where the majority of those present were either atheists, communists or both, and the absence of any person in authority, like a minister, meant that the event lacked coherence.

There was no sense of structure and no one knew what to do next — it was only the arrival of another funeral at the graveyard that pushed the burial forward. Having something formal, like a requiem, is almost reassuring in such circumstances, irrespective of religious belief.

However, when I looked at the form of the requiem itself, as distinct from the idea of one, most of the sections didn’t seem to me to be appropriate to Bill’s death — asking for forgiveness and so on… Then I thought of Caedmon’s Creation Hymn, the earliest poem we have in English, and Bill’s surname “Cadman” may be a corruption of this name….

Writing a requiem is something that I could only have done in this personal context, finding it less appropriate to intervene in public grief….

Filed under: memorial, requiem

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