I stopped playing after my father died.

It didn’t feel right.

While I was eventually able to transmute grief into music, those first few months - I had nothing.  

The word most prevalent in my journals at the time was “discombobulated” - and I was.  Weird, confused, unsure, unsteady - yes the world continued - jobs, families, lives - but everything seemed under a blanket - kinda like those allergy commercials where there’s a fog over the screen.

But there’s no pill for grief.  

There’s just time.  

It took me 3 months to play again and this was the first theme that came out.

Sad Music

This was written long before the idea of Music to Grieve to came about and the subsequent insight into how sad music can make you feel better.  It was written with my Dad firmly in the forefront of my mind.

I was thinking about his love of music - of his insatiable curiosity into how and where the music came from.  His library covered the lives of the great composers and dived deep into the (often times to me,) impenetrable world of Opera.  And while he appreciated all kinds of music and could dance to ELO or Alesha Dixon as well as anyone, it was Beethoven that remained his first love.

I remember the story of him as a medical student, volunteering on the ambulances in Edinburgh, riding down Princes Street singing snatches of the Eroica, whistling the opening themes of the Pastoral and yes - belting out the final movement of the great 9th Symphony.

They are joyous memories.

But this isn’t a joyous track.

This is a sad track.

It takes the uplifting triad of the Moonlight Sonata and flips it around, it takes the simple time signature and complicates and confuses it.

It’s descending, it’s in a minor key, it’s soft and delicate and it tears my heart out.

The end of the track, well - that’s wishful thinking.

The idea that I can take this melancholic feeling and turn into something hopeful - it almost works.  The last quarter of the track is indeed in a major key and while the piece is striving to finish hopefully - the final resolution at the end - the final notes of the track - resolve into a descending walk towards the bottom of the keyboard - and that's where they leave you - feeling down...

The Bench

Chris McCluskey, In Memoriam - The Bench - 6th Hole - Milnathort Golf Club, Scotland

This is Scotland. This is my Father’s bench.  My Mother had a local artisan create it from the managed forests and here it sits - looking down the 6th hole of Milnathort Golf Club - right where he was hit by a golf ball in 2014 and indeed where he had his fatal heart attack in March 2016.

“The Bench” had been the working title of the track but I knew that it wouldn’t make sense to people outside our family.  I was struggling to get the track names to fit neatly into the Kubler-Ross model and had initially thought this could fit “Denial” but once again it didn’t ring true.  When I finally abandoned the idea and thought what this track represented - what it meant to me - where it came from and how it was manifest - it was clear that this track is about loss.

Loss - when it’s still visceral - when you still think you can call them - when you’re still discombobulated and not sure when it will end.  

Loss - when it colors your every move and burns hot in your heart.

So yes - this is about loss, the loss of a loved one, my loved one, my Dad.

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