The Suicide of Robin Williams

Robin Williams was a talented actor whose characters touched a common thread of compassion and understanding, well remembered in such films as Dead Poet’s Society, Mrs. Doubtfire and What Dreams May Come. Robin WilliamsHowever I struggle with the accolades and reverence being expressed at the moment. As much pain and torment as he might have suffered, his suicide could steer many in the wrong direction.

Some years ago, I lost a student the same pointless way, a most empathetic and delightful young man – much like Mr. Williams – and was privileged to offer these words at his funeral:

Recently I was at concert of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a South African a capella group. Ladysmith Black MambazoTheir voices really are something, eight voices singing together in unison, long deep notes, short happy ones, all of these singers singing in unison. I thought a lot about B. while I listened to this music, because as beautiful as it was, I didn’t feel very good. I was off. Something was missing. I wasn’t just sad; I was uncomfortable. I wasn’t myself. And it came to me. One of the singers was gone from my life. Notes were missing. A voice was gone. I had lost B’s voice, that laugh, that insane guffaw, that wild energy exploding out, all of those over-reaching concepts, so many of them now not realized.It makes me quite upset thinking about it, not just sad, but angry too. I don’t know why I had to lose this voice.

As much as we want to debate our beliefs in this world, there is one thing we cannot dispute: this life is all we have. And I wish Mr. Williams thought more about that.

Tibet House Benefit 2014

The 2014 Tibet House Benefit, at Carnegie Hall last night, continues to be a musical highlight of the year.Nico+Muhly+2014+Tibet+House+Benefit+Concert+CBs62C81Ez4lHighlights included the enchanting music of Phillip Glass (accompanied by Nico Muhly & Tim Fain), surprise guest Sufjan Stevens offering two of his Planetarium songs, and New Order front-manned by the raw, seemingly ageless Iggy Pop. Tom Chapman, Iggy Pop, Bernard SumnerNot even Patti Smith could ruin the night with her ego and histrionics, grabbing poor Mr. Glass at the end, dragging him into her spotlight.478016707The good news is that, this time, she didn’t spit on the floor. M_TibetHouseBenefit2014

It is a privilege to attend this event. Thank you, Mr. Glass.

Neil Young Plays. Nobody Listens.

Neil Young battled the audience at New York’s Carnegie Hall last night. Time and again, he had to ask them to stop yelling out between songs. “You guys finished? No? You paid real good money to get in here, so you should be able to listen to each other.” Neither did they listen to the ushers telling them not to take pictures, flashes going off in all corners, guaranteeing each and everyone a personalized blurred memento.

Neil Young's stage at Carnegie Hall

Neil Young’s stage at Carnegie Hall

It’s a common disease, not being able to listen, our self-centered world only getting worse. As Laetitia Sadier sings in Stereolab’s The Seeming and Meaning:

We communicate more and more
In more defined ways than ever before
But no one has got anything to say
It’s all very poor it’s all just a bore

20091217-133516-528269Paolo Sorrentini’s La Grande Bellezza, although a somewhat tedious film, does offer one character, a poet, who says nothing. Explains the protagonist. “He’s an excellent listener.”

La Grande Bellezza

La Grande Bellezza

It’s something to aspire towards.