Now that you all know who Jackie Wilson is, I can tell you this story.
There are moments in time when you realize that things have changed in an irrevocable way, and you don’t know quite how to process it. Some of these moments are good, some bad, some just are. And you’re caught between what went before, and what will come after, but only briefly. I used the exact word for it when describing the glories of Josquin: equipoise. Everything is in stasis before life goes on, as it always does, as it must. But for a short time, there is a pause.
That’s where I was when I started writing a set of what can loosely be called variations, the Ice Variations. One of my children had graduated from high school and would be going off to college. I was very proud of their achievements, and very happy that their world would now become a broader place, even if farther away. But it made me a little nostalgic for earlier days. And it made me think of vignettes that were for me emblematic of motherhood. And lacking words, I turned to music.
I took as a theme a piece of music that they had written long before, and started writing some “scenes from childhood” from my own perspective.
It was at that time that I received the unexpected news of the death of a friend, a fellow piano student. She had suffered an injury, and somehow just gotten weaker and weaker, until there was no energy left to sustain her. Her name was Ellen. She was a sweet, soft-spoken woman, articulate, funny, and wise. She was also a Jackie Wilson fan.
I wrote a variation called Impermanence, subtitled For Ellen. It is a brief, simple, wistful expression of the realization that things change, and they will never be the same as they once were. I took as an inspiration Jackie Wilson’s My Empty Arms.
Things change, time is insistent, the bell tolls, but good memories endure, and the sun will shine again. And good memories and hope mean we must end on a major chord and hold onto it for as long as we can as we continue onward.
And now, Impermanence.