In exploring grief and loss as creatively and thoroughly as it does, Ten Sorrows feels visionary and enlightened.
“Those who do not weep, do not see.” – Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
Many of my earliest memories figure around my maternal grandmother. She was my first and best ever babysitter, caring for me in those early years when my parents and I lived with her and they were both working to build our family home. Through her, I got an early exposure to grief and sorrow. Though my maternal grandfather died five years before I was born, my grandmother mourned his loss every day for the twenty-six years she survived him. At the time, it was custom for a widow to dress in black for a period after the death of her husband, but my grandmother never took a day off from wearing her plain black dresses, not even for my parents’ wedding. Although she wasn’t a particularly sad woman all the time, my grandmother carried a sombre veil with her wherever she went. Even when she was smiling and clearly happy, as a child, I could see and feel the sorrow that always lay behind the twinkle in her eyes and the smile on her face.
Sorrow is not an easy emotion to express let alone embrace and explore, but like many people, multi-instrumentalist/composer Jakob Rehlinger (Moonwood, Heavy Moon, King Pong Dub System, BABEL) found himself unintentionally immersed in it over the three years he composed Ten Sorrows. Starting in 2018 with the death of his mother, Rehlinger channelled memories and emotions to express his grief and loss through improvisation that eventually became the album’s opener, “Linda In The Garden.” “While working on that piece,” he explains, “I became increasingly intrigued by the many-faceted nature of sorrow and how humans have musically expressed it over the centuries.” Like my grandmother’s twinkling eyes and heartwarming smile, Rehlinger’s “ten meditations on the nature of grief and sorrow” live with their emotional weight but are not burdened by it. His graceful and thoughtful works are not outwardly mournful, morose, or inherently dark improvisations, nor are they all focused on death and the void it leaves behind. “Kinderlärm (Lament for Our Dreams of a Better World for Our Children)” is marked by a sense of regret and remorse that’s countered by a glistening optimism and a lightness of spirit. Similarly, “Ships Who Pass In Darkness (Meditations on The Despair of Loneliness)” aches with a yearning for connection and community that falls just out of reach. Its tension is palpable but never fully resolves, which is indicative of Rehlinger’s ability to translate the human condition into sound and music.
As Victor Hugo’s quote above suggests, in order to accept and understand sorrow, humanity must first learn to experience and express it fully rather than suppress and try to stifle it. In exploring grief and loss as creatively and thoroughly as it does, Ten Sorrows feels visionary and enlightened.
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