Immersed in setting several brief poems about impermanence for soprano and chamber orchestra, coupled with my having read this morning a passage by the Dalai Lama, thoughtfully posted on Facebook by Peter Levitt, while on a long morning walk, I got to reflecting on how even the smallest of actions, over time, can unexpectedly snowball, causing, with all of those infinite billiard balls out there colliding with one another and spinning off in different directions, endless unanticipated results – in other words, the butterfly effect.
Given my own interests, I thought about what the world might have been like had Bach, Mozart, Beethoven or other inspiring composers, died in infancy, or chosen to spend their time differently than working diligently in solitude, often in cramped, uncomfortable quarters, scribbling down notes on paper. Could they have imagined the power those black dots would have far into their futures? Countless numbers of musicians practicing to interpret the notes, people deciding to leave their homes to hear that music in concert halls with all of the collisions of life along the way, and hundreds of years later, people moving their thumbs to download the sound of those notes onto little handheld machines, with headphones on, listening as they walk about. Continual impacts on the thoughts and emotions that fill humanity and translate into how people act.
Then I thought about the powerful men, who in their own time, crashed into the world with tremendous impact, stirring up wars, fiercely wielding the levers of power, and more often than not, leaving terror and despair in their wake. Yet, however big the splash they made while alive, over time, the ripples fade and disappear, until, like Ozymandias, they are entirely still, swallowed up by the lone and level sands, their influence null, while the works of the world’s great artists and thinkers carries on, palaces of the mind built to last.
And all the while, music reflecting impermanence was floating around, the sounds of brass, strings and woodwinds, swelling into a roar, then disappearing into silence. Too bad, that with my memory, most of these sounds are as ephemeral as dreams, never lasting long enough to get down on paper.