What matters? Few things. The people I care about. Health. Music. My books. That’s it. Anything else seems more like a product of human vanity than a real need. But do I really need all that music? All those books? I never was obsessed by my health. So what is left? The people I care about. It is time then to be grateful for what I have. To thank God that I suffer no real needs.
Those thoughts crossed my mind on a winter morning long ago while I was driving to work. I listened to Sainte Colombe’s “Couplets” when I decided to stop at this stone cross in the middle of almost nowhere.
For eleven years I had been passing this place, but up to that day the cross never really had caught my attention. That day was different. I was worried and upset about something I had said to someone. It was tormenting me and the music made me meditate about what matters and how fragile human relationships are. How precious they are. How many people do I really care about? How many people really care about me? We take those for granted. They aren’t. Usually we realize this when it is too late.
Jean de Sainte Colombe. An obscure person in that sense that we do not know much about him. He was most likely born in 1658 and died around 1687. Oxford Music Online informs us that he was certainly dead by 1701, when another French Baroque composer, Marin Marais, published a piece to commemorate Sainte Colombe’s death. Well, then. He was a French viol player and wrote around 180 solo bass viol pieces and 67 pieces for two viol players.
Findings and changes
The German viol player Hille Perl has recorded in 1997 several of his pieces. I have mentioned the “Couplets” already. Equally noteworthy are “Le Retrouvé” (What/whom we found back) and “Le Changé” (What/whom has changed), the two pieces that gave the album its name “Retrouvé & Changé“. Two pieces that fit nicely into my meditations along with “Tombeau des Regrets” (Tomb of regrets).
Listening to that lonely viol accompanied by a lute, an arch lute or a theorbo, makes me feel small, humble, vulnerable. The music stirs me up a lot. At the same time it says: “It’s not all bad. Look out hard and find the positive aspect of the situation!” The music is sad, but not desperate. The music is emotional and therefore beautiful. It looks back and at the same time it says: “Move on! Act. Mend that relationship! Become human again!” There it is: Become human again. This music makes me feel humble and therefore human.
© Charles Thibo