Among other pieces by Bach, Telemann and Händel, my daughters performed Charles Ives’s Unanswered Question. I’ve always liked the piece though it’s not music I’d go looking for. The music is programmatic. The strings, as Ives described them, represent “The Silence of the Druids—who Know, See and Hear Nothing” The horns ask “The Perennial Question of Existence” repeatedly and the woodwinds speak to the answerers, humanity, who become increasingly vexed by their inability to answer the question, their efforts ending in a final burst of dissonance. The question is asked a last time and is answered by the “The Silences”, left in “Undisturbed Solitude”.
But to me the answer has always been the question.
That is, the point isn’t to answer the question but to ask it. It’s up to you, but if you suppose life doesn’t begin or end with birth or death, then there must be a reason for the silence. And the reason, perhaps, is that we’re meant to ask the perennial question for the duration of our existence in this world. What does it mean to never know whether our being will blink out of existence?—to never know, with certainty, that our lives matter?—to never know whether we’re part of a greater creative mind and being?
Who will you reveal yourself to be?
It’s a beautiful question, really, and perhaps with all the world’s beauty, brutality, joy and tragedy, we answer it solely in the ways we ask it.
····only my own tears—her lost toy years
191 May 15th 2016 | bottlecap