You are dead. Will you be remembered with music? Commemorating a single life is usually straightforward; everyone has at least a favorite song or two. I smiled at my friend Fred's funeral when REO Speedwagon's "Live Every Moment" began dribbling through the speakers. The music, though treacly, was a brave choice for a macho guy of my generation: In 1984, I muttered something nice about REO Speedwagon to my fellow burger-flippers only to be menaced with a raised fist and a battle cry, "You mean REO FAGwagon!"
Tending the collective dead with music is more complicated. As the bodies pile up, the cumulative anonymity of every lost soul blurs grief into an amorphous sense of loss. Despite its grim mission—to promulgate the music of those who perished in the Holocaust—Seattle's Music of Remembrance (MOR) resists the temptation to make one piece or one song stand for many by serving as an ongoing, perpetually renewing memorial. Endowed with a rotating collective of excellent chamber musicians, MOR not only revives forgotten composers such as Viktor Ullmann, Gideon Klein, and Hans Krasa, but asks living composers to respond to the Holocaust.
MOR begins its 12th season (Sat Oct 10, Plestcheeff Auditorium at SAM, 2 pm, free) with Klein's Duo for violin and cello, "Prayer" for double bass by Ernest Bloch, and Paul Schoenfield's Camp Songs, based on dramatic texts by Aleksander Kulisiewicz, a Polish dissident imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Composed in 2002, the Songs typify the strengths and weaknesses of MOR's new and new-ish music that leans too heavily on song cycles—some of which are good, like Jake Heggie's For a Look or a Touch—with too infrequent forays into radical pieces, like Steve Reich's Different Trains. MOR is overdue to present Luigi Nono's caustic 1965 masterpiece Remember what they did to you at Auschwitz, or at least commission work that connects the Holocaust to other 20th-century genocides (e.g., Armenia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur).
Later that day, guitarist and installation artist Dave Knott plays music from his self-released disc Sweet Little Guitar Ditties (Sat Oct 10, Wall of Sound, 315 E Pine St, 6:30 pm, free). If you haven't encountered Knott with Sun City Girls, Animist Orchestra, or Matt Shoemaker, you have probably strummed or twanged one his stringboard installations at Wall of Sound, Cornish College, Jack Straw, Gallery 1412, or by the Aurora Bridge. Here he debuts short guitar pieces that, according to guitarist Sir Richard Bishop, "bring me back to those fleeting moments where thought stands still and all that is left is ethereal melody. Yes, short and sweet, but in no way simple."