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What Death Taught Me About Music Production

Updated: Jun 26

On Thanksgiving eve, my grandfather (he helped my single mom raise me, so he was also a father to me) suddenly died. I was staying with him and my grandmother at the time, so the experience was visceral; it took hours for the funeral home to pick up his body and it was my first time witnessing a corpse that hadn’t been made up to not look – to put it mildly – horrific. 


A few facts I never knew until that day:


  • In death, the pupils continue to dilate until the eyes are completely engulfed in black.


  • EMTs are so chronically exhausted they might accidentally leave a massive intubation tube inside the deceased's throat, and by the time they send someone back to remove it, the rigor mortis will have frozen their broken, bloody jaw into a position so ungodly I’d like to permanently erase it from my memory. 


  • Funeral home directors are as creepy and twitchy in real life as they are in the collective unconscious.


The day before, I had discovered “Seabird” by the Alessi Brothers. Something compelled me to keep it on repeat from sunrise to sunset. As much as I love music, it’s rare for me to do that. Peace and quiet are an important part of my routine. 


From the moment he took his last breath to the moment his body was carted away, the tree closest to my grandparent’s bedroom window was COVERED in birds. Hundreds of them, shrieking so loudly the whole block noticed. Exclusively on that one tree. The following morning, the birds were gone. The street was silent. 


Before I tell you what happened next, a few lyrics from Seabird:


Suddenly you're with me

I turn and you're not there

Like a ghost, you haunt me


Like an untied dog

You just had to run


Like a lonely seabird

You've been away from land too long

Oh, no, too long


Seabird, seabird

Fly home

Seabird, seabird

Fly home


That night, I told my mother about the fact that I spent almost the entirety of my grandfather’s last day on earth listening to that song. Her face turned slack, mouth agape with that unique combination of wonder and shock that often lingers in the air for days after the portal between heaven and earth suddenly swallows a loved one.


“You know,” she said, “your grandfather told me on multiple occasions that he wants to come back as a bird in his next life.”


In “The 5 Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully,” Frank Ostaseski talks about the importance of cultivating “don’t know mind.” Maintaining an intimate relationship with the unknown plays a critical role not only in the art of living fully, but in the creative process.


My Nonno’s death taught me so many things, but this week, I tell this story to remind you that knowledge and reason will only get you so far. Accepting the vastness of the unknown, rather than reducing our creative powers, only enhances them. 


As you approach your music production process, I encourage you to remain open to the dimensions that exist beyond logic, facts, and conventions. Who knows where it might lead…


Princess Nostalgia

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Thank you so much for sharing this amazing story. I had a similar insight about the disconnection from time that becomes evident when people pass. If time isn't truly linear, then did we ever really lose them? 💗

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Thank you for sharing. Your story reminds me so much of my own experience with my Father dying.


Many years ago when I was young he passed away from cancer. He was living away from me and called me at two in the morning and asked if I could drive him to the hospital. I brought him in and they performed all sorts of tests, and the next day he was told he had an aggressive form of bowel cancer and would only have weeks or maybe a month to live. He fought and lived for two more years.


For those two years I fought by his side against the cancer. We would drive from Vermont to Sloan Kettering Hospital…


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