New Year's gift of music opens up wondrous world
BY C.S. MORRISSEY
“God is love,” said Pope Francis in his Mass at Santa Marta dedicated to the victims of the terrorist attack in Paris. Francis prayed for God to change the hearts of “the cruel ones,” who have caused “so much cruelty, human cruelty.”
The Pope pointed out that God’s love is not “soap opera love,” but instead a “sound, strong love,” a “concrete love, a love of works, and not of words.” For this reason, “it takes a lifetime to know God: a journey, a journey of love, of knowledge, of love for our neighbour, of love for those who hate us, of love for all.”
So let’s not allow violence and cruelty to inaugurate the New Year. I have a different story to usher it in.
Dave Kerzner is a Florida musician who grew up listening to accomplished bands like Pink Floyd, Genesis, the Beatles, Yes, and Rush. You can hear all these musical influences on his solo album New World, which came out in December in a one-disc version.
Because the album tells an epic science-fiction story, New World: Deluxe Edition is being released this January in an expanded two-disc format, which gives Dave’s “progressive rock” concept album the full-length treatment.
Then, on New Year’s Eve, Dave happened to meet a 17-year-old boy with brain damage whose birthday was on New Year’s Eve. “He has issues such as an inability to speak and other difficulties,” said Dave.
“It happened so fast. I wasn’t prepared. But, as soon as I heard it was his birthday, I asked his relative if he liked music. When they said yes, I said, ‘Hold on a minute,’ and I happened to have one in my coat,” said Dave. “I gave it to him and explained it was my music on the CD.”
The boy’s reaction to the spontaneous birthday present surprised Dave. “I don’t think anyone ever gave him a CD of their music before. He was so excited it was priceless. I had to hide my tears which were about to explode out of my eyes,” he said.
Dave is the CEO of Sonic Reality, a software company that samples instruments and programs sounds. This has put him in personal contact with the top talent in the music industry. For example, Dave worked with Simon Collins, son of Phil Collins, to form the group Sound of Contact, and Dave co-wrote and co-produced their debut album, Dimensionaut (2013). While Dave’s latest album marks his debut as a solo artist, New World (2014) is still a collaborative effort with many famous “big name” musical guest stars. In other words, this is the world Dave moves in, a world where the exchange of CDs between music industry types is not an unusual daily event.
But for that 17-year-old boy, it was something special. “He was so happy he gave me a hug and put his head to mine. I wasn’t expecting that,” said Dave, “and it was deep. It was like he was trying to break through as best he could to let me know how much he appreciated it.”
Seeing Dave’s gift through the boy’s eyes can help awaken gratitude in us for any of the wondrous, everyday gifts we take for granted. For the boy, the wondrous gift was a CD of music. For us, the wondrous gift is our ability to communicate verbally, something we take for granted, until we meet someone who can’t.
“They told me the story how he was born after I gave him the CD,” said Dave. “Because it was a holiday” on the New Year’s Eve when the boy was born, “the doctor wasn’t available, and there were complications at birth where there wasn’t enough oxygen to his brain so, because of that, it was damaged,” Dave explained.
“Apparently it was even an accidental pregnancy,” added Dave. But, like all of us alive today, the boy was given the wondrous gift of life.
“I was so glad I had a CD of my own music to share with him,” said Dave. “Then it was lumps in my throat thinking about it the whole night.”
Dave said the experience made him reflect and wonder about what the boy actually experiences when he listens to music. “I’m not sure to what extent his brain damage is,” said Dave.
“He tried to speak a little bit too when he was responding to the happy birthday wishes. But he couldn’t form a word. Heartbreaking,” said Dave. “It didn’t matter though, as we knew what he was trying to say. Sometimes words aren’t even necessary.”
Dave collects vintage keyboards with indescribably unique sounds. He is also a master at creating complex soundscapes with his innovative music software. With uncanny sonic accuracy, his New World album begins by sounding like a missing side three of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. A true joy to listen to, Dave’s album is one of the best I have ever heard.
Dave says the title track of New World is about “being present and appreciating the depth of each moment. Life is what’s happening right now! Leave the past behind. Happy New Year!”
C.S. Morrissey is an associate professor of philosophy at Redeemer Pacific College.