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At Your Funeral: Striking the Mood with NIN, Radiohead, LCD et al.

on November 08, 2010, 1:15pm

I think it’s a safe bet to say we think about death a lot. As humans, we are fully aware of what our future holds…the inevitable removal from humanity. I have no idea if other species are aware that they have an expiration date, but I know I do, and I think about it quite often. This is not to sound totally dark and pessimistic either. I just constantly wonder how my (as of now) fulfilling and enjoyable life will come to an end, and more importantly, how the people I leave behind will perceive it.

Our own death never affects us emotionally, but it always leaves those behind in a great amount of emotional pain. Fat Mike said it best on the NOFX track, “Doornails”, when he sang, “You know suicide isn’t painless/When you leave everyone in pain,” and while he was talking about a self-inflicted demise, he makes a valid point. We personally (unless we become ghosts) never get to see our own funeral, and as a result, never see how we truly effected those around us during our time.

However, what makes our time worthwhile and special are the things we think about that aren’t death, whatever they may be. These are the kind of things that symbolize who you are while you’re alive. So, what do I think about that symbolizes me? Ideally, that would be filmmaking and music. In fact, for me, the two usually go hand in hand. Music is pretty much in my head constantly. If I’m plugging away at work, chances are a song like Deadmau5’s “Ghosts N’ Stuff” is on repeat within my cranium. And when I sit down to actually listen to music, memories, moments, and events come into mind and form little montages of thought. And of course, some songs indeed provoke the image of me being lowered six feet underground. Basically, my thoughts indicate that I am a huge dork, but while your ideologies and loves represent you while you are alive, your demise dictates how you will be remembered.

This is why thinking of how I would want people to perceive me at my funeral is not an easy task and choosing a song for my funeral is the most difficult decision I could ever possibly make. The reason for it is this; I have no idea how I am going to die. It is well within my power to make the decision of what song gets played at my funeral, but how will I know it’s the right choice at the time? Logic would dictate that the song I choose would just be a summary of who I am and the life I lived, but if I were to pick that now, it’d be so unfair. Songs could come out within the next years I’m alive that summarize me as a person better than what I leave on my will, and then it would be annoying to constantly call my lawyer telling him to change my song of choice from “Champagne Supernova” to some magical new Thom Yorke song.

Based on that, I would want the song to be reflective of the time in my life I died, and, due to that, there are two major circumstances in which I could divide the song choices up for my burial. The first circumstance would be a young and untimely death. This happens more than one might think. People die all the time from car accidents, being too extreme, overdosing on drugs, etc. If my death were to be like that, I’d want a song that is more sad, preferably in a minor key, that causes people to cry while reflecting on the life I had. I would want the song to be somber, but in a way that after a good cry, they feel better.

One track I have always imagined playing in this scenario is the Nine Inch Nails instrumental, “A Warm Place”, preferably if I was being cremated. While it’s an emotionally provoking piece, it would cause people to reflect on times that we shared, that they’ll be able to cherish forever, even though my body is six feet underground. Other songs for this scenario that I could see include Radiohead’s “How to Disappear Completely”, David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?”, or Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”. Basically any song that allows them to understand that I wish I could still be alive, but fate obviously had it in for me. These songs would cause tears and memories to flow like wine, but after that, people would certainly feel a bit better remembering the past.

The second circumstance would be dying of natural causes. If I live to be 80, have a wife, kids, prosperous career doing something creative and then die of old age, or in sickness, I don’t want people to be sad. When you have lived a life like that, your timely death will not be mourned in the same sense. Clearly, I lived a long life, and did some great things; therefore my demise should be appreciated and respected, so they should play a song that is symbolic of whom I was as a person. This is the only time when who you were is not totally distinguished by your death. Personally, I’ve always said I wanted “Smells like Teen Spirit” to play at my funeral. Why? Because people would remember how weird, sporadic, and intense I was as a person and that is how my memory would be preserved. Other choices I have considered include the Sex Pistols’ “Holiday in the Sun” for a marching out punk finale, Phish’s “The Curtain (With)”, but only if everybody broke out into spontaneous dancing, or LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends”, so people can remember how important they were to me.

Basically, going to film school made it impossible for me to choose something like this. All I can think of in my mind is if the song captures the moment right, whether or not the lighting matches, weather, time of day, but more importantly the scenario. We have no idea how we are going to die, and we have no idea which song will best represent us at the time of our death. Ten years ago, any Weezer song would have suited me best, but now the song I listen to most is LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean”. Ultimately, I won’t know, and won’t have a say, but I just hope those I leave behind get the moment right…..good-byes are easier when perfectly orchestrated.

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