I heard that the BBC radio program, Desert Island Discs, turned 70 this year. If you aren’t familiar, the concept is that famous guests are asked what album they would bring to a desert island. For me, I would bring just this one song, Clair de Lune. Clair de Lune is a lifetime, a universe captured in a single song. The entire human experience is painted out on this masterful canvas by Claude Debussy and performed here by Francois-Joel Thiollier.
It starts like two raindrops hitting a mirror surface of water, rings expanding into nothingness. Each step, each note is a deliberate and tentative movement of spring. Green shoots poke from the ground, a fawn takes its first shaky steps, then rain begins to fall. Springtime rain, a simple shower defeated by sun that bursts through in golden warmth, swallows looping and soaring in animate joy as the Earth drinks up this gift of water. Then comes a plea, a low rumble of notes followed by an increasingly passionate call to action. The untethered emotion of the juvenile, caught between adult forces and childlike wonder, makes its dance of grand sweeping gestures. There’s a bittersweet stanza that cries out in raw emotion yet still celebrates beauty in unashamed sheets of notes. A steady tempo of mid-range notes describes the pace of adult work with a floating melody above that finally dissolves into the finest porcelain delicacy that comes with time, reflection, and loss. The tentative steps of old age finish the song, just as hesitant as spring, but more learned in the facets of beauty, the angles of life that unfold behind you in an origami trail. Then you disappear just as you came, raindrops plinking into concentric rings and expanding outward into nothingness.