I was in my upper west side apartment late on a Sunday evening...probably watching TV. A special bulletin came over - that John Lennon had been shot outside his apartment building, 11 blocks from where I sat. It was confirmed that he had been pronounced dead at Roosevelt Hospital around 11:30, December 8, 1980. He had lost 80% of his blood. One of the largest figures in music, and for years now, in the peace movement, had been assassinated by some smirking little creep - just like President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy. Stunned and in disbelief I said aloud to no one, "I have just heard the news...of another saint..."
The next day, I and countless mourners gathered on the streets outside the Dakota. It was quiet. The feeling was of despairing emptiness, tragic sadness, drift. When I returned home at dusk, I sat down at the piano and began the ostinato of which this piece begins. The right hand took the words, "I have just heard the news..." and made them music. I cried a lot over the keyboard that evening.
In the Aria Gratias, I have tried to express the sadness of this event. I also wanted to try to show what John may have been experiencing as his life slipped away from him, and from us. When the life force is moving from the body it reaches toward the familiar it recalls from being in spirit. The brain is thinking, perhaps, "I'm gonna be ok", or "I think I'm gonna die." These thoughts become fainter, and the fear fades too - because the soul knows exactly where it is going. How can there be any doubt when it is being pulled forward, surrounded by incomprehensible loving light. So there are many moments in the Aria that are not sad at all.
John Lennon was certainly no saint. But he and Yoko Ono belonged to that part of humanity that strives for a world of peace, driven by the principles of divine love. This is our heritage, our spiritual DNA, existing in us all. It is our legacy - believing that it is possible for us to yet create a heaven on earth. And so it shall be. Imagine that.
The Aria Gratias was originally written for Piano. It was scored for Piano & Strings in August, 2015.