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No Thing Can Die as Others Do
By James M. Stephenson
text: Edna St. Vincent Millay
in memoriam: Stephen Paulus
(in a letter sent to friends after Stephen Paulus’ passing)
“Dear Friends: As I imagine is the case with many of you, I am having a really difficult time coming to grips with Stephen’s passing. I have found myself in tears on several occasions, and frankly, again, right now. Stephen and I met in 2007, when we both had music played on the same program. Now – I say we met… but, the truth is, he was the one who initiated the contact. I knew of him and his music, of course, and was pretty much a “deer in headlights” when near him that day.
Well – true to Stephen’s form (as I would subsequently come to discover) – he found me, was extremely nice and complimentary, and we had a long conversation. Every time I saw him thereafter, it was like seeing an old friend – he was funny, curious about what was going with me and my career, and also offering advice, which I still follow to this day.
In many ways, I relate to him very much. (and this was confirmed listening to the radio broadcasts and archived interviews with him over the past couple of days). Actually, it’s almost scary – and please mind you, I’m not making artistic comparisons as if I’m his equal – but he would call his music neo-romantic, but quickly diffuse the negative connotation that exists currently; he would describe his music as both rhythmic and lyrical. He liked joking around. He loved text. He’s self-published
(one of the first success stories in that regard that I can think of). All of these things I would use to describe a lot of my characteristics, both personally and musically. (plus we’re both thin with brown hair – but he had more hair!)
In the days since his passing, I have read many tributes, where people have spoken with such eloquence. I have never been blessed with the ability to speak as such, and so I have found myself these past few days really struggling with how to express my sadness. The only way I know how to express my thoughts is through music. And so – last night – I wrote a little SATB choral score in Stephen’s honor,
and in his memory. The words come from something I read that Stephen’s collaborator, Michael Dennis Browne, shared, as he thought of Stephen’s passing:
by Edna St Vincent Millay about the death of a poet:
“No thing that ever flew, / Not the lark, not you, / Can die as others do.”
I owe Steve so much, and this is the only way I could think to try to repay some of what he gave to me.
I knew I could count on seeing him every December at the Midwest Clinic here in my hometown of Chicago, and I will be so sad when I’m there this year, to only be reminded again that he is gone.”
Jim Stephenson; October 22, 2014
Jim Stephenson; June 3, 2016