The clip above is from When the Song Dies, a documentary short I learned about from my father-in-law. I wish I could embed the whole thing (you can watch it here), because it’s well worth the 15 minutes. Though music does play a part, the story is much bigger, focusing on cultural mortality and how, when the last person who knows a tradition or song dies, that thing is lost forever. It’s a brutal thought — as true and scary as thinking about your own death. Imagine that you’re the only one in your family who knows the melody to a song that’s been passed down from one generation to the next, only there’s no next generation to teach it to. That’s the situation in which some of the documentary’s Scottish subjects find themselves.
I’m not sure if the director was thinking about this when he was working on the short, but I found myself wondering if this type of cultural death is, itself, dying.