Dinner With The Dead: Questioning Composers From The Great Beyond

Composer Jean Sibelius i i

hide captionHe'd be great to swill gin with, and he might tell us what he did with his mysteriously missing Symphony No. 8.

Getty Images
Composer Jean Sibelius

He'd be great to swill gin with, and he might tell us what he did with his mysteriously missing Symphony No. 8.

Getty Images

How cozy are you with the dead? Nov. 2 happens to be All Souls Day.

Commemoration of those who have passed away is practiced across the globe. Catholics have their venerated saints. Some Eastern cultures pamper their dead ancestors, hoping for favors from the spirit world. Mexico has its "Dia de los Muertos," with brightly decorated altars, marigolds and yummy marzipan skulls. And then there's always the trusty Ouija board for receiving text messages from the spirit world.

Dearly deceased composers deserve a little veneration, too. After all, most of the classical music we love was written by folks who are long gone. Imagine what nuggets of wisdom and wit Mozart or Bach could impart if we could bring them back, even for just one night.

So, here's the deal: In honor of All Souls Day, I'm dubbing this week, "Dinner with the Dead." Which composer would you choose to bring back from the beyond to share a cozy, one-on-one dinner — and maybe drinks and dessert?

I think I'd choose Jean Sibelius. He died in 1957, a lonely, gin-soaked guy in the misty forests of Finland, who had basically shut down as a composer 30 years before. What was he thinking?  Why couldn't he continue writing his luminous symphonic landscapes? And what ever happened to the mysterious — and missing — Symphony No. 8?

Hear Sibelius conduct his own music: "Andante Festivo" (recorded Jan. 1, 1939)

Purchase: iTunes / Archive Music

In the comments section, tell us which composer you would invite over. Set the scene for us. What would you serve? What questions would you ask? What insights would you hope to gain about the music? And how would you explain things like Twitter, iPads and "Glee?"

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