Music

GUY RAZ, HOST:

Now to a story about music in unexpected places.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAZ: Musician David Young is a New Age artist who records the sort of atmospheric music you'd hear in spas or doctor's offices. This is actually his music we're hearing now. And there's one other place David Young's work is heard.

DAVID YOUNG: So there was this lady who for like six months was calling my office. And she only wanted to talk to me. And so finally, after six months, she called on a day when I happened to be there, you know? And she was all excited. She says, well, you know, the reason why I've been calling you is because I want to make sure I have the proper licensing to use one of your songs at a funeral. I said, well, what song is it? She said, "Amazing Grace."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AMAZING GRACE")

YOUNG: And I said, well, sure. I mean, you can use it. And, and you know, if you want, you can fax over something and I'll sign it. I said, when is the funeral? And she says, well, I'm not really sure. I said, well, do you know who the funeral is for? And she says, yeah. It's for my funeral.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG," AMAZING GRACE")

YOUNG: And I said, well, ma'am, it's going to cost you. No, I - I'm just kidding. Just kidding. I didn't say that.

(LAUGHTER)

RAZ: So how did this all happen? Our producer Brent Baughman picks up the story from here.

BRENT BAUGHMAN, BYLINE: It started back when David Young, who says he's sold a million CDs over his 25-year career, met a guy named Craig Caldwell.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEPHONE RINGING)

CRAIG CALDWELL: Hello. So, yeah, I'm just going to run outside. It's where I can take the call, okay?

BAUGHMAN: I caught up with Caldwell in the UK.

CALDWELL: There's actually a conference over here, funeral service embalmers. And so we're here for the conference for the next three days.

BAUGHMAN: Caldwell is the vice president of business development for the Dodge Company. It's one of the largest funeral supply companies in the world. And six years ago, at a convention in Chicago, he heard David Young's music for the first time.

CALDWELL: We came across a small stand selling a lot of New Age type of products, and they were playing some of David's music. And it just seemed able to lend itself to funeral services but really has a softness to it that makes somebody remember a particular time and point that they shared with the person that passed away.

BAUGHMAN: So Craig Caldwell got in touch with David Young.

YOUNG: And he wanted to make my music available for the funeral homes that, you know, they were selling all products to.

BAUGHMAN: So whenever Craig Caldwell sold caskets or embalming chemicals to funeral home directors, he pitched them on David Young's music as well. Soon, Young was attending funeral show conventions selling his music alongside more typical vendors.

YOUNG: Oh, gosh, like, embalming tools and caskets. There were caskets everywhere. Things that you really don't ever want to have to look at, at all, you know.

BAUGHMAN: A few years ago, writer Nicole Pasulka noticed an ad for David Young's music in a funeral trade magazine. The tagline?

NICOLE PASULKA: Set the right tone for your funeral. Yeah.

BAUGHMAN: Pasulka wrote about David Young for an online magazine called The Morning News. And it struck her that many of David Young's songs were interpretations of popular songs that a funeral audience might know, like "Scarborough Fair"...

PASULKA: "Con Te Partiro" is another one that David does.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CON TE PARTIRO")

BAUGHMAN: But put through a kind of filter.

PASULKA: Softened, even. Like, even more reassuring, less complex. But I think what he's selling is the filter.

BAUGHMAN: And he's still selling it. David Young says sales fluctuate, but funeral directors provide a nice supplement to the business he normally does with spas and doctors' offices.

YOUNG: I think that the reason why they want to have music in a funeral home is because the silence lets our mind be free to run around with whatever thoughts that we have. And if somebody's in a funeral home, they're very likely to be having pretty sad thoughts.

BAUGHMAN: But is David Young selling music or Muzak? And is one necessarily better than the other? Again, Nicole Pasulka.

PASULKA: There's that quote, "Muzak fills the deadly silence," you know? I think there's a thing about it being quiet. And we don't even notice it anymore. It's just not supposed to be quiet. And in a funeral home, if silence does equal death, then silence is the last thing that we want.

YOUNG: You know, because people ask: What is it like playing at a funeral convention? And I'll just say: You know, it was a really dead show.

(LAUGHTER)

RAZ: Our story on David Young was reported by our producer Brent Baughman.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from