As the world reels over the tragic loss of Robin Williams, many artists are also paying tribute. One such tribute manages to capture Williams’ spirited eccentricity in classical composition rather than words, and it is certainly worth hearing. Written and performed by piano virtuoso Mike Garson, Sonata 17 sets slowly in motion, before gradually fragmenting, livening, piecing itself together again, and then carrying on once more in peacefulness.
There is, however, not a moment of pure stillness in Garson’s composition. Something is continually on the move, anticipating a fracture of either joy or melancholy. Even the peace engendered isn’t always as peaceful as one hopes, as a much darker melancholy seems to simmer underneath it. It is no less than astonishing to hear a life and an entire temperament so well told through music. This owes both to Garson’s gift of composition as well as Williams’ inventive, mercurial personality, a temperament that brought joy to others as it swallowed its artist whole.
Garson himself says of the sonata:
“Robin Williams was my favorite comedian. Like the rest of the world, I admired Robin and the work he created. After hearing of his passing my thoughts turned to a sonata I wrote for him in 1999 after being so moved by his cumulative legacy. I wanted terribly to get this song to him at the time but had no idea how to as I’d have been just one of his millions of fans. In any case, today I share that song I wrote for Robin with the world. It’s a classical piece – one that may not be easily digested. I hope I was able to tap into his brilliance… and perhaps some of the pain.”
Listen to Sonata 17 below.
Another heartrending tribute to Williams comes from Marc Maron, who reposted his very revealing, very truthful conversation with the comedian from April 2010. Maron takes the first few minutes of the podcast to be openly vulnerable and speak about Williams’ bout with depression, holding back his tears throughout. This is a tribute in words, but those words are heartfelt and the emotions behind it staggering. Listen to it here.
To remember Williams for the smiles he engendered and the art he embodied, here is another musical moment with him, as he covers The Beatles’ Come Together with a little help from Bobby McFerrin.
Rest in peace, Mr. Williams.