Exploring Grace Through Grief: Composer Tina Davidson
Dec 01, 2012 01:03AM
● By Linda Sechrist
Although everyone’s life is made up of stories, some narratives, such as those written by Tina Davidson—a highly regarded American composer and educator—are so moving and inspiring that they simply must be told. Davidson, the author of a recently completed memoir, Grief’s Grace, uses her authentic musical voice to tell the fascinating and uplifting story that reveals how music saved her life.
Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Davidson grew up in Oneonta, New York and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the age of 5, she began playing the piano, and by age 7, was practicing an hour a day. “My mother, a literature professor, and my father, a research scientist, were also musical,” says Davidson, who is the recipient of numerous prestigious grants and fellowships.
Davidson’s beginnings were dark. Placed in a foster home in Sweden at 6 months, she lived for three years with a wonderful Swedish family. “I bonded deeply with my foster mother, Solvig, and my three brothers. When I returned to life with my mother, I experienced it as the death of my entire Swedish family,” explains Davidson, who secretly carried around a sense of grief until her daughter was born. The birth triggered 30-year-old memories of loss and sadness that were often mirrored in the titles of her compositions, particularly Dark Child Sings.
A desire to be present for her young daughter transformed Davidson’s grieving process into a quest for understanding herself in the context of how she was connected to a larger spiritual world. Her music reflected this progression, with titles such as Woman Dreaming, Fire on the Fountain and Celestial Turnings. “My music is both the present me and the future—where the possibilities of healing exist,” notes Davidson, whose work has been widely performed by many musical groups and orchestras and commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra and Kronos Quartet, among other ensembles.
The Pittsburgh Press describes Davidson’s musical compositions in terms of their transparency. It is the same crystal clarity that is evident in her ability to eloquently describe her journey with grief, which has yielded a harvest of valuable insights. She explains them metaphorically: “Grief is like a hundred years of rain, it pours, it thrashes, it floods. Finally, there is a day between downpours. Still steamy and moist, the sun is colorless behind the clouds, a lull, a break in the weather. Grief’s grace, like a dewy mist, is the soft smell of spring returned.”
Davidson lives in Marietta, where she teaches piano, cello and composition for people of all ages. Her home, a 150-year old church, is large enough not only for her studio, but also live concerts, which feature her students playing the musical compositions that they write.