Now this is something
a little different.
How you react to this
slim volume will naturally be coloured
by your attitude to after-death communication.
Dilys Gater is a well-known medium.
My first acquaintance with her writings
came through a book called, ‘A Psychic’s
Casebook’, pretty much a day-by-day
account of what a medium does and, indeed,
has to cope with.
Arnold Bax, of course,
died in 1953. Gater’s method of communication,
we are told almost immediately, is via
trance - a state wherein the medium
puts his/her consciousness to one side,
giving the visitor freedom to communicate
directly to living people. Trance is
certainly something one needs to see
in action – put like this is sounds
pretty unbelievable. But I have seen
it – at the College of Psychic Studies
in South Kensington – and it was an
impressive event. Gater is not a direct
voice medium, in that the voice of Bax
did not come though her. In the taped
sessions her voice remained her own.
Yet she calls upon clairvoyance - describing
images Bax gives her - presumably before
she starts channeling fully – comments
like ‘he’s showing me …’, as Bax drops
an image into her mind, appear regularly.
The volume is interspersed
with atmospheric black-and-white photographs,
plus several inspirational poems (including
the mystic poets William Blake and Edward
Fitzgerald). Paul Gater contributes
several chapters that give background
for the reader: ‘A brief introduction
to Bax’; ‘Bax and Women’; ‘Bax – The
Hidden Man’ and a final 3½ page, ‘A
Short Musical Appreciation of Sir Arnold
Bax’, which includes some discographical
But it is the conversations
that provide most interest. Bax comes
across as a man of intelligence, warmth
and possessed of a real urge to communicate.
There is a Buddhist-like emphasis on
the now, sometimes - describing a nature
scene, he says, ‘It’s enough that it’s
there. The being of it is all that matters’.
He speaks candidly of his depression,
and of his perceived need to hide it
– ‘On the surface I was a … "Laugh
a minute" … There are parts of
one’s life or one’s existence … where
no-one sees and you don’t want them
to see’. He examines his fascination
with the sea. Of his own music, he says,
‘I was a craftsman. I was not an inspirational,
elevated conveyor of abstruse philosophy
through musical notes’. Candid, certainly.
There are inevitable
questions, prime amongst which must
surely be what is music life ‘on the
other side’? The answer – ‘All music
is the same. Don’t ask me about the
Music of the Spheres, because you might
as well be asking me about the Dance
of the Comedians’. Describing his own
musical activities when he was alive,
he says that, ‘If you don’t reach the
boundaries or you don’t try to cross
them, you never get that sense of great
power that is kept in check’. How true.
Personally, I can’t hear this too much
in his music - I’m pretty much weaned
on Boulez and Stockhausen when it comes
to twentieth-century music - but the
sense of adventure is certainly there
for all to hear, the sense of an individual
searching for his own path.
Bax’s views on critics
are pretty dismissive (pp.70-72). Perhaps
the comment, ‘only the ones who play
… the true musicians … are there on
the edge’. Fair play, but someone has
to do it! He’s not too keen on conductors,
either: ‘They are blind sometimes, leading
But perhaps the best
quote comes from Bax on the subject
of his own passing over. ‘The trouble
with dying is that you become dismissed
as dead’. Indeed. And it is good that
Bax has been granted the right of reply.
This is not the first
book of its sort, but it seems to be
the first by a major composer. If the
concept appeals, readers may be interested
in Paul Beards’ ‘The Barbanell Report’
(ISBN 0946259232) in which Maurice Barbanell
reveals his impressions and experiences
post-mortem via medium Marie Cherrie.