Stephen Horenstein
Music, Arts and Society

The First Time I Died

I was riding gunshot in the aging VW beetle. The driver was still on a learner’s permit. No one knew. Route 5, Springfield MA.  A huge semitrailer passed on the right.  The VW was sucked into the truck’s vortex, and started turning over and over again, smashing against the guard rail.  Smoke encircled the wreckage. When I awoke, I was pinned down by the car wreckage.  No one was around to rescue me. So I died. When I awoke, I saw two truck drivers running away. The VW was on fire. I grabbed the hot metal frame by my bare hands, and with the strength of Prometheus, lifted the thing of my back. I crawled snake-like.  No one was there. So I died again. When I awoke, I saw nothing but myself and a bright light at the end of a tunnel. The grass beneath me was soft as a cushion. I fell back to sleep, never to get up again. When I awoke I was still sprawled on the grass, but this time a few people gawked. I hurt. Soon police arrived. They scrawled a few things down.  They knew I was in no shape to answer. They approached a friend. She had amnesia. Then they brought the dogs. They found nothing. I fell asleep. When I awoke, the glaring white lights blinded me. The sound of motors penetrated my brain. I remembered nothing. The smell of rubber permeated the air. I tried to move my legs, but there was no feeling, none whatsoever. Red lights appeared. Then suddenly I died. This time I did not awaken. Not for some time. Soon it was time to call someone, but I could not remember the number. I could not remember by name.  The police were gone. So were the dogs. Even the trucks disappeared. In the middle of the room a gigantic fountain appeared, and when I awoke I was somewhere in Italy. Somewhere in Tuscany. Not a soul around. My body ached. A small old woman stooped down to offer me wine. I drank. Then fell asleep. Later that night, I died.

“Facets” for Bb Trumpet and Bb Tenor Saxophone, by Stephen Horenstein (ASCAP/ACUM). (Click title of piece to hear recording.) Ben Fish, trumpet; the composer on Bb tenor saxophone.

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About the Author
Stephen Horenstein is a composer, researcher and educator. His repertoire of musical works has been performed and recorded worldwide. He has been a recipient of the Israel Prime Minister's Prize for Composers and the National Endowment of the Arts (USA). His teaching has included Bennington College, Brandeis University, Tel Aviv University, Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance; residencies at Stanford University, York University, California Institute of the Arts, and others. He is Founder and Director of the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Music, established in 1988 to bring the music of our time to a wider audience.
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