This new song by Nicholas Zork reflects on the beauty that comes from struggling with the difficulties of life in response to Ecclesiastes 7:1-5.
Read: Days Uncertain lyrics
Composed and Performed By
Wisdom and Folly Compared
1 A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth. 2 It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. 3 Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. 4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. 5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.
“[T]he day of death [is] better than the day of birth” is an odd claim to read at any time. Having recently celebrated the birth of my daughter, Emily, I found it especially challenging. But as I reflected on the passage within the contexts of both its surrounding language and the fragile, politically tumultuous world into which my daughter was born, its wisdom became more evident. In “Days Uncertain,” I explore the tension between the positive possibilities at the beginning of life and a future in which little is certain except death. Ecclesiastes 7:1 implies something I have long suspected about parenting: we do children a disservice by failing to prepare them for the reality of human frailty and finitude and the inevitability of suffering. I’m an ardent optimist. And I want to raise daughters who are perseveringly hopeful people. But I’ve come to believe, through my own experience and by reflecting on wisdom such as that found in Ecclesiastes, that hope can truly persist only as we learn to confront life’s most sobering truths. Hope without such confrontation is delusion — a fleeting prelude to recurring disappointment. So I wanted to offer Emily a welcome song that, while hopeful in a sense, was also written “in the house of mourning.”
Nicholas Zork is a singer-songwriter, composer, arranger, music director and collaborative artist. His songs, academic writing and music practices explore ways that music can resonate, embody meaning, cultivate diverse and inclusive community, and overcome social barriers.
He is the musical director for TINTR (thisisnottheradio.com/tintr), a diverse artists’ community in New York City, with whom he has helped create collaborative concerts at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, Apollo Music Cafe and other venues. He is the artistic director and co-curator for Carnegie Hill Concerts, a chamber music series that features artists of different genres and disciplines in curated, shared programs, bringing people together to participate in the celebration and cultivation of New York City’s diverse community (carnegiehillconcerts.org). And he is a founding partner of SongLab (wearesonglab.com), an online music education community.
Nicholas’ classical compositions have been performed by university and festival choirs, and his music has appeared in numerous television programs.
In addition to frequently writing and recording with other artists, Nicholas also performs his own alternative folk-oriented pop songs. His music has taken him around the United States, Europe and to Australia. Nicholas’ EPs, “Questions I Can’t Answer” and “All We Own,” explore issues of love, loss, doubt and hope through stories — both autobiographical and imagined.