Music, Survival, and 110 Years

It sometimes bothers me that many of the Music Monday posts are obituaries for an acclaimed figure recently lost. But I feel like I can’t help it, because I believe strongly in eulogizing the dead. Life stories are fascinating to me. And if there was ever a person whose life story deserves a tribute here it is Holocaust survivor and classical pianist Alice Herz-Sommer who just passed away at the age of 110. Alice is the subject of an Oscar nominated short documentary The Lady in Number 6, which I really hope wins at the awards ceremony this Sunday.

To describe Alice Herz-Sommer’s life as remarkable would be a spectacular understatement. I am completely in awe of this woman. She carries not an ounce of anger, bitterness, anguish, or sadness. She radiates nothing but joy and gratitude. And the way she speaks about music – Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, etc. – is pure love. From Prague, to a Nazi prison camp, to her apartment in London, here she is, in her own words. RIP Alice, you beautiful extraordinary soul . . .

4 thoughts on “Music, Survival, and 110 Years

  1. patricknicholas says:

    Asked what she had learned in her long life, she would reply: “To know the difference between what is important and what is not important.” Her optimism was tempered by only one thing: “I am an optimist in all things except one. People don’t learn, they don’t learn.”

    • artmodel says:


      Unmitigated optimism has always seemed to me to be one of the most difficult things to sustain, especially over the course of a very long life. I’m not sure if people don’t “learn” or if they learn and still don’t change as a result of anything they’ve learned. I can’t decide.

      Thanks for your comments and highlighting the quotes!


  2. Bill says:

    Thank you. I think that she was remarkable, but that yearning to be made whole — and to use that wholeness, that unity, as a defense against the darkness that threatens us — is a shared portion of the human condition. We may seek/find it in art, or music, or in religion, or in the arms of another human being — but it’s ultimately what transforms an mere existence into a meaningful life — it’s the “pearl of great price.” Good for her and, just maybe — if we’re lucky– good for us.

    • artmodel says:


      I love your comments so much. They are beautifully stated. Your phrase “defense against the darkness” really struck a chord in me.

      Thank you for your thoughtful words.


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