Vonnegut's Epitaph

Cat's Cradle was one of the first adult novels I can remember reading. I found it in my parents' bookshelves when I was in high school, and from there, I was off and running--from Slaughterhouse Five and Slapstick to Timequake and God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian, in which a character named Kurt Vonnegut is a reporter for New York's public radio station, WNYC, reporting from the afterlife. (When I read that one, I was a WNYC reporter.)

About a year ago, I interviewed him for New York magazine about an updated libretto he'd written to Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale for the ensemble New York Philomusica.

Naturally, we got to talking music. That's when he told me what he wanted his epitaph to be.

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KV: My epitaph should be--and I am honorary president of the American Humanist Association--"The only proof he needed of the existence of god was music." It's meant a tremendous amount to me. I'm grateful, I'm really grateful for what music has done for me. Why it works, I can't imagine.

AZ: What music do you love?

KV: Everything but rap. All jazz. I used to play clarinet. I've been listening to [W]QXR, and whatever they've got on--woo. A couple of days ago, they played Kurt Weill's music from Lady in the Dark, which I'd never heard--ooh, boy! (laughing) I really got off on this stuff! I'll tell you, one of the greatest pieces of music ever written is the piccolo counter melody to Stars and Stripes Forever. I love it whenever I hear it!

AZ: Have you written anything else that's been set to music?

KV: I wrote a secular requiem, where there's nothing to fear in the afterlife, so I just had everybody sleep, cause I like sleep.