The End: Peter Silberman of The Antlers on Endings and Death
"Given the choice, I think I'd prefer to die in space."
Apr 07, 2017
Photography by Justin Hollar Web Exclusive
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To end out the week, we ask The Antlers' frontman Peter Silberman some questions about endings and death. The Antlers have released five full-length albums, their most recent being 2014's Familiars, but this year Silberman released his debut solo album, Impermanence, on ANTI-. The album may only feature six songs, but two (opener "Karuna" and "Gone Beyond") stretch past the 8-minute mark. The meditative album is the result of an unexpected injury, where Silberman temporarily suffered total hearing loss in one ear. Silberman left his noisy Brooklyn neighborhood for the secluded quiet of upstate New York. As his hearing began to improve and he started reintroducing noise into his life, he began writing Impermanence's hushed songs, eventually recording the album with Nicholas Principe at his People Teeth studio in Saugerties, NY. The result is an affecting album about healing. Read on as Silberman discusses how he'd like to die, what song he'd like played at his deathbed, his concepts of heaven and hell, and his favorite endings to books, albums, and movies.
How would you like to die and what age would you like to be?
Given the choice, I think I'd prefer to die in space. If you were to travel out far enough, maybe a decaying body could germinate another world on the verge of supporting life but needing some help. By the time that's possible, I imagine I'd be well over a hundred years old, unless interstellar travel speeds way the hell up.
What song would you like to be playing at your deathbed?
Dying to Gavin Bryars' "The Sinking of the Titanic" would be a fitting transition. Listening feels like descending into an abyss, like being covered by heavy waves and subsumed into darkness.
What's your favorite ending to a movie?
It's hard to choose just one, and impossible to choose any without spoiling a film. But the finale of 2001: A Space Odyssey might be my winner. That gorgeous sequence of traveling through the stargate's patterns and prisms, followed by the scientist transcending time into a white-lit bedroom, encountering himself as an old man. I find it deeply disturbing.
What's your favorite last line in a book?
For the past few years, it's been the penultimate page of Ram Dass' Be Here Now, which says "You're on a bridge, watching yourself go by." It's a beautifully simple metaphor for meditation and self-reflection, witnessing your life unfold with curiosity and detachment.
What's your favorite last song on an album?
Yo La Tengo's "Night Falls on Hoboken" is an ending I could happily listen to at any moment. Eighteen minutes of twilight to encapsulate the transition from daylight to evening, just as streetlights begin to turn on.
What's your favorite last album by a band who then broke up?
Talk Talk's Laughing Stock sounds to me like the end of time. It's the last of life, the leftover organisms shrouded in a dark evening before finally giving in to their extinction.
What's your concept of the afterlife?
Possibly a state of being that doesn't even marginally resemble this life, where individual consciousness is dissolved in a sea of an all-encompassing consciousness and you no longer identify as an individual or as a person in a body. Time would be non-linear, possibly circular and immeasurable, experienced all at once without beginning or end.
What would be the worst punishment the devil could devise for you in hell, if he exists?
There are so many people born into conditions of poverty and violence that rival any devil's imagination. Hell is a place on Earth, he wouldn't have to get all that creative.
If reincarnation exists, who or what would you like to be reincarnated as?
I'd like to be reincarnated as myself, with the strange intuition that I've lived my life already. It'd be as if I was experiencing a rerun, with moments of clarity, but spending the majority of the time uncertain about it.
What would you like your last words to be?
I doubt my last words will bear all that much significance. I hope in my last breaths I can communicate something about the extraordinary nature of being alive and having completed an entire life, and some indication that much of what I'd spent my time preoccupied about turned out to be relatively unimportant. I hope I die laughing.
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