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Returning To Music, Tested By Loss

Sunday, October 6, 2013

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Music was Erik Friedlander's refuge when his wife fell ill. Then, in one week, he lost both. The cellist and composer speaks with NPR's Arun Rath about making the new album Claws & Wings after months out of commission.

Cellist and composer Erik Friedlander's new album is titled Claws & Wings.

Cellist and composer Erik Friedlander's new album is titled Claws & Wings. Angelo Merendino

Cellist and composer Erik Friedlander lost his wife of many years, dancer and choreographer Lynn Shapiro, to breast cancer in 2011. She'd been diagnosed a decade earlier, and Friedlander says music became a place of vital release for him as her condition worsened.

"During the difficult years, I did take refuge in working," he says. "It was a place where I could make the rules; where I could control what I could control."

In a bit of irony so precise that Friedlander calls it "almost comical," he lost access to that refuge just a week after his wife's death.

"I have a 15-year-old daughter. We had an argument before she went to school, and she walked out, slammed the door and left her lunch on the table," Friedlander says. "So I thought it would be a good opportunity to sort of mend the wound of the argument: I grabbed the lunch and got on my bicycle. And it was a little rainy outside, and I slipped off and absolutely tore, completely, a ligament in my left thumb. So I was really left without any outlet."

The injury took months to heal, during which Friedlander had plenty of time to think; the new album Claws & Wings is his first since that difficult period in his life. Friedlander recently spoke with NPR's Arun Rath about finding his way back to a place of creativity. Hear more of their conversation at the audio link.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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