A Tribute to Isidor Saslav (1938-2013)
by Jan Baughman
(Swans - February 11, 2013) Isidor Saslav was one of the few Swans contributors we've had the pleasure of meeting in person, and what a person he was. Twice I saw him at the home of his son, David, and daughter-in-law, Melissa Smith, and each time his presence was magical -- a star-like quality that immediately drew you in, yet his genuine love and knowledge of culture was exuded with great humility. He was curious and caring about everyone in his presence. He was a gifted storyteller with a passion for words and puns, which, along with his musical talent, was passed on to -- or rubbed off on! -- his children, Lea and David. Nature or nurture? We'll never know. What we do know, is what a legacy he created.
Isidor's passion was evident in his writing, too, whether the joy he felt while attending the annual Shaw Festival -- his Mecca -- to one of any music marathons he attended each year, he provided an animated discourse, with every word carefully chosen to transport the reader along with him to experience the pleasure, and sometimes the disappointment. But he always celebrated the artist.
Melissa Smith -- herself a pianist -- writes about the life of her beloved in-laws on her blog. Interestingly, she reports that Isidor's wife, Ann Heiligman Saslov, an accomplished concert pianist, has synesthesia, a neurologically-based condition that causes her to hear in colors when she plays. I hope that for Ann, music will retain its color and will comfort her in the loss of her dear husband and life-long companion. It's impossible for the average person to comprehend such sensory experience, but I imagine that when Isidor performed music, he lived the story behind it; when he read literature, he composed its musical interpretation in his mind.
My last exchange with Isidor was rather mundane. Something had changed in his e-mail settings and it was wreaking havoc on the formatting of his submitted articles. He diligently tried to understand how to correct the problem -- he was a perfectionist to the end. At the time of his death, he was working on a new piece for Swans -- it never occurred to us that it would not be completed. I trust it did not occur to him, either. He obviously had a more important story to complete...
Isidor Saslav was a man whose talent, compassion, curiosity, and caring made this world a more humane place, and he will be sorely missed by everyone whose lives he touched. Our hearts go out to the Saslav family, and we are forever grateful to David for inviting us into the magical world his father created. What a legacy, indeed.
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