In Border/Between: A Symphony in Essays, Carol D. Marsh writes about death, addictions, and war while also exploring how written form and expression have a counterpart in music. Structured upon the 4-movement symphony and incorporating other forms such as the rock song and the Requiem, Border/Between seeks and finds its place in what lies between the sharp and unforgiving edges of ideology and judgment. In refusing to allow borders to govern her, Marsh is able to bring compassion and hope to what seems irredeemable.
You need a playlist to gain the most from reading—listening to—Carol Marsh’s negotiation with her soul in “Border/Between: A Symphony in Essays.” In writing these four pieces that comprise movements in a symphony of words, she’s composing herself much as she imagines Haydn did when he created his mass about war. It takes a movement of mind to link Haydn to Gloria Anzaldua’s rejection of “knife-edged borders,” and Marsh makes that leap, asserting that music and writing are her “handgrips” on life’s seeming dichotomies. She seeks what she calls the “connective tissue” between “violence and peace, sorrow and hope, living and dying.” Writing her “disquiet” allows her to gain the only comforts that clear sight can afford those who face the appalling cruelties of “humankind’s un-kindnesses.” The first and fourth movements yearn to comprehend the larger world of literal and symbolic borderlands and global tragedy, while the second and third remain powerfully personal, about her brother’s addiction and about the transcendent death of Crystal, a woman who lived in the DC home for women with AIDS that Marsh founded (and about which she wrote in the superb “Nowhere Else I Want to Be: A Memoir”). How a collection of essays that’s about such stuff can leave you feeling hopeful, even inspired, is the proof of Marsh’s point: writing is the solace.
—Diana Hume George, author of The Lonely Other, A Woman Watching America
In a set of essays exploring the mysterious order of words and music, Carol digs deep; she finds, releases, then offers comfort, with music, for both the joy and horror to be found in our lifetimes. As a child seeks order and finds it in music, the mature artist unpacks her love and her loss, and finds that “music as connective tissue” creates, not solace, exactly, but acceptance. Carol seeks to give voice to “those left behind” by the various abominations visited upon her family, her community, her country, the world. She invokes and makes plain the power of music at the beginning and the end of life.
—Mary Fairchild, Radio Host, Program Annotator