I made album artwork for a couple pieces of music I like that deal with the theme of death in unusual ways.
The first is String Quartet No. 14 in D Minor by Franz Schubert, often called Death and the Maiden—a very intense, beautiful piece of chamber music that I like. It’s based on a song about Death confronting a young, fearful girl. She dies in the end, so you’d think that it was a tragedy, but it isn’t. Instead of dying in a state of anxiety and fear, Death comforts her and takes her gently. It is a melancholy theme, but it’s crowned with a beautiful key change toward the end of the song that is the sun breaking from the clouds.
The second is for Le Tombeau de Couperin by Maurice Ravel. It was written during WWI, and each of the movements is dedicated to a French soldier who was killed in the war. That sounds glum, but the music itself is so lively and light that it is almost whimsical. When confronted about why the piece wasn’t more somber, Ravel is said to have responded, “The dead are sad enough, in their eternal silence.”