"Each day we experience is an opportunity to pursue a new chance," says singer and poet Nola Ranallo. "We must go forth. A song keeps moving. If we as humans did not keep momentum, rhythm, we would certainly surrender to expiration."
Ranallo knows a thing or two about struggling to keep moving forward. After more than a year spent in an abusive relationship, in the spring of 2018, she took her own life and experienced clinical death. She was revived, but as result of being without oxygen for more than 20 minutes, she endured traumatic brain injury.
Ranallo commenced rehabilitation in June of 2018. After a year of intensive work, she has regained her ability to sing. Now, Ranallo and her musical compatriot in the band Cages, David Bailey, have turned her struggle and subsequent rebirth into musical art.
“A World in Song,” which will be presented by the duo and musical guests at 8 p.m. Aug. 3 in Asbury Hall at Babeville, is both a reportorial on Ranallo’s death experience and a celebration of her rebirth. I spoke to her recently as she and Bailey took a break from rehearsals for the show.
Question: How has your experience changed the way you approach making music as Cages?
Answer: You do not die and pass through death unchanged. You are changed forever. You see and feel other realms most have only read of. I fully realize the endless power music has to help others. Music can penetrate all dimensions.
Q: Tell me how "A World in Song" encapsulates the feelings of rebirth and new beginnings you’ve expressed.
A: I do not pretend to have the universe figured out at this time. I would not want to figure this out in its entirety – the lure of its wonder, or mystery, often keeps us all in motion. When a living thing dies, the first life should be wiped clean. It does not matter, in many ways. What matters now is what a person is doing with their life in the now. I returned to this life to speak on how we can share our gifts to help each other. I intend on inspiring others by sharing, giving and loving."
Q: You will be joined by a host of musicians for the performance of these new pieces of music. Has the music community been a supporting factor in your ability to move forward into a new life?
A: In my death experience, I continually saw the face of percussionist Jon Mueller. He was singing to me. He will be joining Cages to perform "A World in Song," which is literally the music I heard in my death experience.
My bandmate David Bailey has continually rehabilitated me mentally, emotionally and physically.
Cages has not performed since 2018. All the artists that worked on this project supported and contributed to my recovery. I am truly grateful for them all.
Q: In my own experience, music has been a healing force when healing was needed. Has music – composing and recording and performing – been a help to you in your own healing?
A: Upon waking from my coma, I learned how to walk, I learned how to speak, how to sing. Singing has rehabilitated my speech, my voice, my lung capacity. I worked for over a year on my singing and speaking voice. And I continue to work to cultivate energy, so that I can properly center myself in order to share.
Energy is an element of this earth. Energy does not die. It keeps going. Music and creating initiates great purpose within. With a traumatic brain injury, sound, light, color, taste, smell, touch, emotion, all senses become hyper-amplified. I was resensitized, in many ways. These amplified senses are abrasive to a healing brain, and therefore, stating to myself "this is the world’s song" became a positive light to shine. My progression has surpassed all prognosis. No neurologist has given me an answer to why I can speak more eloquently after I sing. I am proof that music is medicine.
Q: The Asbury Hall show is a benefit for Crisis Services. Can you talk a bit about what they provide to the community?
A: Crisis Services is a nonprofit organization that outreaches with no judgment. Its force is in place to assist, with no stigma. It does not exploit a human being’s struggle, it guides them to a new path, a new choice using love.
Each day we can change. Each day is a gift the earth gives us all, a chance to grow, to overcome. I overcame abuse. I overcame suicide. I overcame death. I’ll overcome stigma by freely speaking my truth into the future. I’ll live to advocate for others who cannot.
I can’t help everyone, but I can help someone.
Cages: A World in Song
8 p.m. Aug. 3 in Asbury Hall at Babeville (341 Delaware Ave.); $12 advance through Ticketfly.com