Music Tribute: Threnody for Soul Brother No. 1

Jul 11, 2006 at 5:02 pm


David Sauter was a local musician (Valley of Ashes, Sapat, Kark), activist, husband and father. He died last week at age 34. The writer was a friend and bandmate of Sauter’s.


David Sauter
David Sauter
David Christopher Sauter died the morning of July 4, 2006. He was at home amongst the two people dearest to his heart: his wife Aleve Douglass and their 2-year-old son Otis. The cause of this sudden and tragic death lacked any prior warning and has yet to be determined. The hundreds of people who offered their support at David’s memorial service on Saturday proved beyond a doubt that David lived his 34 years to the fullest. The wildly large number of disparate corners of the community he was able to impact in such a short time is truly uncanny. David was a man with a moral calculus ingrained in the grammar of his mind, effortlessly embodying an endless fount of goodwill, empathy and love. He lived his life according to an indestructible set of coherent and succinct inner principles that informed his every thought and action. A towering burly man with a long red beard, David was a beautiful union of strength and gentleness, of a calm and patient intensity. The narrative created by David’s past is a life-affirming testament of human strength and endurance.

David Sauter always looked you straight in the eyes, and when he asked, “How are you?,” he meant it. David owned his name. He found freedom by knowing his own will. Self-knowledge emanated positive influence toward others via merely being. Never preachy, dogmatic or unconstructively critical of others, he was just himself in a way that left no doubts regarding who he was and where his passions and convictions laid in life. His example served in others as an antidote to alienation and the general inertia and docility that envelopes and eats away at our collective and individual humanity. By being true to himself, he revealed things to others about themselves they did not know they knew.

Truth is found in particular moments, and moments ceaselessly change. It is not truth as an end in itself but the genuine effort made in striving toward truth that defines the essence of a person. David found truth and freedom in limits — in knowing and working with but not dwelling on the limits of being. His rational appetite was based in the here and now with a constructive, reality-informed pessimism of the intellect harmoniously balanced by a never-wavering supreme optimism of the will that was larger than life. He did not drown himself in existential despair.

The couple lived simply, thoughtfully, responsibly and happily. They championed their independence by cherishing our collective interdependence, by investing in our community and in the local economy. The two were influential movers and shakers within the Peace and Justice movement. David was a founding member of the Film Liberation Unit, and even cajoled the Young Republicans Club into funding a screening of a documentary about the Weather Underground! He and Aleve were a bridge between local farmers and the community, and after years of careful preparations, the couple had plans to open their own corner store grocery this August on Frankfort Avenue.

“Look for miracles” was a condolence offered to Aleve last week. She elegantly replied, “Our marriage was a miracle.” They eloped after only four months of dating, had been married for more than 10 years and were rarely apart for even a full day. When they moved here from Georgia, they brought with them a manner of Southern charm and hospitality. Despite the hustle and bustle of their active lives, they found virtue in the art of sitting still, and were founding members of the Porch Sitters Union Local 282, a group whose modus operandi is simply to find a porch, kick up your feet, leave your watch at home and share stories about your life with others.

When David picked up his double bass, he sat his mild manner down and transformed into an ecstatic wild-eyed monk at an invocation to the full moon mood elevator. His instrument matched his personality: He was an empathetic listener who knew when to play a note and when not; he brought everyone together, would catch you when you fall and steer the group forward.

Friends and family all want to do something for David and for Aleve and Otis, but naturally are not sure what to do from here. Things are hardest to understand when you are immersed within them. Maybe for now, taking a deep breath and sitting still is what is best.

Contact the writer at [email protected]