In early 2007, I got an e-mail out of the blue from a German filmmaker. He apologized for his English (which was nearly perfect - I know Americans with worse grammar) and asked me for permission to use some of my music in his project. When I saw the video, I was absolutely blown away.
Thomas had trekked up Mt. Etna, an active volcano in Italy, and filmed some of the most impressive eruption footage I've ever seen. He captured huge plumes of ash and fire, pyroclastic flows, a tornado spinning at the mountain's peak, magma spitting out of the caldera at twilight, all culminating in glowing rivers of lava that flowed down the volcano's blackened slopes at night. Incredible images, all set against the relentless sounds of Etna's thundering eruption.
I couldn't wait to hear how he would use my music in his film, and I gave him permission without hesitation. He thanked me, and I never heard from him again. His video, meanwhile, has clocked over 2 million views on youtube, a big success.
Unfortunately, I just found out why I'd never heard from Thomas again. In an attempt to return to Mt. Etna to document the ongoing eruption, he slipped and fell to his death. It's incredibly tragic, and although he lost his life back in 2008, this sad piece of news just found me yesterday.
I didn't know Thomas outside of our small collaboration, but I felt connected to him. Our work exists side by side, online, indefinitely. It's likely that it will outlive both of us. The images he risked his life to record have been immortalized in silicon. It's a reminder of how the internet empowers people like Thomas and gives them a voice and a presence where he might otherwise have none, preserving his work beyond his death and allowing others to enjoy it, for free, forever.