Tuesday Evening Melody: “Plain Gold Ring” by Kimbra
by Chris Heagle, producer
Kimbra’s refreshing cover of Plain Gold Ring is a love letter to Nina Simone and her classic song. Built up from loops of her own voice created live in studio (watch the mic on the left), this mellow groove is instantly infectious. Don’t be fooled though, the her powerful voice takes us along to the stratosphere before floating back to earth. And, now, the music of New Zealand’s up-and-coming, 21-year-old chanteuse is finally available in the U.S.
Tuesday Evening Melody: “Seven Year Ache” by Rosanne Cash
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
When I was in my tweens, Rosanne Cash was a staple in our station wagon and in our vans (yeah, my dad loved his Ford Econolines), on our icy trips to school in North Dakota or on our mountainous climbs up the Rockies during summer vacation. It was pure torture.
You see, I was a man of sophisticated rock and alt pop tastes. Give me Devo and let me hold on to dear life as KISS disbanded and made those awful solo albums. I used to squeeze my ears, longing to hear anything but Rosanne Cash or her daddy, much less the Statler Brothers or any other country music my mom used to blast through those tinny speakers.
But 30 years later, the songs I remember most are many of my mother’s favorites. And I was reminded of her victory earlier this year at a performance of Wits, when Ms. Cash made a guest appearance. The first song she performed — the one I still sing to myself on the commute to work or when my baby boys would cry at night — was, yes, her 1981 crossover hit, "Seven Year Ache."
The version you’re hearing and seeing is actually a second take performed after the show was over, which is unfortunate. Although she forgot a few of the words the first time, the moment was part of the pure delight of being at a live show. She endeared herself to the audience, and dare I say the host John Moe and Sandra Bernhard, with her professional embarrassment and quiet humility. Nevertheless, this version is absolutely enchanting and we’re excited to be interviewing her on November 17th before her performance at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.
Funny thing is, now, three decades later, Rosanne Cash is still a staple in my life — my online life. Her witty tweets and conversant replies are a part of my daily reading. Who would’ve thought… the hub caps never fell off.
Photos by Eamon Coyne/MPR
Tuesday Evening Melody: Allegri’s “Miserere Mei, Deus”
by Lisa Moore, guest contributor
This song affirms that humans create beauty. When that woman’s voice rises above the rest and spirals around, it is pure and intoxicating.
Miserere Mei was written by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri in the late 1630s. As legend has it, this piece of music was protected from being transcribed or played outside of the Sistine Chapel for the Tenebrae (“darkness” or “shadows” in Latin) service. Doing so was punishable by excommunication.
The story goes that, after more than a century, young Mozart heard the work in 1770 and rewrote it from memory when he returned home. His transcription ended up in the hands of an Englishman who published it in 1771. Rather than being excommunicated, Mozart was called to Rome and praised by the pope for his musical genius. The ban was lifted, and now it is one of the most common works to be performed by a cappella choirs.
Why would this song ever have been banned in the first place? Because it was so very beautiful. Perhaps people would hear this music and have a spiritual experience. That experience, of course, could then be had anywhere they heard that music and open a personal pathway to a relationship with God. The Church wanted to be sure that that type of communication could only occur with its guidance and control. There are other examples of music being avoided because of the belief that it insinuated evil, like the tritone.
Other composers also transcribed it, and there is quite the dispute about who got it right and whose version is the best. I first heard a recording by the Dale Warland Singers, so I think I’m stuck with my first love, but there are many recordings — including the gorgeous version above performed by The Sixteen — both with adult and children’s choirs.
As interesting as all of this is, I’m not trying to make any big statement. I just want to share this amazing music that deeply touches my soul, no matter what sort of mood I am in.
Lisa Moore is a medical student at Loyola University in Chicago. She attempts to maintain her identity as more than somebody who studies through yoga, creative cooking, reading, and writing.
We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry and contribute a deeper understanding of the world around us.
Tuesday Evening Melody: “This Is Not the End” by Gungor
by Caleb Saenz, guest contributor
Gungor performs at the Catalyst Conference 2010: (photo: Stephen Hunton)
Music is not my god. It’s certainly easier to say that than to live it, but if I had to, I could live without music. I do love it, though.
You see, music is not my god. It’s my bullhorn. Sometimes, I use it to express the pains of my spirit, the joys of my heart, the deeply rooted emotions words can only fail. Sometimes the bullhorn faces me. It blares truths easily forgotten in ways I can’t easily shake. Music is a reminder. When life is cold and love seems distant, music encourages. And when the only view is the awesome wonder of a mountaintop panoramic, the dynamics of a good song recall the seasons of life. Music is a gift. Cherish it.
The stigma of the “Christian music” label is difficult to shake. I find that phrase treacherous. Music is an art. It’s only Christian by what it glorifies, and that is a definition separate from what normally identifies a band as “Christian.” For a religion whose foundation is the sacrifice of a man who heals even the dead, Christianity has produced some pretty lame music. (See what I did there? Okay, I’ll stop.) As a follower of Christ, I have no problem saying that my church has been responsible for some pretty reprehensible musical crimes.
So it should come as no surprise that when a good Christian band is discovered, Christians react like they have won the lottery. The odds of finding a good “Christian band” among the large number of bands who call themselves that has to be pretty close to the odds of winning the lottery in a major city. (#science) For a lot of young Christians, Gungor is their winning ticket. While their older albums still reveal a penchant for Evanescence-isms, their newest, Ghosts Upon the Earth, is a thing of sophisticated beauty - artful without being pompous, adventurous without being self-indulgent, spiritually deep without being obtusely constructed.
“This Is Not the End” perfectly encapsulates what makes most of the album great. It sounds like a Disney movie feels. All hope, the song swells with every stomp and guitar chug. That the theme and music unite in a beautiful and perfect three minutes is indicative of much of the work on this album. If joy had a sound, this would be it.
Christians tend to jump at the prospect of merely adequate Christian artists to legitimize the concept of “Christian music” as a whole. Thankfully, with their new album, Gungor now occupies a rare space, where a group of Christian artists can challenge listeners to both experience new music and dig deeper into their faith. If you have never heard of the band, give their new album a chance. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, even if it is “Christian music.”
Caleb Saenz is an elementary school teacher and high school debate coach living in San Antonio, Texas. You can explore more of his interests in music, ministry, and how faith and culture meet at A Young Example.
Have a suggestion for a Tuesday evening melody? Submit your idea and tell us why you chose it. And, we always welcome your other reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication too.
Tuesday Evening Melody: “Meeting Mirabelle” from Shopgirl
by Scott Inglett, guest contributor
Do you ever dream music? I do. It’s infrequent — with a recurrent form, a recurrent structure, and recurrent imagery accompanying it. The imagery always involves some form of flight, as if I am actually soaring on high.
A series of chord progressions begin with the tonal color or timbre of cellos, of violins, of bowed instruments of some sort. The ground quickly drops beneath me until I’ve risen to a height that’s perhaps a tree length above the tallest trees appearing below, with a forward motion, a forward acceleration, that rapidly picks up speed, until the green leaf rooftop of some forest speeds underneath or the ripples of water, perhaps the surface of some river or ocean, rapidly dart behind me.
From time to time I might cross a small town, never a large city of any sort, but with streets and buildings that quickly disappear from my peripheral vision as I shoot across them. The music that accompanies my flight pulses and weaves with no discernible melody, just a mass of flowing chords that seem to match my speed, that seem to be the force propelling me. And, accompanying it all, there’s a mixed sense of exhilaration, of joy, and a deep longing that, in turn, makes me long to keep dreaming soon after I wake.
One day I saw the movie Shopgirl and felt exactly the same longings I felt in my dream, the longings the composer obviously wanted to ascribe to Mirabelle, the heroine of the film.
The reason I bring this up is Daniel Levitin’s book, This Is Your Brain on Music. He’s a neuroscientist who currently runs the Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition, and Expertise at McGill University, but was at one time “a session musician, sound engineer, and record producer working with artists such as Stevie Wonder and Blue Oyster Cult.” Levitin mentions a few things in his book that have me wondering about just what might be possible:
"When I was in graduate school, my advisor, Mike Posner, told me about the work of a graduate student in biology, Peter Janata. … Peter placed electrodes in the inferior colliculus of the barn owl, part of its auditory system. Then, he played the owls a version of Stauss’s ‘The Blue Danube Waltz’ made up of tones from which the fundamental frequency had been removed. Peter hypothesized that if the missing fundamental is restored at early levels of auditory processing, neurons in the owl’s inferior colliculus should fire at the rate of the missing fundamental. This was exactly what he found. And because the electrodes put out a small electrical signal with each firing - and because the firing rate is the same as a frequency of firing - Peter sent the output of the owl’s neurons to a small amplifier, and played back the sound of the owl’s neurons through a loudspeaker. What he heard was astonishing; the melody of ‘The Blue Danube Waltz’ sang clearly from the loudspeakers.”
Might it be possible to record the music I dream? What would it sound like to my daylight mind? Would it affect me as profoundly while awake as when experienced while dreaming?
Scott Inglett works for a small, web-related software development company here in Rochester, Minnesota. I love the arts, am a bookish sort, and according to Myers-Brigg am also an INFP, which explains quite a bit.
We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry and contribute to the conversation.
Tuesday Evening Melody: “Shaking the Tree” by Peter Gabriel and Youssou N’Dour
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
The music near the end of our memorial tribute to Wangari Maathai ("Planting the Future") struck a chord with our listeners this week. We received a number of emails wanting to know the name of the track and the album played right before the credits (I had no idea people actually listened to them! *grin*). So here it is: Peter Gabriel and Youssou N’Dour performing "Shaking the Tree."
Tuesday Evening Melody: “Going to a Town” by Rufus Wainwright
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Rufus Wainwright performs in KEXP’s studios in 2007. (photo: Laura Musselman)
What do you do on a 16-hour family road trip to Montana with two sons under five and a wife riding shotgun? Play a lot of music — and sing badly. But, there are certain songs, certain performers that bring on the quiet. And this live performance from Rufus Wainwright is one of them.
Fumbling around my pickup’s floorboard pickup while cruising down I-94, my fingers serendipitously happened upon an unlabeled compilation CD I had burned in 2007. Etched with grit and gravel, it actually started playing. The opening track: Rufus Wainwright’s live version of “Going to a Town” that he performed at KEXP’s studios in Seattle while promoting Release the Stars.
Trying to conjure up meanings of the song’s lyrics would require too much exegesis, if you will, for this humble post, but Wainwright’s melodic challenging of America and its brokenness is valid four years later. Through this song, he forces us to remember what we once were as a nation — even if it’s a dream — who we’ve become, and what kind of people we might aspire to be again.
When I hear a ”Daddy, daddy. Play it again!,” I know he’s the right notes.
Tuesday Evening Melody: “Vökuró” by Björk
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
A song I used to play and (try to) sing to my boys when they were tiny babes — and find myself repeatedly coming back to during the day and night. And, this Icelandic lullaby rounds out our show "Pagans Ancient and Modern."
Tuesday Evening Melody: “Hallo” by DRC Music
by Chris Heagle, technical director
Cool new music and a good cause. Hard to argue with that.
This weeks’ track comes from a new project put together by Damon Albarn of Gorillaz fame. In July, he traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a group of 11 producers to record an album in 5 days… and film the whole process. The result is a remarkable collaboration across cultures called Kinshasa One Two. This song “Hallo” appears to be the early hit from the album. All proceeds from the record will go to Oxfam, which is providing aid to those affected by the deepening humanitarian crisis in the DRC.