Song of Sitting Bull at the Surrender of Fort Buford
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
For the Lakota people, Cedric Good House of Standing Rock Reservation says, songs kept different memories and meanings alive. Sitting Bull sang the song above, Mr. Good House says, to remind his people of their way of living at a time when things looked most bleak — in what the history books describe as the “surrender” at Fort Buford:
"Our story says it was an exchange of lifestyle. People were starving. He chose that the better would be for them to have food and shelter. So he in turn took his rifle, he gave it to his son; his son gave it to Colonel Buford or whatever his name was. And he’s the one that called it a surrender, but it wasn’t a surrender. It was an exchange of lifestyle. You’re going to give this lifestyle to my son, not to me."
Check out the rest of our show, "Tatanka Iyotake: Reimagining Sitting Bull," to hear more of Cedric Good House and Sitting Bull’s great-grandson Ernie LaPointe describe the spiritual legacy of Tatanka Iyotake.
Herman Cain Sings Gospel Song at The National Press Club
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Herman Cain is trending on Twitter again. But, this time it’s not for his latest television ad but for his rendition of a gospel song at The National Press Club. Facing some tough questions about the sexual harassment allegations made against him and his tax plan, the current GOP frontrunner for the presidential nomination ended by taking the opportunity to “share a little bit” about his faith with “He Looked Beyond My Faults.” The man can sing.
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: “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.
Wangari Maathai Dies But Spirit Lives on in Song and Deed
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
“Every person who has ever achieved anything has been knocked down many times. But all of them picked themselves up and kept going, and that is what I have always tried to do.
You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them.”
The Nobel laureate from Kenya died yesterday in a Nairobi hospital from a prolonged battle with cancer. We had the privilege of interviewing interviewing Wangari Maathai several years ago, and she remains one of our more treasured interviews. But, it’s a song she sang for us that is etched in my memory.
In the waning moments of our conversation in a Minneapolis hotel room in the midst of a blizzard, we asked Ms. Maathai if she remembered singing any songs during her days of planting trees (estimated to be more than 45 million now) in Kenya. She replied:
“…we do sing sometimes, but those are very local songs. Like, one song I always sing when we are together with the women — here comes my faith — because there is a lot of our — people are still very religious, and so quite often when I’m talking to them I use religious songs. And one song that we always sing is one that says ‘There is no other god. There is no other god but Him. There is no other power but Him.’ It is like a chorus. You want me to sing for you?
And this kind of song would be appropriate because when we are singing, when we are moving, we always want it to be peaceful, non-violent, so singing religious songs was very common.”
She left us with this song (audio above), a native tune in Kiswahili that is often sung by members of the Green Belt Movement while planting trees. I used to sing it to my baby boys when they were upset in the middle of the night, a pacifier for both them and me.
On her Facebook page, fans are posting some beautiful, loving memories about her and the work she did. They’re definitely worth reading.
Tuesday Evening Melody: “Jailer” by Asa
by Chelsea Roff, guest contributor
The story of how I discovered this song really isn’t all that interesting. I was just riding in a car with a friend listening to his iPod on shuffle when the lyrics caught my attention. I remember asking him to play it several times, and each time I heard it I gathered a different meaning from Asa’s words.
For me, the song speaks to being liberated from both personal and collective oppression. Some days when I close my eyes and listen to it, I see the images of Egyptian men and women standing together in the streets in peaceful protest; other days I think of a little girl shedding off her insecurities and telling the voice in her head that says, “You can’t. Yes I can!”
When I hear this song, I hear the words of Mother Teresa and Gandhi and Martin Luther King and Jesus and the Buddha all rolled into one.
"I’m in chains, you’re in chains too. … Let he who is without sin be the first to cast the stone."
The message is a call for compassion. It’s a call for the oppressor and the oppressed to join one another on level ground, to stand together rather than exist in a power-over, power-under dynamic. At least that’s how I hear it. Whether you’re a greedy dictator, a violent abuser, or the bully at the playground, you are no different than me. Get off your pedestal; I won’t be slave to you anymore.
I hope you decide to share the song with listeners. Definitely one of my favorites. :)
Chelsea Roff is managing editor at YogaModern.com, where she is active community-builder and a contributing writer. She recently helped found a yoga service organization called Studio to Streets that brings yoga classes to people in homeless shelters, juvenile detention centers, and prisons in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Want to recommend a song for our Tuesday evening melody, submit your suggestion and a little bit about the tune. We’ll take a listen for possible publication on the Being Blog.
Tuesday Evening Melody: “I Know” by Cynthia Hopkins
by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer
Cynthia Hopkins is a Brooklyn-based musician and performer whose voice taps a quiet, deep well of emotion. If you’re looking for catharsis, find a private chamber and and try belting out one of her songs when no one else can hear you.
"It’s an homage to him. It’s a portrait of him. And it’s also an attempt to make peace with him and to portray the evolution of my perspective on him from anger and frustration to celebration."
In this song, Hopkins suggests that we don’t really know our parents in their fullness. Like the bigger cosmos, these people who reared us are beautiful mysteries. No longer saddled by anger or disappointment, Hopkins makes peace with her father’s indirect expressions of love. There are other lovely songs to explore from her play, including “”Love,” “Resist the Tide,” and “The Answer” — all of which can be downloaded for free from Gloria Deluxe, the website of Hopkins’ band.
Tuesday Evening Melody: “The Sound of Sunshine” by Michael Franti
by Chris Heagle, technical director/producer
They say that miracles are never ceasing, and every little soul needs a little releasing…
As the first day of summer came and went last week, I found myself raising my fist to the sky and shouting La Niña! Please pardon the blatent regionalism, but here in the Twin Cities, where On Being is produced, it’s been a pretty slow start to summer. Tons of rain for an already soaked landscape and temps that have been about 20 degrees below average.
In this part of the country, knowing the details of the weather are not just a staple of small talk. It borders on obsession. Normally, I would include myself in that camp (after all, I’m blogging about it now!), but these days, I just want a couple weeks of uneventful summer sun.
This Michael Franti track, which came out last fall, is definitely more pop and less political than his previous releases. That might be too much of a departure for diehard Franti fans, but I can’t help putting this hopeful song near the top of my summer playlist.
What’s on your summer playlist? And more importantly, why? Send us your Tuesday Evening Melody and we just might publish it next Tuesday.