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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

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Tuesday Evening Melody: “Going to a Town” by Rufus Wainwright

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Rufus Wainwright. Photo by Laura MusselmanRufus 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.

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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."

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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.

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Bach at One in St. Paul’s Chapel

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Trinity Baroque Choir practices Bach at St. Paul's ChapelThe Trinity Choir and Baroque Orchestra rehearse in St. Paul’s chapel.

We’re in New York tonight preparing for tonight’s live event with Hendrik Hertzberg, Serene Jones, and Pankaj Mishra. The subject? Reflecting on 9/11 and who we want to become as a people and a society as we think forward about the next decade. The location?

St. Paul’s Chapel near Ground Zero, a centering place of refuge and aid for rescue workers and volunteers.

Performing a sound check, we got a great surprise: the Trinity Choir and the Trinity Baroque Orchestra rehearsing for their daily Bach at One concert. So, this week’s Tuesday evening melody is a bit rawer, an on-the-ground capture of one of the many other events taking place to commemorate the attacks of 9/11. Bach never sounded so right.

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Tuesday Evening Melody: “Wasted Years” by Ryan Adams

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Back from vacation, I just realized I left you all hanging on this week’s Tuesday evening melody. Better a couple days late rather nothing at all, right?

And what better to send you off into the Labor Day weekend than with Ryan Adams’ acoustic cover of an Iron Maiden classic he performed for BBC Radio 2 on, yes, this past Tuesday.

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Tuesday Evening Melody: “Trinity Requiem”

by Chris Heagle, technical director

As the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11th approaches, we’re continuing to plan for our event at St. Paul’s Chapel on September 6th. Co-produced with Trinity Wall Street, the public dialogue is called “Who Do We Want to Become? Remembering Forward a Decade After 9/11.” Three public intellectuals, Hendrik Hertzberg of The New YorkerSerene Jones of Union Theological Seminary, and the author Pankaj Mishra, will speak with Krista for an hour and then answer questions from our in-house and online audiences.

And, so it was a pleasant coincidence that just after returning from a scouting trip to the chapel, a colleague handed me a CD of Robert Moran’s Trinity Requiem. Trinity commissioned the Denver-born composer to write a piece for their youth chorus commemorating 9/11. The result, which will be released September 6th, is a lush work for voice, organ, harp, and cello. The track above is actually two — the “Offertory” followed by “In Paradisum.”

The former is a variation on Pachelbel’s famous "Canon in D." During the recording sessions in Trinity’s downtown sanctuary, as if on cue, a series of sirens can be heard passing by the church. The liner notes of the CD suggest this occurred during the best take and couldn’t be edited out. I would argue that they were meant to be there all along. Thanks to SoundCloud, you can preview the whole CD.

We’re looking for your reflections on 9/11 and specifically on how we pass on the narrative of those events to future generations. Share your thoughts with us and we’ll incorporate them into our discussion.

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Tuesday Evening Melody: “Throw it Away” by Abbey Lincoln

by Michelle Slater, guest contributor

Written and performed by Abbey Lincoln, “Throw It Away” soothes my spirit, shivers my timber, and tempers my mood. The message is potent, and that voice so deeply at the center of itself that it cannot lie. The lilting version on her 2007 CD Abbey Sings Abbey is the one where I feel closest to the message — where I feel her feeling. The orchestration speaks strongly for sympathetic collaboration.

One year ago on August 14th, 2010, the great jazz vocalist and songwriter passed away at the age of 80.


Michelle SlaterMichelle Slater is a retired elder who gardens, paints, and performs in New York City. You can read more of her writing on her blog, Ms. Uncertainty Principles.

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.

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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 RoffChelsea 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.

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Tuesday Evening Melody: “Storm-Broken Tree” by The White Birch

by Chris Heagle, producer

I rely on happy accidents. This track by the Norwegian band The White Birch is something that has been languishing in one of my iTunes playlists for a couple years. There’s a wistfulness and a kind of yearning in the muffled guitar and piano that start the piece. About 30 seconds in, a soft and clear vocal line appears and becomes the focus of the rest of the song.

Weaving music with lyrics into our show can be tricky. The words have to be just right to support the ideas or the emotional energy present, which is why “Storm-Broken Tree” has been dormant in that playlist for so long.

The end of last week’s show "The Far Shore of Aging" had the potential to be a powerful radio moment. Jane Gross spoke so engagingly about her experience caring for her elderly mother that it was impossible for me (and I’m sure most listeners) not to imagine my own parents and what role I might take on as they age. It “changed the architecture” of her family as she puts it, as well as the nature of her memories of her mother. She ends that thought, and the show, ambiguously saying that “on the one hand it makes me more scared and on the other hand it makes me less scared.” How to support that without being melodramatic or sounding cliche?

Refining the edit while bouncing around my music playlists, this song started playing in my headphones. It immediately felt like the end of this show. Then the vocals started, and I remembered why I hadn’t used this song before. Still, the sound was so perfect that I did a search for the lyrics and found my happy accident.

No need to fall
Though battles are won
The morning dew will sprawl
To taste us all
In the morning sun

And we will breathe
The smell of those last leaves
Weatherworn beauties
Claimed by the sea
Back from the days you were blown
Into me

No need for gall
The battle is drawn
The morning dew will fall
To wake us all
What is done is done

And we’ll leave be
The smile on the last seed
Of the storm-broken tree
Like I swore the beauty
From that night we were sworn
Would go free

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Tuesday Evening Melody: “Aria da Capo” from Glenn Gould 1981 Goldberg Variations

by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

Glenn GouldThis week’s Tuesday evening melody is inspired by a listener question’s about last week’s show. On the heels of hearing "Autism and Humanity," Chase Fairfax posted this comment on our blog:

"I wonder what the orchestra music was that punctuated this story from time to time."

We think Chase is referring to Glenn Gould’s 1981 version of the “Aria da Capo” of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

Some of Gould’s biographers have speculated that he may have had Asperger’s syndrome. Gould was sensitive to noise and temperature; he hated the sound of clapping and wore a hat, coat, and gloves, even in warm weather. He was also known for rocking and humming when he played. He stopped giving public concerts at the age of 32.

Gould preferred his 1981 rendition rather than his earlier recording from 1955. According to music critic Tim Page who interviewed Gould about the two versions, the 1981 recording “has a certain sadness and sense of reflectiveness… an autumnal quality.” As it turns out, Gould was in the autumn of his own life as these later recordings were being produced; he died of a stroke at the age of 50, just before the 1981 recording was released.

If you want to compare the two versions, check out the show’s playlist for the 1955 version. Which one do you prefer?

Photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.

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Tuesday Evening Melody: “I Know” by Cynthia Hopkins

by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

Cynthia Hopkins in The Truth: A Tragedy(photo: Paula Court)

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.

"I Know" comes from her most recent play, The Truth: A Tragedy, an exploration of her relationship with her ailing father:

"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.

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Tuesday Evening Melody: “One Day You’ll Dance for Me, New York City”

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Oh my… (sigh)

Thomas Dybdahl’s mellifluous voice and silk-ridden lyrics are so crashinglybeautiful. This week’s unexpected Tuesday evening melody.

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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.

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Tuesday Evening Melody: Philip Glass “The Play of the Wrathful and Peaceful Deities”

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

There’s no other composer quite like him. Philip Glass summons the inner strength — the power and majesty — and the vulnerable adult who is always a child inside. His music stirs something primal; he reminds of us of our vulnerability. His music compels us to remember how profound we all can be, even when we can’t feel or say one remarkable word.

I’ve been moved by “Mad Rush” on several occasions, but I had no idea of the back story until now. It was originally written for the organ, which I encourage you to listen to, but the reason it was written is just as interesting. Glass tells the story this way:

"In 1979, most of us didn’t really know very much about His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We weren’t sure exactly when he would arrive, though there was a time specified. I was asked to compose a piece of somewhat indefinite length. Not actually a problem for me. I played in the organ; I’ve become very comfortable with this as a piano piece.

It eventually acquired the name “Mad Rush,” which had nothing to do with its original purpose but… For those who are interested in the Tibetan iconography of Tibetan Buddhism, you might think of it as the play of the wrathful and peaceful deities.”

You can watch Glass’ performance of “Mad Rush” at the Garrison Institute on April 13, 2008 at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City.

(Hats off to findout for reminding me of this exquisite piece!)

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