Saturday, March 08, 2008

Arise, Therefore

Where we live, in western Mass., this seems to be the weekend when everyone gets charged with seasonal electricity. JP went to Whole Foods to shop for the Boggle party we’re having tonight (!!!). And evidently everyone else was up and ready, "going for it"– taking care of business, shopping in joyful hope of something. The green fuse has been lit. The rain melted the snow in the yard. We can see all the mud and what might someday be grass. The willow tree shows signs of life at the tips. Birds are showing up, chipmunks on the move. I took a bunch of sickly, dusty plants that need to be repotted and put them out on the front steps, in the chilly mist, hoping that a homeopathic dose of sunlight might prime the cellular pumps. It’s not quite April, but I can feel the impending cruelty of pent-up potential followed by the squandering psychic seed burst.

It makes me long for the days on the farm – chipping away at the last bits of frozen and stinking silage, standing in puddles with the scurrying rodents, finally turning the cows out to pasture, carefully tending to the seedlings in the greenhouse. You know how sometimes you wake up in the morning and you’ve just got a song in your head? This morning I had "Fiery Crash," by Andrew Bird stuck in the brain. I don’t know why. And with the song, there has been an accompanying image: a time-lapse film snippet of seeds sprouting, pushing though the surface of the soil, turning their heads toward the sun, arching toward the life source. They sort of shiver and sway. And that image conjures another batch of music.

These tracks from Art of Field Recording, an amazing collection of gospel, blues, country, and other music recorded by Art Rosenbaum, an art professor in Georgia. These three tracks come right in a row on the disc devoted to religious music. This is some of the most moving, compelling spiritual music I’ve heard. The sound of Deacon Tommy Tookes and is congregation singing this lined-out hymn (The Lord Is Risen), from 1978 in Oglethorpe, Georgia makes me think of seeds and heliotropes. Hearing the whole group, together, in motion, ascending, straining, aiming at the divine. It’s tingle-music. It’s pure and beautiful.

Then there’s Ida Craig, a washer woman recorded in 1958 as she worked, singing "Sit Down, Servant" – you can hear her ironing as she sings. It’s unspeakably moving. The singing of Richard and Elula Moss is a little more creaky, a little more spooky, impacted, but beautiful, like knotty roots that have grown together over decades.

"Lord Is Risen" - Deacon Tommy Tookes and his Congregation recorded in 1978
(from Art of Field Recording)

"Sit Down, Servant" - Ida Craig (from Art of Field Recording)

"Idumea" - Richard and Elula Moss (from Art of Field Recording)

"Fiery Crash" - Andrew Bird (from Armchair Apocrypha)

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