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I’ve written before about how much I like the Avett Brothers. Last month I picked up their newest album The Carpenter (Check out a great interview with Scott Avett about it) . It is a really solid album, and I have greatly enjoyed it. One song in particular has really stuck with me – “A Father’s First Spring.” I’ve embedded a video of it below:
This song is about the birth of Scott Avett’s daughter Eleanor, and its lyrics are really powerful.:
The realest thing I ever felt
was the blood on the floor and the love in your yell
I was a child before
the day that I met Eleanor
I really identify with that (except substitute “Lily” for “Eleanor”). 15 years ago every father of a little girl was touched by “Butterfly Kisses,” this song helps me to understand that feeling (although I much prefer the Avett Brothers to Bob Carlisle). I know that my life forever changed when I became a Dad to a little girl. To quote further from the song:
When I’m in the sweet daughter’s eyes
My heart is now ruined for the rest of all time
I think another reason I have been so drawn to this song is the knowledge of what is going on with Bob Crawford. Bob Crawford is the bassist of the Avett Brothers, and his daughter Hallie has battle brain cancer. Here he is discussing their experience:
As a father of a little girl that has gone through surgery, I identify with this. This is another reason I love this band. Their willingness to be open, their humility, and now, their efforts in aiding a place like St. Jude’s all make me like them all the more. I encourage you to go buy The Carpenter (for $6.99 on Amazon as of today). You won’t regret it. Also, say a prayer for Bob’s daughter Hallie as she continues her treatments.
Until later friends…
I was recently asked the question: If you could go back in time, which songs would you play to Mozart and Beethoven? I answered it shortly on Quora, but I wanted to engage the question more deeply for my own amusement.
Schoenberg looked up to Beethoven, and only after realizing that he could never be as great as Beethoven did he start writing terrible “music.” I would be fascinated to see Beethoven and Mozart’s reactions to the flirtation with atonality in this beautiful sextet.
Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings
I think the beauty of this piece is timeless. I think they would both appreciate this. It would warm their hearts to know that all music did not devolve into Michael Jackson in the 20th century.
Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten
I think Arvo Pärt is the master of dissonant beauty. I believe both these masters would appreciate him.
John Adams’s Phrygian Gates
John Adams does minimalism right. I would be very interested to see both of these expert pianists engage with this piece. It would present no challenge to either one skill wise, but I do believe they would appreciate the simple beauty of it.
Anything by John Cage
Classical/Vocal (pieces written in the Classical/Romantic/etc. spirit that predominately feature vocalists):
Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Bogoroditse Devo
I think both those fellows would greatly appreciate Rachmaninoff’s choral work. I think Mozart especially would’ve liked this.
Denny Elfman’s Serenada Schizophrana“I Forget”
Once again, I think the absolute awesomeness of Mozart and Beethoven could only grow with the incorporation of more atonality and intricate syncopation. Plus, I think Mozart would dig the Latin feel of this. I’m not sure if Ludwig would be a big fan, I can imagine him doing a fair bit of mocking, which would also be entertaining.
Martin Lauridsen’s “O Nata Lux”
If this doesn’t give you goosebumps, you probably don’t have a soul.
Assorted Modern/Pop Music:
I would feel obligated to share the evolution of popular music with them, even though I know they would be greatly disappointed. I would have to play all sorts of people, but I’ll only share a couple that I think deserve being shared for their musical contribution.
Miles Davis and John Coltrane “Kind of Blue”
I’m going to assume that these old German fellows would forgo any prejudice and appreciate these masters of jazz. Don’t even try to argue with me on that, because I will be unreasonable.
Bill Monroe “Blue Moon of Kentucky”
Would they like Bill Monroe? Probably not. Do I feel obligated to share with them the father of bluegrass? Yep.
The Beatles “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
I have to introduce them to the Beatles. I also have to introduce them to the electric guitar, and this song has Clapton playing electric. They probably won’t like it, but I’ll at least be entertained.
So, that’s my little stroll down Music History with Mozart and Beethoven. Any objections? Any songs you would add?
Until later friends…
I’ve written before about my tendency to go on iTunes buying binges. Since having a daughter, we’ve spent significantly less money on ourselves. I have given that iTunes store a wide berth, because babies are expensive – fact. A couple weeks ago my dad gave me an iTunes gift card just because he is the giving type. It wasn’t my birthday, bar mitzvah, or anything else significant. Here are some songs I got with it and have been enjoying these past few weeks.
“One Piece at a Time” by Johnny Cash
I spent most of my life living in the same town as Johnny Cash. Sadly, I didn’t really come to appreciate him till after he was gone. My mom once met him in KFC. I love Johnny’s sense of humor. “A Boy Named Sue” and “One Piece at a Time” are just fun. Granted this is a song about industrial piracy, but we all know it’s tongue-in-cheek, so it’s ok. Apparently a car dealer in my hometown made a Cadillac according to the specifications of the song:
“Tennessee Waltz” by Sam Cooke
I have recently begun listening to a lot of Sam Cooke. Man, he could sing. So, when I found a version of the Tennessee Waltz from ole Sam, I had to give it a shot. I was not disappointed.
“My Father’s Gun” by Elton John
Don’t think about it. Yes, it’s a contradiction. If you think too much about the knight Sir Elton John (who makes CeeLo’s style choices seem tame) singing from the point of view of a Confederate soldier, your head just might implode. Just enjoy the song for what it is. This is an example of good storytelling.
“Absent from Flesh” by Sojourn Music
This song is done by my church. It is written by one of my pastors Jamie Barnes (the bald dude singing in the video) and Isaac Watts. I already had the version of this from Jamie and Brooks Ritter’s split album (which you can listen to here). I just recently bought the version done for The Water and the Blood album (which you can also listen to for free by clicking the link) featuring the vocals of Brooks Ritter. I love this song. Jamie and Brooks both approach it in their own styles, and I love both. Check these dudes out. I’m thankful to have such solid musicians at my church.
Ok, I just had to feature one more song. This one is a free download, and I think you’ll enjoy it.
“Rolling in the Deep” by John Legend
This is John Legend covering Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” You can download it for free on his Facebook page. I think I actually like this better than the Adele version. John Legend is legit. I really enjoy his voice, and he is a solid musician.
I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my playlist. I still have $3 left on my giftcard. Any recommendations?
Until later friends…
I am a huge music nerd. For real. I listen to all sorts of music. I majored in music at Union University. While at Union, I greatly enjoyed the various music literature and music history courses. Being a history nerd as well, I appreciate the interrelatedness of music development and historical trends. I do enjoy many types of Classical music (Classical, Romantic, Impressionistic, even some Second Viennese School). I especially enjoy the German Lieder. I love Schubert and Schumann. I sang a good portion of the Dichterliebe by Schumann in my recital. I always wanted to perform Schubert’s Der Erlkönig. However, I also liked my pianist and didn’t want her to choke me.
Der Erlkönig is one of Franz Schubert’s greatest works. It is a setting of a Goethe poem. The poem is about a man riding on a horse carrying his sick child as the child sees/hallucinates a really creepy impish creature. Schubert represents the galloping horse in the piano, hence why all pianists hate this piece. The singer portrays the narrator, father, son, and Erlkönig. Here is a video of my favorite recording of Der Erlkönig with the German words and English adaptation included below.
Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
“Mein Sohn, was birgst du so bang dein Gesicht?” –
“Du liebes Kind, komm, geh mit mir!
“Mein Vater, mein Vater, und hörest du nicht,
“Willst, feiner Knabe, du mit mir gehen?
“Mein Vater, mein Vater, und siehst du nicht dort
“Ich liebe dich, mich reizt deine schöne Gestalt;
Dem Vater grauset’s, er reitet geschwind,
Who rides there so late through the night dark and drear?
“My son, wherefore seek’st thou thy face thus to hide?”
“Oh, come, thou dear infant! oh come thou with me!
“My father, my father, and dost thou not hear
“Wilt go, then, dear infant, wilt go with me there?
“My father, my father, and dost thou not see,
“I love thee, I’m charm’d by thy beauty, dear boy!
The father now gallops, with terror half wild,
I also love folk and Americana music. One band I have really enjoyed the past couple of years is the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Their website describes their style:
“With their 2010 Nonesuch debut, Genuine Negro Jig—which garnered a Best Traditional Folk Album Grammy last year—the Carolina Chocolate Drops proved that the old-time, fiddle and banjo-based music they’d so scrupulously researched and passionately performed could be a living, breathing, ever-evolving sound. Starting with material culled from the Piedmont region of the Carolinas, they sought to freshly interpret this work, not merely recreate it, highlighting the central role African-Americans played in shaping our nation’s popular music from its beginnings more than a century ago. The virtuosic trio’s approach was provocative and revelatory. Their concerts, The New York Times declared, were “an end-to-end display of excellence… They dip into styles of Southern black music from the 1920s and ’30s—string-band music, jug-band music, fife and drum, early jazz—and beam their curiosity outward. They make short work of their instructive mission and spend their energy on things that require it: flatfoot dancing, jug playing, shouting.”
The members of this trio are all excellent musicians. They play a gritty, old sound that I find fascinating. You might wonder, what on earth do the Carolina Chocolate Drops have to do with Franz Schubert and Der Erlkönig? You will find the answer below:
That’s right. This is a setting of Der Erlkönig. I love this reimagined telling of Goethe’s poem. Don Flemons (of the Carolina Chocolate Drops) captures the same rushed feel of Schubert with his banjo adaptation. Yet, it feels completely new.
This setting of the Earl King has awakened in me a desire to hear more folksy adaptations of classical works. I would be particularly interested in a setting of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. I think it could be brilliant with a good Irishy/bluegrass feel with some lyrics from the point of view of the protagonist along with some incorporation of some of Berlioz’s motives. Are ya’ll familiar with any folk/bluegrass/americana renditions of any other classical works? Please let me know.
Until later friends…
This is a repost of a blog I wrote last year in honor of The Day the Music Died.
Since childhood, Don McLean‘s “American Pie” has been one of my favorite songs. My parents raised me with good music, not that 80s crap that a lot of my friends grew up with. I grew up listening to my parents’ Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, the Temptations, and Elvis records, along with a host of other great records from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. “American Pie” is one of the finer songs of the 70s.
“American Pie” is a little piece of cultural history. You might not know it by its title, but I’m sure you know the chorus:
Bye Bye Ms. American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry
And good ‘ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing, “this’ll be the day that I die”
“This’ll be the day that I die”
(These lyrics are the sole property of the composer. I quote them here to give honor to the song. No lawsuits please.)
Ever since its release in 1972, “American Pie” has intrigued listeners with its veiled references to major cultural events. Many people have posted their interpretations, like this one:
You might ask, “Aslan, why all the Don McLean talk today?” Well, today is the 52nd anniversary of The Day the Music Died. On this day in 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa.
Thankfully, I don’t think music really died that day as is evidenced by the lives of some of the artists I mentioned earlier, as well as Johnny Cash, the Avett Brothers, and Danny Elfman to name a few. So, give “American Pie” a listen today. Go listen to a song or two from Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. Then, go celebrate all the great music that came after those guys. Until later friends…
PS: “American Pie” the song has no relation to that piece of junk movie series bearing the same name. For Aslan and the Volunteer State in no way supports or promotes smut like that.
Life is rarely what we expect it to be. We make plans, those plans change. We expect health, health fails. We desire ease and comfort, but pain marks many of our days. Pain and disappointment find us at the most inconvenient times. Such pain often causes us to ask “why?” Why me? Why now? Why her?
Like Job, we wonder why the chips have fallen the way that they have. My wife and I are going through a difficult time right now. Things are not going the way that I planned them. There are unforeseen difficulties with our daughter. Doctors believe these are fixable, but it is still distressing. At times like this, I am thankful for the promises the Lord has given us in Scripture.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” – Romans 8:28-29
” He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4
These promises remind me of two things:
God is sovereign over all things, even pain and suffering. – This means that everything I experience has meaning. There is no such thing as meaningless suffering. God purposes to conform me to his image through every experience I have.
Pain and suffering are temporary – “This too shall pass.” These are great words of comfort. All pain will cease one day. The Lord Jesus Christ will wipe my tears away, and I will see how all things have worked together for good.
This week I have been particularly encouraged by my church, especially the sermon this past Sunday “Faith in the Midst of Trials.” I have also found great encouragement through music. Hear are a few songs that have been encouraging to me this week:
Farther Along – Josh Garrels
I love the hymn “Farther Along,” and Josh Garrels has added some great verses to it. This songs points to the future hope of Revelation 21. One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and there will be no more pain.
In the Night My Hope Lives On – Andrew Peterson
This is poetic. I listened to this song for an hour straight the first time I heard it.
“Thy promise is my only plea O God.”
Until later friends…
I love Christmas. I love the Christmas season. I love music. Christmas season provides some great music (I blogged last week about three of my favorite Christmas songs). Sadly, however, every December some really awful Christmas songs make the rounds. According to an informal poll I took last year (Vote for the Worst Excuse for a Christmas Song), the top three worst Christmas songs are:
1. “Santa Baby” – 25.81% of Popular Vote
“Santa Baby” is an absolutely horrible song. Trying to seduce Saint Nicholas in order to get more bling is just trashy. For real, leave the old man alone Catwoman.
2. “Last Christmas” – 22.58% of the Popular Vote
“Last Christmas” is quite possibly the most annoying song ever sung by a man. George Michael really did the world a great injustice by recording this number. (Not to be confused with this George Michael)
3. “Little Drummer Boy” – 16.13% of the Popular Vote
You have to give props to “The Little Drummer Boy” for bringing together such diverse people as David Bowie and Bing Crosby. This song, however, is not a good Christmas song. One reason: there was no little drummer boy at the nativity. As I said last year, “If you can give me definitive evidence that there was a kid with a snare drum at the nativity, I will move to Minnesota in a blizzard.”
Now for the main point of this post.
“Same Old Lang Syne” by Dan Fogelberg is not a Christmas song. This may be apparent to you based on the name (an obvious New Year’s reference). Yet, apparently all radio stations believe this to be an appropriate contribution to the Christmas music genre.
Catchy song. Sad that ole Dan died, but please stop playing this alongside “O Holy Night” and “Jingle Bells.”
Until later friends…
Dear Readers [i.e., Mom and bored facebook friends],
I apologize for taking so long to write a new post. I last posted November 10th. I have been incredibly busy since my last post. I finally finished my master’s thesis on the German Baptist experience under the Third Reich. It was great fun, but a lot of work. My duties at work have also been consuming, which have made it difficult to find time to blog. I have a few minutes today to blog, so I thought I’d just share some exciting things going on in my life (and random thoughts that pop into my head).
- As you may know, we announced on October 10th that we’re going to have a baby. We found out yesterday that we’re going to have a little girl. Here is her picture
- I am pleased to announce that I am graduating from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I have enjoyed my time at SBTS, but I am excited about taking a semester off from school to hang out with Mrs. For Aslan and prepare for our little lady.
- Mrs. For Aslan and I are planning to attend Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb tour again this year. This is one of our favorite Christmas traditions. It is a great concert, based on a great cd. Here’s a fun taste of it. This is Andrew Peterson singing the genealogy of Jesus found in the book of Matthew:
- I love this time of the year. I love music, and the Christmas season is full of great music. Here are some songs that I really enjoy during this time of year that you might not know:
Andy Gullahorn has written a wonderful song focused on communicating what Immanuel means. He is an excellent songwriter, and he has a real way with words. Go buy his Christmas album recorded with his wife Jill Phillips. This song is well worth listening to.
You might already know this song, but I have to include it. I absolutely love it. It has a hauntingly rich melody, and it explores the mystery of the incarnation.
- I am excited about getting to spend time with family during Christmas without any concern about finishing research or writing a paper.
- I am excited about giving gifts. I’ve found my lovely wife some great stuff, and now I am shopping for my lovely daughter. I like these:
- I am also super excited about huge news in the coffee world. The introduction of a solid electric pouring kettle:
- Lastly, I’m excited about reading some books for fun. Here are some books I have on my shelf and I plan to read in the next several months:
Until later friends…
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, when I suffer from writer’s block I go to wikipedia and see what exciting events or birthdays took place on a specific day. It’s been over a week since I’ve posted anything, so I thought I needed to contribute something to the internet conversation this week. Today is B.B. King‘s birthday. He is 86 today, and still rocking. And although he sings “The Thrill is Gone,” he is still giving thrilling performances.
B.B. King is from Mississippi, but in my heart, he is from Memphis. Everyone in the Volunteer State associates B.B. with Memphis. His first records were produced by Sam Phillips (who discovered Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis in Memphis).
There is just something Southern and classy about B.B. King. I can’t speak for what kind of person B.B. is. I don’t know what kind of rock star life he may have lived, but I know that he has made some great music, and he opened up the doors for a lot of great minority musicians.
B.B. King is dynamic and fun. By all accounts, he seems to have a great personality. You may not like blues, but you gotta like BB.
Happy Birthday BB. Until later friends…
Warning: This post references morally reprehensible things like adultery and murder. For the record, For Alsan…and the Volunteer State is opposed to both murder and adultery.
Video killed the radio star…at least someone said that once. Yes, our culture is a visual one that assigns celebrity to untalented people like the entire cast of Jersey Shore.
Yet, the radio is not dead. Music still speaks to everyone. Jacques Barzun said, “Music is intended and designed for sentient beings that have hopes and purposes and emotions.” I think there is something to that. Musicians are our modern day poets. I don’t think it is true that video killed the radio star, but it may well be that radio killed the poetry star. Poets are no longer those that give voice to the human experience, it is the musicians. True, many (if not most all) popular musicians are increasingly shallow in their thoughts (example: Lady Gaga and her ‘born this way’ argument). Yet, truth is still found in almost every artistic expression.
As the title above indicates, I want to talk a little bit about adultery, murder, and music. In the days of my grandparents people sang of innocent things like Cape Cod and such. Somewhere along the way, people began to sing about real life. Nowadays no topic is faux pas. Even if people lambast Eminem for rapping about beating women, his albums still sell by the millions (and Chrysler uses him as a spokesperson).
I don’t want to discuss the broader theme of morality in music. I have no plans of writing a thesis on the subject. I was inspired to write this post by listening to my iPod. While listening to my iPod on shuffle a while back, I realized that I have several songs about murder. There are Johnny Cash murder ballads, and songs about people being shot in the Old West from Kernal Garner and Corb Lund. If you listen to any country music, there is eventually going to be a song involving the shooting death of someone. Yet, what troubled me was the discovery that I have two songs that share a common plot line of the singer discovering his girlfriend/wife/lover lady with another man and murdering that man. These two songs are: “I Killed Sally’s Lover” by the Avett Brothers and “Wake Up Call” by Maroon 5. These are both really catchy songs, even though they address an incredibly tragic situation Adultery absolutely ruins lives. This scenario is far too common, so it is not surprising that it makes it into mainstream media. Yet, can one write a song about such ruin and not trivialize it? Let’s look at these two songs and make some evaluations.
I Killed Sally’s Lover
This song is upbeat and fun. But it’s about adultery and murder. That doesn’t seem to compute. Based on the broader spectrum of Avett Brothers songs, I take this song as more of a satire. If Eminem rapped about getting a pocket blade and a shotgun, it might be believable. The Avett Brothers, on the other hand, are not the murdering kind. I consider this song to be a tongue-in-cheek homage to redneck rage. I think the song is fittingly summed up in the line: “But it ain’t worth the trouble, the suffering or the grief. A bleeding heart is better than the penitentiary.” Yes it is fellas. Thank ya’ll for coming out against murder.
Wake Up Call
This song just has a different feel (and I don’t just mean musically). Considering the fact that almost every single Maroon 5 song is about sexual immorality, this song seems pretty congruent with their repertoire. Granted, I don’t see Adam Levine shooting someone…ever. There is, however, a markedly different attitude in this song from “I Killed Sally’s Lover.” This song really captures the anger of betrayal, but unlike the Avett Brothers, the murder is not denounced per se. This song is summed up by the line: “I don’t feel so bad.”
So, are these songs evil? Maybe, maybe not. They definitely discuss a very evil situation; however, I don’t think either the Avett Brothers or Maroon 5 intend to support spousal murder. Do they approach the issue with enough gravitas? Maybe not. They do, however, capture certain emotional aspects of a heartbreaking (and anger-inducing) situation. What do you think? Does your conscience allow you to listen to these songs?
Until later friends…