The Piano as a Possibility

Austin and I went to see The Amazing Spiderman last night. I loved it! There’s a really intense scene where Gwen Stacey is hiding from the Lizard, who is prowling around menacingly. His menace is underscored not by screechy violins, but by the eerie sound of piano strings being strummed.

It’s fascinating what one can do with a piano. It’s not only a set of keys; it’s a big wooden box filled with tightly strung metal strings. Oh, the possibilities! One of the first composers to make use of the piano strings as a separate instrument was Henry Cowell. I love that guy. The Banshee is one of his creepier string-piano pieces, based on Irish Myth.

But there are many other things you can do with the piano! For instance, you may have been tempted to smash several keys at once just to hear what it sounds like. Henry Cowell did this on purpose and called it ‘art.’ This piece is inspired by Cowell’s impression of Times Square, New York. She starts using her fists to  about halfway through, just keep watching.

If you think this stuff is weird and irrelevant, just listen to this song by Switchfoot. There’s some piano pounding going on at the fifty-six second mark:

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Moving Day!

Yesterday I moved into a real apartment for the first time, with my friends Sicily and Laura Kate! Well, I’m not really moved yet. I have to live on campus for another two weeks until my Residential Life job is over. But Sicily and Laura moved in, and I moved a couple things! Yeah, like… almost eight things!

We rounded off yesterday with a delicious party at Drew’s house, complete with pizza. We had a miniature poetry slam in honor of our friend Rebekah, who is going to Missouri for a month, and we watched The Rocketeer. 

And today, I’m going back to the new apartment to move more stuff around. I think I’ll take my stereo so we have music to work to; perhaps some Switchfoot, or Needtobreathe. Austin got me into the Christian music scene– I hadn’t had any idea there were so many good Christian bands– and now I can’t get enough. Really original, artful, powerful music that also reflects the deepest feelings of my heart? Yes please.

I’ll leave you with this song by Needtobreathe. I love the bluegrass sound of this band.

 

The Crowder Requiem Review: Coda

Yesterday we heard someone walking up a path at the end of “Oh My God, I’m Coming Home”. At the beginning of the next track, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms/’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” they walk through the door; they have arrived home. This brings the album full circle from the footsteps of the very first track. As they open the door, a wash of sound envelops them. A band is singing a hymn in harmony to the accompaniment of banjo, fiddle, and some simple percussion. The two hymns David Crowder*Band has blended both express the joy and comfort of trusting in Jesus and relying on His guidance.

The sound of applause guides us to the next track, “Jesus, Lead Me to Your Healing Waters,” which has a similar texture and folky sound to “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” This original song sounds like a gospel-style hymn, with solo voice on the verses and a chorus of people singing the refrain. The theme is the healing and freedom of living in Jesus Christ.

More applause guides us to the final track of the album, “Because He Lives,” a setting of another hymn. David Crowder’s singing is soulful and expressive; rhythm guitar provides percussion and banjo brings color to the song. The other band members join in harmony on the refrain. In this hymn, we celebrate the wonder of salvation, Christ’s death on the cross, and most of all, His life, which brings us life. This Requiem is not for the dead; it is for the living, and we live now and after we die because He lives.

David Crowder*Band’s masterpiece is full of meaning, expressing Biblical truths using the framework of tradition, using a variety of well-crafted musical styles to bring fullness to that framework. To God be the glory. I hope this album gives you rest.

The Crowder Requiem Review: In Paradisum

The David Crowder*Band introduces a new twist to the Requiem Mass text about arriving in paradise. Christians think of heaven as home, our eternal home with God. Since the David Crowder*Band Requiem is meant for the living rather than the dead, the two songs coinciding with In Paradisum are about returning to God while we still live in our mortal bodies. Instead of entrance into heaven, these songs explore the emotions of our souls returning to God’s presence, even here on Earth.

“A Return” starts with simple finger-picked guitar, energized with the introduction of drums. The text is about our hearts wandering from God, as the prodigal son wandered from his father. The entrance of the electric guitar changes the attitude of the whole song, from a song of wandering to a song of return and rejoicing. When we return to God, nothing else matters; He welcomes us with open arms and everything becomes new.

“Oh My God, I’m Coming Home” is straightforward, voice and acoustic guitar, with very few lyrics:

Oh my God, I’m coming home.
Dance all day and sing along.
To the glory, hallelujah,
Oh my God, I’m coming home.

The song also takes us on a journey using sound effects. We hear someone get into a car and start driving, the white noise of the road beneath the wheels, and the song fades into the background as though it’s playing on the car stereo. The door opens, the keys jangle, and the driver walks up a path covered in dry leaves. He is going home.

There are still three songs left on the album, even though the Requiem mass is over. This coda is a sort of continuation of In Paradisum, the songs we sing in God’s presence for the sake of His glory. Come back tomorrow for some notes on these hymns.

The Crowder Requiem Review: Libera Me

We’re in the home stretch of David Crowder* Band’s album, Give Us Rest. Two sections of text remain in the Requiem Mass: Libera Me and In Paradisum. 

The Band does not set a text resembling the Libera Me; rather, “Sometimes” seems like an answer to the desperate tone of the Latin text. The speaker in the Requiem text fears the trials of judgement; this is at odds with the Christian hope of salvation for all believers, since in fact we have nothing to fear. David Crowder* Band addresses this apparent contradiction in the Latin text. The truth is that sometimes, we feel as though we’re not being saved; we feel the weight of our unworthiness; we fear the wrath that is not meant for us.

Sometimes, every one of us feels like we’ll never be healed.
Sometimes, every one of us aches, like we’ll never be saved.

But despite these feelings, we have hope in God’s eternal love. God’s love is “like a sea without a shore.” He has forgiven us, He is healing us, He is saving us. The song becomes an anthem of adoration and gratitude for God’s love as the music builds into a full texture, fearless and passionate.

 

The Crowder Requiem Review: Communion

Communion is a liturgical tradition that stretches back to the time of Christ. During the last supper before Jesus’s crucifixion, He told his disciples to eat bread in memory of His broken body and drink wine in memory of His blood, sacrificed for our sake. It is, as Catholic.com asserts, an intimate encounter with Christ. We commune with God when we accept the work of Jesus’s sacrifice and acknowledge our need of His mercy. In the Requiem mass, communion is taken during the text Lux Aeterna: eternal light.

“Our Communion” starts with a simple guitar, and a hollow, overtone-producing sound layers in. It sounds mysterious, big, empty. The lyrics are about dead hearts coming to life by the power of God’s love. Our hearts come to life when God’s love permeates to every corner, searches every part; a very intimate communion with our savior. As soon as we transition to “awake, looking for a way to get back home,” the music picks up tempo, with more percussion and banjo. This is the Christian life, our souls alive, our hearts longing to be at home with Him. We transition again to a refrain of “Oh Great God Give Us Rest,” uptempo from the original song and including a fiddle. This is to capture the Pie Jesu, which is a short text immediately following Lux Aeterna:

Merciful Jesus, Oh Lord, give them rest.
Merciful Jesus, Oh Lord, give them eternal rest.

I know that Zach’s heart was alive on Earth, and he will continue to live even though he has died. Christ said “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” Death has taken Zach’s body, but Hades will not take his soul; death cannot separate us from the love of Christ.

Rest in peace, Zach Booher.

My friend Zach Booher died last night.

I keep thinking of him as “my friend,” even though we really didn’t know each other that well. My life will not change materially due to his absence. But for some reason it matters, it hurts.

Zach was half of a two-man band that I’ve mentioned here before: While We’re Up. He was so young and had so much ahead of him– a lifelong friendship with Steven Rouk and all the music they were going to make. Steven lost his best friend. Friendships like that don’t come along very often. Zach is irreplaceable. Steven might never have another friendship like it; they were creative musical partners, closer than brothers.

Zach and Steven were on tour when their car crashed. Zach died at the scene of the accident. Steven is in the hospital, and I have no idea what his condition is.

Zach has the caution tape guitar strap and the darker hair. He is dead.

I can’t believe he’s gone.

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