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Friday, September 28, 2012

Metaphorical Singing

Two weeks ago I visited the American  'past, present and upcoming' music festival Take Root. As usual, it was a pleasure to be there. On four stages, a variety of bands and singers presented themselves. The festival seems to get louder every year - more rock bands, less folk and country; more Fenders, Gibsons and Rickenbackers, less fiddles and banjos - I actually heard the first banjo in the last act, and no fiddle at all all evening.


I heard many things I liked, and some things I did not like. One of the headliners was Wovenhand. I like Americana music, but I am far from a connoisseur. Actually, what I know about this kind of music is purely accidental, and I don´t follow the news. So although I am a big fan of 16 Horsepower (I mean I love their cd´s - I mean those I posses - I mean those I listen to), and knew they had disbanded quite some time ago, I did not know that 16 Horsepower´s singer, David Eugene Edwards, had formed Wovenhand and has already made more albums with Wovenhand than with his former band.

So when I found out he was the singer of Wovenhand I of course had to come and listen. Christ (Edwards is some darker sort of Christian, if I may put it that way, so one more saviour in this text won't do me no harm), they were loud. They were so loud I could only stand a couple of songs. And what annoyed me was that I could not hear the words, I could not understand the songs.

This afternoon, I taught a class on Arab music. I played an Andalous fragment which was so heterophonic that at times it sounded as if a complete coffee house was talking through the music, although all there was on the clip were the musicians. Afterwards one of the students said he did not get the point of singing songs of which obviously no-one would be able to hear the words precisely. So I explained that probably the audience would know the words anyway, specialist music as this is, so why bother?

And then I thought about David Eugene Edwards. I couldn't  understand a word of what he was singing. But why bother? Basically, all present knew what he was singing about (`faith and redemption'), and many of those present would know the words from the cd. Edwards, I am sure, does not bother to be understood literally. As long as his singing is understood metaphorically, everything is fine.

I know, it is simple. You knew this already. But for me, this little re-appraisal of a dark Christian Wovenhand concert by way of an Arab U-turn made my day.

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