The Music Behind the Music

    Sanford Baran:  The following meditation is meant to be listened to, not read. I created it as a podcast, an audio essay comprised of music interspersed with some spoken words. It made its debut in our December 22, 2019 Tone of Life teleconference. I invite you to listen and touch the power and magic of spirit as it emerges in musical form.

Click this link to listen to a high-quality stream of this podcast. (It runs about 45 minutes) http://www.archangelicbody.org/recordings/The_Music_Behind_the_Music.mp3

Listing of musical selections:

1. (0:00)
Mantra II / Duality
Composed and performed by Paul Horn
Album: Inside the Taj Mahal I & II (1989)

We start our journey inside the Taj Mahal with its utterly amazing reverberant acoustics. We first hear chanting followed by jazz flautist Paul Horn's improvisations creating an ambiance of intrigue and beauty.

2. (Starting at 1:01)
A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28: I. Procession
Composed by Benjamin Britten and performed by Etherea Vocal Ensemble
Album: Ceremony of Carols (2011)

This is the opening movement of Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols written in 1942 while Britten was at sea traveling from the United States to England. It is sung exclusively by the sopranos and their transcendent pure voices create an atmosphere of serenity and sacredness.

3. (Starting at 2:08)
Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S. 173: No. 3, Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude
Composed by Franz Liszt and performed by Chang-Yong Shin
Album: Beethoven, Liszt & Chopin: Piano Works (2019)

Franz Liszt derives his inspiration for this cycle of piano pieces from a collection of poems written by Alphonse de Lamartine. In his collection, Lamartine waxes rapturous over the divine presence in all creation and Liszt, who as a teenager had wanted to become a priest and who was later to take minor orders in the Catholic Church, could not agree more.

4. (Starting at 8:24)
The Lord's Prayer
Composed by Valentin Silvestrov and performed by the Latvian Radio Choir
Album: Bryars, Maskats & Silvestrov: On Photography (2005)

Next we hear an exquisite choral work by Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov. This particular piece with its haunting resonance and chant-like phrasing takes us to a place of extraordinary beauty and enchantment.

5. (Starting at 13:48)
Peace Piece
Composed by Bill Evans and performed by Igor Levit
Album: Life (2018)

Bill Evans was a jazz pianist and composer whose use of impressionist harmony, inventive interpretation of traditional jazz repertoire, and trademark rhythmically independent melodic lines continue to influence jazz pianists today.

6. (Starting at 18:04)
One Voice
Composed by Ruth Moody and performed by the Wailin' Jennys
Album: 40 Days (2004)

This lovely piece is beautifully sung by the Canadian contemporary folk trio The Wailin' Jennys. The harmony of their three voices blend so perfectly ... indeed singing together as one voice. I think from their perspective this goes way beyond just the three of them ... it's a call for harmonious unified function on the part of the larger whole.

7. (Starting at 21:18)
Precious Memories
Traditional hymn performed by Aretha Franklin
Album: Amazing Grace (1972)

Here, Aretha sings the tune Precious Memories from her all-time best-selling Gospel album Amazing Grace. The album was recorded live at The New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles back in 1972 and it superbly captures the spontaneity, passion and power that music can bring in the service of devotion to Spirit.

8. (Starting at 28:36)
Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106: 1. Sonatina
Composed by J.S. Bach and performed by Víkingur Ólafsson & Halla Oddný Magnúsdóttir
Album: Bach Reworks (Pt. 2)—EP (2018)

This next piece is an early sacred cantata composed by Johann Sebastian Bach in 1768. It's title Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit translates as 'God's time is the very best time.' Bach is among the most prolific composers of sacred music. In his words, "Where there is devotional music, God with his grace is always present."

9. (Starting at 30:36)
Dily's Dream
Composed and performed by Chris Merrick Hughes
Album: Eirenic Life (2017)

Some keyboard soundings from British musician, producer, songwriter and drummer Chris Merrick Hughes, creating in his words an atmosphere of peace and reconciliation.

10. (Starting at 31:46)
Holy, Holy, Holy
Composed by John Bacchus Dykes and performed by the Choir of Jesus College, Cambridge
Album: Praise My Soul: Favourite Hymns from Jesus College Cambridge (2018)

This well-loved Christian hymn provides a lovely vehicle to lift up our voices in praise and thanksgiving.

11. (Starting at 34:58)
Pie Jesu
Composed by Gabriel Fauré and performed by VOCES8
Album: After Silence I. Remembrance (2019)

An example of singing at its purest. It usually is performed by soprano, organ and chamber orchestra. In this version all of the orchestral parts are sung by the VOCES8 members themselves.

12. (Starting at 38:22)
An Ending (Ascent)
Composed and performed by Brian Eno
Album: Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks (with Daniel Lanois & Roger Eno) (1983)

This music was originally recorded in 1983 for a feature-length documentary movie called Apollo, later retitled For All Mankind. It fits perfectly as a piece to be played on the Winter Solstice. As we experience the shortest day of the year, how glorious to ponder the splendor of creation, the precision of planetary motion, and galactic and cosmic choreography. How extraordinary to deeply know that we are all part of the music playing on the grandest of scales — the music of the spheres.

13. (Starting at 40:22)
Composed by Karl Jenkins and performed by Music Lab Collective
Album: Music for Mindfulness (2017)

This sublime composition by Welch musician and composer Karl Jenkins is the twelfth part of his 2001 Mass entitled The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace.

14. (Starting at 41:22)
Silent Night (Stille Nacht)
Composed by Josef Mohr & Franz Xaver Gruber and performed by Seraphic Fire
Album: Silent Night (2012)

Perhaps a fitting way to conclude our journey is to play this much-loved song that is so very characteristic of this time of the year. It is beautifully performed by the choral ensemble Seraphic Fire.

December 22, 2019

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