WARNING: Some of you more genteel types will definitely want to avert your eyes from what follows, which I’ll tuck below the fold just as a courtesy. The embedded and/or linked material is, by all civilized standards, not safe for work—or for polite company in places outside the office, probably. Vulgar old bastid that I am, I think it’s just hilarious.So I was driving around earlier, chit-chatting with a bud of mine, when like a bolt from the blue I remembered a nearly-forgotten afternoon of overindulgence in certain mind-altering substances of both the legal and proscribed variety with some other good ol’ boys a few years back. My friend and fellow gitfiddle-picker Travis somehow seized control of the TeeWee remote, maneuvered us over to YouTube, and proceeded to launch obscure and preposterous music videos one after another, almost none of which vids the rest of us rowdies were previously familiar with.
We all laughed till our ribs ached, as each fresh obscenity followed another. After that unlooked-for stirrings of the mystic chords of memory earlier, I checked Ye Olde YouTube once I got back to the crib, just for the heck of it. Imagine my surprise to find the disgraceful things still in place and available for viewing by mature (HA!) audiences. Apparently Trump, the 2020 election shenanigans, and/or the Reason For The Season at Easter-time are verboten, but semi-pornographic, sacreligious, and/or just plain sick videos are able to pass moral muster with the YouTube bluenoses. For now, anyway.
First up: the off-kilter country-music perambulations of Birdcloud.
Hrm. It appears that embedding this slice of sulfurous lewd-i-tude might not be entirely kosher. YouTube, doubtless out of a sense of deep concern, has provided an additional layer of moral rectitude in order to assist potentially wayward souls in avoiding ruination by tuneful vice. In case the vid ain’t showing up for ya, and I’m sure it ain’t, it can be found here, ya sinful old root-hogs.
Next up, one that will have you looking over your shoulder apprehensively, in anticipation of a vengeful lightning bolt hurled by the Almighty to blot your blasphemin’ carcass from this Earth. It did me first time I heard it, anyway. But really, however…ummm…irreverant, shall we say, the expression of the sentiment, there’s nonetheless a sizeable nugget of truth in the warning so profanely conveyed. I’ll leave open for the nonce the not-exactly-burning question of whether the songwriter sincerely hoped to guide those of his audience who may have strayed back onto the path of Righteousness, or whether he was just enjoying a boyish giggle over commingling blue language and religious sentiment.
Now, this next is in no way obscene or controversial; what it is is heart-stoppingly gorgeous. It was new to me too, until hearing it on the radio late the other night in a half-doze. The section starting at 2:20 in particular is just breathtaking, somehow contriving to be soothing, placid, and sensually overpowering all at once. It can’t help but bring to mind Salieri’s unforgettable quote from Amadeus: I heard the music of true forgiveness filling the theater, conferring on all who sat there perfect absolution. God was singing through this little man to all the world, unstoppable…
Just so. This piece is the true musical incarnation of forgiveness, acceptance, welcome, and unconditional love. It is an aural description of what the emotional experience of an infant being held to his softly-crooning mother’s breast might sound like. It is, to me, the very voice of God.
And, perhaps unsurprisingly considering the instrument’s ancient associations in Western minds, Francesco Pollini’s simple, elegant composition is a perfect fit for the harp. Really, I can’t imagine the piece being played on any other instrument. The harp itself, along with the likewise-venerable pipe organ, is a quite interesting contraption in musical, historical, and mechanical terms. If you’ve never witnessed a harp being played up close and personal, it’s a real experience.
The harp is an exceedingly tough nut for a player to crack—close kissing cousins with the pipe organ, as well as the pedal-steel guitar, in more than just being complex and difficult instruments to master. They all require full-body involvement to properly play them: hands, feet, arms, and knees are all fully engaged. In light of such multifarious distractions, it’s easy to wonder how an artist can possibly find space in his or her head to cram any self-expression and soul into the performance too. The harpist might well be the busiest musician on the orchestra stage.
Although nothing near as versatile as the pipe organ (almost nothing is) in terms of the panoply of different sounds it can produce, the harp is nonetheless not limited to the sweet, innocuous, dulcet tinkling commonly associated with it among the general public. Although it would be a bit much to claim that the harp is capable of bringing forth anything that could be mistaken for a heavy-metal-guitar’s menacing snarl, there are a few harp compositions that can summon at least some minor-key unease, if not exactly what anybody would call sinister. My own personal favorite in this small sub-genre:
We seem to have wandered pretty far afield from my original topic, I fear. But no matter. Hey, don’t hate me ’cause I’m beautiful, y’all.