It was a joy to be able to spend a couple of hours with members of the CU at London’s University of the Arts on Thursday evening, giving a talk on this subject. Sarah Dargue has already done a really good job at summarising the key points over at the Interface Arts page (if you’re an arts student, definitely worth keeping an eye on that blog). But here is my talk outline, so that you can get some of the key quotes and references, plus my slides. Read more
For those who’ve not discovered her stuff, my sis-in-law, Miriam Jones‘ latest album (Fire-Lives) is a treat and a great way in to her music. Have listened to it loads in the last couple of weeks but it now comes out on general release this week – she and Jez and the guys have done a fabulous job on producing an intense, multi-layered and fascinating anthology. This album sampler hints at its joys…
But the single, Wondrous Mysterious (now available from iTunes), is one she gave last year as a ‘Christmas card’. I’ve loved it from the get-go – it’s a superb antidote to the grimly commercialised, schmaltzy, trimmings-laden but emasculated Christmas that we get bombarded with from around August 23rd.
I turned on the tv and it suddenly was Christmas and I hollered at the advert that they wouldn’t get my money and I could not believe they honestly were trying to take my heart for Christmas. The airwaves jammed with snowmen and with santa claus and angels, and I do believe in angels, but not the kind that do not scare you and I prayed some kind of holy fear would find its way to me this Christmas.
‘Cause my heart is dying to prepare for something wondrous, and mysterious, but this world is ringing in my ears and it’s thunderous and delirious.
I walked into town and it was red and gold and sparkling and while I waited for my watch I hovered round the shiny shops, oh you who have no money come and buy, and fill your hearts full up this Christmas. Steering down the sidewalk I could hear a conversation ‘bout a boy who had a head they’d like to push under a faucet and I wondered are we saving up all our loving hearts for Christmas.
Part way through December I pulled out the wooden figures from their boxes and I placed them and I looked into their faces, wondering what they all were looking at…
The lyrics are evocative and concise, full of suggestion. But my standout that I particularly love is line about not believing in ‘the kind of angels that do not scare you‘. A hole in one methinks…
Read this the other day. Was stopped in my tracks and struck dumb by its simple power. Written by Bonhoeffer while in a Nazi prison for his part in a failed attempt to assassinate Hitler. He was executed in Flossenburg Concentration Camp only a matter of days before the end of the 2nd World War.
Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a squire from his country-house.
Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equally, smilingly, proudly,
Like one accustomed to win.
Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were
compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectation of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?
Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine!
Taken from Letters & Papers from Prison
It evoked in my mind a poem/song written of course in entirely different circumstances but which grapples with the same human reality: I AM ONE by my sister-in-law, Miriam Jones. And while we’re on the case, check out her website for new songs in the process of creation as we speak…
Had the deep joy last night to get to hear my bro-in-law Jez supporting his über-talented wife Miriam (Jones) at their Perseverance pub gig. I’ve posted about Miriam before but the really exciting news is:
- You can watch some of her previous sets online, and hopefully last night’s should appear there as well (click the photo I took last night right)
- Even better, you can actually download her first album Sign & Semblance FOR FREE!! How awesome is that! Go to Miriam’s reverbnation page – and become a fan. [Do that by signing up to Reverbnation (it's painless and free) and then download the songs that are available to you to download for free.] What’s not to like?
- Then if you like what you hear, you can buy the 2nd album Being Here on iTunes (for only £7.90). For those who bump into me in real time and space, I also have a few CDs available at home (for £10). You know it makes sense.
thought i’d let you know about another recent musical discovery: a great Canadian singer, Miriam Jones. She’s made a couple of albums, both available on iTunes: sign and semblance (august 2005) and more recently being here (march 2007)
Hers is a very approachable folksy style, but one is very quickly drawn in by her raw honesty and emotional truth. This is what her website bio has to say:
Miriam Jones is a bold writer with a restorative, liberating, and whimsical voice. Her sound shares characteristics with the likes of Beth Orton, Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow, and Delores O’ Riordan. Miriam shows herself at home in an acoustic and harmonic geography akin to David Gray, Iron & Wine, and Simon & Garfunkel. Her work is arresting in its artistry, but also possesses a lyrical depth intent on engaging the thoughtful listener.
“…a style of heart felt yearning from a performer that compels your attention.”
I love songs that can match lyrical music with profound lyrics. And you get that here in buckets. They are beautiful and thought-provoking. One that has got me going today is from the second album, called I AM ONE. In this song, Miriam brilliantly articulates the contradictions and paradoxes of being an everyday Christian. There is a sense of progression through the song and yet at the same time, each verse equally describes a simultaneous reality. Martin Luther once described the Christian as simul iustus et peccator (the only reason for quoting the Latin is that it is so wonderfully succinct!). What Luther was on about is the unavoidable but hugely important truth that a Christian is both a saint (literally someone who has been justified or made right with God) and a sinner (someone who rebels against God) at one and the same time. Miriam’s I AM ONE gets it all. Here are a few excerpts:
I am one of his disciples; I am one who bears his name
I am one of Satan’s rivals; I am one and I am … Unashamed
I am orphan made a daughter; I am a harlot made a wife
I am a poor man called to dinner; I am a stranger recognised
Though I am the image of a hidden glory
… Alleluia – I am home to coming king
I am one of his defiers; I am one of his runaways
I have fought him to the wire; I have cursed him to his face
I am one who he has pardoned; I am one who knows his grace…
Oh and for the sake of transparency – i should add at this stage that Miriam has recently got engaged to Jez, my brother-in-law, and they are getting married this summer! Hurrah. Canada’s loss is Britain’s gain!