Sonic Identity

A Sonic Meditation for Holy Saturday

I didn’t come up with much of verbal reflection on this third playlist for the Triduum.  If you missed the other two sonic meditations, here’s the one for Maundy Thursday and here’s the one for Good Friday.

On Holy Saturday, Jesus Christ, God incarnate, is in the grave and descends to hell.  This is the Harrowing of hell.   Holy Saturday ends with the Easter Vigil, that begins with a big fire, and from that new fire lighting the paschal candle and chanting “The Light of Christ”.

This is the third day of the Triduum, the liturgy o the Three days. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are together the commemoration of Christ’s passion.  In this sonic meditation I begin with where we left off on Good Friday.  We have this day to sit and weep.  Sure we know that Easter is tomorrow and later on this evening if we attend an Easter Vigil we will on Holy Saturday proclaim Alleluia Christ is Risen… He is risen indeed, Alleluia.  But we aren’t there yet.  Jesus is dead and in the tomb.  God incarnate dies and goes to the realm of the dead (hell, Hades, Sheol).  In this moment waiting for the Easter Vigil, there’s little focus. bits of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are here, and, of course, anticipation of Resurrection.

 

A Sonic Meditation for Good Friday

The Bridegroom

That this day should be called “good” isn’t obvious or clear.  If this day is good it is not in the events commemorated, but in what God is doing, and the pulling aside the veil of the systems of power and domination.  But also,  it is that the events commemorated on this day don’t stand alone.  The goodness of this day is that liturgically we aren’t simply caught in death and oppression.  In fact later today, I will proclaim with many others in song and in reverencing a representation of the cross, that what the powerful and what the system of domination intended as death dealing is turned into, by God’s act and grace, something life giving.  Liturgically we live between horror and hope on this day.  What is good isn’t the violence dealt out, but God’s identification with humanity in defiance of that violence, exposing that empire and law are bound up in death.

The playlist opens with what the Maundy Thursday playlist ended. This reflects that the Three Days or Triduum is a continuous three day liturgy of Christ’s passion. The nervous energy becomes more subdued and focused.  A melancholy rejection of oppression, violence and the madness of the world. Of course at the center of this day is an  execution, and fittingly Nick Caves Mercy Seat sits at the center of the playlist.  Here, I chose a song that has the most direct and literal associations to the theme of this day.  The title of the song is a name for the cover of the Ark of the Covenant which sat in the Holy of Holies in the ancient Israelite temple. Since the Holy of Holies was only entered on the day of Atonement and only by the High Priest, the mercy seat is associated with the theology and ideas of atonement.  Cave has the voice of the person to be executed make not only specific allusions to Jesus’ crucifixion but even identifies his execution with that of Jesus.  In listening to it today I heard also, a reference to those “thieves” or “bandits” who were crucified with Jesus and the “thief” to whom Jesus’ says “This day you will be with me in paradise.”  The question of guilt or innocence has been abandoned by the one being executed and faces his death not unlike the “thief” who chides his compatriot saying that they, unlike Jesus, aren’t innocent.  Scholars are largely in agreement that those two theives or bandits were most likely Zealots or members of Jewish resistance who used violence and brigandage in their opposition and defiance of the Roman occupation.

From the point of execution and the defiance and acceptance of fate, we enter death.  Death is the reality we face on this day not in despondency (though for Jesus disciples, this moment was a deep confusion and darkness) but in anticipation. Even so, Jesus actually dies. Here is the death of God, this we can’t avoid.  We human beings, human systems of power and domination, killed God.  Thus, Today is also a day of repentance, of reflecting on the small and large ways take the side of Death, Empire, distorted religious power, and violence.  We repent because we know the love of Maundy Thursday and we know the end of the story. Yet, we also sit with the pain, the violence and our complicity with oppression and the degradation of others, whom God created and loves.  That is our sinfulness and our mad mad world. We face too that we will all face death.  What that death will be for us and what we will find in it, in part has to do with what we do with the tensions of Good Friday. Are we willing to sit within this space, or if we do we rush to triumph without pain.

There’s a heaviness as I finish listening. We are in a wilderness, from here (even though I know to expect the  dawn) the darkness overwhelms. The grief and pain of this mad world of ours washes over me and engulfs me.

What is difficulty of this day?

What did you hear in this playlist?  What are the resonances?

Are you lead to turn aside from certain things, to allow yourself to be transformed by the reality of this day and liturgical observance?

This is the second meditation in triptych.  The first is found here, a Sonic Meditation on Maundy Thursday. The third , a Sonic Meditation on Holy Saturday.

Mass on the Altar of the World

A Sonic Meditation for Maundy Thursday

What is Maundy Thursday?  The term comes from the Latin for commandment because according the Gospel of John at the Last Supper Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” The command is symbolically and really shown in Jesus’ taking the position of a slave and washing the feet of those gathered for the meal in the upper room.  It is also, the day of the institution of the Eucharist.  It is also the day betrayal of Christ in the Garden by Judas, Jesus’ agony in the Garden, and the secret late night trial before the Sanhedrin.  Maundy Thursday; complex, chaotic, intimate, and political.

As I chose the songs for this playlist I attempted to keep the complexity and movement between intimacy and public exposure, the moment of calm but also the moments of chaos.  Personally I feel that what could fall under the umbrella of goth, dark alternative, or death rock, is well suited for the complexity of Maundy Thursday.  The playlist begins with love but an ambiguous troubled love.  If we are to hear Jesus’ command to love, we should also hear that it needs to be qualified. Love is many things, Jesus keeps us from any ambiguity through saying the command to love is connected to the way in which Jesus, and thus God incarnate as Jesus, loved.  Furthermore, in washing the feet of those at table Jesus makes concrete and symbolic what that love looks like.  So, we get a more intimate and positive, less conflicted moments of love. Here is where I find John Coltrane’s “Love supreme” in the mix. But, then back into the mix of emotions, conflicts, and ultimately betrayal.  This leads to facing violent death and the politics of death. There isn’t only a linear movement in the playlist, you can find betrayal articulated at the beginning as well as at the end.  As I listented to the playlist on Maundy Thursday, I was surprised by the degree of nervous energy in the playlist, even the moments of intimacy have an undertone of excitement and even anxiety. I hadn’t had that in mind when I put the playlist together the week before.

This isn’t a peaceful meditation.  Human failing is highlighted throughout, yet wiht hints, of something else, hins of the command ..” to love as I have loved you.”  But only hints

The above is what I heard as I listened to this playlist, as I finished preparation for Maundy Thursday worship.

What did you hear? What resonates with you?

How do you see Maundy Thursday and our commemoration of this moment in Jesus of Nazareth’s Passion?

Gothic Sonic Identity: Revelations from 12 albums meme

Editorial note: In 2012 I wrote a post about “gothic sonic identity”, coming out of  conversation with Tripp Hudgins around his Ph.D. work in Music and Liturgy.  I had intended to write a whole series  of posts along these lines.  They never came about.  Here I might be resurrecting this thread we’ll see if any more comes toying with the idea of  “sonic identity”.  But there’s at least one more in this series- Priestly Goth.

Tripp recently tagged me in a Facebook meme asking to list the 12 albums that were significant for you and have remained with you through the years.  Not surprising Tripp’s list to my eyes was fairly eclectic and included some albums that indicated he has some goth sensibilities.  Others I noticed also had want seemed to me to be somewhat diverse list of albums and artists.  I on the other hand mostly ended up listing albums and artist that are more or less punk or goth.  The two exceptions were Petra and U2.

This surprised me.   In high school I listened mostly to Christian Rock , like Petra, Stryper, Steve Taylor, Lifesavers Underground (a goth iteration of the artist Mike Knott), The Choir, etc.   Well I suppose more accurately I should say I owned only albums from Christian Rock acts. I did,  however through radio and friends, listen much more broadly than the albums I owned.    By the end of high school beginning of college I began to purchase “secular” albums, as the CCM language put it.  However I didn’t purchase a “goth” album until Depech Mode”s Violator came out in 1990.  The second such album was Wish by the Cure (a more solidly goth band ).   What fascinates me is that neither of these albums made the list.

The song Judas Kiss. on Petra’s More Power to Ya album, made a little fun of the whole backward masking controversy, because running records backwards will always sound creepy.  In some sense in that album was the deconstruction of the whole CCM scene or at least More Power To Ya gave me permission to love Rock-N-Roll and be a Christian.

However, I already loved Rock.  Around 1979 I was given my own stereo system to have in my room (radio, record player and cassette deck)  On that radio alone in my room between 1979 and 1982 I’d tune into an AM station that I’d at times pick up in the early evenings.  Thanks to that station I heard Punk Rock for the first time.  Though I wasn’t listening to Punk Rock at the appropriate decibels lest my parents would take interest in what I was listening.  On that station I first heard the Dead Kennedy’s and Black Flag, as well as others, but those two punk bands I continued to follow in High school.

I’ve never owned a Dead Kennedys Album, and yet I know all the songs from Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.  I’m not sure exactly how.  My older half-brother, who lived with us between 1980 and 1982 may have had the album though he was not really Punk he was more hard rock/Heavy Metal fan.

Christian Death and Jesus and Mary Chain made the list, though I haven’t (oddly enough) ever owned their albums.  I account for this oddity because once I identified as goth, the identity was explicitly tied with the dance club, and not necessarily the music I listened to at home.  But I heard  Christian Death and Jesus and Mary chain before ever frequenting a goth club. I recall in college hanging out with friends and friends of friends and listening to these albums.  The first time I heard Christian Death Only Theater of Pain was in the gothed out room of someone I had just met who was a good friend of one  of my good friends.  I was at home, Christian Death spoke to me in ways I still can’t entirely account for.   I don’t have such a firm memory of when I first heard Jesus and Mary Chain, but I know every song on that album.

Lifesavers Underground I remember purchasing just before going to high school winter camp, for reasons I don’t recall I was miserable and wasn’t enjoying the company of my fellow Christians, my only other recollection from that camp was sitting and listening on my Walkman to Shaded Pain.  Listening to that album now, I have no idea why I didn’t make the connection with goth at that time.  While Mike Knott certainly transcends goth in his oeuvre as a musician, LSU and especially shaded pain to my mind are quintessentially goth/dark-wave

These anecdotes point out that what I discovered in the 12 albums meme:  that my goth/punk sonic identity runs deep, and that even at times when my tastes were supposed to be directed in other ways, I was drawn first to punk and then what would become known as goth.  From early on I’ve been at home in the sounds of punk and goth, they have deep resonance and albums I’ve never owned have continued to carry deep meaning and significance for me.