Resonances across time
In a series of posts I’ve called “This Happens to Me All the Time,” I occasionally document those strange convergences of conversation and gospel music’s greatest hits that are sprinkled throughout my days (i.e. the sales clerk asks me if I’d like to open up a store credit card and put the purchase on my account and I involuntarily start humming to myself “Like Onesimus, I ran away … I guess I thought, I’d never pay … for all my sin … where could I-I-I- begin”). This kind of thing … well, it happens to me all the time.
Rarer but more wrinkle-in-time-like is the experience of hearing a song whose melody seems to echo and revoice another. I can only recall our talking about it around here once before regarding “That’s Him”/”You Don’t Know Me”. And the other day, while I was tinkering with “Tell Me the Story of Jesus” at the piano, I suddenly heard how melodically similar the first verse of the song can sound to the first verse of the Gaither Vocal Band’s arrangement of “I’m Free” from Testify.
A famous literary critic once said most academics are lucky to have one good, original idea in their lives, and then they spend most of their career saying it again and again in different ways. And I think a version of this is true with our music collections and tastes: if we’re lucky, we find one or two really fantastic albums that we fall in love with and spend the rest of our lives playing some version of them over and over … Testify is one of those albums for me, and I suspect a bit of what’s going on here is that, not very surprisingly, the kind of music I like to hear others sing is also the kind of music I drift toward in my own arrangements of music at the piano.
But, still. I don’t think this is just pure musical projection. Sure, it’s not a one-to-one match between the songs, and no, I’m not suggesting the the latter was written with the former in mind. Rather, I take these kinds of things to be lovely little revelatory resonances across time that reaffirm the rightness of the creative universe and the soundness of the musical order of things. At least that explanation feels more satisfying - seems to affirm my delight in these small, exquisite discoveries - more than “it’s just a coincidence,” even though it may well be just that.Email this Post