The coronavirus challenged compassion-providing ministries in new ways
George Crumb: Metamorphoses (Book I) by Marcantonio Barone: The subtitle: Ten Fantasy-Pieces (After Celebrated Paintings) for Amplified Piano. The composer: a nonagenarian who shows no signs of slowing down. The paintings: Two apiece by Klee and Chagall, one apiece by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Dalí, Whistler, Kandinsky, and Johns. The best way to listen: by looking at the relevant paintings and trying to imagine which details—colors, brush strokes, subject matter—correlate with the range of sounds made by Barone’s playing of the keyboard, his playing of its strings (Crumb composes for the whole piano), his “playing” of whatever’s making the crow sounds in the Van Gogh piece, and his approximation of Polynesian grunting (the Gauguin). The ad campaign: A Pictures at an Exhibition for our post-representational times.
Rough and Rowdy Ways by Bob Dylan: In Cubism, says Wikipedia, “objects are analyzed, broken up, and reassembled in an abstracted form” and “the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context.” Hence Dylan’s beginning with “I Contain Multitudes,” his attaching lyrics alluding to Ricky Nelson and Augustine of Hippo to a 66-year-old Sun Records tune (“False Prophet”), his Cubist-by-definition Frankenstein fantasy (“My Own Version of You”), and his recurring juxtaposition of religious B.C. lingo (gods and Muses) with its A.D. equivalents (the Holy Spirit, old-time religion, the gospel of Love). Hence also the musical schema, wherein barbed-wire blues alternate with the tenderest original melodies of his career.
The Explorers Club by the Explorers Club: Even if you think his commitment to mid-to-late-’60s AM-radio sunshine pop makes Jason Brewer a nostalgia act, you have to admit that he’s really good at what he does. Not only does he sing and arrange like someone intent on giving the Turtles and Paul Revere & the Raiders a run for their money, but he writes his own songs too, songs that imply Laurel Canyon moved on too fast when it abandoned their kind for country-rock and that there’s something to be gained from what got left behind. And if you like Brewer’s originals, you’ll love his note-for-note re-creations of 10 mid-to-late-’60s AM-radio sunshine-pop nuggets on his Club’s also just-released To Sing and Be Born Again.
Hush… by Joanne Hogg & Phil Hart: Twenty years ago, Phil Hart and Joanne Hogg (the lead singer of the Christian progressive-folk band Iona at the time) collaborated on these nine lullabies, all of which are child (and parent) appropriate and enough of which are appropriate for everyone to make their belated appearance (in their original demo form) seem providential. First Worlders, after all, have more reasons to have trouble falling asleep these days than they have in many a year. Believers know better than to let their hearts be troubled or to let the sun go down on their wrath, but some things are easier said than done. These songs will help. And they sound pretty good when you’re wide awake too.
As a metaphor, the phrase “Voice of His Generation” has never really fit Bob Dylan. But taken literally, it makes sense. In terms of instant identifiability and emotional shorthand, Dylan’s voice is rivaled only by Humphrey Bogart’s in the pantheon of American articulation. But unlike Bogart’s, which went silent after 57 years, Dylan’s has aged beyond mere harsh nasality into a chameleonlike suppleness that allows him to address complex topics so conversationally that he’s practically hiding them in plain sight.
Consider, for example, how much autobiography is packed into these lines from “Key West,” Track 9 on his new album: “Twelve years old, they put me in a suit / Forced me to marry a prostitute / There were gold fringes on her wedding dress / That’s my story, but not where it ends / She’s still cute, and we’re still friends.” There’s his bar mitzvah. There’s Ezekiel 16. There’s his enduring relationship to Judaism. There’s even the (Messianic?) implication that the best is yet to come. Blink and you’ll miss it. —A.O.