Tag: Pachelbel

How Lame Is Our Awesome God?

 

“When He rolls up His sleeves / He ain’t just puttin’ on the Ritz” must be one of the least promising ways to begin a worship song ever. Nobody rolling up their sleeves is “puttin’ on the Ritz.” The rolled-up sleeve-position used for manual labor is the opposite of the sleeve-position used for an old-fashioned fancy night out. And yet, that’s how Richard Mullins’s best-known song, Awesome God opens. Mullins himself considered Awesome God something of a failure, remarking, “the thing I like about Awesome God is that it’s one of the worst-written songs that I ever wrote; it’s just poorly crafted.” And yet it’s a song many of us remember fondly. Why?

To be fair, the lyrics get better from there: “There is THUNder in His footsteps / And lightnin’ in His fists.” Although not by much. Awesome God alternates patter in the verses with an expansive chorus, and the patter is hardly scintillating prose, much less verse. (“Eden” rhymes with “be believin’” — really?) The patter does, though, address themes often left out of “Jesus is my boyfriend”-style worship songs. God as Judge. Sin and its wages. God as God not just of happy, shiny, fluffy things, but also of the storm. And, when the song is sung at proper tempo (no slower than Mullins himself performed it), the rapid-fire, syncopated sixteenth-note patter creates an effect that surpasses its individual words. Especially when the worship leader delivers the patter in a half-snarled, half-whispered mutter, as if he’s letting you in on the secret of something dangerous — which he is: Aslan’s not safe, after all, just good. Notice I called the worship leader he. That’s important. Awesome God is made for a masculine musical delivery, and the difference between liking the song and hating it can simply be the difference between having learned it as masculine and driven, or crooning and wimpy.

Familiarity, Contempt, and All That Jazz

 

I would normally post something like this on PIT 14 or the “What Are You Listening To?” group, but this tune seems suddenly to be everywhere. KJAZ in Long Beach, CA, plays it but, more than that, it is popping up on phone hold queues everywhere.

It’s catchy enough, but I fear I will become as annoyed with it as I am with the Pachelbel Canon in D, another instance of an old tune that was catapulted into ubiquity.

Chaconne à Son Goût – Christmas Treats and Traditions

 

Plenty of today’s “Christmas carols” are unabashedly secular songs. So were many of the original Christmas carols, it’s just that their words were adapted to be overtly religious to celebrate Christian festivals. What we now call our sacred carols are typically festive, seasonal, and dancelike. Easter carols exist, but the most well-known sacred carols are for Christmas. The Christmas concert season often features other early music, too. Music that sounds “Christmassy” in part because our sacred carols are also largely early music.

The chaconne or passacaglia is one of these early-music tropes. There isn’t a fixed distinction between chaconne and passacaglia, or between these and other ground-bass forms (this is “ground” as in “foundational,” not as in we’re making sausage of the deep-voiced menfolk). But all describe a short bassline or chord progression repeated over and over … and over … again. The refrain of the carol “What Child Is This” (whose tune is also known as “Greensleeves,” and may or may not have originally been about a woman whose dress is green because she rolls around in the hay rather often), for example, uses a repeated romanesca progression. “What Child Is This” has a wistful, haunting character, and there’s no shortage of chaconnes in a minor key expressing lamentation (often with a bassline explicitly called a lament bass), but the chaconne seems to have descended from an impertinent, even “sexy” dance in 3/4 time.

Member Post

 

When most Americans hear the name Pachelbel, they immediately think of one thing: cheap Mexican food. On the other hand, most people who know just about anything about music from before they were born will probably think of the Canon in D. I have a CD called Pachelbel’s Greatest Hit. It has eight tracks with […]

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