monday song #15: the bells of st. sparrow


fifteen songs. four plus months. and I’m just getting warmed up…

this week’s song was a case of automatic writing as far as the music goes. i played the opening churchbell pentatonic run on the piano and was struck by the first melodic phrase. i turned on the tape recorder [actually, garageband on my mac] and played the idea again, to capture it. i continued playing to see if i could come up with some related ideas. i played the whole thing straight through, bridge and all. i still had to come up with lyrics, but the final recording follows the arrangement of that first pass.

the song takes up a theme i return to often: the connection between isolation and revelation. There are some related phrases in monday song #3, birthday (part one). but in this case there is an austerity and distance, the call of the church bells and the unifying power of music.

as the piece came together and i really went for the church bell atmosphere, i was reminded of the campanile at uc berkeley, where i went to college last century. the bell concerts at noon were completely transporting. the power of the sound created a kind of dissonance that threatened to explode the harmony of the song. the gods clinking glasses.
all you high school american lit fans out there will recognize i lifted a section from poe’s “the bells.” if i recall correctly, he invented the clever onomatopoeia, “tintinnabulation,” a frontrunner in the race for most beautiful word in the english language, up there with conundrum and filet. if you’re gonna steal, steal from the best.

the title of this tune popped in my head as i named the garageband file. i have to assume saint sparrow is the patron saint of spontaneity.