Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Volumes Two and One

Andy Hunt and Paul Eckberg are in the control room discussing where to plug in the wiry things, Andy G. is on his way with the hard drives, and Ben and I sit here at the table in the kitchen, plucking away at our computers. Matt Pierson, player of bass, is also on his way. Ringo is safely tucked away in a backpack, awaiting his reanimation among our ranks.

Now's as good a time as any to tell you about my harebrained scheme (by the way, I looked it up and it's definitely harebrained) regarding Resurrection Letters.

This April I wrote a series of devotional thoughts during Holy Week and someone on the messageboard (Tim Bourne, a.k.a. Sevenmiles) said that they'd been enjoying reading my "resurrection letters." My brain perked up at that phrase, and I immediately thought that it sounded like a good title for an album.* Knowing that I was preparing for another foray into the studio, I made a list of the potential new album songs and was pretty bummed at first that I couldn't see why an album containing those particular songs would be called Resurrection Letters. They didn't seem to have that much to do with Holy Week.

I put the title aside while the Captains and I started playing the new songs at shows, working them out in soundcheck. I started looking for the common thread in the new songs (there's almost always a common thread, however tenuous), and in doing so I realized that RL was a fitting title after all. So many of these songs spoke of rebirth, redemption, new life, the shine of goodness emerging from the rubble of our lives. The title made perfect sense and tied together most of the songs, not to mention the emerging feel of the album.

Then a funny thing happened.

I realized that there was more to say. More than one album could contain. Over the years people have suggested that I record an Easter concept album that would complement Behold the Lamb, something that could be performed during the lenten season to help prepare the heart for Easter worship. My stock response has always been that Behold the Lamb IS an Easter album, if you think about it. Christmas and Easter are celebrating the same thing. Another cycle of songs would be redundant, not to mention possibly seeming opportunistic in light of the success of the Christmas album and tour. Nothing in me wanted to record an album like that. If nothing else, I balked at the challenge of writing a piece of that scope again. Behold the Lamb took years to write, and so many wonderful things aligned to make the record what it is, I doubted it could be repeated.

But doubt is a silly excuse not to do something.

I feel compelled to create an eight song (from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday) meditation on Holy Week. The two albums will fit together, one being about Christ's passion and resurrection, the other being about what that resurrection means for me and for us two thousand years later. The problem is, I'm recording volume two first. So the tentative title of this album is Resurrection Letters, Volume Two, and the next album will be volume one. I've already started one of the songs and have ideas for a few more, and we're thinking ahead about how to musically tie this record to that one.

With the Christmas album, there already existed a canon of carols and a long tradition of Advent concerts so there was a paradigm to challenge, a clear uniqueness of approach to the old story, which was to remind people of the breadth of the historic tale God's telling. In this case, finding a new way to sing about Easter isn't the point--just singing about it is. For some reason Easter week gets overlooked. Sure, there are cantatas, but that's not what I'm talking about. There's no grand holiday break from work and school to herald the event; there's no shopping craze; there's even more potential for the wonder of the celebration to be forgotten, but not because of the Easter Bunny (he's a much less formidable foe than Santa). Maybe it's because Christmas is so G rated, while the Passion forces us to consider the grisly outcome of our sin. Christmas reads like a fairy tale; Holy Week reads like an epic tragedy, bloody and heartbreaking till you reach the last glorious page. I don't know.

What I do know is that without the resurrection of Christ, we would have nothing to celebrate. If the son of God couldn't conquer Death, then Death would have the last word and we would tumble into the darkness of grave without a whisper of hope, virgin birth or no. It thrills me to have the opportunity to add to the body of songs about Christ's resurrection, songs for the church that might provide an avenue for worship.

When my wife and I were moving into our new house, we pulled up the 17 year-old linoleum flooring and the cat-hair imbued carpet because we knew that it would force us to replace the floors as soon as possible. We didn't have any idea how we'd manage to get new floors, but walking around on plywood and carpet tacks was a great motivation to figure it out. This is me pulling up the linoleum. I've said it, and now either I'll be made a liar or I'll hunker down and find these songs in due time. At first I thought I'd try to write the songs by early next year and record them in time to release the album around Easter, but then I remembered that I have a book to edit and another one to write. It'll probably take a bit longer than that.

So there you have it. These new songs, (volume two) deal with the present. They are songs about living in light of Christ's triumph, and about our struggle to do so. Volume one will tell the beginning of the story. The new covenant. The first notes of the New Song.

This is music, so as always, things can change. But as of August 22, that's my plan.


P.S. I brought Andy G. a pacifier to the studio today, and he finally stopped whining.

*Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria in the fourth century, wrote extensively about the celebration of Easter, and these writings together were called The Resurrection Letters. I don't think ol' 'Nasius will mind.


Jared said...

Andrew, just in case no one has told you this lately, you are a genius. It's interesting that even works like Handel's Messiah, which follows the entire scope of Christ's life (and some), is considered a "Christmas show" today. What about Easter?? The Cross is really the crux of our faith, and yet it is sometimes overlooked. I think you're right - secular America is much more willing to celebrate a birth in a barn than confront the real consequences of their sins. I am so excited for this/these new album(s), and I'm sure it/they will complement BTLOG perfectly. You might have some explaining to do about the whole "Volume Two" subtitle, but what better way to plug the next installment? ;)

PS - If you're hurting for ideas for Vol. One, you could always just use High Noon again... I'm sure no one would mind and it would fit PERFECTLY. :)

Gaines said...

Two words: Awe.Some.

Wine & Design said...

Thank you for working at and using your God given gift. Along with Handels' Messiah every Sunday, BTLOG is played year round at our house. Volume #2 will be welcome even if it preceeds #1.

lyndsayslaten said...

i try not to comment on every single post, but i just can't help it. your thoughts are inspiring, encouraging, and so rooted in Truth. thank you for doing what you do, for following God's call on your life, and pushing us others toward the manger, cross and resurrection. we need reminding.

Josh said...

I think it sounds like a fantastic idea, Andrew. Behold the Lamb is an amazing album which mysteriously finds itself in my cd player on occasions other than the Christmas season....go figure...:)

Keep making music and I'll keep listenin;

Simon said...

What a wonderful idea! So, here are some random ideas that popped into my head as I read your post regarding your Holy Week album.

* If you haven't already done so, check out The Book of Common Prayer. It contains collects (prayers), both traditional and comtemporary which you may find thought-provoking. Also, the BPC has a Daily Office Lectionary which is a good Scripture reading plan. There are several entries in the Daily Office specifically intended for Holy Week.

* You might consider your song "Flesh and Blood" or some variant thereof, as inspiration for your Maundy Thursday song.

* You may also want to investigate the Stations of the Cross for your Good Friday song.

I am very much looking forward to this "other side" of BTLOG.

- Simon

will said...

So how is the Ryman's calendar looking for Easter 2009? If you build it, they will come. I know I will anyway.


Joy from the Prison said...

Andrew, Way Cool Beans. And quite proper that the Easter series songs would be Volume One.
I think it's the Lord at work...
Ours prayers and delight are with you.

Hannah Self said...

Yay! My friends and I were listening to BtLoG yesterday and we were all talking about how cool it would be if you did a similar album of Easter themed songs! I second that no one would mind if High Noon reappeared on it.

Hannah Self said...

Yay! My friends and I were listening to BtLoG yesterday and we were all talking about how cool it would be if you did a similar album of Easter themed songs! I second that no one would mind if High Noon reappeared on it.

cindykasten said...

We are looking for the marvelous words of AP's "Resurection Letters". Breathtaking at last week's concert. Are they still somewhere in a blog or journal?

cindykasten said...

Any where we can find all of the words to your Holy Week devotions, "Resurrection Letters"?

Anonymous said...

What lyndsayslaten said. I agree completely.

As of this post, the journals can still be found in a dusty corner of AP's website, here.