learning new music and a poem


I’ve done it again. I’ve been thinking about the postlude I scheduled for this Sunday. I decided to scrap it. It was based on the last hymn and written by Seth Bingham. Bingham  (1882-1972) was a prominent American organist of his time serving a big Presbyterian church in New York and teaching at Columbia. But his music is very dated. I don’t mind performing dated music once in a while especially if it represents the tradition. However, It was very loud. I played a loud 20th century piece for the postlude last Sunday. I had considered pairing a toccata or prelude and fugue by Walther with the pieces I am going to play for the prelude Sunday based on the hymn, “Wake, awake.”

Monday afternoon I rummaged through a bunch of pieces by Walther. I have played one of his toccatas. However, the pedal part on this piece is very stagnant. Instead, I foolishly decided to learn a new prelude and fugue by him for this Sunday. This means it will take more rehearsal time.

But I wrote a bulletin article again about this Sunday’s music. I explained that Walther was Bach’s cousin and that Bach was the godfather of Walther’s eldest son. I mentioned that music from this time sits nicely on our new organ. This fact is actually a motivator for me, so it doesn’t hurt to mention it.

This poem impressed me this morning.


by Tyhehimba Jess

an ex-con finds me
when he’s statue still,
“thinkin’ his heart,”
summoning his bones
the way a gambler whispers
luck to the die he’s clenched
and hurled from his palm.

a professor embalms me
in electrified wax,
then exhumes me a 78 rpm
with needle and wire,
tattooing my breath—
less body into wind.

whether i was born in the soil
or from the heat of muscle
against soil, from body-bent
trees or the river they all drink
from; whether i pass down
from callus or calumny,
goddam or gospel,
my birthing way
is always the same.

i heave memory,
want, and will
against lung until
the soul’s meat
surrenders, makes way
for the knee-buckle
load mined
from each moaner’s
private graveyard
of chance.

sticky with god,
i shove and smooth
my way up gullet,
hauling treasure
chest of fingerpop
and footstomp.
i mount the skull:
praying my name
as if it were its own
into the book of heaven.

from leadbelly

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