Category Archives: music

The Tree of Life & The Agnus Dei

Here is one of the last great scenes, perhaps the climax, of Terrence Malick’s magisterial film THE TREE OF LIFE (2011). .

The music in this scene is from Hector Berlioz’s the Grande Messe des morts, Op. 5 (or Requiem), part 10, the Agnus Dei.

The scene is full of symbolism and not easy to grasp. Throughout the film there are many indications that the spirituality in the film is fundamentally Christian. Some might want to say that it’s natural for the spirituality to be Christian given the American context, but I think it is more. I think Malick is exploring the connections between God as creator, the creation He made, human beings receiving God through His creation and others, the suffering of human beings in light of God’s love, the death of Christ, and much more.  And I believe Malick is a Christian, though he is a very private man and it’s hard to say for sure. But the music gives us a clue.

The traditional words of the Agnus Dei, in both liturgy and music, are based upon John the Baptist’s reference in John 1:29 to Jesus (“Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world”), the text in Latin is:

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.

which means:

Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

In Berlioz’s the Grande Messe des morts, the words are as follows in Latin:

Agus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
dona eis requiem sempiternam.
Te decet huymnus, Deus, in Sion,
et tibit reddetur votum in Jerusalem.
Exaudi orationem meam, ad te omnis
caro veniet.
Requiem aeternam
dona defunctis, Domine, et lux
perpetua luceat eis, cum sanctis tuis
in aeternam, Domine, quia pius es.

which means:

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins
of the world, grant them everlasting rest.
Thou, O God, art praised in Sion
and unto Thee shall the vow be
performed in Jerusalem. Hear my
prayer, unto Thee shall all flesh come.
Grant the dead eternal rest,
O Lord, and may perpetual light shine
on them, with Thy saints for ever,
Lord, because Thou art merciful.

And while the last “amens” are being sung, the mother says: “I give him to you, I give you my son.”

Which is followed by a shot of a field of sunflowers, heliotropes that not only turn towards the sun for their life, but are images of the sun as well.

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“Stravinsky is waiting…”

I love this video clip. It is of a moment when Julian Bream has maneuvered himself into a meeting with Stravinsky. As you can see, one had to catch Stravinsky whenever and wherever one could, and Bream takes what opportunity he could find.

The apparent psycho-emotional dynamics of this meeting are also interesting. Bream, who is undoubtedly a master musician, is still nervous and desirous of approval from someone of such eminence as Stravinsky. And Stravinsky gives some “story” of always being too busy in order to not commit anything. But then he shows real interest in Bream’s playing. Kudos to Bream for being so bold.

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Vintage psychedelia by Ryan Larkin

Two more psychedelic classics from animator Ryan Larkin. As I watch these pieces I can’t help but think how wonderful it is that Larkin turned his amazing artistic talents to the hard work of animation. I wish more artists would do so.

Walking (1968)

Street Musique (1975)

These films bring back many vague but good memories of the aesthetics of my youth, that is, I seem to remember the cool, funky, colorful, and exploratory art of the late sixties and early seventies that these films exemplify. I miss that period, but I also am glad we have moved on. I am also reminded that Larkin did these films by hand: each frame is an actual drawing or painting on paper or canvas—no computers, no cgi, just one photograph taken for every 1/24 of a second of finished film.

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>Steve Howe shows us how on three vintage Yes riffs


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>Three from The Bothy Band


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>Bluegrass time capsule

>This is a clip from a film on American bluegrass culture – its music, its dance, and the people who created it. I love being able to find gems like this.

Here is the blurb about this piece:

Way back in 1964, New York filmmaker, David Hoffman was headed down with his new 16mm hand help camera (weight 49 lbs!) to spend three weeks driving the backcountry around Madison County, North Carolina, in the center of Appalachia, with the 82 year old founder of the pioneer Asheville Mountain Music and Dance Festival, Bascom Lamar Lunsford. The resulting film, “Bluegrass Roots” lets you hear and experience the hard scrabbling, dirt road real people sounds that dominated the back country of the southern mountains 40 years ago. It presents a string of the most extraordinary singers, players and dancers the BlueGrass Mountains had to offer. Many later became famous. Some were never heard from again. Most of the songs are classics, including Lunsford’s own tune, “Mountain Dew.” This scene was filmed at Bascom’s home with a local dance group came to dance in Bascom’s living room.

When this film aired on Public Television in 1965, TV Guide gave it a full-page positive review, because Americans had never seen a documentary on the roots of Bluegrass and Country music. Today, the dirt roads and the moonshine counties are largely modernized, and Bluegrass Roots, stands as a record of a uniquely talented group of people at a time just before the coming of television, changed them.

More can be found at the film’s official web site.

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>Björk on television

>Whenever I need a dose of wisdom I always turn first to the profound thoughts of pop stars. And what better source of pop star wisdom than Björk.

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>This break is called the electro fffunk daddy superstar break

>Just in case you found my previous post too esoteric or your French a little rusty, here is something to cleanse the palate.

[Thank you Andrew & Toby for bringing this to my attention.]

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>Mary Travers may you forever rest in peace


Story here.

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>For your soul: PP&M

>Just as your body needs its fruits and vegetables, and your mind needs a vacation and a good book, your soul needs Peter, Paul and Mary.*

* There is some debate, however, whether PP&M can actually save your soul.

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