Su Blackwell installation via Pinterest: "While you were Sleeping" 2004
I don’t consider myself a “music person.” I love music and I always have. It moves me and speaks to me, though usually, it’s the lyric that lingers longest in my heart. Though I have spent a good portion of my life dancing in my closet while simultaneously buttoning my shirt and using my toothbrush as a microphone in the morning, I’m just not one of those people who talks about music in the cool kid language. I have nothing to say about rifts* and lifts and other things that rhyme with “ift.” So, in that sense, I don’t really fit into the music scene of Austin. I’m okay with that. I tried to be a cool music person in 2002 and it turned out that I was just lame. (I wish I could link here to the ridiculous review I wrote of Matt Wertz’s album in Spring of ’02 as an example. Relevant has–rightfully!–removed all hint of it.) So, since then, when people start talking band names I’ve never heard of that I obviously should have heard of, I say, “Oh, I’ve never heard of them,” and I brace myself for the label that will now be removed from their mental assessment of my awesomeness.
Last week I posted about an organization called “Trade in Hope,” which is making a feature-length film about sex trafficking in the US, specifically in Austin, and I was genuinely blessed to be at its benefit showcase this past Saturday night. I went, knowing that the showcase would involve an art display, live music and a viewing of their short film. I assumed the music would be your typical Austin fare, stuff that I would appreciate but fail to connect with because I’m not cool enough or musically learned enough.
The film’s score was written by Casey McPherson from band AlphaRev, whose voice and presence was shockingly powerful to me. He only sang two songs and I audibly sighed when he left the stage. The score was performed by a gathering of musicians called the 1211 band who played live along with the film. (Such an amazing idea, by the way.) And I was reminded that despite my feeling awkward and unsure when it comes to bands and rifts, I have always been moved by music and have always recognized beauty. What I experienced Saturday night as 1211 played was an orb of light moving from the stage toward me and settling in my chest before it exploded all over the room. (That’s dramatic, I know. But it’s true.)
Do you know that moment when you dive into a wave on the shore and you crash through the hard edge of it and find yourself momentarily touched on all sides by soft water? It was that flowing that I experienced. I had to close my eyes so I could feel the drum beat pounding my lungs open and all that good could spill out.
I think what I’m trying to say is that the next morning as I walked forward to receive communion, loving the words we were singing, I stood as I always do at communion, facing the cross with my hands open, begging bread. And I closed my eyes while the drum beat pounded into my chest again and I felt for a moment what I’d felt the night before: the diving into the hard water, the swoosh through the cover of its softness. The priest put the bread in my hands. I took it. I drank the wine.
When I sat down and closed my eyes to say something to God about the bread and the wine, I saw a picture of the bread in me, a picture of the bread sticking to all the broken parts, holding them together. And just as they stuck, just as I knew the healing was moving through my insides, the wine was a flash-flood past the sticky broken places. The flood rushed through my center and out towards my extremities, lighting my fingers and toes, flashing out of my head and chest.
It was like music swelling and pulsing out…
* I’ve recently been made aware that the word is actually RIFF…further insight into my ignorance!