After a visit to Amazon, I realized that there’s a cd I need to get.  (Weird I know.)  At some point in my undergraduate studies, probably while I was studying four-part vocal arranging and going to Sacred Harp singings in Nashville, I ran across a William Billings album that I didn’t buy but couldn’t forget.  In this recording, the William Appling Singers performed Old Harp songs and fuguing tunes that I’d already heard and some psalm & Song of Solomon settings that I hadn’t—these were the ones that stuck with me.  I think I transcribed the treble for one of them, and can still sing a few lines even though I haven’t heard them again in years.  They’re lovely.  So rich, such a full sound, and like most early American vocal music they edge into the strident and discordant—just enough to make you listen really hard, to make you care a lot about what you’re hearing.

So many centuries of love for Song of Solomon (Katie Gray told me the other day that medieval monks’ favorite texts to annotate/explicate were Song of Songs passages), and so much of it divorced from truly exuberant human sexuality.  Sad.  But I think one of the reasons I remember lines and harmonies from Billings’ “I am the Rose of Sharon” arrangement, which is much less like a hymn and much more like an art song, is that his musical setting is exuberant.  As exuberant as it got in the late 1700’s anyway.  (And it got kind of exuberant at times.)

The real question, here, is whether I should get the William Appling Singers album … or the Billings recording (mostly the same songs) by His Majesties Clerkes, which Amazon also has.  American Billings vs. British Billings.  The Singers have a pretty historically accurate (?) sound, as far as I can tell—it’s raw, spare, and there aren’t that many voices.  From what I’ve heard of the Clerkes, it sounds like they do a full, lush, boy-choir-type-thing with the songs.  Which boy-choir-type-thing I happen to really love in general, especially with sacred music.  But is it appropriate for Billings?  For these early American songs?  Should a boy choir sing “Like a rose among the thorns, so is my love among the daughters”?  Or, “Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my beloved among the sons…I sat down in his shade with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste”?

I love music.  All kinds.  So much.  I want a piano.  And to sing.

Yay, office hours are over and I can go home!

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