Category Archives: Music

Welcome, Atticus

As many of you may already know, I have recently welcomed my son into the world.

His name is Atticus Michael Hylton.  He was born on Thursday morning, and everything went very, very well.  My wife is already almost fully recovered, and my daughter is fascinated with her new little brother. He is calm and easy to please; most of the time he is content to let us hold him while he snuggles up and watches us.

When my daughter, Clara, was born, I did not think I had the capacity to love anything the way I loved her from the very first moment she took breath into her lungs.  As my son was growing in the womb, I worried that I had reached the limitations of my ability to love.  It is a good thing that God’s compassion, wisdom, and grace is eternal and infinite, and that he will frequently give to us a measure of His love so that we may share it with others. As soon as my son opened his eyes, I loved him dearly; I loved him fiercely.

The greatest thing about having children is that it can give one a small glimpse through the eyes of God.  We can learn, in part, what it is to create.  It can be learned, in part, what it means to truly love.  We can come to understand what it means to desire and yearn for someone else, a creature who is flesh of our own flesh and spirit of our own spirit. We know that we would go to whatever ends are required to cover our children with our love.

In honor of my son’s birthday, I would like to share with you a song and two poems.  Please enjoy.

To the Future

He, the unborn, shall bring
From blood and brain
Songs that a child can sing
And common men;

Songs that the heart can share
And understand;
Simple as berries are
Within the hand:

Such a sure simpleness
As strength may have;
Sunlight upon the grass:
The curve of the wave.

William Soutar

***

Words for My Daughter

Come, the cap of birth is dry,
my labouring is done, your cry
has split the world’s roof.

Be comforted, the womb
returns to wrap around you.

Sweet darkness, velvet-blood
from which you came, as night
will cup you again, again

move you outward into light;
a brilliance to be danced in

is life. Your staggering steps
will grow to trust this earth;
it meets both sure and unsure feet.

That shifting pain will shape
the edges that define you.

Know the body that confines
is a new kind of freedom
to find the fullness of you.

Move through yourself. See,
the future is with child

and needs your labouring.
Be done with pasts, walk away.
I’ll watch. I’ll guard your back,

blinded by my own time. Go forward
from the shadows mothers cast.

As old women shrink, rich fruit
seeds into the garden.
I have been. Now you. So live,

we have both shed our tears
for miracles, for coming new.

In birth-sleep heavy at my breast,
love child, first comes the dream
and then the making true.

Janet Paisley

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Taking a Sick Day

I don’t have new content today, at least not in the way of “Hey, come check out my new post on [PS]!”

I got pretty sick this week, and I have been trying to prepare things at work should I have to suddenly leave when my wife goes into labor. As such, I haven’t had much time to write.  I have several pieces and thoughts in the works, but I am only about half way through all of it. I know, I know: “excuses, excuses…”

I would like to take today’s space to share a few things with you:

If you haven’t been over to Popgun Chao$, you really should stop by.  I greatly enjoy Cody’s analysis of comics and sub-pop culture.  I don’t even think you would have to be a comic expert to enjoy his articles; if you’ve ever heard of any major super-hero, there’s something here for you.  If you’re not in to comics, there’s something here for you.  In fact, you could start here.

You should also go by Andrew Eaton’s blog.  He’s begun a discussion on a pretty interesting article about reading the Bible from a literary perspective.  Go over and get involved.

This is a really cool website: In Bb 2.0

Currently I am reading Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton.  If you are unfamiliar, it’s a novel about South Africa under Apartheid rule during WWII. The prose is brilliant and poetic; I’m only about half-way through, and it has already brought me to tears. Swing over to your library or book store and pick up a copy if you’re looking for a good summer read.

Recently, my school’s TSA chapter raised over $2,000 for the American Cancer Society.  I pledged to shave my head if they raised over $2,000.  I will be donating my hair to Locks of Love, and the event will take place late next week.  I am impressed at the level of giving and the spirit of generosity that was displayed by our students, faculty, and community during the course of this fundraiser.  I am proud to work among such people.

Lastly, here is the plug for guest writers.  I don’t want to have to say it again, but I will; please don’t make me beg you to send in submissions.

Thanks, and I love you all.  I am enjoying myself as I write for this blog, and all of the encouragement and positive feed back has truly been a blessing.

God is good.

Please come back on Tuesday, as I expect regular content to resume once I finish up this week.  Thanks, as always, for reading.

-Mike


Something for the Muse: “Take Care, Take Care, Take Care” by Explosions in the Sky

Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
By
Explosions in the Sky

I have to say that I have been greatly anticipating this album since I heard of its planned release. I have been listening to Explosions in the Sky since 2008, shortly after All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone hit the public.  Ever since then I have been a fanatic, and I evangelize for EITS pretty frequently.  In an atmosphere of contrived and hollow music, these gentlemen stand out dramatically.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to see them perform at a wine and tapas bar in Little Rock, Arkansas.  To this day it is the best live performance I have ever seen, and to this day I won’t say that about any other show I’ve been to.  As they arrived on stage, the crowd began cheering wildly.  The band members gave no display of bravado, no sign that they were in any way expecting such a reception.  After a quick “thank you” into one of the stage microphones, they began playing the intro to “First Breath After a Coma.” The audience fell immediately silent, and the anticipation in the room thickened.  What proceeded were two hours of intense, ecstatic performance by four incredibly talented gentlemen.  I don’t remember many details from those couple of hours, the experience was so bracing, but I remember that they played the entire contents of the albums The World is not a Cold, Dead Place and All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone.  I also remember standing at the foot of the stage after the show ended, locked in a tight embrace with the three friends who traveled to the show with me.  It is one of the most cathartic experiences I have ever had.

The active ingredient to EITS’s performance was passion; it was written all over their faces as they played.  They were not infatuated with themselves, or their abilities, or the crowd’s reaction to their presence on stage. They allowed themselves to be transparent, displaying their emotions openly as they performed.  There were moments when one or two members would fall to his knees, eyes closed, locked into a whole-body reverie. They were sincere.  They were approachable.  They were excited.  I’ve seen many bands play many live shows, and I can tell when they are tired of playing the same set, night and night again, for one indistinguishable crowd after another.  I did not see any trace of this in EITS.  I could clearly perceive that for these gentlemen each moment was truly new, truly a blessing.

Which leads me to Take Care, Take Care, Take Care.

I will admit that the first time I heard the album, streaming on EITS’s official website, the first thought I had was, “This is it?”  At first listen, nothing struck me as wholly outstanding. This was two, maybe three, days before the official U.S. Release of Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, and I was beginning to regret pre-ordering my copy of the album two weeks previously. I said to myself, “Well, it’s still better than most of the crap out there.  Maybe it will grow on me.”

How short-sighted I am.

My copy of the album arrived in the mail the day after the U.S. release of April 26th. I opened it up, admired the artwork (really cool, by the way), set it down in front of my computer, and walked away. I wouldn’t think about it again until I was preparing to go to work the next day.

As an afterthought, I grabbed the CD on my way out the door at 6:00 in the morning.  I got my daughter situated in her car seat, slipped the disc into my car’s CD player, and took off.  I remembered from listening to the music online that I liked the first track, so I sat back and gave it another chance.

I have about a half-hour drive into work every day.  As I mentioned in “My Favorite Daydream,” most of this journey consists of vistas of rural land and open Missouri River floodplain.  The sun was coming up behind me on the first clear morning the St. Louis area had received in days. Traffic was moving steadily, and I had a hot, homemade cup of coffee in hand.  All of this made for the perfect backdrop to the experience I was about to have.

The opening of “Last Known Surroundings” seems made with early-morning driving in mind. The intro consisting of dissonance and sound sampling, sets a perfect mood for breaking through the exhaustion and complacency that settles upon one who must get up before sunrise. Despair and acerbity scatter with the first strike of a guitar, seconds into the song. The melody of the track continues the elevation of one’s mood as it draws the listener deeper into his or her own mind.  By the time a person reaches the crescendo of the song, it is almost impossible to feel hopeless of frustrated. It is like being reminded, over and over again, that everything, every last thing, will work out in the end, and believing the truth of it.

Following the first song is “Human Qualities,” a piece of music that does not apologize for taking its time to get where it is going. Oh, and how it delivers in the end.  This track proves the adage that good things come to those who wait.

“Trembling Hands,” the third song on the album, was released as a free download about a week before the album’s U.S. release. It is frenetic and experimental.  In its tone it reminds me quite a bit of “Catastrophe and the Cure” from All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, though it is more consistent throughout. It is wild, it is upbeat, and it is exciting.  Altogether, a well done, short song.

Following is “Be Comfortable, Creature.” This song starts out gently, slowly, and gradually increasing in volume and tone without being irritating or overpowering. In the end it drops off and sounds similar to music from Eluvium’s album, Talk Amongst the Trees. The song is mature and subtle, and reminds us of how far we have come.

My favorite song, “Postcard from 1952,” is next-to-last on the CD.  I still don’t know that I can adequately verbalize the experience of listening to this track. It is as if EITS spent the four years since All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone mapping human emotion and translating what they learned into a wonderfully composed, eloquent piece of music. If you listen to one new song today, make it this one:

When I read a book or watch a movie, I like the climax and resolution to deliver.  I am usually disappointed with a subtle or understated catharsis at the end of a story. Some of my favorites are To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, Gladiator, and Ink. The track, “Let Me Back In,” the final song on Take Care, Take Care, Take Care is comparable to all of these.  If you listen to the entire album without stopping, it is well worth it to make it to this song.  It revisits the depths and summits of all previous songs on the album.  It tactfully blends calculated, traditional styles and experimental, chaotic riffs.  It ends slowly and quietly, giving the listener an urge to prevent a next song from starting. Silence is required to take it all in.  When the emotion passes, one will find that he or she desires to start the CD over again and again, experiencing it differently each time.

As I stated before, the key to Explosions in the Sky’s talent is, as with many gifts, passion.  If you’ve never listened to the band before, I suggest adding it to your daily routine.  This latest album is evidence of the band’s growth and maturation, attention to detail, expanding musical ability, and above all, passion. It has quickly taken the position of The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place as my favorite EITS album.  Don’t borrow this CD from a friend so that you can rip it into your media player. Buy it.  If ever there was money well spent on an addition to a music collection, it would be on Take Care, Take Care, Take Care. The music, the album artwork, and the experience are well worth it.