21) Luke's hymn

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You can get real far with a little,

but you best not get caught up in the middle,
'cause all those things that drag you down,
they won't make a sound.

LUKE'S HYMN is somewhere between a cover and a total reinterpretation.  The lyrics and the basic chord progression were created by Luke Brandfon.  Luke had just gotten a Digitech JamMan looper, which was the first any of us had seen of one.  He played with it for about two weeks and then had a concert that I recorded.  When I was mixing the tracks and breaking them up into individual songs, I was naming them whatever jumped out at me, knowing that Luke was probably going to rename them later anyway.  The original version of "Hymn" by Luke was much calmer and more laid back than ours.  The lyrics are close but not exact.  I remember asking him one time what they lyrics really were but I don't know if he even remembers.  I'm pretty sure they're correct up until the last line.  I was so enamored with this chord progression that, once I got a looping pedal of my own, I decided to play around with it.  Unexpectedly, it formed into a song that I felt was different enough than Luke's to warrant calling it our "own" in some sense.  At the same time, this song is in a way dedicated to Luke.  A future giant of songwriting and popfolk, Luke is still a soft-spoken and modest person.  He would deny it, but in a way, I owe much of who I am today to him, simply because I followed his example.  This man has written hundreds of songs--he would stay in on Friday and Saturday nights most of the time and make music by himself instead of partying.  Over time, however, the song "Luke's Hymn" has taken on another meaning for me.  The entire song is based on a five-chord progression that repeats over and over.  New parts are constantly added, growing and growing, until it peaks and dies back down to the original progression.  To me, that progression represents our soul, or everything that is immutable and unchangeable about us (which is, at once, not a whole lot and most of everything, if you catch my drift).  Luke's Hymn is a metaphorical representation of the arc of someone's life.  The drums come in when this metaphorical person reaches maturity and says, "Alright, yeah, okay, this is cool, lemme see what I can do with this now."  It peaks in a wild frenzy that reaches up for that glass ceiling that separates humans and their art from the experience of union with the divine, and then, suddenly, dies back to the original progression and you see now that nothing has been gained but something has changed, you hear that progression differently--this time with the knowledge of all that came before (including, in this case, the entire album).  It a reminder to myself that, no matter how much work and energy I've put into my music or myself as a person, I'm still just chopping wood and carrying water--doing the endless work of living.

check out this alternative version by Cincinnatus C (Jason Cieply) "Hymn Luke Cover"
- Jason was a member of both Neematoad and Sit By Us & Moan

Mark: Electric guitar, drums
Recorded in: Garageband
When: Spring 2006
Where: The Horn Gallery, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio

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