Monday, May 07, 2007

the main line

glisten: son of tofu hut

Son of Tofu Hut is a collaboration with The King Open School of Cambridge, Massachusetts. King Open is a mix of races, ethnicities, social class and nationalities; a melting pot of opinions and perspectives. I've been sending discs of music to King Open to have them played to a class of seventh and eighth graders; the kids give them a listen once or twice and then write a brief critique of what they've heard. I'll be compiling their responses to present you with music, links (when available) and lightly edited (spelling and obvious typing errors are corrected, grammar and slang is not) teenagers' responses.

I commented in last Son of Tofu Hut that I would address some of the differences in the style of writing I brought to these entries. My nature is to take my time, anguish and pore over my entries on th' Hut. I'll continue doing that kind of work when I'm seeking auxilliary material to provide you with more background, but my commentary for the Son of Tofu Hut tracks is my attempt to level the playing field somewhat: my responses are formed over one or two listens to the track in question. It's the same constraints I'm forcing my collaborators to follow; so it only seems fair.

The Gospel Harmonettes of Demopolis, Alabama - Jesus Is On the Main Line

John sez: I wrote a lengthy post about the Harmonettes over two years ago (my god, that long?!?) which covers my astonishment at their vocal power and sadness that they appear to have split for good. It's one of my favorite things I've done with the space; I received more uniformly positive praise for the Harmonettes music than for any other songs I've posted before or since. It does my jaded ol' heart some good to see that the next generation of listeners (well, with one notable exception... "what flys eat", indeed!) seem equally flabbergasted by the sheer emotional epiphany that makes up the Harmonettes repertoire.

This song is one of the bands dozen professionally recorded tracks that I did NOT put up in that original post, which is not to say that it is not soul-scraping, achingly awesome. The ending, where the female soloist (I believe that's Annie Wilks) moves into the crowd and away from the microphone, culminates in one of the most joyful sounds I've ever heard.

Basically, every time I listen to this album I'm dumbfounded and I have to remind myself why I'm listening to anything else. It's something short of sinful NOT to share something this beautiful. As the album itself remains unavailable two years after my last stab at bringing this stuff a greater audience, I've come to the decision that it's time to throw this precious bread out onto the water.

Full album is here.

Read the first Gospel Harmonettes Hut post.
It's still the only link I can find with info about the band.

Student 1: OH MY GOD!!!! I LOVE THIS!!!! This sounds a lot like Sweet Honey in the Rock! So many young childhood memories are coming back! My moms used to play this kind of music to get me to sleep when i was sick. I remember them putting me to bed, tucking me in, and turning on my little tape player. This song makes me feel like i am sitting around a warm campfire, and singing with my loving family. When i heard this song, i almost started clapping along.

Student 2: It sounds too gospel for me. I think this would only be popular on a gospel radio channel or church. It's not really my kind of song, because It's too slow... Kind of.

Student 3: this is a very cool song and it sounds like the Temptations. Do u know who they are? They were once the bestest group ever but one of them got greedy with the money and tried to make himself the star leader when it was really a group thing. He got too drunk to sing anymore and cracked his voice and couldn't sing anything then he killed himself. The ones that lived got through their differences and got the group together again. That's the Temptations.

Student 4: In the beginning of the song and at the end it sounds like a church choir that has no instruments and uses no technology, just all singing voices. Yes I do like it. I like different types of church music.

Student 5: I'm not very religious, but I love gospel because it really sounds like it comes from deep inside. I love acapella music because I love the fact that it isn't necessary to have instruments in a song to make it sound whole. I really love harmonies too. The voice is such a powerful instrument itself and some people don't realise that, but acapella really brings that out. Acapella + gospel = perfection!!!!!!!!!!!

Student 6: oooooooooooohh!!!!! i like this song!!! this song is a religious one, but i still think that you can get stupid to something like this!! i like how this song also holds a message about jesus too. i also like how the songs beat and backround music is layered so that it sounds so good!! man, i just cant get over how good this song sounds. being a believer of jesus and a christian god may have something to do with my view of this song, but even if i weren't a christian i know that i would still be feelin' this song!! and thats for real!!!!

Student 7: Trash. Turn it off, it is blowing my ears off. It sounds so dumb. How long ago was this made? This stuff is what flys eat. Erase this from memory. Who could sing this? TRASH TRASH...............TRASH.

Student 8: Instantly, I'm transported to those Southern gospel churches. A fine example of how to show your devotion through music. I like how after a while people from the benches shout out to help emphasize the music. Now I don't know how southern churches look like so I'll describe a northern church. Wooden benches, a large organ and stained glass on windows.....

Student 9: This is a christian song? It sounds like a song you would hear right when you walk into a church. They start singing out loud to get the choir going. I would listen to this song without no worries.

Student 10: The beginning sounds kinda like something i wouldnt listen 2. this song doesnt have music itz just vocals & clapping. it soundz very religious 2 me. the people that sing this song must love god witta passion. this isnt something i would listen 2 cuz i dont listen 2 religious muzik (onli at church on sundai). the end is kinda hot tho like when they get more into it.

If you'd like to leave any questions or comments for me or for any of the students who are helping contribute to the Tofu Hut, feel free to do so in the comments section, but PLEASE keep the criticism constructive and to a minimum; we're all just starting to write together and it's gonna take us a little while to get comfortable.

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