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Awake, My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp


workie
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Just so you know, our Sacred Harp documentary is streaming here for a full week.

They say (at Pitchforkmedia.com) "Sacred Harp is a haunting form of a capella hymn singing that has deep roots in the South. These songs are sung unaccompanied by any musical instrument, save the instrument given by God: The human voice. That is the sacred harp." So says narrator Jim Lauderdale in this amazing documentary, directed by Erica and Matt Hinton, which explores a little-known American musical tradition that stretches back two centuries."

mh

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Never mind the pitchforks--see this movie! It's unpretentious, educational, and powerfully inspiring. I admit that I may be biased by the fact that the music is more or less from my backyard, but don't let that stop you.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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Official movie site.

Awake My Soul (2006) on IMDb--eligible for A&F 2008 Top 100 & should have been nominated, but I think the nominations are closed now. I'll try to remember for next time!

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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Well, dang... Thanks, fellas. I was beginning to think that some of the folks who seem most likely to dig it weren't gonna check it out. For what it's worth, this is the version that aired on PBS. The full, feature-length film has an extra 20 minutes of scintillating, too-hott-for-PBS Sacred Harp singing. (It's available on the DVD, naturally).

BTW, y'all would have enjoyed sitting in on the production meetings with the Public Television folks who tried to give me pointers about who material I should cut to get it down to the prescribed 56:46 length:

Lady:[fast forward, fast forward, play]...Let's see.... OK, here, this guy's talking about God. That should probably be cut...

Me: No. That's staying in there.

Lady: No, I mean for this shorter version. This part isn't really appropriate for Public TV.

Me: Yeah, I get it. It's staying in. Note to self: This is why Public TV is utterly clueless and unable to serve their community effectively.

Lady: Uh, what?

Me: Nothing.

Lady: But you just said something...

Me: No I didn't.

Lady:... about Public Television.

Me: No, that was a "Note to Self"; you couldn't possibly have heard that.

Anyway, the first part of that really happened...

Jason: I didn't want to appear to be sour grapes/ overly sensitive, but I read it like you did. I'm not sure that his structure served the piece very well.

And yes, Sacred Harp rocks harder than anything. What you see in our film is about 50% as powerful as it really is. A friend saw our film,(in which we rather belabor the point of its loudness, and then came to a singing. He still couldn't believe how viscerally loud it was. The kind of loudness you can feel as much as hear. Standing in the hollow square is like standing in front of the subwoofers at a Jesus Lizard show. But with less likelihood of getting David Yow's boot in the side of your cranium.

mh

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Well, I must confess that after watching the film I looked up "Star in the East" (Southern Harmony #16) and got a bit of a buzz just from singing it to myself. That's pretty heady stuff. Working on a solo mandolin arrangement of the tune.

There's a clip of it here. The singers are good, but they sound way too polished and classical to me ... guessing they're not regular Sacred Harp folks.

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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The only review listed at IMDB is the guest-review that Ken Morefield wrote for Looking Closer.

Here's Rob Moll's comments that ran in CT. Man, I wish major Christian media sites had noticed and spread the word about this week of free viewing. I'm only just now noticing, and the week's about over...

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I really want to live in a world where people approach this stuff and the Jesus Lizard with the same degree of curiosity and literacy.

I love this project.

I have excellent news for you. You live in that very world.

In other news, even though our week on Pitchfork is technically over, it IS still on there if one just follows this link. Don't know how long it will continue, but by all means, tell yer friends.

Those of you who like this music will be happy about the soundtrack which is coming to stores near you: Awake, My Soul & Help Me to Sing is a two disc set. Disc 1 is the soundtrack to the film. Disc two is a compilation of various artists doing Sacred Harp songs.

For more: Go here & here

Here's the tracklisting for Help Me to Sing:

Disc Two: Help Me To Sing: Various Artists performing Songs Inspired by the Film

1 "Blooming Youth" - Rayna Gellert (Uncle Earl) & John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)

2 "Weeping Pilgrim" - Elvis Perkins in Dearland

3 "David's Lamentation" - The Good Players

4 "Africa" - The Innocence Mission

5 "The Christian's Hope" - Jim Lauderdale with Jeni & Billy

6 "Help Me To Sing" - Mac Powell (Third Day)

7 "Columbus" - John Wesley Harding

8 "The Traveler" - Cordelia's Dad

9 "Abbeville" - Liz Janes

10 "China" - All Things Bright & Beautiful

11 "Essay" - Tenement

12 "Windham" - Richard Buckner

13 "Sermon on the Mount" - Danielson

14 "And Am I Born to Die?" - Doc Watson & Gaither Carlton

15 "Kedron" - Sam Amidon

16 "Consecration" - Woven Hand

17 "The Grieved Soul" - Rick Moody and Nina Katchadourian

18 "Vernon / Wrestling Jacob" - Tim Eriksen

19 "Christian's Farewell" - DM Stith

20 "Bound For Canaan" - Murry Hammond (Old 97's)

(N.B. There are more links above than you think. Some very worth while.)

Over and out,

mh

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MH,

Do you have a preferred method for those of us who want to purchase the movie on DVD? Is Amazon as good as anything else?

Very kind of you to ask. Our website is best for US. But right now it's more expensive than Amazon. We'll be updating it soon (which will make it cheaper among other things), so if you can wait, that's best for us. If you know you'll forget, then your local independent retailer (or Amazon) will do fine. Thanks so much. It all helps.

matt

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Anybody who's enjoying this film, I'd encourage you to seek out Homemade Hillbilly Jam, another new exploration about traditions of gospel/hillbilly music. It's full of memorable personalities in big hats and suspenders playing guitars, mandolins, and washboards. The music is joyous, and the gospel essence of it is much-discussed.

Official site here.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Anybody who's enjoying this film, I'd encourage you to seek out Homemade Hillbilly Jam, another new exploration about traditions of gospel/hillbilly music. It's full of memorable personalities in big hats and suspenders playing guitars, mandolins, and washboards. The music is joyous, and the gospel essence of it is much-discussed.

Official site here.

Hmm. Really?! Now granted, I haven't seen this film, but the way it is described on it's own website and the trailer make it seem like a pretty different situation from our film. Is there any sense that Awake, My Soul could be called "A musical romp through the Ozark Mountains with a handful of rascally modern-day hillbillies."? Or do folks outside of the south really think that all rural Southerners are either dangerous or zany? I hope it doesn't sound like I'm defending our film. But I am defending the subject matter of our film and Sacred Harp singers from the charge that they (at least the ones who appear in our film) are anything less than a serious, articulate and intelligent bunch of folks.

One might as well have said, "if you like Awake, My Soul you'll LOVE this." (Almost)

By the way, Jeffery, I know you didn't intend an offense, and I also wouldn't be surprised if the wackiness of HHJ isn't more emphasized in their publicity than in the film itself, giving folks like me a skewed perspective. But, most often, the response we've been getting from people is that they are surprised how articulate the people in our film are (cause, you know, rural southerners are backward, etc), and not, "man, those Sacred Harp singers are some rascally dudes!" I suppose I'm experiencing some cognitive dissonance from your comparison. And maybe a touch too sensitive, as well?

Matt

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Yikes, I did not mean to say the films are alike, or that the treat their subject matter in the same way. I just meant, "Here's another worthwhile documentary about traditions in American music."

And Homemade Hillbilly Jam does not mock its subjects. Its subjects speak to how they've been portrayed in American media, but they're portrayed as people with a strong devotion to family, faith, and musicianship.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Yikes, I did not mean to say the films are alike, or that the treat their subject matter in the same way. I just meant, "Here's another worthwhile documentary about traditions in American music."

And Homemade Hillbilly Jam does not mock its subjects. Its subjects speak to how they've been portrayed in American media, but they're portrayed as people with a strong devotion to family, faith, and musicianship.

I kinda figured that was the case. Sorry if I assumed to much... Although, I should say, that the trailer makes it seem like there is a good deal of lighthearted-mockery that the subjects are willing participants of. Again, I know that wackiness sells, so it need not reflect the film as a whole at all...

mh

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There's a little bit of kidding around, but it's a very affectionate portrait of community in which all generations are still participating in, and striving to preserve, a grand tradition. The movie made me want to go there and hang out at the shows, and it made me wish I'd been part of a family that played music together.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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