Musicians aren’t all hedonists, you know. Some are intellectuals, philosophers and dreamers… like these guys. Luke Johnson, one-half of the production team known as Emergent Heart, is currently a philosophy PhD student who says he spends most of his time “poring over the works of Soren Kierkegaard in an attempt to understand the gloomy Dane’s philosophy of religion.” His pal and Mixtape challenger Steven Trimmer is in local buzz band Grass Giraffes. Trimmer studied art at UGA and enjoys exploring the countryside. He can often be found with a guitar in hand or taking color photographs. This thoughtful pair wanted to ponder the abstract and the intangible, choosing songs for their mixtapes that either lyrically or melodically inspire rumination on time eternal. Put on your headphones and your thinking caps, and let’s meditate… You can listen to the mix on YouTube while you read below.
Steven Trimmer’s Eternity Mixtape
1. “Attics of My Life” by Grateful Dead Why Steven Trimmer picked this track: Sung from a perspective outside of time where all the experiences of life gather to be seen in their fullness. A new perspective on grace gives way to an overwhelming air of thankfulness.
Luke Johnson’s reaction: Man, that bass line against the Grateful Dead harmonies pierces my heart. Love the lyric “I have spent my whole life seeking all that’s still unsung.” I can identify with that.
2. “There Was a Time” by James Brown ST: A doorway into eternal time. This song reminds me of summertime in Georgia, dancing at a house show until the sun comes up.
“Music. Dance. A brilliant city inside your soul!” –Rumi
LJ: Hell yes! I hope this is what I hear when we shuffle up to St. Peter. Nice Georgia reference. Love how the drummer opens up that ride cymbal.
3. “Sweet Thing” by Van Morrison ST: When you feel something for the first time, it’s so vivid and intense. Here’s that first love again, transcribed from memory into the everlasting.
“…commence in time what we may hope to continue throughout eternity” –Thomas à Kempis
LJ: A truly inspired composition. I wonder if the song can still transport Van back into that moment of rapturous beauty.
4. “Lost in the Stars” by Lotte Lenya ST: The vessel has broken and the sparks have scattered throughout the universe.
“Before Lord God made the sea or the land He held all the stars in the palm of His hand. And they ran through His fingers like grains of sand. And one little star fell alone.”
“Luria explained that God created the world by forming vessels to hold the Divine Light. This divine light was meant to radiate out, fill the world and illuminate everything around us. But as God poured the Light into the vessels, the light was so powerful that the vessels couldn’t contain it and with a huge explosion, they shattered and sparks of this divine light became imbedded into the world of matter. These sparks of t he divine were now trapped in the material world; God’s presence was hidden and was unable to shine forth. It then became our task to free these holy sparks.” –Rabbi Jeffrey Summit
LJ: Excellent selection. Love this imaginative interpretation of creation and how it captures the utter loneliness we can feel in this world.
5. “Honey in the Rock” by Blind Mamie Forehand ST: Microphones are magical devices that can pick up sound, the spacial layout of a room, each transient thought of a person in that space, the intention behind every gesture. The performers here are constructing a sanctified space by how they share their time together.
“Every person is music, perpetual music, continually going on day and night” –Hazrat Inayat Khan
LJ: Comparing eternal sustenance to sweet and plentiful honey is a fascinating use of metaphor. I count at least three major ideas in these scant lyrics. This song is honey.
6. “Deeper Into Movies” by Yo La Tengo ST: Awake for days, past the point of exhaustion, the rational mind recoils from the stimuli of the temporal world. All inner dialogue stops, a trapdoor opens, I can hear the heart beating as one.
“And with His blessings, hope becomes evergreen. Oh what a unique glory has the one who is intoxicated by the sound of eternity!” –Hazrat Inayat Khan
LJ: This song took up permanent residence in my brain years ago. You’d have to destroy my memory, and by extension me, for the song to lose its neuronal habitat.
7. “Fennesz” by Endless Summer ST: A single moment from a summer long ago is stretched until the sand, leaves, sun and water are felt from the inside out. Although the film has been degraded by the passing of time, the light is able to shine through more clearly than before.
“PROP. XXIII. The human mind cannot be absolutely destroyed with the body, but there remains of it something which is eternal.” –B. Spinoza
LJ: This song envelops me and makes the idea of disintegrating into a million pieces an exceptionally romantic notion. To be assimilated into the universe guarantees a type of eternal life.
8. “Bargain” by The Who ST: “When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty.” –The Gospel of Thomas, verse 3
LJ: Dang, I never knew how intense the lyrics are for this song. An earnest depiction of how to maniacally throw ourselves away for a love we perceive as greater.
9. “Ex Lion Tamer” by Wire ST: The objects in this song are so solid. Common everyday articles like milk bottles and fish fingers are radiant when their true numinous presence has been reawakened. I am filled with a sense of awe.
“43. When the mind achieves identity with a gross object of concentration, unmixed with awareness of name, quality and knowledge, so that the object alone remains, this is called nirvitarka samadhi.” –Patanjali, Yoga Sutras
LJ: I wish Sartre had lived to hear it. The song cries out for a phenomenological diagnosis.
10. “Videotape” by Radiohead ST: I like how he draws a parallel between all the memories of a lifetime and the images stored on a videotape. This song also points to some of the dangers of searching for eternity outside of the present.
“There is another world, but it is in this one.” –Paul Éluard
“All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.” –Blade Runner
LJ: For me, the song conjures up two varied images: Nietzsche’s myth of eternal recurrence and the Absolute as the most meticulous surveillance system (AKA the all-seeing eye).
Luke Johnson’s Eternity Mixtape
1. “Death Is Not the End” by Bob Dylan LJ: Reflecting on time and eternity inevitably leads my mind to think of the soul’s mortality. Dylan finds meaning in our worldly struggles by positing life after life.
ST: Fear of death causes many to not live as their hearts would have them live. Death is the aspect of nature that strips away all that is inessential; just as bacteria and fungi make way for new life in a forest, so death breaks down outmoded patterns of thought in our lives and leads us to new experiences.
2. “Midnight in a Perfect World” by DJ Shadow LJ: When I close my eyes, images of something Eden-esque or perfect in the past come to mind, where fauna bend to shelter you and riding a mountain lion seems plausible.
ST: This song really captures those special late-night hours in between worlds when epiphanies come easily and connections between disparate subjects seem obvious. I always hope these realizations will prove more sunfast than the city I visit in my dreams.
3. “Waiting for Mary” by Pere Ubu LJ: Is this a dream fragment? If so, it roughly hints at two concepts of time: 1. The radical relativity of time in our dreams and 2. just how interminable the feeling of waiting can be.
ST: Exiled together on an episode of “The Twilight Zone,” waiting for a higher reality to reveal itself through the partnership of romance. Together we left the garden, can we together find our way back in?
4. “In Heaven” by Lady in the Radiator LJ: Thinking about dwelling in eternity summoned up this song. The repetition of the main lyric creepily provides that comfort and unsettles at the same time.
ST: The concept of heaven has been used as a political tool to make docile slaves, motivate suicide bombers and lead the masses around the world to more easily accept intolerable living conditions. Humanity longs for a reconciliation with heaven and inherently loves truth, so taking a portion of the truth and mixing it with political lies is an age old tactic of control. I hear that love of truth and the sorrow of sentimental manipulation in this song.
5. “Fortified Live” by Reflection Eternal Featuring Mos Def and Mr. Man LJ: This song covers a lot of lyrical ground. Aside from the project’s title, I selected it because it represents how rare those moments are when collaborators, who are perfect for one another, come together.
ST: Sequenced rhythms have this way of making things seem eternal because each beat is perfect every time it comes around. It’s a different sensation than the ebb and flow you get when actually banging on things and has a beauty and thrill all it’s own. They sound amazing together!
6. “If I Were Only a Child Again” by Curtis Mayfield LJ: Mayfield distills the innocence of childhood, pointing out how we don’t conceptually distinguish between races at that young age. A great reminder of how we ought to be.
ST: There’s a certain part inside of us that is always eight. If we stay in touch with that side of ourselves and nurture a fresh perspective each day, we can see the wonder and majesty of the world anew.
7. “Nearer, My God, To Thee” by B.F. White Sacred Harp Hymnal LJ: Really just discovered shape-note singing. If there is comfort in eternity, perhaps it sounds something like this.
ST: I really love how they get so much going on without any instrumentation. “Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.” –G.K. Chesterton
8. “Family Tree” by TV on the Radio LJ: This one got me thinking about the generations of ancestors that preceded me and how I must appropriately recognize my continuity in this chain without letting any inheritable rain clouds spoil the present.
ST: Overcoming our biographical inheritance is putting on the new man. Each of us has a story to hold us back, and each of us through Christ can receive the holy spirit and unfold our purpose.
9. “There Is a River” by Jimmy Swaggart LJ: Growing up, all I knew of Jimmy Swaggart was that he cried and perspired a lot on TV. Recently, I discovered that Jerry Lee Lewis is his cousin, leading me to seek out Swaggart’s music, and this one about eternal sustenance resonated with me.
ST: Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swagger represent pretty different sides of how spirituality can be expressed in music. The activity and passion of “Great Balls of Fire” resonates more with me, but the teary stillness here would dovetail well with Sigur Rós on a mix for salt-water baths.
10. “Assessment” by The Beta Band LJ: The video demonstrates the evolution of modern man while illustrating how eternally clueless we are about the mysteries of life. I wouldn’t say we chase our tail, but we definitely spiral progressively.
ST: The blunder is to estimate.
“Eternity is then… ” –Emily Dickinson
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