STLT#74, On the Dusty Earth Drum

It’s time for everybody’s favorite new game, “Who Will Love This Hymn I Hate” – this week, starring lyricist Joseph Cotter and composer Frederich Filitz!

I wish I could make sense of this one.  No, seriously. I mean, I get that the lyrics are a rain song, and thus appropriate for a section called The World of Nature. I also get that we want to include voices beyond white men, and thus the hymn led me to learn about Joseph Cotter, Jr, who was an African American playwright and poet who died of tuberculosis at age 24.

But seriously – this too, too simple German tune? I found only one recording of it here, tied to a long washed-in-the-blood hymn. It’s really a boring tune, though, and it’s bad enough we sing it in 4 verses – imagine singing the eight in the one I linked too!

MAYBE this tune sounds okay in a round, but certainly not in a song about dry earth and ancient (I assume native American) drums.

Everything just seems wrong about this. And it makes me realize how much we had yet to do as a movement around cultural appropriation.

On the dusty earth drum beats the falling rain;
now a whispered murmur, now a louder strain.

Slender, silvery drumsticks on an ancient drum
beat the mellow music bidding life to come.

Chords of life awakened, notes of greening spring,
rise and fall triumphant over everything.

Slender, silvery drumsticks beat the long tattoo —
God, the Great Musician, calling life anew.

Now to make the piece even vaguely palatable for singing (because I couldn’t get to the second verse – lord help me I just couldn’t make it with this tune), I went hunting for another tune, and I found this one that seems to make this feel less frivolous.

But really, this just doesn’t work. I am not moved. I am not changed. If anything, I’m a little annoyed, and this is not how you want to do spiritual practice. Time to go back and sing something I love, like What Wondrous Love, if only to bring some balm to my soul on this cold morning.


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