Our Prayer

Perhaps because I made it home on my bicycle without being drenched, or perhaps because I’ve been listening to American folk-religious music for much of the evening, I’ve just played The Beach Boys song, Our Prayer[1]. This also happens to be the opening song on Brian Wilson’s Smile[2], finally being put in its proper place. Either way, it’s a quiet, beautiful and contemplative a cappella piece far removed in mood from the fervent religious music that I heard earlier. This was the truly Corporeal (Partch would embrace this music with enthusiasm) earthy folk-spiritual music of the Kentucky Hills and Southern Bible Belt, be it fervent revivalism or enthusiastic shape-note singing. But the sound of The Beach Boys, albeit cleaned up and smoothed out, is clearly there in those throwbacks to an earlier period of American musical history.

Considering vocal harmony music was essentially the sole music of the earliest colonists, the use of it by Brian Wilson on Smile – a record that really does strive for a panoramic overview of all American music – seems most apt. Curiously enough, another record stemming from the heady rock experiments of the 1960s that strives (with even wider range) for a similar panoramic effect, namely Van Dyke Parks Song Cycle[3], begins with a bluegrass version of The Gypsy Davy! Another ancient stream. Note that Van Dyke Parks was also the lyricist for Smile. He must be a very interesting man.


[1] The Beach Boys Our Prayer from Friends/20/20 Capitol CD 31638

[2] Brian Wilson Smile Nonesuch 79846

[3] Van Dyke Parks Song Cycle Warner Bros 2-25856

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