I’ve decided this “Em-Pee-Three” thing is probably going to catch on, so I’m digitizing my last few CD’s, selling them to Academy, backing up the ol’ hard drive, and gloriously stepping foot in the 21st century.

It’s been great re-familiarizing myself with some of the music that I’ve forgotten about – the Prince live album ordered directly from the now-defunct NPG club, La Monte Young and The Forever Bad Blues Band, but especially this:

Jesus' Blood

I was a wide-eyed 17 year old kid from the Valley, newly arrived in New York City to study at NYU.  24-hour bagel shops!  The subway!  Jaywalking!  Awesome.  My mind was wide open and I was hungry for new experiences.  I soon stumbled on a late-night show on WYNC called “New Sounds”, hosted by John Schaefer.  It completely sucked me in, and I fell in love with the sounds of Philip Glass, Terry Riley, The Kronos Quartet, Laurie Anderson, Meredeth Monk, and many others.  But one particular night, the show froze me to my seat, and affected me the way no other piece of music had before.

Gavin Bryars’ work “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet” is an amazing, gorgeous work, consisting of a street recording of a “tramp” (the word used in the liner notes) singing 13 bars of the title hymn, looped over and over, accompanied by full orchestra.  The orchestration changes subtly each time you hear the loop, slowly and beautifully evolving into an alternate harmonization of the melody, over the course of an hour and 14 minutes on the most popular recording.  I still have not heard another piece of music that moves me the way this does.

Listening to it again after so many years, I was struck by two things-

-The “remix” character of the work (creating a new accompaniment to a vocal line) still feels very contemporary.

-But the slow, evolving, melancholy nature of the work is completely incompatible with the way many of us discover new music now.  Mostly I learn about music from blogs, where I may spend a minute listening to a track to decide if I like it.  Or if I get a recommendation, I’ll check out a 30-second excerpt on iTunes.

Hearing a short excerpt of this piece while sitting at your computer, maybe checking your email, just won’t work.  You would completely miss the magic of this piece!  It’s best heard in its entirety, in a quiet room, on good speakers and with no distractions.  If I learned about this music today, I don’t think I would have ever got past the 30-second preview.  Makes me sad.  What might I be missing now?

[Insert incredibly poignant and incisive observation about how this is a microcosm of the larger issues relating to our distracted, cheapened and shallow lifestyles here.  Or don't.]

Well, you’ve been warned. Here’s an excerpt. But you can get the whole thing here.