Grace Notes: Kate Bush’s “50 Words For Snow”
Grace Notes is a weekly exploration by Jason Morehead of signs of common grace in the music world. We hope to alert you to wonderful music, some of which will be spiritual in nature but all of which will be unique and worthy of your attention. Each week we will share brief reviews of albums worthy of your attention and maybe a video or two.
On 50 Words For Snow, Kate Bush sings from the perspective of a snowflake as it drifts down from its cloudy birthplace to the ground, tells the story of a woman who has a love affair with a snowman, and has comedian/author/actor Stephen Fry recite 50 words for, well, snow. So you could be forgiven for dismissing the album as pretentious. It is pretentious. It’s also otherworldly, delightful, and constantly arresting. I’m occasionally reminded of Björk’s Vespertine, another wintry album full of wide-eyed wonder. But whereas Vespertine was full of chilly electronica, 50 Words For Snow feels warmer, more organic, and even playful at times. Album opener “Snowflake” drifts about on solemn, graceful piano lines and lightly brushed drums that lend the track a fittingly airy and contemplative feel. “Snowed In At Wheeler Street” is a passionate, romantic torchsong in which Bush and Elton John figure as lovers who keep running into each other across space and time. And finally, the title track, which features the aforementioned Fry, should fall apart on paper, but it becomes increasingly compelling and fascinating as Fry describes snow in terms common, poetic, and obscure as Bush cheers him on. For my previous “Grace Notes” column, I offered a list of albums that would make for perfect winter listening: go ahead and add 50 Words For Snow to that list. (Listen to 50 Words For Snow via NPR.)
You Have Been Warned
The prophet has already warned us that we should be careful not to think that God has any form or likeness, saying: “Watch yourselves most carefully, since you saw no image” (Devarim 4:15); “But you saw no image – there was only a voice” (ibid. 4:12). “Watch yourselves…..carefully” means: be careful – in your thinking and imagination – not to represent the Creator by any shape, nor to conceive of Him in any image or likeness, for your eyes beheld neither image nor form when He spoke to you, as it says: “To whom, then, will you liken the Almighty? What likeness will you compare to Him?” (Yeshayahu 40:18); “To whom, then, will you liken Me, that I should compare to?’ says the Holy One” (ibid. 40:25); For who in the skies can be compared to God? Who is like God among the heavenly beings?” (Tehillim 89:7); “There is none like You among the gods, HaShem, nor are there works like Yours” (ibid. 86:8); and there are many similar passages. (source pg. 133 Duties of the heart)
The Divine attributes of action are those that are ascribed to the Creator as a result of His actions. It is possible that in attributing these qualities to Him, He is made an associate of some of His creatures [to whom they are also attributed]. Nevertheless, we are permitted to ascribe these qualities to Him, because of our urgent need to know Him and recognize His existence, so that we may assume His service. We find extensive use of this kind of Divine attribute in the Torah and the books of the prophets, as well as in the praises offered by the prophets and the pious. Such attributes are used in two ways:
1) Attributes are ascribed which indicate image and bodily form, as in the following examples for Scripture: “And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him” (Bereshis 1:27); for in God’s image did He make man” (ibid. 9:6); “By the mouth of God” (Bamidbar 9:18); “My hands alone stretched out the heavens” (Yeshayahu 45:12); “in God’s ears” (Bemidbar 11:1); “and under His feet” (Shemos 24:10); “O arm of God!” (Yeshayahu 51:9); who has not sworn falsely by My Name” (Tehillim 24:4); “in the eys of God” (Bereshis 6:8); “and God said in His heart” (ibid. 8:21) and there are other similar attributions of bodily organs to God.
2) Attributes are ascribed to God which indicate movements and bodily actions, as it says: “God smelled [the pleasing fragrance]” (ibid. 8:21); “God saw…regretted…and He was saddened at heart” (ibid. 6:5-6); “God came down” (ibid. 11:5); “God remembered” (ibid. 8:1); “God heard” (Bemidbar 11:1); Then God awoke as one that had slept” (Tehillim 78:65); and there are many other similar attributes to Him of human actions.
The foolish and ignorant person will conceive of the Creator, may He be exalted, according to the literal sense of the Scriptural phrase.
Just got this and am really liking this album so far. Gotta be one of my favorite Kate Bush albums of late.
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