Radical Face’s Welcome Home, Musical Affect, and the Spirit
Radical Face’s aging song Welcome Home has been called “the most joyful piece of music you’ll hear all year ” and makes “the pang of longing [feel] real.” But the best part of the song isn’t he words, but the wordless chorus.
Ayn Rand’s words describing Halley’s Fourth Concerto are strangely fitted for this song: it is “a hymn to a distant vision for whose sake anything was worth enduring. . . . It was the song of rebellion – and of a desperate quest” (Atlas Shrugged, 67). Anyone who is toppled by the chorus for the first time will vouch.
How can a wordless chorus elicit the most compelling emotions? How can such content-rich experiences such as “joy” and “longing” take wordless form and still produce such life-altering actions such as “endurance” and “rebellion”? They do. But how? Is the reason neurological? Physiological? Psychological? Maybe. Surely all of these things are true at a level. But maybe these spheres of emotion – the brain, the body, the mind – find their own home in a theological truth: the image of God.
This purely melodic chorus has the potential, in moments, to overcome despair, to impel forgiveness (and to ask for it), to feel a meaningful emotion, but without a sign or thing signified.
It is easy to dismiss (as weak) emotions that cannot be articulated. God flips this on its head.
“The Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Rom. 8:26). How? Through his own inarticulate emotional experience of God. “The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26). Not “He says what you are too stupid to say.” Nor “He says what you’re too incompetent to articulate.”
For the irrational, the confused, and those enraptured by a beautiful, wordless chorus, the Spirit says “Welcome home.”