From the album Free Range Hymns

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What Wondrous Love

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8. What wondrous love
"Hymnal: A Worship Book" #530
Tune: American folk hymn, "Southern Harmony", 1840

Daryl: oboe
Frances: hang
Nathan: prepared cello

The hymn tune “Wondrous Love” is another example of American shape-note singing. The composer is unknown and the tune is commonly listed simply as an “American folk hymn.” “Wondrous Love” has a particularly timeless sound which, upon first hearing, could have its origins in a number of musical traditions. This may be because the melody never uses the third degree of the musical scale. For this reason, one cannot say conclusively if the tune is in a minor or major mode.

We treated this melody in a meditative, rhythmically open way using drones and repeated patterns as a backdrop for a spacious interpretation of the melody on oboe. Our aesthetic inspiration came from the world of Indonesian Gamelan music, which features various pitched percussion instruments. To achieve this effect we used the hang and a “prepared” cello. The hang, invented in Bern, Switzerland in 2000, is an instrument that looks like an inverted steel drum, played percussively with the hands. John Cage is credited with establishing the idea of “preparing” instruments when he composed music for prepared piano in 1938. An instrument is prepared by attaching objects to it and playing it with unconventional objects, or using the entire body of an instrument to produce sounds. For this track, the cello was prepared by attaching various metal clips to the strings and by bowing the endpin and tailpiece, with the cello held horizontally on the player’s legs.