In which another Jewish New Year comes and goes, meters change and religious fasting is endlessly dull.
To my dear reader,
Although not marketed with the same competitive commercialism as Hannukah, the Jewish High Holy Days – Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement) – are arguably the most important days of the Jewish calendar. Landing somewhere during September or October, they were days of unusual solemnity in my Jewish upbringing (“Jewish” being a relative term in my half-Filipino, bacon-eating, Hebrew-ignorant, highly Americanized family). Given my current nebulously atheistic feelings toward religion, there isn’t a whole lot I can say about these days, aside from the temple services and the fasting being very long and boring. What I do associate them with is pop singer-songwriter’s album Kaleidoscope Heart, and more specifically, the song “Let the Rain.”
In a way, I could credit Kaleidoscope Heart as the reason I ended up a composer. Although I’d already been involved in music before this, done a bit of reading on music theory and history, and written a few (shamefully maudlin) pop songs, this album was the first larger piece of music I’d really connected with. It engaged me where I was emotionally – touching on subjects of inspiration, creativity, heartbreak and empowerment without becoming too heavy – and also musically – making use of many conventions of pop music while throwing in enough compositional ingenuity and vocal virtuosity to keep me interested. I listened to that album as a (shamefully maudlin) teenager and thought, “I could do that. Or, at least, I want to.”
Alongside the album’s release date right before the 2010 High Holy Days, “Let the Rain” is the big reason I associate Kaleidoscope Heart with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The song is a sort of raucous prayer for transformation, and listening to it is one of the earliest memories I have of faintly understanding rebirth – the heart of the High Holy Days. Bareilles’ juxtaposes verses of midrange melody, high harmony and the twang of guitars with a chorus of low melody, wailing descants and heavy percussion, making impressive use of shifting, uneven meter (5/4 + 6/4) on the titular phrase “Let the rain come down/And make a brand new ground.” Its emotional message was one I joyfully accepted, and its musical vehicle was one I studiously examined, but it’s inadvertent spiritual undertones were also one of the first real connections I had with the High Holy Days. “Let the Rain” speaks to the Jewish New Year’s call to be renewed for a good and sweet year, and listening to that song made me, for the first time, really appreciate that.
The High Holy Days came and went earlier this month, and once again, I wasn’t really paying attention. Maybe next year, I’ll celebrate them. Probably not. But listening to this song feels almost like it. Listening to this song makes me think about whether I’ve become a better person than 16-year-old Daniel Wolfert, and that is, I suppose, the shamelessly maudlin point.
With all due respect,