“And I Bid You Goodnight”, from The Real Bahamas, Nonesuch H-72013. Performed by the Pindar Family and Joseph Spence.

This is an unaccompanied vocal work for two women and one man. One of the women sings the main melody, while the man sings sometimes as accompaniment to her and sometimes in counterpoint to her. The second woman, meanwhile, sings longer, slower-moving lines. Maybe I’m wrong about this, but the song seems to consist of only verses without a chorus or bridge. Perhaps some of the background singing, especially that of the second woman, is improvised, but not the main melody sung by the first woman.

At first, I didn’t think too much of this song. Maybe I didn’t like the singing. But it grows on you, and, after listening to it a few times, you’ll find that it will be running through your head quite often during your day. The melody (sung by the first woman) is simple, like a folk song (is it a folk song?), but beautiful. The man’s singing is interesting in the way that in interacts with the main line. The second woman, meanwhile, seems to be singing in her own strange, but darkly interesting, parallel universe. She sounds like maybe she’s the Holy Fool of their village (I don’t actually know for a fact that they live in a village, but, never mind)—a woman whose gnomic, cryptic utterances can’t be understood by the villagers most of the time, but which always reveal a dark, mathematical, Gödelian truth, regardless of whether they’re comprehended by others. And for this reason she’s both feared and revered. She sounds like she might be one of those blind, Zen masters who always live at the peak of high mountains in the Andes (or wherever those high mountains that blind, Zen masters live on are) that the heroes in movies always have to scale to receive the wisdom necessary to face their nemesis. Except that I get the feeling that she’d be too smart to bother with going and living on the peak of some high mountain somewhere.

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