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This Is My Hand began with a question. What is the value of music?
My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden was working on an audio-visual collaboration, Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler’s six-hour long cine-opera, River of Fundament, set in the automobile factories of latter-day Detroit. In the film, a high school-style marching band is seen in procession through the streets of Motor City and playing in its vast, echoing factory spaces. This struck a chord in Shara, for whom the new album would be a purposeful readdressing of music-making on the most basic, tribal level.
“In the States, the marching band is still alive in most public schools, so it represented to me inclusive music making, something anyone can learn. That’s the definition of folk music to me, music made by the people,” Shara explains. “I loved the communal quality . . . the way drums and horns travel in large three-dimensional spaces.” But it also sparked a search for more personal meaning. “The genesis of the new album was looking at the changes that have happened in music over my career, and trying to reevaluate what [music] meant to me in the first place. What is the value of music?”
Answering that became a journey beyond the composition of music, which Shara has demonstrated mastery over time and time again, and into the cultural history of music. “I had this ‘back-to-basics’ moment of reading how humans were making sounds before we were using words,” says Shara. “The album started with these fundamental ideas of music’s function. I just made a list: clap, singing along, and so on . . . ways in which people can simply join in with music.”
The opening track on This Is My Hand, “Pressure,” is an invitation. “Diamonds,” Shara sings, “so wild I cannot tame them / so shiny I cannot name them.” Within seconds of lowering the needle, listeners hear a sharp, drum-rolled call to attention, courtesy of the Detroit Party Marching Band. What follows is a Shara-choreographed whirlwind of horns, woodwinds, beats, xylophones and synths. The sound propels one of the most immediate songs in the MBD canon to date. The ensuing “Before the Words” (“Before the verse there was the sound”) and the title track are no less direct in exploring and defining the fundamentals of not just pop music, but, well, life. “This is my voice/ this is my heart / this is my choice,” sings Shara. And “Lover Killer,” with its imagery of battlefields encircled by crows, evokes the influence of author Daniel Levitin. “Apparition,” the final track, is a Tron-like electronic, slow-motion departure from the physical world.
This is My Hand track-listing:
2. Before the Words
3. This Is My Hand
4. Lover Killer
5. I am not the Bad Guy
6. Looking at the Sun
8. So Easy