26 August 2013

Fortunate Fall : Audrey Assad

I must admit that I get most of my music from Spotify and have for the last two years or so. The low, low price of $9.99 a month to listen to and carry around any song I want? Worth it. (Spotify does have free options you can certainly use and be happy with. I just like to spend the $10 to bring playlists and radio wherever I want on my phone, even internationally if I have I have the playlist saved. It is worth it because I listen to music almost constantly if the situation allows. But this isn't a plug for Spotify...)

So when I actually purchase an album, it is not only because Spotify doesn't have it (well, it doesn't have this one, to be truthful), but also because I really, really like the album. This is definitely the case with Audrey Assad's Fortunate Fall, released 13 August 2013. After I'd seen enough thrown around about this album (friends on Twitter, Marc's review on Bad Catholic), I decided I really needed to check it out. I had listened to Assad's previous albums, finding a few songs here and there that I really liked, so I was familiar with her.

Here's a pretty pretty album picture
which I got from Christian Music Zine.
Fortunate Fall blows her previous albums, as well as the majority of contemporary albums, out of the water. Yes, I feel entitled to make that huge statement. The album is beautiful in lyrics and musicality, which seems to do no justice in description. Centered around this idea of the fortunate fall, felix culpa, "O happy fault that merited such and so great a Reedemer," this album weaves through an experience of the faith in a way which can truly be called universal and Catholic. I listen to it and see myself at a midnight Christmas Mass. I listen to it and see St. John standing at the foot of the cross. I listen to it and see the priest holding up the host, now become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, at the altar.

One of the best parts about the album is how Catholic it is. The album could be split into three parts, separated by tracks 1 ("Fortunate Fall"), 4 ("O Happy Fault"), 8 ("Felix Culpa"), following one's faithful journey. The first section is the most desolate, remorseful for our our transgressions when we consider our sin, the mystery of the Incarnation and the power of the Cross. It us us staring at the Crucifix and realizing how beautiful it is. Interesting to note in the first track is the English lyrics (which becomes apparent later in the album) "O Happy Fault, Fortunate Fall." God meets us where we are.

I see the Mass in some way in each song. For example, in the second track Help My Unbelief, a bridge of repeated "My Lord and my God," calls to mind the transubstantiation--the changing of bread and wine to flesh and blood. I am reminded of the same in the next song, "Humble," at the lyrics: "We bow our knees / We must decrease / You must increase / We lift you high." and also of the stations of the cross, of Jesus who was "Humble and human, willing to bend.../ ...Not too proud to wear our skin / to know this weary world we're in."

Then, an impossibly beautiful melody of "O Felix Culpa" (4: "O Happy Fault") begins the next section, and suddenly we know Latin, because we are learning. The second section is our living the faith, despite sorrow, strife, adversaries, even our own desires. Reminiscent of St. Francis of Assisi's prayer, track 6 ("I Shall Not Want") asks, "From the need to be understood / From the need to be accepted / From the fear of being lonely / Deliver me, O God." These songs are our desperate moments before the Blessed Sacrament, struggling but determined, surrounded on all sides but coming out fighting.

The third section is begun by "Felix Culpa," which follows the melody of "O Happy Fault" but the track is purely instrumental. Perhaps the language progression from English to Latin to only music is a progression of purity: perhaps in the end, we will need no words, because the music of our hearts in union with the Love of God will be a language all its own. This idea of a progression continues throughout the album and through the third section which I think of as the final stages of the refining of one's life. It is as if the Saints have looked back upon their lives and told Assad that they are humans just as we are. It is as if souls in Purgatory can almost taste the Wedding Feast. The mystery of the descent of the Holy Spirit is at the forefront of my mind during "Spirit of the Living God," who is beseeched to "descend upon Thy Church once more and make it truly Thine." "Lead, Kindly Light" can only be the inspiration the Church Militant needs to persevere in the faith to the end, even to death, despite the darkness of the world. "You Speak" speaks of fulfillment and fullness, the old law passing away, the soul being refined each day as the faithful one presses on.

As the readings at Easter outline salvation history from the Old Testament to the Gospels, Fortunate Fall outlines the individual's salvation history. The wonderful thing is that all Saints go through this process: discovering the Truth, striving to live a faithful life, being refined and made holy at each step. The universality of this path adds yet another dimension to the album, because then the album isn't only a collection of songs which are only a collection of words and notes. Fortunate Fall becomes our story. Fortunate Fall is the story of all humanity.

I am not benefiting in any way from promoting Fortunate Fall. I just think it's that good and needs to be listened to by others. No lyrics, song titles or rewards are mine. You know I'm not getting money because I straight up pay for Spotify still. Go listen to this album. Go buy this album.

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