I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for an impassioned monologue. Combine it with a slowly escalating, strident musical ambience, and I’m sold. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that I’m a big fan of “Built then Burnt (Hurrah! Hurrah!)” by A Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band with Choir. Don’t let the mouthful of a name deter you: they change the band name fairly regularly, and generally if you just look for “A Silver Mt. Zion”, you’ll find most of their work (though not all). It’s an interesting band that I was first introduced to by my brother Uriah, and quickly made it into my regular playlists. Their work is delightful mix of instrumentals and either spoken word or varied vocals. You really don’t mind, however, as the words form a sort of poetry with the instrumentals, creating a subtle intensity that is not to be underestimated.
“Built then Burnt (Hurrah! Hurrah!)” opens with a youthful voice addressing the audience, “Dear brothers and sisters, Dear enemies and friends,” as a string accompaniment gently rises up in the background. There is a tension to the music that perfectly augments the intensity of the monologue, which is delivered so earnestly and with such seriousness that it would be tragic were it not delivered by a child (or, perhaps, is more tragic for that fact). The imagery created through this combination is beautiful and bittersweet. The monologue ends before the song, allowing for a few moments of letting the accompaniment build, and giving the listener time to chew on the images and thoughts generated before moving on to the next track in the album.
This song is a good example of the sort of understated intensity that can be found on Born Into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward, along with other Silver Mt. Zion albums. There is a wealth of nuance found in their music that make it well worth the time to give a thorough listening, yet there are enough strong overtones that it can also be appreciated in a cursory manner.
Finding their music online for listening is a bit problematic, I’ve found. Their official site is largely unnavigable, nor are they listed in iTunes. Their record label’s site also seems somewhat lacking in navigation or material. However, I have managed to find a few places that you can find some of their work for listening, so please check them out.
[A collection of live performances via Archive.org]
[Mountains Made of Steam (Fan Site, including links to videos and songs)]