Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Soulkiss: "the touch of spirit on the body"

Sometimes I wonder about the first human note ever sung. Did it come from one throat or from many? Was the first song a lullaby, a lament, a hymn of praise?

When I get tired of hearing people talk about "the universe" (and what it wants or doesn't) I remind myself that universe could translate as "one song." I like the idea of living in a song, of being sung into being by a song. In CS Lewis's series of children's novels The Chronicles of Narnia, the lion Aslan creates the world with song, from the stars to the tiniest plants and animals. In Prayers of the Cosmos, author Neil Douglas-Klotz offers as one of several alternative translations from the Aramaic Abwoon d'bwashmaya (Our Father who art in heaven) "O thou! The Breathing Life of All, Creator of the Shimmering Sound that touches us."

I don't know that Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet, was thinking of song when he wrote: "There is one kiss we want with our whole lives, the touch of spirit on the body."* To me those words express why singing is so powerful--and why Soulkiss is such a perfect name for Tim Dillinger, David Sosa, and Kare Alford's vocal trio.

Last weekend Soulkiss came to my release party for MaevenSong, my first recording, co-produced by Tim Dillinger (see "The Making of MaevenSong" in the archives of this blog.) In most venues, they appear with their band, and the experience of a full-on Soulkiss concert is not to be missed. (Next one: The Triad 2/13 in NYC; details at www.TimDillinger.com). My party was a more intimate celebration, and they sang solo and harmony with no back up, no microphone, just the naked beauty of the human voice being received by a circle who held and honored that vulnerbility, that power, that touch of spirit on the body.

I had planned only to play cuts from MaevenSong, but, inspired by Soulkiss, I also sang a cappella. After the performances, we did what I love best at a gathering: we improvised. The drums came out, here and there a flute, and the voices, all our voices. At one point I put Soulkiss on the spot: "Start a chant!" And David Sosa sang out: "Flow like a river, ebb like the tide." And everyone sang with him, creating harmonies, counterparts, and the chant became enchantment, the flow and ebb of river and tide moving through us all. In that moment, we might have been the first singers, creating the first song, being created by that song.

I love Soulkiss. Please get to a concert, support their album in progress: www.timdillinger.com. I am very proud of MaevenSong, which is now available here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/ecunningham. But most of all remember to sing! There is one kiss we want, and it is ours for a song.

*translation of line from Rumi poem by Coleman Barks


  1. Elizabeth recorded MaevenSong, but these are the songs of my life--except for Miriam's Lament, where my mother-in-law steals the scene, and Black Sarah where my daughter expresses her daughterly defiance with a great deal of spirit! You can listen to cuts at www.passionofmarymagdalen.com. Click on a book cover, then click on the song links. Cheers, Maeve

  2. Elizabeth--What a beautiful blog.

    First of all, it was an honor for SOULKISS to be a part of you and Maeve's special weekend. Our connection with the both of you has been a magical ride. We consider you to be the mother of SOULKISS.

    I honestly don't know if SOULKISS would have come to be without your work. The concept of the combrogos gave body to the vision that I had long ago but hadn't yet gotten to the point of knowing how to put it all together. Once you and I physically met, it all congealed and 'the combrogos' officially assembled themselves.

    ;Mavensong', in my world, is a recorded testament to something that Jesus said about us doing 'greater works'. I feel like each song is water turned to wine, just as your words in the novels were a miracle to my life. I have no doubt that this CD will be that same lifeline to the many who will 'find' it in that accidental way that Maeve, Miriam and Sarah have of finding those who need them at just the right moment.

    My GrandDot wrote a song in the early 80s that said 'to better write the song and paint the picture/you will see the pieces scattered to and fro/you will have to live the song/before you know"--and I think that is what we are doing.

  3. Just know that you have inspired "SoulKiss" more then you will ever know and we love you, Douglas and High Valley so much. Thank you for being there for us

  4. It was such a deep joy and honor to hear SoulKiss and you, Elizabeth, singing spirit through our ears to our hearts and souls. Thank you!

  5. The launch was memorable, and this tribute to it is eloquent and true.

    I'm objective; I'm married to you :-)

    Joking aside. Tim's encomium is deserved.

    And I've been listening to Elizabeth's CD, MaevenSong, on my drive to and from the hospital; it definitely lightens and enlightens the drive.