Sleeper Awake!

IN THE TITLE song of Aimee Wilson's new album, Unto Us the Sun, the music begins soft and gentle, like a slight shaft of light breaking over the morning horizon. Gradually the song intensifies, both instrumentally and vocally, until it reaches an almost ecstatic crescendo—a musical embodiment of the process she lyrically portrays of the subtleties of nature opening up its unspeakable beauty, a grand chorus of creation praising its Creator. It is also hardly incidental that the song evokes biblical language of resurrection, while both the title and images such as "tender as the shoot" subtly hint at the presence of Christ—not a heavy-handed doctrinal Christ, but the saving incarnation of a loving God.

Wilson is part of a remarkable network of young, spiritually rooted musicians (such as the Psalters) who are fashioning a very new and dynamic musical language of radical faith—a faith that is searching, exploring the edges of experience, probing human hurts and joys as well as divine mysteries and manifestations. Wilson's personal journey has taken her from the hills of her native Tennessee to inner-city Philadelphia. Her songs cover a range of moods, many reflecting her mystical apprehension of God's presence in creation. Other songs, drawing on her experience working with women who have struggled with homelessness and mental illness, convey the power of grace amid human brokenness.

Her music, which she has called "a dialogue with God," is deeply personal yet evokes universal and ancient chords. In crafting her art, she draws upon a variety of traditions, from American Sacred Harp choral music to Hindu devotional chants to Middle Eastern rhythms. The album features remarkable layering of instrumental textures, including the Indian sitar, the Chinese erhu, the harp, and the hurdy gurdy. The songs move from gentle solo guitar lines to elaborate and intricate percussion. And her amazing voice, tremulous yet strong, stamps an unmistakable character on all the pieces—one that is passionate, searching, and authentic.

In the song "Suri" (a Persian word for "red rock") Wilson makes her most remarkable statement of the gospel: "Up from Jesse's shoot stands a root that breaks the ground / we lay until we taste the wine that bled, / and you broke the bread into our depths: Yeshua, ... Touch and taste the wounds of grace that fill our cups and call us to say: ... Yeshua."

But while we live with the "wounds of grace," that gospel is also embedded in the ineffable rapture of the world around us, a rapture to which we must be attentive. In the closing number, "The Wheel," Wilson returns again to the image of a sunrise, singing this invocation: "Hear the call of the rising sun / Ablaze in all that breathes for more / And in the winds I hear you singing / Along the edge of a new beginning / Awake my soul." The song and the album then conclude with a gorgeous Sacred Harp choir chanting, "Awake my soul."

This is indeed music to awaken our souls.

Will O'Brien is coordinator of The Alternative Seminary (www.alternativeseminary.net) in Philadelphia. Aimee Wilson's music is at aimee.thefactorye.com.

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