How the Music Came to Be
Hymns of the God's Gardeners: Their Musical History
By Orville Stoeber
I came in contact with the manuscript of The Year of the Flood through Phoebe Larmore, Margaret Atwood’s literary agent. There were fourteen hymns in the book, and Margaret, Phoebe and I wondered if they could be set to music.
The idea was to write the kind of devotional music that the Gardeners themselves would write: singable by all, as hymns should be; drawn from many different backgrounds, and thus with many musical influences, from C&W to gospel to folk to older hymn music; and appropriate both to the Gardeners as a group and to the Feast Day or Saint’s Day each individual hymn is honoring.
I became fully caught up in the process, and very attuned to structure and mood. As I drew on my own memories and faiths, the songs came in a rush: fourteen tunes in three weeks, with one rewrite. It was that rare time in an artist’s life when something else seems present in the creation.
Margaret Atwood’s inspired reading of the perilous times we live in, and of the fragile nature of our earth, have directed me. I have used as my signposts the various styles of deity-based songs that I have come in contact with through my cultural inheritance, my musical education and my love of spiritually motivated art.
I wrote these songs for the reasons the Gardeners themselves would have written them: for the purpose of praise, adoration, and prayer to our planet, in thanks for its animals and plants and the “primate seeds” that led to our human experience.
The hymns were recorded at Ted Perlman’s Ranch Studio in Los Angeles, California, in the winter and spring of 2009. We played live (no click), with drums and percussion, guitar, bass, and vocals. We made this choice to give the feeling and spontaneity of a simple group of musicians who have come together to sing their hymns of devotion to a cause.
Special thanks go to Ted Perlman for his steady hand at engineering, beautiful bass, electric guitar, and keyboard work. For the space and time that Nelson Bragg created with his percussion and drums, Ruby Lapeyre’s vocal on “We Praise The Tiny Perfect Mole,” and Liam Mackenzie’s voice I am thankful as well. I played acoustic guitar and sang all lead and backing vocals.
Thanks as well to Phoebe Larmore, for her organizational help and for her encouragement throughout.
- Orville Stoeber, 2009.