This is five years old now, but I want to give a signal boost to Jean Rohe’s “National Anthem: Arise! Arise!” As an American living (for the time being) in Europe, I am often asked about the state of the United States. What can I say? Before having come to Germany just two months ago, I had spent thirteen years as a liberal elite in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. My America was seemingly very different from that America that elected our current president. And from within my own liberal bubble, that which indeed has become the case seemed impossible. Don’t we all want radical plurality in our communities? So I thought. And so, apparently, is not the case.
Jean Rohe’s amazing “National Anthem” keeps coming to mind both for its honesty, beauty, and humility about the reality, rather than ideology, of America. I grew up playing music with her partner, Liam Robinson (the arranger/conductor in the video), in Green Bay, Wisconsin. And while I have not been terribly successful in making the connection in my own work between politics and sound, I continue to grow in my admiration for what he and Jean have and continue to do. They’re successfully marrying sophisticated and self-reflexive musics to several American musical traditions; songs that really sing and speak. It’s that kind of music that makes you smile and move while you’re hearing it, but think on it for days afterward.
Though I haven’t been in touch with them for some time, I am really feeling their music these days. Please check out their new record, Hunger. Gorgeous, thoughtful, and thought-provoking music. We’re lucky to have them.