The year 2505, a cabin on one of the outer planets. A grizzled, bearded old man with a pleasant, somewhat high pitched voice sits in an old rocking chair by a roaring fire. Kids play about him with rudimentary toys. He begins to speak.
Children! Come, come, sit by your grandpa. Come now, by the fire. I’ll tell you a tale of Earth-That-Was. This one is about music from a long, long time ago, music that still lasts to this day! It was 500 years ago exactly, it please ya. There were all kinds of music in those days, as the story goes. Loud electrical instruments that muddied up the blood and raced the hearts. Almost anybody could make music back then and have it heard, not just the dandy types and those what had. But there was also the kind of music which lives on today, folk music of the independents.
Everyone knows the story of the Iron and the Wine. Those who are schooled hear that story early on. And, there are those who know about the music of the states, the songs by a man named Stevens. Further still, there are some of you children who might have heard of ol’ Bonnie Billy and his everlastin’ beard. But you might not have heard of a man they called Tony and his band of the Swimmers of the Great Lake! Yes, he was a true artist of the folk music of the independents and one of the framers of the music you listen to today!
Back in two-ought-five, before the evacuation of Earth-That-Was, Tony Dekker made two collections of songs in the same year. The first he recorded himself, alone with his guitar, in silo in a place called Ontario, Canada. The second was far more intricate. He called it Bodies and Minds and added more instruments, using not only the folk of his forefathers, but also the spirit of the music of the independents of the day. There was Sandro Perri who played the sweetly wavering pedal steel, Erik Arneson who played the banjo, and Almog Ben-David who played the Wurlitzer piano. They played the kind of music that we like to play when we’re tellin’ stories around the fire just like we are right now. Dekker’s voice was beautiful, a mix of folks like Neil Young, Sam Beam, and Wayne Coyne. There was a kind of musical magic in the air when they played songs like “When It Flows,” the hands would clap along, and then instruments would follow their cues when he sang, “creaking of the buildings and their cellos, the windows are violins.”
The banjo and harmonica opening of “Various Stages” was true backwoods folk for front porches and Dekker sang words of sadness and regret. The songs of Bodies and Minds were recorded in a church, a place where Shepherds tell their own tales. Nowhere was this more appropriate than in the song “Falling Into the Sky,” in which a mess of singers join in and create joyous harmonies. This is the song you may have heard, as folks really like to sing this song at get-togethers and shindigs. Your heart may ache to sing it, but when it’s done right, it’s a thing of beauty for sure.
So remember children, when you learn to play banjo in school, or sit around the fire with friends and family, that there are many stories of Earth-That-Was, including those that aren’t told as often as others, yet no less important. So let’s sing a song of Dekker’s, and pretend we are all Swimmers of the Great Lake. That would be shiny.
Thanks to Joss Whedon and Serenity / Firefly.