This song by returning multi-disciplinary artist Aaron Beaumont beautifully captures a sense of ache and hopeful longing felt in the midst of suffering in response to 2 Thessalonians 1:5,11; 2:15-17.
Read the lyrics to "Lightness of the Pines."
Written, Performed, Produced
Violin and Viola
Artist Curated by
2 Thessalonians 1:5
5 which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
2 Thessalonians 1:11
11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:
2 Thessalonians 2:15–17
15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
I made the mistake of telling my primary care physician that I’m “probably a hypochondriac” on my first visit. He gives me unequivocal side-eye whenever I pass by his office, apparently healthy, to pick up a referral (his office being en route to the train, I have ample occasion to evaluate the nuances of my health). His skepticism isn’t without merit. I’m in good health, and if anything, tend to go longer than I should between check-ups. However, while not quite What-About-Bob level, when some faceless infirmity does arise, you might as well call me Henny Penny Beaumont. I’ve mistaken mild gum recession for an abscess in need of a life-saving root canal. Or there was the time I needed either A) a day or two to properly break in my new shoes or B) knee replacement surgery. It turns out it was the former. Phew!) Goodness knows how much shade Doctor P. would’ve thrown had I only been able to determine which and how many surgeons to call that one time I had heartburn. Point is, however minor the affliction, when something hurts, I want relief.
What stands out to me in this text is its conspicuous lack of relief. The recipients of Paul’s letter find themselves suspended in a state of “suffering,” awaiting some ambiguous future reckoning. Justice may be “on the way,” but this seems a cold comfort to anyone currently in distress. And yet, this does not preclude them from finding “unending help,” “confidence,” “a fresh heart,” invigorated work, and enlivened speech.
The act of sitting with one’s suffering, unresolved and uncomfortable, let alone finding in it “a fresh heart” would seem anathema to a thinking, feeling human. It only seems possible through some transformative inner reframing - spiritual work allowing distance between thought and thinker, feeling and feeler. This extension of the passage intrigues me most - the idea, as in Job’s story, of sitting in the ashes of human experience, in the bleakest parts, in places where we’re perhaps unmoored from spiritual anchors, and rather than attempting to hurry through, escape, or evaluate our circumstances as somehow curative or punitive, simply abiding in them. Easier said than done, right?! Our instinct in darkness is to find a light, and in discomfort to restore and relieve. While suffering may ultimately become a seed for growth and even triumph, and darkness may compel us forward to some breakthrough, we aren’t naturally given to mindfully considering that place in which there is no light at the end of the figurative tunnel. We’ve all heard platitudes like “it’s always darkest before dawn.” But what about when it’s just plain dark?
This is the space I tried to imagine in my piece… albeit reluctantly at first! This isn’t my first Spark and Echo rodeo (it is in fact my sixth official S&E post!). Therefore I should know by now that when I tell Program Manager Rebecca that “the vibe I’m feeling” is something “more redemptive,” this naturally consigns me to instead exploring the Dark Night of the Soul, “a period of spiritual desolation suffered by a mystic in which all sense of consolation is removed.”
As such, I took pains (no pun intended) to resist pat assurances of comfort or redemption here, and rather, sought to consider the act of sitting within a fathomless, desolate, indeterminate wilderness of mind or spirit. As in my previous (admittedly sunnier, zoological-leaning) Spark pieces, I rely heavily on nature as the exploratory vehicle. Along with a “night vs day” dichotomy and seasonal imagery, I use “the pines” symbolically as an allusion to the Biblical cross (as a likely candidate for its make-up), the eponymous traditional song, and a literal pinebox, and as a literal impenetrable natural setting. I attempt to subvert the “blind vs sighted” and “night vs day” binaries by acknowledging their distinctive modes of perception, rather than conceiving one as simply a lack of some property in the other. Similarly, the string arrangement and palette serve as a foil to somewhat sonically undercut, complicate, and perhaps ultimately elevate the bleakness.
I tilled the lyrical fields by re-visiting favorite literary seekers and grapplers: R. S. Thomas, R. M. Rilke, and Wendell Berry. Referencing Berry’s “Peace of Wild Things” in the last stanza, the singer re-imagines God as a solitary beast ranging over this spiritual wild, shunning crowds and cluttered daylight, unencumbered by the limited projections of our faith, yet nevertheless kindred in his own infinite loneliness positioned as the Most High.
There’s a sort of “dark night of the soul” at the beginning of every new project, especially one with few parameters, and usually a point in the middle where I think to myself, “maybe I just won’t show this one to anyone.” Here again, as is my S&E M.O., I’ve wandered outside my musical comfort zone, and in the process created something I find, in the end, tonally awkward and ill at ease - perhaps not intentional, but also maybe fitting, given the subject. As a self-professed pop-head, I committed a cardinal sin of pop lyricism - while I set out to write a lyric, in the end I only managed something more like a poem, which, for me, a lyric should never be. I try to use a weird word or two in every song for fun (the hopeless word-nerd in me is shamelessly amused to no end by, say, rhyming “ocelot” with “...Spanish moss I thought”). That said, I don’t see “fathomless” or “unfettered” going into regular lyrical rotation anytime soon! However, rather than retreat to the warm, familiar blanket of pop convention, I leaned into the more oblique, imagistic, less easily-digestible lyricism, for better or worse. Similarly, I resisted my usual maximalist urge for a florid vocal arrangement and kitchen-sink orchestration. But in the spirit of this project and text, I will sit within the artistic discomfort, and abide the dark night of my sunny pop-loving soul.
However, if my pop-loving soul still hurts in the morning, I’m probably stopping by Dr. P.’s for a referral.
Aaron Beaumont has toured the U.S. and Europe as a pianist and songwriter and been invited to share his work in wide-ranging venues from the Sziget Festival in Budapest to KCRW Santa Monica to the Tribeca Film Festival to off-Broadway Theatre 80 in the East Village to the main stage of the West Hollywood Carnaval. L.A. Weekly wrote that Aaron's music brings "a new life to the ancient music-hall/pop piano-man tradition, with clear-headed songs of genuinely witty lyrical oomph and, most of all, a historically informed musical depth – all delivered with style, grace, wit and elan, of course."
Aaron wrote one song, arranged two others, and served as a piano performance coach for the feature Permission (Rebecca Hall, Dan Stevens, Jason Sudeikis, 2017 Tribeca Film Festival), which premieres worldwide February 2018. He also contributed two songs to the forthcoming series Dan is Dead (Drake Bell, Maker Studios) and two songs to the indie feature film Alex & Jaime (2017 Roxbury International Film Festival). Aaron contributed an original co-write (“17”) and several arrangements to Gil McKinney’s 2017 debut album, How Was I to Know, which reached #1 on the iTunes jazz chart and #8 on the Billboard jazz chart. He also co-wrote “Good Love” for Briana Buckmaster’s 2018 debut album (#1 iTunes blues, #3 Billboard blues). Other recent TV and film placements include original songs written for Cedar Cove (Andie McDowell) and Where Hope Grows (Billy Zabka, Danica McKellar; Dallas Film Festival, Roadside Attractions). Aaron has composed original scores for films and theatrical productions, including All the Lovely Wayside Things; Tall, Dark, and Handsome; Heart; Until We Have Faces; Shrew; The Fire Room; the Breakfast Show with Adam O; Companion; and Beyond Imagination, winning best score and sound design at the Hollywood Fringe Festival for his work on Fugitive Kind’s production of The Fire Room by Ovation Award-winning playwright Meghan Brown. In 2016, Aaron wrote a commissioned work for the Spark & Echo Arts project, and in 2017 Aaron created a larger scale work as an Artist in Residence. Aaron also works as an in-house arranger, producer, composer, and mix engineer for the Gregory Brothers / Schmoyoho, whose original music has earned them a gold and platinum record and nearly one billion views on YouTube, along with myriad collaborations on other platforms. Recent Gregory Brothers collabs include the Justice League film (ft. Gary Clark Jr.), Weird Al Yankovic, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bassnectar, Alex Wassabi, LaurDIY, Markiplier, Slow Mo Guys, Todrick Hall, J. Fla, The Resident (Fox Network), and the International Olympic Channel. Songs Aaron has worked on with the Gregory Brothers have received over 175 million plays on YouTube.
In 2015, Aaron participated in the Ultraviolet Music and Arts Festival in Los Angeles as a featured artist and presenter, and performed with his band The Mots Nouveaux for the 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 Rockwood Music Festival in Frankfurt, Germany.
Aaron wrote the music and lyrics to the original musical, Behind Closed Doors, which sold out every performance at the historic Hayworth Theater, received multiple Broadway World L.A. Award nominations, and played for thousands of festival goers on the main stage of the West Hollywood Carnaval. Behind Closed Doors was selected to participate in the New York International Fringe Festival as a national show, enjoying a mostly oversold run at off-Broadway Theatre 80 in the East Village. Aaron was selected as a finalist as a composer and lyricist for the Fred Ebb Foundation / Roundabout Theatre Company Fred Ebb Award for musical theater songwriters, and received the Hal Gaba Scholarship for Excellence in Lyrics from UCLA/Concord Records.
Aaron is currently developing new musicals with playwrights Meghan Brown, Andrew Crabtree, Peter Berube, and Cassandra Christensen, and a one-woman show with soprano Lorelei Zarifian. Lorelei and Aaron’s first musical triptych, Midtown Antoinette, was featured on NPR-affiliate WFIT in March 2016 and debuted as part of the Florida Tech / Foosaner Museum French Film Festival. Aaron also occasionally helps produce the outrageous bingo raves phenomenon, Rebel Bingo, in New York and Los Angeles, as featured in the L.A. Times, Guardian, and BBC, and recently played a run of five capacity shows in the downtown L.A.’s Globe Theatre as part of 2016 Night on Broadway.
Aaron has collaborated as pianist, musical director, and/or co-writer with a panoply of music buddies, including Jason Manns, Gil McKinney, Sara Niemietz, Tim Omundsen, Dave Yaden, Nicholas Zork, Aaron Roche, Nick Bearden, Emma Fitzpatrick, Amanda Wallace, Shane Alexander, Ben Jaffe, Brett Young, Courtney Bassett, Eden Malyn, Luis Selgas, Aly French, Sam Heldt, Karma Jenkins, Emily Iaquinta, Lynette Williams, Meshach Jackson, Roy Mitchell-Cardenas, Kamasi Washington, Chad Doreck, J.T. Spangler, and Katrina Parker. He claimed several distinctions as a young classical pianist, including two-time Wisconsin Academy Musician of the Year, Andrews University Concerto Competition Finalist, and the British Royal Conservatory of Music Award of Highest Distinction for Piano Performance at the Newbold Creative Arts Festival. He currently serves as co-chair of the Carnegie Hill Concert Series in New York, featuring leading interpreters of classical and New Music from around the globe.
In 2015, Aaron founded SongLab, an online songwriting community for emerging songwriters. The inaugural SongLab Series welcomed GRAMMY-winner Dave Yaden as special guest.
In addition to working with other artists, Aaron performs as one-third of the pop trio, The Mots Nouveaux, alongside vocalists Emma Fitzpatrick and Amanda Wallace. The band celebrated their latest album release with a residency at Hotel Café, a six-month residency at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, and residencies at Rockwood Music Hall and Sidewalk Café in New York. They were invited to join the lineup for the Broke L.A. Music Festival in downtown Los Angeles, where Lyynks music hailed their set as the “greatest revelation” of the festival, one that “really thrilled the crowd” of thousands at the Lounge Stage (GroundSounds.com). The Mots Nouveaux recorded a new EP in Spring 2017 with co-producer Peter Barbee / Among Savages, with forthcoming tracks slated for 2018 release.
Aaron released his debut solo project, Nothing's Forever (Not Even Goodbye), featuring the first ten songs he wrote, on Milan Records (Warner-Ryko) in 2008.
In his spare time, Aaron enjoys playing the piano, traveling, eating, writing songs, making coffee, drinking coffee, collecting records, going for brisk walks, being near coffee, and composing extensive autobiographical sketches in the third person.