Lately, I’ve been reminded of how powerful — how right — a group of men singing in unison can be.
My co-conspirator Mark Dyal* was surprised that I’d never read Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire. I started listening to Derek Jacobi’s performance of it in the work truck, and after replaying this passage about 20 times…
“Now from the Lakedaemonian ranks rose the paean, the hymn to Castor ascending from four thousand throats. On the climactic beat of the second stanza,
the spears of he first three ranks snapped from the vertical into the attack.”
… I had to agree with him that it wasn’t so much fiction, but as another friend said, more of a “religious experience.”
Earlier in book, singing was discussed in the context of martial valor and phobologia** — the Spartan discipline of studying and fighting fear.
“Skill in singing is Sparta counted second only to martial valor and in fact is closely related, through the heart and lungs, within the discipline of phobologia. This is why Lakedaemonians sing as they advance into battle. They are schooled to open the throat and gulp the air, work the lungs till the accumulators relent and break the constriction of fear.”
Men, singing…clearing their hearts of fear. Or singing together about a great battle or a good story. I want to hear more of that. I want to hear less of some guy singing about himself, or his problems, or his feelings about a girl. Men did a lot more singing together — singing together with proud, strong voices — before the modern age.
A few months ago, a reader in Finland sent me a copy of The Day of The Antler‘s A Call to Greatness. The album is metal classics like Manowar’s “Hail and Kill,” performed as if sung by a group of Vikings in some ancient mead hall. I really enjoyed it. My favorite track is “Black Wind, Fire and Steel.” I’ve played it many times in the work truck, rolling around downtown Portlandia, smiling at the lyric “The spikes upon my chariot will grind them when they’re near.”
I’d love to hear more new music along these lines. Choruses of men singing with simple background music, about strength and courage and honor. If you know of some recordings I should listen to, shoot me a message with recommendations.
* For more on Sparta, the body, and Fascism, read Dyal’s excellent and inspiring series of essays on Counter-Currents.
**(I wasn’t able to quickly verify whether or not that is something Pressfield made up or something verifiably historical- email me if you have a source.)