Psychic pianists, prophetic instrument makers, and orchestral meditators--Secret Sound features marginalized American composers, whose work is drawn from intuitive experience and esoteric tradition. Each episode explores an individual artist, focusing on their musical works, creative process, biography, and esoteric influences. Along the way we'll encounter the philosophies of New Thought, Theosophy, spiritualism, Kabbalah, Enochian magic, and more.
#41 - The Ghost Dance - Wovoka
Welcome to Episode 41, "The Ghost Dance," featuring Native American prophet Wovoka (1856-1932). A descendent of the Numu language family and Paiute tribe in Nevada, Wovoka had a vision in 1889 in which he visited heaven and communed with the spirits of his ancestors. The spirits told him that by performing the “Ghost Dance,” the white man’s violent oppression would subside and the native tribes would thrive following an apocalyptic resurrection of Native life. The rapid spread of the Ghost Dance across the nation was so threatening to white oppressors that it compelled them to even greater atrocities, resulting in the Massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890. Wovoka’s prophetic religion, music, and dance, however, still remain today. Through the life of Wovoka and his Paiute heritage this episode explores the meaning and music of the Ghost Dance tradition. Welcome to a prophecy of hope...
#40 - The Prophet of Swing - Vincent Lopez
Welcome to episode 40, "The Prophet of Swing," featuring Portuguese American pianist, bandleader, numerologist, and metaphysical philosopher Vincent Lopez (1895-1975). Raised in an extreme Roman Catholic home, Lopez left the monastic path for ragtime piano as a child. One of the first jazz bandleaders to make use of America's emerging radio technology, Lopez's radio program, "Lopez Speaking," made him a household name across the country. While the success of his orchestra lead to a million dollar deal. Lopez attributed his success to numerology, astrology, and the "power of thought vibration." He would go on to publish books on prophecy and numerology, practices he often incorporated into his concerts. His song selections frequently emphasized dreams and cosmic imagery; while Lopez's 1944 "Musical Horoscope" is one of the earliest examples of "zodiac jazz." Welcome to the hidden number...* Featuring special guest, Sarah Cahill, on piano.
#39 - The Everlasting Gospel Revelation - Sister Gertrude Morgan
Welcome to episode 39, "The Everlasting Gospel Revelation," featuring preacher, painter, and musician, Sister Gertrude Morgan (1900-1980). Raised in a poor Baptist family in Alabama, a series of divine revelations lead Sister Morgan to paint, sing, and preach in the Baptist-Holiness-Pentecostal tradition. Her visions also lead her to New Orleans, where she founded an orphanage and her own house of worship. Though she became most known for her street performances, where with guitar or tambourine she sang and preached through hand-painted paper megaphones. Her paintings and music were picked up by the Preservation Hall in New Orleans and diverse galleries and museums, gaining widespread attention and fans as notable as Andy Warhol. This episode looks into the musicalization of the holy spirit in the African American church. We'll look at the Baptist, Holiness, and Pentecostal movements as well as the musical evangelism of early 20th century New Orleans, where Sister Morgan sang, painted, poeticised and prophesied the New Jerusalem to come...
#38 - The Black Hawk Chant - Mothers Leafy Anderson and Catherine Seals
Welcome to episode #38, "The Black Hawk Chant," featuring Mother Leafy Anderson (1887-1927) and Mother Catherine Seals (1874-1930). Coming from Chicago to New Orleans, Anderson founded her own church, which fused spiritualism, Catholicism, and jazz into her services, while seeking to uplift women into leadership roles. Worshipping the spirit of Native American Sauk leader Black Hawk, Anderson initiated the Spiritual church movement, which still exists today. Following her death, trombonist Catherine Seals took over, founding the Temple of the Innocent Blood in the Lower Ninth Ward. She continued Anderson's teachings but incorporated hoodoo folk magic. While her jazz services would feature significant artists like Ernie Cagnalotti and Harold Duke Dejan. This episode explores the African American Spiritual church movement, the Mardi Gras Indian tradition, and their musical expressions in New Orleans, Louisiana. Welcome to the Handa Wanda...
#37 - Singing for the Orishas - Merceditas Valdes
Welcome to episode 37, "Singing for the Orishas," featuring Afro-Cuban Santería/Lucumí singer, Merceditas Valdes (1922-1996). Raised in a musical household alongisde Yoruba and Cuban traditions, Valdez took to Afro-Cuban Lucumí music and religious practice as a teenager in Havana. Working alongside leading figures, Valdes became the voice and face for the AfroCubanismo movement, with her recordings ceremonially celebrating the divine and ancestral spirits, or Orishas, of Lucumí and Yoruba tradition. However, the Cuban Communist Party would silence her voice for 20 years. Freed from suppression in 1980s, Valdes would release several Lucumí albums before her death in 1996. This episode explores the world of Afro-Cuban Lucumí religion and its ceremonial music tradition through one of the tradition's most revered song leaders. Welcome to the way of the spirits...
#36 - The Mahatma of Manhattan - Louis M. Eilshemius
Welcome to episode 36, “The Mahatma of Manhattan,” featuring painter, author, publisher, and composer, Louis M. Eilshemius (1864-1941). Now marginally known for his idiosyncratic paintings of nudes and landscapes, Eilshemius spent most of his life being mocked and ignored, until years after being discovered by Marcel Duchamp. Founding the Dreamers Press, he published countless reams of poetry, fiction, visual art, and music across the turn of the century. Inspired by mesmeric trance, his paintings and music were rooted in subconscious and medial inspiration. While throughout his life undiagnosed mental health issues and egomaniacal ravings plagued his career and well being. Welcome to the self-advertised, “Mesmerist Prophet and Mystic, World-Class Athlete, Spirit-Painter Supreme, Ex-Fancy Amateur Dancer, and Transcendental Eagle of the Arts”: Mahatma Eilshemius
Lovely podcast. Soothing voice, informative and fascinating music. This is musicology at its best. This podcast celebrates the depth, context, story, purpose and meaning in the esoteric music it explores.
A great find
I stumbled across Matt’s podcast while looking for material about Rudhyar. What a lovely find! I love his focus, taking a look at some of the spiritual and religious inspirations of great modernist composers. I’ve only listened to a few, but I’ve enjoyed the episodes on Rudhyar ( a big complex figure), Ruth Crawford-Seeger and especially Alice Coltrane.
Matt’s thoughtful, well spoken podcasts of forgotten, neglected, esoteric composers are something to behold. Hasn’t been many if not any podcasts like this. Excellent musical curation and editing. I hope he continues and extends his research to other places on the planet too. As you can easily tell, I highly recommend this podcast...