David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 273: Moby (God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters)

August 5, 2023

I never thought I'd say this, but I am tired of words. Because of my limited musical knowledge, I gravitate again and again to lyrics to provide the meat for this song series. For only the second time, I feel the need to recognize an instrumental, but stare at a lot of blank page (blank field?) to figure out what I will say.

Because of my love of words, generally instrumentals go unappreciated. When stuck on an album by a group primarily known for songs with lyrics and singing, they can easily be forgettable. Often the titles, also, seem forgettable. Who remembers "Tramontane," the instrumental stuck on Side Two of Foreigner's Double Vision (at least at the time, I learned that Tramontane is a kind of wind)? Or, how about "Journey Of The Sorcerer," the 6+ minute closer for Side One of One Of These Nights? Too easy to pick up the needle as that one started. Besides, Eagles, did you really want to dabble in the musical landscape of The Alan Parsons Project or Uriah Heep?

Even ones that became hits, ranging from Booker T & The M.G.s "Green Onions" through Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein" to Average White Band's "Pick Up The Pieces," don't seem to have great staying power for me.

The ones I tend to remember, play frequently, are often associated with movies. Some of Mark Knopfler's greatest work comes from movies. ("Going Home" from Local Hero is lovely.) And as huge as Moby was during the 1990s, it is his inspiring instrumental "God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters," from the Pacino/DeNiro film, Heat, that I repeatedly play. I didn't even originally hear it because of Heat, only ending up with it through the gift that kept giving in the early 2000s, Mojo magazine's free CD, The Score, featuring music from soundtracks. Heck, I invested so little in Moby that it is only through research for this blog that I find that his birth name is Richard Melville Hall, descendant of Herman Melville, the writer of, of course, Moby Dick, which coincidentally is also the name of one of Led Zeppelin's numerous instrumentals. However circular my point, I have still really digressed.

"God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters" manages to do with mostly piano, violins and cymbals (or, as is this case with all electronic music, all of that created via synthesizer) what many writers can't do with words: suggest the presence of God, in this case as if the all-powerful deity flits across great expanses of oceans, seas, and lakes via lengthy arpeggios. It is difficult to hear the song and not be moved emotionally.

I love Moby's own take on the song. He recounts crying as he heard the crescendo of the song he wrote. This is what led him to the title, from the Bible, about how "God was moving over the face of the waters" before he had created life. You really should go hear Moby's discussion about this, finishing with a brief clip of him performing the song with full orchestra versus the synthesizer on which he created it. While only a 6-minute clip, it's worth the few minutes to hear the man talk about his own creation, which was focusing on the creation by a God that he admits, repeatedly, he is unsure about.

Choosing the water metaphor juxtaposes quite well with Moby's ancestor's comment that "consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began,"1 providing us some pretty heady stuff about existence, survival of the fittest and creationism. But the connections don't end there. Then we get a film-maker, Michael Mann, choosing it for his gritty crime-drama, Heat, and allowing its beauty to flood our emotions at the end of his film as a crook dies at the hand of a persistent cop, another "eternal way since the world began."

This is a microcosm of art. This is why art, religion, human existence require and encourage deep thinking.  The mysteries of life, which is everything in life, don't have to be mutually separate. This is why we have art. This is why I keep coming back to this blog, even though I start each one convinced I can barely write 7 words, let alone 700 words. Such is the cycle of life.

1Melville, Herman.  Moby Dick. Chapter 58. Literaturepage.com: http://www.literaturepage.com/read/mobydick-287.html. Retrieved July 27, 2023.

Moby. "God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters." Everything Is Wrong. Elektra, 1995. Link here.

Day 272: Split Enz "I See Red"

Day 274: John Lennon "#9 Dream"

See complete list here.