book music

Why that title? I get this question a lot. And there are two parts to the answer. Part One is a spoiler, so I’m not going to tell you.

But Part Two – here you go:

Trouble the Water is a phrase from the African-American spiritual Wade in the Water. Actually, the full phrase is “God’s gonna trouble the water.” I remember hearing, and singing, the song in high school, and I’ve always loved it. Here’s awonderful version, performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRpzEnq14Hs&list=RDRRpzEnq14Hs&start_radio=1&t=28&t=31

The song includes veiled references the biblical Exodus narrative, a story of deliverance from slavery and oppression; it also references a story from the Gospel of John, in which God “troubles the water” in the pool at Bethesda, and the first to enter the troubled water will be made whole.

Here’s a helpful article authored by Dr. Michael Hawn, who taught Sacred Music at Perkins School of Theology when I studied there; (he also plays a mean accordion):

https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-wade-in-the-water

Most of us hear and internalize music long before we read, and it can function canonically, shaping our understanding and feeding our spirits. The music of our formative years becomes the soundtrack of our lives.In enslaved communities, when literacy was prohibited by law, music served to teach, inspire, connect, comfort, and embolden.

When – if – Trouble the Water becomes a film, I hope it opens and closes with Wade in the Water.

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