Land of Rest

My wife has been avidly following the new Ken Burns documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. Have you been watching? I keep hearing one of my favorite hymn tunes, Land of Rest, in various arrangements. The producers explain discernment behind the music choices:

In making the film, we wanted to infuse the story with music that matched the stories we were telling. Some of the songs we chose were taken from the particular times in popular culture during which our historical characters lived – from the hymnals early visitors to Yosemite would have known in the mid-1800s to the jazz of the early decades of the 1900s, from orchestral works inspired by the American landscape to the Rock and Roll of the 1960s. But throughout, we also wanted some thematic melodies that could span a century and a half of narrative and somehow capture the timeless emotions – from exuberant joy to hushed awe – people have consistently experienced when they entered these timeless places. We wanted melodies, what we call our film’s “emotional metronome,” that could as easily apply to John Muir, for whom the waterfalls of Yosemite sang an “exulting chorus,” to Adolph Murie a hundred years later, who felt that the howl of a wolf on a stormy Alaskan night was also “music…the voice of wilderness.”

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to Land of Rest

  1. Anne says:

    Ken Burns,a great artist, has given us another wonderful series. This program makes it worth the extra we pay per month for high definition.

  2. Liam says:

    IIRC, Land of Rest was used thematically in the series on Lewis & Clark.

    The tune is more properly known as New Prospect, as there are actually other tunes properly known as Land of Rest (the taxonomy of shape note tune names can be confusing). It’s provenance in the Sacred Harp is as follows:

    Tune Name: New Prospect
    Meter: C.M.
    Page: 390
    Composer: W.S. Turner; Alto by Mrs. R.D. Blackshear, 1866
    [Text] Author: Elizabeth Mills, alt., 1829
    Denson tune name: New Prospect
    First Line: O land of rest! For thee I sigh

    Oh, land of rest! for thee I sigh,
    When will the moments come
    When I shall lay my armour by,
    And dwell in peace at home?
    When I shall lay my armour by,
    And dwell in peace at home?

    No tranquil joys on earth I know,
    No peaceful sheltering dome;
    This world’s a wilderness of woe,
    O this is not my home.
    This world’s a wilderness of woe,
    O this is not my home.

    Our tears shall all be wiped away
    When we have ceased to roam,
    And we shall hear our Father say,
    “Come dwell with Me at home.”
    And we shall hear our Father say,
    “Come dwell with Me at home.”

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