by JordanB

I saw Hem for the first time last night at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia. They’ve played such an important part in my struggle against anxiety, that I wanted to let them know. So I send them this email.

Dear Hem,

Long time listener, first time writer. I never thought that I would be one to send a note to a band I like, but I needed to, so here goes.

I was at your show last night in Philadelphia – wonderful music. I wanted to take a few moments to thank you for your music, which has been like a gift to me. I am not really sure why that is the case, and perhaps it does not really matter. I really have no idea what experiences and labors birthed your music; I’m sure I would be very surprised to trace some of the natural history of your words, melodies, and rhythms. But I also think that our creative activity in the world does not only reflect who we are, but the great universe which has formed us and is forming us still – so it makes sense that I might be able to recognize something in it of my own emotions, longings, and brokenness.  And your music has given me a clearer mirror then the ones I am used to getting.

I found your music in 2009, which was also the beginning of a terrible descent for me, into that insipid, uncreative world called anxiety. If you’ve ever felt it, I do not need to describe how both all-encompassing and uninteresting it is. Suffice to say that it has robbed me of much. I heard you first on Sleepy Hollow on WXPN, and I slowly collected your music in order of its release – Rabbit Songs, Eveningland, Funnel Cloud, and your latest – even though much of it was already out and about in 2009. I do not want to trouble you too much with my story, except to say that your music gave me brief respites from invisible struggles. Being cut from seminary cloth, the only word I can think of to describe it is pastoral. Not in the sense that it is full of nature imagery, which it is; nor that that it evokes place and loss of place, which it does; but that it speaks to very real and powerful human experiences and casts them in a new light. Takes up our struggle and gives it a new name. A mirror that doesn’t simply reflect back, but provides a new frame to see things in. It might be a bit melodramatic to say that your music saved my life, but it seemed to at times when I was choking in tangles, and needed to be unwound. Facing non-being, I needed something which could “crack… the sky wide open.”  (ok, now I’ve quoted you in writing to you which is SO not something I thought I would ever do, and makes me feel a mite foolish!) The deep spiritual resonances of your music reconnected me with the tender and forgotten things in my life, which had been clouded over.

One of the unfortunate effects of anxiety is a loss of taste – sights and sounds enter the mind, but without flavor. Your music was (and is) one of the few things that could reliably restore my taste buds. Having never seen you play live, it was a strange and wonderful experience to hear music that I had been chewing on for several years. It was something of a celebration of me as well, because I am beginning to mark a turn in my life. There are beautiful things all around, I can see that now. The future no longer looms so dreadful. I’m beginning to get back the self which had been waiting in the wings while I let anxiety take the spot light. So thank you, for being a part of that story. I think that I and other people in my generation need lighthouses to guide our pilgrimage, and maps to show us where treasures might be found.

Also, as I told Dan after the show, I feel that I owe your band something. I’ve been listening to your music for free, and it is worth much more than that to me. He told me to buy a copy (copies) for a friend, which I will do gladly, if you trust me to do it.