More on Matthew Levine and his Anthem for the World

Yesterday was a remarkable day! One of the highlights was that Matthew Levine called me and after a year and a half corresponding by email, we got to talk about music, life, and the Baha’i Faith. I had wanted to share a prayer with him, as a part of my service from the Ruhi 1 study circle “Reflections on the Life of the Spirit”. You never know what the impact of a prayer might be:

Intone, O My servant, the verses of God that have been received by thee, as intoned by them who have drawn nigh unto Him, that the sweetness of thy melody may kindle thine own soul, and attract the hearts of all men. Whoso reciteth, in the privacy of his chamber, the verses revealed by God, the scattering angels of the Almighty shall scatter abroad the fragrance of the words uttered by his mouth, and shall cause the heart of every righteous man to throb. Though he may, at first, remain unaware of its effect, yet the virtue of the grace vouchsafed unto him must needs sooner or later exercise its influence upon his soul. Thus have the mysteries of the Revelation of God been decreed by virtue of the Will of Him Who is the Source of power and wisdom.
(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 295)

After the prayer, Matthew was on his way to record a new song with Jon Rezin, the vocal producer and sound engineer for American Idol; I was on my way back to work; the prayer was on its way to work too. That same evening, as I spoke with Justin about Matthew’s tests and difficulties, she shared a brilliant idea…

You see, I had already posted about “A House Divided” on election day. I had also used Matthew Levine’s songs for my devotional on the day before inauguration. So, clearly I somehow saw the link between President Obama and these inspiring songs. But it never dawned on me to actually see the full connection (I can still use the excuse of being an ignorant foreigner) even though the inauguration commentaries were abuzz with references about the link between Abraham Lincoln and the phrase from his speech “A house divided cannot stand” and the new president from Illinois.

So, anyway, here is the idea that was shared last night — Matthew Levine’s songs should be the soundtrack of the Obama administration; they belong on President Obama’s iPod! Furthermore, since “A House Divided” was written as an anthem for the world, they deserve to get the attention of Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the U.N.

See for yourselves, here are the lyrics which Matthew Levine kindly provided:

A House Divided

music & lyric by Matthew Levine

Around the world, as we assemble
In every mosque and church and temple
We intone our dedication
To become one congregation
Now the sun of truth has risen
We will break out of this prison
God of mercy, God of thunder
Help us tear the walls asunder

No more living in a house divided lost in the dead of night
As one people we will stand united holding onto the light

One by one these chains are broken
As the word of love is spoken
From our slumber we awaken
With a faith that can’t be shaken
For in our hearts there builds a fire
In our soul chants heaven’s choir
Here’s our moment, now or never
One for all and all together

No more living in a house divided lost in the dead of night
As one people we will stand united holding onto the light

The heavens will hail
When the day is done
And love will prevail
If it takes a million broken hearts to beat as one

No more living in a house divided lost in the dead of night
As one people we will stand united holding onto the light

© 1987-2006 M. Levine

A Home That Forever Will Stand

music & lyric by Matthew Levine

O sisters and brothers, the hour is at hand
Our very foundation is turning to sand
So gather ye faithful, heed His command
And we’ll build a home that forever will stand

Into the future we stumble
Winding through din and decay
All around us we see the world crumble
Our old way of living’s had its day
Deep in our pain and confusion
Speaks the All-Merciful “Here am I, here am I
To love you and show you the way”

O sisters and brothers, our calling is clear
Sing Hallelujah for heaven is near
Our Kingdom will rise up throughout all the land
As we build a home that forever will stand

Bold is the pen of our Maker
Each word a beacon of light
Shining with justice and mercy
Piercing the darkness of night
Bright are the hearts of His servants
And though we are few we will find a way to seize the day
And with passion and vision unite

CHORUS

O my God, O my God – O Thou who hast made us from water and clay
Praised be God, praised be God – how long we have waited and prayed for this day

CHORUS

© 1993 – Matthew Levine (BMI)

Now seriously, we are in Washington and we will see what we can do about Obama’s iPod. Keep on praying!

Back to Matthew’s story

I asked him to share more about the making of the CD “A House Divided”. Here it goes:

The CD, A House Divided, was the result of a tragic miscommunication. In 2005, I was finally able to buy some basic recording equipment. I had a difficult time finding work, so I thought I’d try to get some composing or producing work now that I could record music in my apartment. I lost most of my music contacts, having been away from LA for about 15 years, so I had to start all over. It proved to be an impossible task for reasons too lengthy to get into here. I didn’t consider recording any of my own music because, although I could record the tracks, I was not adept at mixing or mastering, nor could I afford to hire live musicians to put out a product that would surely lose money. All indie artists knew by now, that if you don’t tour or have music videos online you were doomed. Meanwhile, I was living on my savings which could last about 6 months.

I considered selling my equipment but about that time, someone emailed me a music video from a doctor who also wrote songs. I called him up to find out how he was doing and he said that he sold about 30,000 CDs in a few months. I asked him how he did it and told me that the formula was simple: Have a song that hits a nerve in a fairly large swath of the general public, make a music video, and email it to friends and, if it does indeed hit a nerve, it will go viral. I then asked him how much money he spent promoting the video. He said he didn’t spend a dime–he just emailed it to about 100 friends and it spread like wildfire.

I couldn’t help but wonder how a mediocre song and video could sell that much. Nevertheless, I decided to copy what he did only do it better. I couldn’t afford to record a whole album so I recorded A House Divided, On The Fence, Beautiful, and a new version of Wherever You Are (the first tune I ever mixed myself). I cobbled together an album including recordings and old demos that I had released on previous albums just to have something to sell (the story of my life). I designed a website with the help of a Baha’i, Peter Harris, and found photos on the web which I obtained permission to use, and had Peter create a flash movie of them featuring my song, A House Divided.

A year later I was up and running but after a couple of months I only sold about 200 CD’s. I called up the songwriting doctor and asked him if he had any idea why I was selling so few CD’s. He told me that you need to spend money on marketing–he spent $20,000. We had a mild confrontation about the discrepancy between his current advice and the advice he gave me a year ago but he wouldn’t admit he changed his tune. Being that it was a moot point at the time, I didn’t pursue it further. Fortunately, if he had told me the truth the year before I never would have recorded the new songs nor put out a CD. It was sort of a bittersweet fruit that I’m still trying to recover from. But I’m glad things turned out the way they did. Since then a half dozen choirs have performed the song, A House Divided, and I’ve gained some new friends because of it–you for instance, Mitko.

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