12.29.2011

My Workout Mix


ST. JOHN DAMASCENE
St. John of Damascus
Jessica and I are finding the gym a very inspirational place this winter. (Jess is even teaching me how to swim properly. I only ever graduated from the Guppy class.) We like to start our gym experience with a little cardio, of the treadmill or bicycle variety, somewhere between twenty and thirty minutes. Here is the tune that really gets my blood pumping around 170 bpm: John of Damascus, Op. 1 by Sergei Teneev. A Russian text by Alexei Tolstoy (the other Tolstoy) hovers in angelic fire of contrapuntal magnificence! Jessica tells me that I'm audibly humming as I cycled today.

Movement I starts with a haunting, modal Russian Orthodox chant melody. The choir enters after an orchestral introduction with a fugue on the words "I begin a journey into the unknown, I travel between fear and hope..." So inspirational! Don't let the slow pace confuse or worry you. The mounting tension of beauty feels like resisting a thousand horses tearing you apart in a blaze of emotional ecstasy. You will feel so ashamed to stop pedaling that bike, pedaling for life!

Movement II is short, beginning with an a cappella choir urges the gym-goer to continue their journey: "But while I sleep with the eternal sleep, My love lives on, And I implore you, brothers, Each one of you to call thus to the Lord, Oh Lord, oh Lord, oh Lord, oh Lord!" When John of Damascus asks you to put the incline up to seven, you'd better do it!

Movement III is the final sprint through seven minutes of pure glory. Another brutal and martial fugue ("On the day when the trumpet Shall signal the end of the world...") feels like Jillian Michaels screaming obscenities of unutterable beauty into your ear, its aggressive puissance driving you to pedal with all the hope and fear of the End of Days. Wait for the double fugue where the choir sings in unison against the orchestra but be prepared for weeping, uncontrollable, aerobic weeping! BOSU if you've got 'em!

Mvt.I

Mvt. II

Mvt. III

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