Remember That You Are Dust (ACS 919)

Here is a musical reflection for Ash Wednesday.

Recorded by Clayton Faulkner, 2022
Mixed by Stephen Bolech (who also added an additional electric guitar part)

This is my recording of Mark Mummert’s “Remember That You Are Dust” (919 in All Creation Sings). This song first appeared in the Sourcebook for Lent and Three Days, which is where I learned it.

This is my go-to song to sing during the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday. The simple, repetitive refrain is taken straight from the liturgy. It’s the same words that are spoken when you’re receiving the ashes, so singing and repeatedly hearing these words during that moment really allows the thought to sink in. In the past when I’ve used this song we just accompanied with djembe and piano playing open fifths.

That is the sign of a strong melody and liturgical song. It can work a cappella. It can work with minimal accompaniment. Or it can work with a full ensemble creating a dynamic arc and building rhythmic interest throughout, which is what I wanted to demonstrate in the recording.

The song is harmonically centered on a D chord with no third. The chord I used in the recording were actually a D2. The song can be sung in canon, which is what the 12 string guitar part introduces. The note from the guitar edition of ACS says, “This refrain may be sung repeatedly by the assembly in unison or canon. The open fifth drone may be played on any instrument that keeps the steady but slow beat such as organ stops, handbells, bass metallaphone, or guitar strings. It may be preferable that this ostinato begin after the voices of those administering the ashes have well begun, so it feels as though the ostinato joins the already speaking voices.”

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