Review Freestone M.Davies

The Temple of Humanity is groundbreaking. Not only in what it presents but how it presents it. The composition, performance, recording and CD presentation are all up to high modern professional standards. Of course, most credit goes to Harm Timmerman. The concept, music and fascinating lyrics are all his. I will come back to the lyrics and music later, but that is not his only contribution. Made with modern multi-tracking techniques he also plays electric guitar, acoustic guitar, synthesiser, bass guitar and looked after the midi programming. Vocalist Diederik Huisman varies his approach according to the song. His performance is above all, sincere and convincing and the transatlantic pronunciation is in keeping with the genre. The instrumental performances are excellent. The sax played by Alex Simu can be smooth and haunting or at time jazzy and his flute playing has a clear and appealing tone. The solo cello in ‘Turn the key’ played by Floor Groeneveld is a nice addition. Theun Supheert on the drums provides a firm background of varied, subtle and never overpowering pop and soft rock rhythms. Co-composer/arranger Bauke van der Laaken did an impressive job. Due to his mixing- and masteringskills the overall sound is crystal clear and the vocals and instruments are well balanced.

In the CD box and throughout the booklet the art is astounding. On the second page are quotations from Matthew 7.7 (King James version, but with the phrases rearranged): Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. And from ‘The Muses’ Threnodie by H. Adamson (Perth, 1638) are the lines: ‘For what we do presage is riot in grosse, for we are brethren of the Rosie Crosse; We have the Mason Word and second sight; Things for to come we can foretell aright’. I could quote almost every poem as being an example of mysticism, having Masonic building or light symbolism, or having even a reference with a smile at the mythical history and mystery of freemasonry. From this beginning we should perhaps realise that the lyrics are going to be full of allusions and meaning. In this short review I will just highlight a few examples. You will need to buy the CD to find the rest.

In the first song for example are the striking words, (second verse):

‘A peculiar system of morality Point within a circle, between compass and square I came from nowhere I found a way to Turn the key To be what I should be Can I know the unknown Can’t do it on my own’ The ‘peculiar system of morality’ is an old description of Freemasonry. The full quotation ‘A peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated with symbols’ is still an often-used definition of freemasonry. The author continues with an illustration of such symbols; circle, point within a circle, compass and square. Then he progresses to outline a central aim for each freemason: to be what he should be. In effect: ‘to know ones self’. The fact that this needs to be worked on shows we have not yet achieved this but ‘Can I (eventually) know the unknown?’ We cannot know ourselves without help from our brothers. So here a few compact lines have said a great deal. And this is true of many of the lines in the songs that follow this first one on the CD.

‘Children of the Widow’ expresses the loneliness and despair we all sometimes feel and that might make us want to express a cry for help we learn in one of our degrees. ‘Out of the dark’ is (with a eyewink – I hope) a reference to the mythical history of freemasonry – a tradition from the time of Anderson’s constitutions, and earlier in the old charges. Atlantis, Egypt, Moriah, Solomon, Christ’s death and resurrection and Templars all come into the poem. But with a serious underlying message.

The Christian tradition building on Egyptian foundations is a theme found in ‘Documentum intellige’, a remarkable choral piece with a Latin text. Monks found an Egyptian obelisk on a place where used to be an Isis-temple in ancient times. On that spot they build a monastery. Later they put the obelisk on a stone Elephant designed by Bernini. On top of the obelisk there is a cross, meaning two things: Christianity is on top of the Egyptian religion and the roots of Christianity lie in Egypt. The Latin text ‘Documentum intellige robustea mentus esse solidam sapientiam sustenere’ means ‘Let this symbol remind you that it requires a strong mind to handle (to be confronted with) the truth’. The accompanying artwork for this track is a picture of the statue now located near the centre of Rome on the base of which this Latin phrase is carved.

Inside the lodge has often been seen as a sanctuary – a place separated from the outside world where masons can work with a deep sense of peace and safety. This sentiment is expressed in a great number of songs from the 18th century and later. The theme comes back in Freestone’s collection: ‘Walking through this sacred place Vengeance can’t be found If you may fall, you´ll be embraced with love he’ll stand and get around keep on going by a guiding hand Feeling free and accepted in a better land’

The song, as we see from ‘Walk within these sacred walls’ a reference to Emanuel Schikaneder’s: ‘In diesen heil’gen Hallen Kennt man die Rache nicht, und ist ein Mensch gefallen, führt Liebe ihn zur Pflicht. Dann wandelt er an Freundes Hand Vergnügt und froh ins bessre Land.’ And in the accompanying art work we see a picture usually accepted as being a portrayal of Schikaneder sitting next to Mozart in a lodge in Vienna.

It might not be ‘The’ Music of Freemasonry as the subtitle suggests but it is certainly an important addition to the body of music written by and for freemasons. And this CD could be of interest for non-freemasons as well. Naudot, Mozart, Sibelius and Pijper were all composers writing music for their own time. Some of Pijper’s six adagios, written for use in his lodge in Rotterdam sound dissonant and modern even now. These adagios too, like the lyrics (and music) of The Temple of Humanity are full of Masonic symbolism – but that’s another story. Although not every one of the 12 tracks (almost 50 minutes of music) would be relevant for lodge use, I see this album as being in a direct line. The musical style itself is often reminiscent of 80s pop (but with contemporary sounds and overtones) so it’s not aggressive or controversial. The lyrics are all in English. I can imagine the CD selling well in America, England and other English-speaking countries.

I really do think freemasons should be happy with a creation like this that proves that the culture of freemasonry is alive and moving forward. For the music, the poetry, the art: definitely something for the enthusiastic mason’s collection, however the album is not only interesting for masons alone, on the contrary. Music and artwork are contemporary and the album shows that in the popcommunity and in the changing music industry, there is place for something new.

Professor Freemasonry Malcolm Davies; Faculty of Religious Studies; University Leiden; The Netherlands.