By David Werther.
Peter Himmelman, The Mystery and the Hum (Himmasongs, 2010)
C. S. Lewis wrote of the transition from companionship ("pleasure in co-operation, in talking shop, in the mutual respect and understanding of men who daily see one another tested") to friendship: "Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed this to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, 'What? You too? I thought I was the only one.' " ("Friendship" in The Four Loves)
We can imagine co-workers becoming friends discovering that each admired the work of Jacques Elull, had a passion for fly fishing, or shared a love of some lesser-known artist. The latter was the case for journalists William Pesek and Daniel Pearl. In 2007, five years after Pearl's abduction and murder, Pesek wrote, "We first bonded over music—a Minneapolis musician named Peter Himmelman. We agreed that he was the greatest songwriter virtually no one had heard of and we would go to Himmelman's concerts together, once making our way backstage to meet him."
Himmelman read Pesek's article and was astounded, "…I accorded Danny a sort of heroic status and l looked to him as the penultimate follower of one's muse. I thought about how bereft I felt, never having had Daniel Pearl as a friend. …I read something that left me thunderstruck. William Pesek had written that he and Danny had bonded over an appreciation of my music. …The fact that there was indeed some connection between Danny and me had been confirmed. I literally found myself weeping as I re-read that paragraph" ("Isn't It Golden Now" by Peter Himmelman).
Inspired, in part, by the knowledge of his connection to Pearl, Himmelman devoted three weeks to writing and recording the thirteen songs that comprise The Mystery and the Hum. The CD's title comes from "Raining Down From Satellite." The violent satellite news images in its online video bring Pearl to mind. The physical violence in "Raining Down" is matched by the psychological suffering in "Ever So Slightly." When Himmelman sings the question "don't you?" at the end of the refrain, "Ever so slightly, you die for her nightly, don't you?" he does so in a lower register that conveys empathy and heartbreak. "Georgia Clay" is a bluesy lament.
The CD's sadness is offset by Peter's sense of the surreal, "a nun that heals the blind with a French horn," in the scorching rocker, "Good Luck Charm," his eye for the absurd (a massage parlor ad next to a Gideon's Bible) in opening rock and roller, "Motel Room in Davenport," and his capacity for energizing and invigorating his audience, "Sit Tight." Anyone who has been to one of Peter's shows can imagine Pesek and Pearl sharing knowing looks after listening to "Sit Tight": "and I guarantee we're both gonna be free one day."