~ Divinities -
Twelve Dances With God~


An introduction to "Divinities"

Just before Easter 1995 a remarkle set of music pieces was released, presented as Ian Anderson's new solo album, once again showing his musical versatility: 'Divinities'. It was an album totally differing from anything Ian had written and recorded before. Though presented as a solo album, Ian was assisted by Andy Giddings who contributed a lot to the composing and recording of the pieces, by Doane Perry (percussion) and 7 other musicians from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London, who played clarinet, oboe, violin, cello, harp, french horn and trumpet. At first hearing the album has a baroque, classical atmosphere and was by an occasional reviewer even qualified as New Age music (!), but there is more to that, I think. In Giddings words: "The album is classical in the sense that it has orchestral instruments and orchestral sounds. It is a mixture of real instruments and synthesised sounds, almost by accident" (Rees, p. 152-153).

An article in the folk and world music magazine Dirty Linen reveals how this album came into being: When the project was originally proposed to Anderson by the classical division of EMI, he had his doubts. "I had presumed this would be the awful classical-symphony-orchestra-with-a-rock-group routine, so I didn't respond too quickly. But they said `No, we want you to write some original music for the flute and perhaps other instruments of the traditional classical orchestra.' And they went further to suggest a religious or a spiritual theme."

Photograph taken during the Divinities tour, by courtesy of © Kevan D. Shaw. He also designed the lighting of the Rock Island and Roots To Branches tours.

After making a couple of demos, Anderson began working on the project in earnest, writing and recording the material between Tull tours during 1994. For the first time, he was writing material on the flute, rather than on guitar or keyboards. When he decided he needed a collaborator to work up the arrangements, he turned to Tull keyboardist Giddings. "We worked on the thing from the very beginning. This was a different way of working for me. I felt that the greatest certainty of having something acceptable at the end was by working with someone that I knew. The alternative would have been to work with someone from orchestral music, a classical background. That would have meant taking a risk that I really didn't want to have to take, given that there was only a limited amount of time." (Dirty Linen, 1995, issue number unknown).

Ian drew his inspiration from elements of religions he in one way or another was confronted with during the Jethro Tull tours. Rees quotes Andy Giddings: " ... it's an acknowledgement of all the religions that are around. It's not aimed at religious people or at any particular religion, it's just a theme for the album. Different religions tend to stem from different countries and continents, and those people all have their own kind of music. It was the musical element that was important to us, in as much as it gives us twelve different styles of music that we could work from, and then develop it in our own way" ( Rees, p. 153-154).

Photograph taken during the Divinities tour,
by courtesy of
© Kevin D. Shaw.


During a radio interview for The World Café, WXPN FM Radio Philadelphia that took place on June 6 1995, Ian was asked about what had inspired him:
Interviewer: "Now, I am curious about your study of comparative religion. How serious is this, or is it a convenient way to organize these pieces?"
I.A.: "Well; the idea of a religious or a spiritual theme was something suggested to me by EMI Classics; it was not originally my thought; it wouldn't really have occurred to me to do that, but having had that put to me, I went away and thought about how, how I might have some input that would be... that would give us something that was thematic, but wouldn't just be some very insular view of one particular religion, one particular mood, one particular, you know, set of ritual or dogma, and so, it then occurred to me that my own experiences of travelling around, to all the places we go to playing concerts, was probably a good starting point, since we do actually find ourselves in a lot of different cultures, a lot of different, er, a lot of different countries where not only is religion very prevalent on a day-to-day basis, in the way people really do conduct their lives, but also quite sometimes the reason for a degree of tension or strife. I mean, I refer to concerts we've done fairly recently in India, for example, where first time I landed there, in Bombay a couple of years back, was just when the bombs had gone off killing, you know, about a thousand people in the Air India building, and it was, you know, it is always brought home to you that religion is alive and kicking, and sometimes kicking pretty hard."


Photograph taken during the Divinities tour,
by courtesy of
© Kevan D. Shaw.

Since Ian tends to consider his songs and music pieces as 'unborn' as long as they have not been played live for an audience, a short Divinities tour was organized in May and June 1995. The complete album was succesfully performed 18 times in relatively small intimate venues in Europe, Canada and the US by Jethro Tull-minus-Martin Barre-plus violinist Chris Leslie and bass player Jonathan Noyce. These three hour concerts also featured some of the best-known Jethro Tull songs as well.
* Jan Voorbij

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As an instrumental album 'Divinities' has (of course) no lyrics. However several fans posted comments on the pieces of music of this album to the SCC and in the Jethro Tull News Group in 1997-1998, that might be of interest. At the time there was a discussion going on in the SCC about Ian's sources of inspiration for the 'Divinities' album. I also included some of Ian's stage banter regarding 'Divinities' pieces. I want to thank Neil Thomason who collected them for me.

In A Stone Circle

  • Celtic tradition, conjuring up images like that of Stonehenge.

In Sight Of The Minaret

  • The definition of a minaret is a lofty slender tower attached to a mosque and surrounded by one or more projecting balconies from which the summons to prayer is cried by the muezzin (a Muslim crier who - of course - calls the hour of daily prayers).
    * Theron Macay Quist

In A Black Box

  • A few years ago, I was able to speak with Ian at length about Divinities, and I questioned him about "In A Black Box" and essentially, being an album about religion, he decided to give "Cautious Inclusion" to the "darker" sides of religion. I feel the need to be very careful here, as Ian strongly stated that he was "in no way into, or advocating devil worship". But that because that particular facet of religion was a fact of life it did merit "cautious inclusion". 'If you really listen to the piece, you'll notice that while it seems very whimsical, there is a very dark undertone to the music. When I first heard it, I was strongly reminded of Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes." It's my favourite cut on the album. In it's original incarnation, it started with a "student flute player" playing a few not e s based on a music box. Then you would have heard the sound of the kid putting the flute down and walking from the room, whereupon the box would spring to life and start playing by itself. "Beautiful, dark and seductive", to paraphrase Ian.
    * Andy Bowyer

  • Another interpretation is that it refers to the Kaaba - A small stone building in the court of the Great Mosque at Mecca that contains a sacred black stone, and is the goal of Islamic pilgrimage.
    * Theron Macay Quist

  • Ian's introduction to 'In A Black Box' on stage:
    "This next one is a piece, which is a bit scary to me, because I grew up with a terrible fear of music boxes; you know those things, clockwork things? Scared the shit out of me. So, I'm trying to overcome that with a bit of therapy, here tonight. This a song called 'In A Black Box'." (Hochschule der Künste, Berlin, 22 May, 1995)
    "Okay, moving on now, this is a piece, based on a sort of a musical box idea, it's called 'In A Black Box'."(Massey Hall, Toronto, 3 June, 1995)

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In The Grip Of Stronger Stuff

  • Celtic again I think. Mostly because of the musical themes.
    * Theron Macay Quist

  • Remember, the album is " ... instrumental and orchestral music, drawing on his [Ian's] interest in comparative religions and cultural influences... " (Ali Aziz, Divinities sleeve notes). Not all the tracks necessarily have religious themes.
    * Neil Thomason

  • Ian's introduction to 'In the Grip of Stronger Stuff' on stage:
    'In the Grip of Stronger Stuff' - an ode to the demon drink. Which of course we will not allow near our lips until a little later this evening". (Hochschule der Künste, Berlin, 22 May, 1995)
    "That was called 'In the Grip of Stronger Stuff' - an ode to the demon drink".(Massey Hall, Toronto, 3 June, 1995)

In Maternal Grace

  • Sounds Catholic to me, or at any rate, it has an orthodox Christian church sound to me.
    * Theron Macay Quist

  • Ian's introduction to 'In Maternal Grace' on stage:
    "The next piece is in fond response to that most maternal of religions, Catholicism, and the sort of thing that makes fully-grown, hairy, Italian football players burst into tears at the thought of 'Mama' . But that's good, that's good. This is a piece called 'In Maternal Grace'." (Hochschule der Künste, Berlin, 22 May, 1995)
    "This next one is a much more gentle piece which evokes fond thoughts of maternal instinct, it\rquote s, sort of, the kind of the thing that makes Italian football players burst into tears at the thought of 'Mama' . There's nothing wrong with that; it's the good side of Catholicism, and it's called 'In Maternal Grace'." (Massey Hall, Toronto, 3 June, 1995)

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In The Moneylender's Temple

  • Ian's on stage: "Thank you very much. That was called 'In the Moneylender's Temple', wherever the moneylender's temple might be. Having just come from Switzerland, I suggest it could be there".
    (Hochschule der Künste, Berlin, 22 May, 1995)

  • Interviewer: It seems to me that almost every religion is at least represented here in some way or another; there's 'Bombay Valentine' for the piece you're talking about with India. There's a piece that can go back to either the Christian, I guess the Christian religion or the Judaic tradition: 'In The Moneylender's Temple'.
    I.A.: Stripped bare, here's 'The Moneylender's Temple'; which is a polite way of referring to the loan institutions of the world.
    (The World Café, WXPN FM Philadelphia, 6 June, 1995)

In Defence Of Faiths

  • I thought of St. Augustine and other writers that wrote in the defence of Christianity and also the later reformation leaders - the use of the cathedral organ here is the main clue for me. Ian quoted Prince Charles, who said that because of multiculturalism, he would no longer call himself a "Defender of Faith", but a "Defender of FaithS". So, Ian said, although the Prince managed to make a complete mess o f his personal life, he had succeeded in giving him the name of that song, for which he was grateful.
    * Theron Macay Quist

  • Personally I consider this piece - musically speaking - as the least attractive one of the album. It makes me think of the Anglican religious celebrations, broadcasted by the BBC each Sunday evening, where psalms are sung supported by dominant organ-playing.
    * Jan Voorbij

  • Ian's introduction to 'In Defence Of Faiths' on stage:
    "Here's a piece dedicated in a way to our Prince of Wales, Prince Charles who, as you know, manages to pretty much fuck up his life at every possible twist and turn. But, he did say something, sensible some months ago, when he referred to himself.... In English tradition, the Prince Of Wales is the 'Defender Of The Faith', but he said he would prefer to be 'Defender Of The Faiths', in plural. And I thought that was pretty good, for him, and we decided to call this piece 'In Defence Of Faiths'. Well done, Prince Charles! Let's hear it for Prince Charles! Hey, what do you think of Prince Charles? Do you think he's a good guy, or a bad guy? Let's hear it from those who think he's a good guy. Let's hear it from those who think Prince Charles is a bad guy. Well, this is a little embarrassing, because I have the great pleasure of introducing to you: His Royal Highness, the Prince Of Wales! Hey, just kidding. That would be embarrassing, wouldn't it? Okay; right; 'In Defence Of Faiths'."
    (Hochschule der Künste, Berlin, 22 May, 1995)

  • Ian was actually mistaken on one point: the British monarch is termed 'Defender Of The Faith', not the heir to the throne; in the quote Ian referred to, the Prince was talking about when (if?) he becomes King. He got it right in Toronto a couple of weeks later:
    "Okay, this next one is a, is one that's sort of based on a title, which came from our Prince Charles; you know, we have our 'monarch-in-waiting', and, er.... He really is quite a nice fellow, it's just that he's given to making a total fuck-up of his life at every twist and turn. But he said something a few months back that was actually quite good. He's, as is tradition, you see, the monarch is the 'Defender Of The Faith', but Mr. Charles said he would prefer to be considered the 'Defender Of Faiths', in plural, and, you know, being a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society, like your own, I think that's quite indeed proper, so we called this rather 'Englishy-sounding' hymn 'In Defence Of Faiths'. It's not terribly good, but it's a bit of fun, as I said." (Massey Hall, Toronto, 3 June, 1995)

    * Neil Thomason

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At Their Father's Knee

  • Judaism, as stated by Anderson directly in the interviews.
    * Theron Macay Quist

  • Ian's introduction to 'At Their Father's Knee' on stage:
    "Any Jewish people in the audience tonight? Good; okay, this next piece is for you. It's based on a very traditional, authentic, Jewish folk song. Which I wrote last year. And we don't get there until the very end of the piece, but it sort of works backwards, a very simple tune. On a good night. On a bad night, it never gets there. This is called ' At Their Father's Knee'." (Hochschule der Künste, Berlin, 22 May, 1995)
    "Now; anybody out there Jewish? Okay; don't be embarrassed. Could be worse; could be vegetarian. This one is dedicated to those Jewish folks and the Jewish family tradition, particularly the paternalistic and sometimes heavy-handed fatherly role that we all have to endure from time to time. Don't know how you are with your kids, if but you bring them up in a liberal fashion, treat them like young adults, tickle them under the chin when they do wrong, and say tut, tut, tut. Or whether you just beat the shit out of them. Everything has it's place, to a point. This one is called 'Their Father's Knee'; respectfully, yours". (Massey Hall, Toronto, 3 June, 1995)

In The Pay Of Spain

  • For me this graceful piece of music conjures up the image of ships sailing a calm sea to destinations far away. Are "all who sail in her" Spanish seamen, soldiers and priests, on their way to a new Eldorado where gold is to be found and people to be 'converted' to Christianity?
    * Jan Voorbij

In The Times Of India (Bombay Valentine)

  • Ian's introduction to 'In The Times Of India' on stage:
    "This is in fond memory of St. Valentine's Day in Bombay, India, last year, when I noticed in 'The Times Of India', the main newspaper, they publish beautiful letters and brief messages, from husband to wife, wife to husband, girlfriend to boyfriend, it's moments of great passion, in simple language; it's really very, very... stupid. But, nonetheless, endearing. So, God bless India, and all who sail in her, and this is in fond memory of St. Valentine's Day, and 'The Times Of India'." (Hochschule der Künste, Berlin, 22 May, 1995).

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