For this week’s pursuit, I chose to listen to “Oceans (Where feet may Fail)” by Hillsong United. I chose this song because I noticed that in my time at UCSB, I have yet to encounter any gospel music played. I mean what do you expect was at UCSB. But seriously, if you think about it, there are definitely existing members of our student body that are religiously affiliated or just have religious beliefs and follow religious practices like worshipping through gospel music, which can also be called worship in church terms. In fact, I actually met a number of people at this school who recognized themselves with a religion, they were mostly Christians. However, with my experiences with my experience with them, Christian or gospel music was never played.

The song “Oceans” is by Australian worship band Hillsong United. The lead singer Tava Smith full-heartedly tells a piece of the biblical story through a dynamically controlled performance with her powerful instrument, her voice. The discipline and total control are recognizable in her emotional expressivity that she sonically pieced together to the dynamics of the instrumentals. She doesn’t release all the power and emotion at once but she builds it up with her voice. Her voice imposes a beginning and a climax. She builds that unique connection with the audience as she captures their attention with that soul-reaching tone matching with the solemn synth and violin in the beginning then blows them away as she builds up power and more passion in her voice at the end.
While listening to this song and analyzing, I tried to feel and listen to the song very keenly. I recognized that the singer, the song, and the instruments, are all pieced together to tell a compelling story. Tava’s voice- a silvery, pleasant voice but powerful at the same time, maximizes the emotional expressivity of the story through her angelic voice, especially when she hits those really soft high notes.

Tava Smith’s voice definitely justified the emotional goal of the song, which it is to touch people’s souls, despite being accustomed to the varying beliefs, somehow you can feel a sincere story by just feeling her voice. If you limit yourself to the textual and linguistic semantics of the song, the potential for distinct expressive reciprocity will be lost. Just like opera, barriers in language do not stop people from enjoying or experiencing the perfomance, their experience is just unique to themselves. Whether you believe in the bible, listen to or don’t listen to gospel music, the angelic presence and emotional build-up she portrays in her voice is very significant and engulfing. You can hear a story in her voice, without actually listening to the actual words.

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