While writing Children of God, the CD in my car was Robbie Robertson’s self-titled first solo album. I played the final cut over and over to keep myself inside Emilio’s fury and pain, which carries over from the end of The Sparrow into the sequel. The raw intensity of Testimony fit Emilio’s emotions. Notice that Nat-Am tom-tom beat below the astonishing drumwork — brilliant stuff! Bono sings backup and Testimony appears on both “Robbie Robertson” and on Bono’s “Complete Solo Projects.”
If the Russell-Hall screen adaptation of The Sparrow is ever produced, I think Testimony would be perfect over the credits at the end. The lyrics are eerily apt:
Come bear witness, the half-breed rides again…
In these hands, I’ve held the broken dream
In my soul, I’m howling at the moon
The later line, “Come bear witness, I’ve danced among the ruins,” was echoed on page 37 of Children of God, when Gelasius III tells Emilio, “God is waiting for you, in the ruins.”
Music appears directly in CoG through the character Nico, the strangely sweet thug who beats Emilio up but feels bad about it afterwards. Nico has a high, pure voice and a naïve love of opera. He sings what pleases him, whether it is for tenor or soprano. Here are links to a couple of the arias mentioned in the book.
Questa o quella:
O mio babbino caro
Nico called it “O mio bambino caro,” perhaps because he heard it wrong or perhaps – ahem – because the author of Children of God got it wrong.
On page 399, Nico sings “a song that was surely the most beautiful [Emilio] had ever heard… The melody was … supple and serene, rising like a soul in flight, obeying some hidden law…” Nico is singing Beim Schlafengehen – Time to Sleep – one of Strauss’s Four Last Songs. Nico wouldn’t have sung it in real German – he’d have done the best he could phonetically. Here is a link to the performance by the great Kiri Te Kanawa, whose glorious, creamy soprano always brings me to tears: