Marching to the beat of a different drum

My Brightest Diamond’s fourth album, “This Is My Hand,” draws from marching bands to explore the communal nature of music.

Shara Worden poses for the album cover of My Brightest Diamonds fourth album, This Is My Hand.

Image by Bernd Preimi

Shara Worden poses for the album cover of My Brightest Diamond’s fourth album, “This Is My Hand.”

by Robert Larson

If My Brightest Diamond is dancing in the same light as everybody else, than everybody else must be going blind.

She sings “disperse the white light,” in the song “Pressure” as drumline snare-rolls punctuate growling bass and manic flutes, as if to keep them from collapsing in on each other. Under her stage moniker, “My Brightest Diamond,” Shara Worden’s well-cultivated pop sensibility refracts pure musical archetypes into a rich spectrum of color on her latest album, “This Is My Hand.”

“I was reading Daniel Levitin’s ‘The World in Six Songs.’ He goes throughout the history of the human race and goes through six different themes of how we view songs,” Worden said. “Those were the six templates that I wanted the lyrics to be around.”

Levitin’s six song themes are friendship, joy, comfort, knowledge, religion and love.

“Lover Killer” is a song of love that alternates between disparate musical styles as seamlessly as romances do between passion and despair. Sexy saxophones usher in the swing jazz chorus from the irregular rhythm of the verse.

In the track, Worden sings “on the one side I can dream my future; on the other I can feel my nature,” as she straddles the divide between “a lover and a killer.” Worden borrowed the irregular clapping beat used for the verse from Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu.

“[Gurtu] is this incredible percussionist. He had done that rhythm that’s actually in seven [time]. I loved that,” Worden said. “Here’s a clapping beat that’s very simple and fun, and yet it’s not just clapping on 4/4 time signature. I wanted to base an entire song on that thing.”

“Lover Killer” moves from Indian percussion to swing jazz without missing a beat, and closes by declaring, “I am a lover and a killer” over distorted guitar and a simple rock beat.

Such a jarring mixture of genre is what makes My Brightest Diamond’s compositions so gratifying. Worden balances elements from all different kinds of music with grace.

Worden referred to marching band music to bring about the communal music experience she was pursuing with the album.

“For me, the marching band symbolizes this punk ideal that music is accessible to everybody,” Worden said. “The album started with wanting this communal experience of people gathering together, singing together and dancing together. Music is available to anybody. You pick up an instrument, open your mouth or clap your hands — it’s a human birthright.”

“This Is My Hand” uses a lot of the same instruments that are in a marching band. Key melodies are often played by saxophones, trumpets and flutes and backed by powerful bass lines from trombones and tubas. Many of the drum rhythms on the album mimic the style of a drum line.

It isn’t difficult to imagine how a marching band adaptation of any song on “This Is My Hand” would sound.

Worden realized her vision of a communal music experience was coming to life when she recruited local marching bands to join My Brightest Diamond’s live set on tour stops.

“I had this imaginary situation where I would go into any city and play with a local high school or local college group. Then there are all these adult groups who played in their youth, then went on to do something professionally, but they still want to play,” Worden said. “The music was such that I could go to these different situations and have people play along.”

Dance music was also a central part of Worden’s vision for “This Is My Hand.” The title track was borne from Worden’s struggle to come to terms with her body.

“Before I went to write dance music, I needed to embrace my body and to claim my body as my own,” Worden said. “That song came about from reclaiming my body for the self, not for what culture has told [me] what it is.”

“For this album I’m definitely like an octopus,” she said. “I have all limbs going at all times.”


What: My Brightest Diamond

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday

Where: The Cedar Cultural Center, 416 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis

Cost: $15–18