i'm starting to think that maybe the scheduled rapture may well be going to happen after all at 6pm Pacific Time – 2am Sunday GMT – just because everyone's taking such great pleasure in the certainty that it won't, and so wholeheartedly embracing all the attendant possibilities for believer-bashing.1 Sort of like The Boy Who Cried Apocalypse, or something.
Anyway, i thought it was only right to draw together some sort of short mix of stuff that i think'd make a good rapture soundtrack, partly inspired by Flavorwire's "Music Critics Pick the Last Song They Want to Hear Before They Die"2 and partly out of the galling number of people who seem to think REM's "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" is a suitable choice – sure, it may be thematically relevant,3 and a fine indie-pop song, but musically way it's too ordered and unexceptional for such a cataclysmic event. C'mon, the world's ending,4 try a bit harder!
So, while i've not given this as much thought as i could've (should've started earlier maybe), here's my personal rapture mini-playlist. (All of my picks seems to be for massed voices or entirely instrumental; i don't know what that says about either me or the rapture.) For best results, stick it on at just 1:22am GMT so that you get the climax of the last track just as the faithful start ascending.
James Blackshaw – "The Cloud of Unknowing"
Just gorgeous, ten minutes of intricate guitar picking that's by turns melancholy and ecstatic.
Pharoah Sanders – "Spiritual Blessing"
It doesn't seem right to have a soundtrack to any kind of rapturous or world-changing event without some fiercely blissful, dissociated free jazz, and this cut from Pharoah's 1973 Elevation album fits the bill admirably. He still plays shows, so ideally we could have him and his band amped up via the world's loudest speaker system to soundtrack the rapture live.
Shibusashirazu Orchestra – "Honda Komuten Theme"
This particularly fine choice from this absurdly under-heard Japanese jazz orchestra takes the everybody-soloing-at-once trope in a different direction, infusing it with an incredible celebratory energy and anthemic melody. The last party in the world.
Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge – "Eternal Father, Strong to Save"
(aka "For Those in Peril on the Sea" or the Naval Hymn). Not so much as a tokenistic inclusionary gesture to Christianity, but more because of its secular connotations of peril & nobility in the face of impending or realised doom (c.f.: sinking of the Titanic, funeral of John F Kennedy, funeral of last surviving WW1 veteran Claude Choules).
The Shipping Forecast (May 21st, 2011)
Because essentially i'm British and middle-class and, if the world really was in the process of ending, despite the fact that there's not going to be any more Dogger or Fisher or German Bight, or Radio 4 or shipping or even any more weather, i sort of feel it'd be tremendously comforting.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – "Broken Windows, Locks of Love pt. III"
In one sense i've been waiting for the apocalypse ever since Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven came out in 2000, simply because this, the near-10-minute final movement of the track "Sleep", already sounds like the end of music and the world. So this is the last piece of music to be played, ever. See you all on the other side, maybe.
mp3: LJB rapture mix (mediafire)
1 Easy target much, guys? You might as well take the piss out of people who sincerely believe the moon's literally made of blue cheese.
2 The excellent Jessica Hopper hipped me to this, and her particular choice is one of the best.
3 Sort of, anyway – "the rapture" does not actually denote the end of the world, but the moment when all those who've accepted Christ as their personal messiah and lived pure, righteous lives according to certain Christian standards are whisked away to heaven, leaving the remaining heathens on earth for five more months of chaos and torture before we're all crushed by earthquakes or transformed into pillars of salt when the end of the world does actually arrive, which in this case is five months away, on October 21.
4 q.v. footnote 3.
John Peel - 17th December 2002
3 hours ago