|Originally Performed By||Trey Anastasio|
|Vocals||Trey (lead), Mike, Page (backing)|
|Historian||Lance Judd (ThinkSnow)|
Depending on your occupation, avocation, or academic background, odds are good that writing about math and numbers is not a focus. A career counselor might’ve probed your algebraic aptitudes and sure, if you checked the right boxes, you might find yourself in the role of a unit forecaster, a number-crunching investigative journalist covering exchange rates or commodity futures, or maybe even a bohemian poet/numerologist. The insurance and finance industries also have a place for the number-focused thinker in the occupational role of actuary. An actuary leverages math and statistics to derive a financial value from the measurement of risk and uncertainty.
Trey Anastasio – rock and roll actuary. Not where you thought this song history was going, right? Does Phish’s Big Red guitar hero believe in and/or ascribe to traditional numerology? Does he harbor quaint quantitative analyst qualities? While we don’t have access to transcripts or the cumulative GPA from the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, where Trey and Steve Pollak (aka The Dude of Life) spent their formative days studying algebra, geometry, and calculus. Phans cannot deny the consistent themes of numbers that runs deep throughout dozens of the band’s lyrics. Speaking of math, did you know that calculus was originally called infinitesimal calculus or "the calculus of infinitesimals" which essentially means the mathematical study of continuous change?
It’s that theme of change or the aspiration of change that’s at the heart of "Rise/Come Together." “The ocean is only a lot of drops of water / And the land is only a lot of grains of sand,” the opening line informs listeners. Compare the use of “lots” with the actual quantitative analysis of water volume in the ocean and the infinitesimal number of sand grains comprising land, to grasp the power of poetic license. One gallon of water is 75,708 drops, which puts the total number of drops in the oceans around 352 quintillion gallons. Quintillion (100,000,000,000,000,000 x 75,708 = 7.5708e+19) which is then multiplied again by 352 to arrive at an astounding number of drops and grains. Translating numbers that large into song lyrics would be a Herculean (or better yet, a Pythagorean) task. So, let’s all give thanks and praises to Trey’s use of “a lot” in "R/CT" as opposed to “quintillion.”
Rising from the drops and grains, our spectral guitarist/mathematician uses his poetic pilot license to deploy a mix of transit photometry, radial velocity, and gravitational microlensing to envision a view of the planet absent of maps and borders. “From high above we're all the same down here / Without a map, the lines all disappear.” At this point, the earworm of a quintillion burrows directly into the listener’s consciousness as the tune crescendos and we begin to “…break down the walls” and the repeating chorus implores us, seventeen times in fact, to “come together, come together, come together, come together, come together.”
Let’s also acknowledge the elephant in the room, "R/CT", along with "More," "Everything’s Right," "Set Your Soul Free," and "Soul Planet" are at times grouped by cynical fans into the sarcastic sub-genre of “born again Trey anthems.” Some in the scene have even opined (tongues firmly in cheek, no doubt) that the possible intent of these newer tunes--with their thematic focus on love, light, and community--is to encourage fans to increase their tithe for the construction of the “Gamehendge megachurch” as ordained by the great and knowledgeable Icculus.
And, as a brief aside, it’s also worth mentioning that there’s a faction of minds-in-the-gutter Phish fans who have rallied around the double meaning inherent in the “come together” phrase and who have dubbed "R/CT" the “bingo mutual orgasm song.” Just two of the latest and yes, infinite examples of why the Phish fanbase is both hilarious and confounding.
True believers, however, understand that ever-earnest Pastor Ernest, uses pseudo numerology tactics like the lyrics in "R/CT" as a tool to remind us of our shared motivations and desires: “We’re all looking for a little more love / To shine a light and lift us up,” and that’s what connects us. In fact, the rallying thesis of "R/CT" is it’s because of shared yearnings and our massive strength in numbers potential, that we have the power, and ability to “do right” and “come together.” What holds us together as a community of fans and Earthlings, is the inevitable connection of humanity: “When you hold me heartbeat to heartbeat / I’m a part of you and you’re a part of me.” Amen, brother Trey.
The debut of "R/CT" came courtesy of TAB at The Fillmore Charlotte in Charlotte, NC on 04/20/17 where an introspective Trey admitted post-song, that he doesn’t know what to call the tune because of that “other band” and their “Come Together” which Phish has played three times. The Phish debut of "R/CT" came together on 07/19/17 between the banks of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh, PA.
“Rise/Come Together” is still a relative rookie in the Phish repertoire, but it has already earned a spot on the roster, often as a second set stalwart and even an encore selection for a handful of shows. Reactions to the distinctive opening notes vary from the more agnostic fans, while the faithful acolytes of light, love and good vibrations predictably rejoice and “rise up!”
And finally, whatever you do, do not miss the wonderful video community member Kelly Morris (@Birdswerds) created:Phish ”Rise/Come Together." Video by Kelly Morris
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