Eight minutes of instrumental music that tend to evoke strong emotions.
Your Hand in Mine is moody and atmospheric, by turns almost angry, then gentle, then melancholy (in what can only be described as a philosophical sort of way), and finally something close to uplifting, if bittersweet acceptance counts as more or less the same thing. The band, part of the Austin music scene, refers to their extended, intricate guitar pieces as “cathartic mini-symphonies”, though they still consider themselves a rock group – which, O.K. I guess, under a very expanded definition of rock ‘n roll – but if the attached sounds more to you like soundtrack music, you’re not alone. While not written for the cinema, it was adapted for the movie Friday Night Lights (based on the excellent book by Buzz Bissinger), which takes a penetrating look at the phenomenon of Texas high school football in all its hugely disproportionate cultural significance. It was used again in the wonderful television series of the same name, which managed to run for a few years on NBC, back when the networks offered something besides celebrity dance routines, mystery singers in ridiculous costumes, and the vicious humiliation of quivering apprentice chefs.
For a lot of us, the song’s beautiful extended denouement, beginning at the five minute mark, will always be associated with a particular scene in the season one finale of the NBC series, when the Dillon Panthers arrive at Texas Stadium on the eve of the state championship. It’s only about two minutes long, but it’s the heart of the episode, maybe even the whole season, an emotional moment that finds the overawed teenagers standing at the apex of a very tall pyramid they’d barely dreamed they could ever climb. Wide-eyed, looking at each other with can you even believe this? written all over their faces, the kids take in the scenery of the great big stadium in the same way that others might look up at the vaulted ceilings of Chartres. This is it. They’re here. They made it to State. “Does it get any better than this?” asks Coach Taylor. “Ah Hell, I don’t think it does. Soak it in”. Have a look:
One poignant, serene, perfect little interlude, the Dillon Panthers standing at the zenith of their adolescent ambition, doing as Coach tells them, soaking it all in, each of them wanting so desperately to win, each praying most earnestly to God that if they lose, it won’t be him who screwed the pooch for everybody else on game day, and each wondering whether he’ll ever be back to this place, or ever again feel anything like what he’s feeling now. It’s impossible to imagine this deeply affecting tableau of fragile hopes and deep anxieties rendered so beautifully on screen, with such sensitivity, absent the delicate backing of Your Hand in Mine.