A Light Dusting of Snow

These things always seem to drop when I’m on a long haul trip. In this case, I was in Boston for work when the release date for “Blood Red Roses” arrived, and didn’t have good enough wifi for a while to listen to “Who Designed the Snowflake”. I’d previously heard snatches of it from the Spike Lee “She’s gotta have it” soundtrack (I was at Niagra on the Lake). So really I’ve only just got to grips with it.

We’re living off scraps a bit these days. The last new music to land was “America” (I was in the Far East), which was praised to the high heavens, but which to me was a very slight and rather cliché ridden protest song. And it seems rather the opposite has happened with “Snowflake”, probably because of the overtly religious content.

In essence, it’s a statement of the “Intelligent Design” idea argument against evolution: the universe appears to be designed, it makes little sense in a half evolved state, ergo it was created. Now philosophically I’m against that argument: the creator this requires to pre-exist is also highly formed, so you just push the problem upstream. But from the point of view of Paddy’s Catholic roots, and his point of view as expressed in “One of the Broken”, “List of Impossible Things”, and “Ride”, it’s quite clearly where he comes from.

For he is an artist, and he looks on the natural world and sees things so beautiful that he cannot conceive they could be random outcrops of physical and mathematical laws. Whether it’s music, the inherent goodness of people, or a snowflake, in his mind they are indisputable creations, somewhere on the list of the impossible. And I guess the perfect elegance of a crystal of snow is what he aspires to himself.

In essence, you don’t need to be religious to enjoy the warming glories of religious art, whether these be from Boticelli, Mozart or McAloon.

Lyrically, this is a beautifully concise expression of the sublime. There is a wonderful line: “Who made that crystal form? Fragile yet resilient in a storm.” That sums up this song for me, there isn’t much in the way in wasted words. It has the simplicity and directness of a Baptist hymn. That said, I could do without the middle eight to be honest, it seems an afterthought. And when I heard Rod Stewart singing it, at first I thought it was too sparse and carelessly sung, a throwaway. But the more I listen to it, the more I like it. It was ever thus with Paddy’s songs.

There’s now enough in the “Spike Lee” version and this to start constructing a mental image of how Paddy would sing this. And a very lovely picture it is too. Let’s hope he plays his normal trick when someone releases a cover and does it his way somehow. Or Spike Lee can be persuaded to release the soundtrack.

I’m next away on long haul at the end of October. Who knows when an artist is at work?

Here’s both versions we have.

And here are the lyrics, courtesy of Mick L.

Who designed the snowflake?
Who made the planets spin?
Who came up with newborn baby skin?
Who created seasons, the cycle of rebirth?
Who introduced the oceans to the earth?

Well whoever made the snowflakes, made shadows where doubts lurk.
I suspect an artist is at work
I know when an artist is at work

Who designed the snowflake?
Who made that crystal form?
Fragile, yet resilient in a storm
Who designed the snowflake?
I look for clues, for hints
For traces of the craftsman’s fingerprints.

I don’t know who made the snowflake, so intricate, sublime.
But I can smell an artist every time.
Woah I can spot an artist every time

Did the darkness and the stars witness what happened long ago?
Did the darkness and the stars witness what happened long ago?
Perhaps only they know

Who invented the rainbow?
Who made the waterfall?
Who came up with newborn baby skin?

Some will tell you natures random
That beauty’s just a quirk
I believe an artist is at work
Shhhhhh an artist is at work
I say, look, a genius at work


7 thoughts

  1. I’m not a religious person myself, yet I’m amazed at the beauty of this song. I totally agree-you don’t need to be a religious person to enjoy art from a religious point of view. And Paddy’s point of view is mainly an artist’s , a poet’s, and he admits so himself, He said this in 2009:
    “There’s the vaguest of metaphors in there for the notion of a deity: if God was to speak, then music would be where you would find that voice. I’ve not nailed my mast to the flag of any particular denomination or point of view. I don’t know where I stand on belief. Whatever era we’re born, we think we have the definitive model of the way the universe is and our place in it. In the 19th century, they thought it was a mechanistic universe. The analogy now is a computer. And I just think it’s all wrong. Bob Dylan believes in God, and Richard Dawkins is never going to win an argument against Bob Dylan, cause you need a poet to discuss these things. So let’s just say I’m with Bob.”

  2. Nice to hear something new from Paddy (hard to believe Crimson/Red is about to reach it’s fifth birthday). Maybe it’s easier to hear Paddy’s version whilst watching the clip, as that is confusing.

    Also a tad weird hearing Rod singing a snowflake song when it’s only September.

  3. I like your point on ‘pushing the problem upstream’. Could one not say that the passage ‘Did the darkness and the stars witness what happened ling ago’ Be posing that very same question?

  4. I don’t necessarily see it as a ‘statement’ of the intelligent design case. I think it is more Paddy trying to come to terms with the mystery of life and death which, sure, is touched on in several other songs. To suggest that it is that, and its implication that the world was created 6,000 years ago rather than aeons ago, is in my eyes and from what I’ve garnered from his songs and interviews, misrepresenting his spiritual approach. It’s a pleading for knowledge and hope that there is something more to all this suffering: see Earth The Story So Far and Sound of Crying for his ongoing tussles.

  5. As you say, Tim, living off scraps. Still, lovely to have this. My wife always said she wanted to hear great singers cover some of Paddy’s songs – voila!

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