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Ani DiFranco: Beyond Mankind In 'The Atom'

Not many musicians possess the audacity to take on the entirety of existence as the topic for a single song, but Ani DiFranco has never been easily daunted, as "The Atom" demonstrates. Using her acoustic guitar to brush painterly dabs over the start of the song, she offers up an appreciation for the fundamental building blocks of the universe in a track reverent enough to double as a prayer.

Then, about halfway through, DiFranco's attention shifts from the sacred to the profane; with the line, "We've got ourselves a serious situation down here," she splits the song wide open. The orchestra that had been flitting around the background finally pours out with the clang of a bell, at which point DiFranco concentrates on the fallout.

She's too much of a humanist to give destruction the final word, though, going so far as to save her most delicate delivery for the word "boom." For DiFranco, the end is in the beginning, as she returns to the first verse. At that point, her guitar aspires upward with each phrase, reaching toward the intelligence that could design something capable of outlasting mankind's attempts to tear it apart.

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Marc Hirsh lives in the Boston area, where he indulges in the magic trinity of improv comedy, competitive adult four square and music journalism. He has won trophies for one of these, but refuses to say which.