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Music / Illuminations

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God is alive, magic is afoot

Every little baby that's ever been born
Been spanked and made to cry
Every young woman that's ever been loved
Been shaken and made to sigh
Every young woman that's ever been loved
Has told, told me true
Take his heart and run away as he would do to you
- "Better to Find Out for Yourself"

Illuminations is the sixth album by Buffy Sainte-Marie, released in December 1969.

Considered her most experimental record, It was one of the first music albums with vocals processed through a Buchla 100 synthesizer as well as the first recorded using quadraphonic technology, an early precursor to surround-sound. With the exception of a lead guitar on one track and a rhythm section employed on three of the last four selections, the music is entirely synthesized from Buffy’s voice and guitar, producing a wholly unique sound that has been considered a precursor to everything from gothic rock to electronic music.



  1. "God is Alive, Magic is Afoot" (4:51)
  2. "Mary" (1:30)
  3. "Better to Find Out for Yourself" (2:12)
  4. "The Vampire" (2:05)
  5. "Adam" (5:05)
  6. "The Dream Tree" (2:34)
  7. "Suffer the Little Children" (2:53)
  8. "The Angel" (3:41)
  9. "With You, Honey" (1:48)
  10. "Guess Who I Saw in Paris" (2:25)
  11. "He's a Keeper of the Fire" (3:21)
  12. "Poppies" (3:26)

Pretty tropes fall down on thee

  • Boarding School of Horrors: "Suffer the Little Children" applies this to the American education system.
  • Book Ends: The record begins and ends with Buffy's synthesizer altered voice singing "God is alive, magic is afoot".
  • Christianity: "Mary" is a song narrating the Nativity scene, whereas though "Adam" is a song describing Adam's fall from Eden.
    • The record in general seems to have an understated theme of Christian and Indigenous mysticism interspersed throughout the record.
  • Cover Version: An odd case, in where, the song "God is Alive, Magic is Afoot" is an adaptation of a mantra / poem in Leonard Cohen's book Beautiful Losers set to music.
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  • Echoing Acoustics: Featured heavily on the album. Probably as a side result of the experimentation Buffy was doing with synthesizers at the same time.
  • Electronic Music: This record can be considered a forerunner to it with it's electroacoustic sound and heavy use of synthesizers.
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Guess Who I Saw in Paris" does this with "He's a Keeper of the Fire" after a brief synthesizer interlude that begins at the end of "Guess Who I Saw in Paris".
    • "Poppies" does this also, tying back to the very first track "God is Alive, Magic is Afoot".
  • Gothic Horror: "The Vampire", obviously.
  • Goth Rock: The album's spectral soundscapes and phantasmagoric subject matter have made many a critic cite this record as a precursor of sorts.
  • Grief Song: "The Dream Tree" is this combined with Wise Tree, with a woman bemoaning her lover's absence, while the tree showers her in dreams of their reconciliation.
  • Miniscule Rocking: "Mary" and "With You, Honey" barely breach the two minute mark.
  • New Sound Album: This record deviated heavily from her previous releases and even from folk music at times.
  • One-Woman Wail: Well, it is Buffy's signature style of singing.
  • Protest Song: "Suffer the Little Children" is a song which protests modern American teaching institutions. Condemning it as a system train children into following orders and preparing them solely for the workforce and to partake in global capitalism, characterized as the devil in the song:
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: With all the eerie synths, hard rocking tracks and darkly mystical lyrics on the record. "Guess Who I Saw in Paris"'s simple folk arrangement and description of meeting a lover in The City of Light is basically this in comparison to the rest of the record.
  • Self-Empowerment Anthem: "Better to Find Out for Yourself" is this, with Buffy telling you to find your own way in life, after contrasting explaining her own experiences with things she was told that were harsh truths she had to accept.
  • Silly Love Songs: Songs like "Guess Who I Saw in Paris" play this trope straight. However, songs like "The Angel", "With You, Honey" and "He's a Keeper of the Fire" add a esoteric bent to them.