Posts from — July 2011
“It is of course a fact that people like to worship with their own kith and kin, and with their own kind, as experts in church growth remind us; and it may be necessary to acquiesce in different congregations according to language, which is the most formidable barrier of all. But heterogeneity is of the essence of the church, since it is the one and only community in the world in which Christ has broken down all dividing walls. The vision we have been given of the church triumphant is of a company drawn from “every nation, tribe, people and language,” who are all singing God’s praises in unison (Rev.7:19ff). So we must declare that a homogeneous church is a defective church, which must work penitently and perseveringly towards heterogeneity.”
- John Stott, Romans: God’s Good News for the World
July 31, 2011 No Comments
It’s been a crazy week between gearing up for our chamber music concert next Saturday and traveling to Toronto for a wedding. A highlight of the long trip back home was telling the customs officer I was a harpist and having him suddenly and intensely air-harp in response. Made my day!
- Enjoy your flight: Speaking of traveling, I got a laugh from this piece in The Curator on how to travel.
- A Symphony in Nine Innings: Says the NY Times’ classical music critic, “For most fans attending a baseball game is a summer diversion, an addiction, an act of devotion. I’m a music critic, so for me it’s something else too: an immersion in bustling, jumbled, enveloping sound. And if you think of the Yankees as an athletic orchestra, the team has a comfortable and acoustically lively new concert hall. What if I treated a game as a kind of outdoor musical piece?” Read Anthony Tommasini’s review here.
- Awkward Classical Music Photos: A favorite diversion for the past couple of months. If you’re planning to get promotional shots done anytime soon, consult this site prior to your photo shoot.
- The Modern Cover Man: Alex Steinweiss, known as the inventor of the modern album cover, passed away last week: “In 1940, as a youthful first art director of Columbia Records, where he had been hired to design the label’s advertising materials, the Brooklyn native hit on the idea of replacing the plain brown paper wrapping of 78s with something far more eye-catching — and his work was pure genius. Steinweiss revolutionized how music was sold.” Check out some of his iconic designs.
- Boogity Boogity Boogity, Amen! That viral Nascar prayer has been autotuned…
July 29, 2011 No Comments
“Art can’t satisfy a longing for beauty. Art can pique it. It can remind us that we were made for ultimate beauty, but it’s only a window. When I’m confronted by a profoundly beautiful work of art, I feel a profound ache, like a kid peeking through the gate at Disney World. I’m comforted to remember that such a world exists, but I’m not yet allowed entrance. An artist hangs windows all over the shadowy world, lets the light in, reminds people to draw near and peek through.”
-Andrew Peterson, First Things interview
July 24, 2011 No Comments
I’m generally a hot-coffee-only person, but yesterday’s 100+ Toronto weather warranted exception! Here are some links to enjoy while you’re inside trying to escape the heat wave (unless you’re in Seattle…):
- Facebook and Narrative Media: In a thought-provoking essay Paul Ford, asks if Facebook and other social media signals the end of endings. It’s also worth reading Justin Roddy’s response.
- Kremer quits Verbier: The famed violinist Gidon Kremer has pulled out of the major Swiss music festival Verbier, and not for health reasons, as previously reported: “I simply want to distance myself from the hype of “eventful gatherings”. My goal has always been to SERVE music and composers, and it will always remain to be. To please crowds, promoters and managers is another issue…”
- Overstreet’s Picks: Author / critic Jeffery Overstreet offers his list of film picks for the last decade. Good for filling up the Netflix queue, if you haven’t fired the company yet…
- Kickstarter for arts groups: Some helpful suggestions for using Kickstarter to fund your next arts project without sounding like yet another kid selling candy bars.
- Les Twins: These guys are amazing. Will someone please get them together with the Sulic & Hauser duo a la Lil Buck and Yo Yo Ma? (Les Twins video via Kottke)
July 22, 2011 1 Comment
“A great piece of literature does not try to coerce you to believe it or agree with it. A great piece of literature simply is. It is a vehicle of truth, but it is not a blueprint, and we tend to confuse the two.”
-Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet
July 17, 2011 No Comments
What would Mahler’s arrangement of “Happy Birthday” sound like? Here’s a suggestion from the cello section of the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra:
I suggest they end with this:
July 16, 2011 No Comments
Weekly roundup of (mostly) arts-related chatter around the web:
- Extraordinary church buildings: 50 seriously impressive/unique structures. I like #4, #30, and #40.
- Sounds of Savannah: A few great concerts from the Savannah Music Festival are available in their entirety, including the Ebene String Quartet playing Debussy, Faure, and Ravel.
- Harry Potter, Jesus, and Me: A beautiful reflection by Andrew Peterson on the Harry Potter series and its impact on his own life.
- Letter to a Young Musician: Charlie Peacock writes, “Ask yourself how your musical life might cooperate with God in restoring rightness, doing justice, and showing mercy. Wonder out loud how music might remove impairments to healthy functioning. See your musical life as one faithful way to care for God’s creativity — people and place, and all of creation. Be in perpetual dream mode about how music might exist for the good of people and to proclaim God’s excellence as Creator.” Read the whole letter.
- Wimbledon, Typographied: This has been around awhile, but it’s still impressive every time I see it. The last match of last year’s Wimbledon between Nadal and Federer, reimagined.
July 15, 2011 No Comments
Around the second year of college I experienced the crisis known as, “I don’t know if this is what I want to do with my life.” One of my main struggles was how to make sense of music and art in terms of faith.
I was particularly bothered by the fact that when I’d tell other Christians I was studying music, the common response was, “Great! You can use that in ministry!” And by ministry, they’d mean “play in church.” I’ve always been happy to play in church; but I’d never felt the desire to be specifically a church musician. For awhile I felt guilty about that; but I couldn’t articulate why why. After all, when Christians learn that someone is an accountant they usually don’t respond, “Oh good, you can be the church treasurer,” or to an aspiring teacher, “Yay! We need more Sunday school teachers.”
Although I had always felt that the music and arts were important, I’d never thought deeply about creativity from a biblical perspective. So when these doubts and questions began invading my mind, I started reading as much as I could about art, faith, and creativity. This began a gradual but very liberating process of forming a theology of the arts.
Here are a few books I’ve found most useful in the past number of years. They are all accessible to the average person (no overtly technical language) and good starting places if you’re just getting into art and theology. (Disclosure: if you do happen to purchase any of these books via the Amazon links below, I will make a small amount of money. Thanks!)
Art and the Bible, Francis Schaeffer
A classic. If you haven’t read any books on art and faith, this short booklet is a great introduction. It contains two essays: “Art in the Bible” and “Some Perspectives on Art.”
Excerpt: “As evangelical Christians, we have tended to relegate art to the very fringe of life. The rest of human life we feel is more important. Despite our constant talk about the Lordship of Christ, we have narrowed its scope to a very small area of reality. We have misunderstood the concept of the Lordship of Christ over the whole of man and the whole of the universe and have not taken to us the riches that the Bible gives us for ourselves, for our lives, and for our culture.”
Saving Leonardo, Nancy Pearcey
Nancy Pearcey has the wonderful ability to clearly distill complex issues. A student of Francis Schaeffer, she follows in her teachers’ footsteps of worldview analysis and insightful cultural commentary. Saving Leonardo explores how various intellectual movements have influenced culture — particularly music, literature, and the visual arts. A more in-depth review is available here.
Excerpt: “Today’s most influential world views are born in the universities, but they touch all of us through the books we read, the music we listen to, and the movies we watch. Ideas penetrate our minds most deeply when communicated through the imaginative language of image, story, and symbol. It is crucial for Christians to learn how to ‘read’ that language and to identify world views transmitted through cultural forms.”
The Liberated Imagination, Leland Ryken
This is one of the first books I read on the subject of art and faith, and I still refer to it often. Dr. Ryken explores the God-ordained significance and necessity of art and how Christians can relate human culture to their faith. The layout is a bit text-bookish, but the writing is clear and enjoyable to read.
Excerpt: “I have no doubt that such an integration [of human culture and faith] is both possible and necessary for every thoughtful Christian; it may even be the most pressing issue facing the Christian church in the immediate future. If Christians are to be a force in shaping the contours of their society and evangelizing people in it, they will have to come to grips with the culture in which they inevitably live and move and have their being. They will also have to know where to draw the line against becoming assimilated into a secular culture, lest they lose the quality of being separate that the Bible attributes to true believers.”
Music Through the Eyes of Faith, Harold Best
The former dean & professor of music at Wheaton Conservatory of Music, Harold Best has written two important and challenging books based on a lifetime of thinking and working in the creative arts. These are not books that can be read quickly. The writing is lively, but each page contains so many concepts and ideas that it takes time to really consider and engage with the author’s points.
Music Through the Eyes of Faith outlines Dr. Best’s philosophy of music-making as it relates to a broader theology of creativity and creation. It deals with questions such as, “Can one music be ‘better’ than another in an aesthetic or functional sense?” and “Can music speak propositional ‘truth’?”
Excerpt: “Let’s concentrate on something that almost never comes to mind: the music that Jesus heard and made throughout his life – the music of the wedding feast, the dance, the street, and the synagogue. As it turns out, Jesus was not a composer but a carpenter. Thus he heard and used the music made by other, fallen creatures – the very ones he came to redeem. The ramifications of this single fact are enormous. They assist in answering the questions as to whether music used by Christians can only be written by Christians and whether music written by non-Christians is somehow non-Christian. But for now, it is important to understand that even though we don’t know whether every piece of music Jesus used was written by people of faith, we can be sure that it was written by imperfect people, bound by the conditions of a fallen world and hampered by sinfulness and limitation. So even though we do not know what musical perfection is, we do know that the perfect one could sing imperfect music created by fallen and imperfect people, while doing so completely to the glory of his heavenly Father.”
Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts, Harold Best
Unceasing Worship concentrates on Best’s concept of worship as continuous outpouring. He spends the first half of the book developing this theology of worship before discussing the role of the arts in worship. Vernon Charter has a thorough two-part review: Part 1 and Part 2.
Excerpt: “We begin with one fundamental fact about worship: at this very moment, and for as long as this world endures, everybody inhabiting it is bowing down and serving something or someone — an artifact, a person, an institution, an idea, a spirit, or God through Christ. Everyone is being shaped thereby and is growing up toward some measure of fullness, whether of righteousness or of evil. No one is exempt and no one can wish to be. We are, every one of us, unceasing worshippers and will remain so forever…”
A few others
- The Christian Imagination, edited by Leland Ryken — Great collection of essays by various Christian artists/writers
- The Mind of the Maker, Dorothy Sayers — Another slow read due to the complexity of ideas, but worth the effort.
- The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis — Not specifically about art and faith, but one of the most helpful reads during my college “crisis.”
July 14, 2011 No Comments
“Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”
– G.K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles
July 10, 2011 No Comments
Michael Blake does musical interpretations of math constants. His latest is on τ (tau):
His last one was on π (pi):
If you think tau is better than pi, you’re not the only one.
(HT: 22 Words)
July 9, 2011 No Comments