Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

And another Christmas gem from the greatest singer-songwriter in Memphis (my opinion, which is nearly infallible).



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A Few Christmas Gems

(1)  The story of the 1914 ceasefires in the trenches of WWI may say more about humanity’s love for soccer (“football”) than about humanity’s love for each other.  But it says something and it is worth a read.

(2)  My friend Gerald has written a beautiful Christmas poem.

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Guilty Pleasures

Here’s a quote from an article by Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot) called “Outside the Fences” .

“Only in humility can we begin to find the beauty in everything. Do you have the
barefaced wonder to drift outside the lines? If you dare, you could rise up to be
the shameless architect of the unknown, charting new ground that the critics will
never know. For the rest of the crowd, there’s safety in numbers. But for you- you
and your brave soul, there are no guilty pleasures. Just pleasures.”

Jon Foreman

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America’s Idol

There may be no more famous statue, and there may be no god more widely worshipped by men.

I don’t think it’s well-known that this is an image of the Roman goddess, Libertas.

If “we become what we worship”, as the slogan goes and as Scripture shows (see the recent fine book by Greg Beale bearing that title), then it’s worth asking to what extent we are becoming radically free in an altogether unhealthy way.  We’re not far from Solaris, Asimov’s imaginary planet where thousands of humans live in complete isolation, only relating to one another through technological alternatives to the person-to-person.  We’re terribly far from the biblical view of radical dependence on God and his Messiah, on his teachings, on life with others in radical community, sharing a radical faith.

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Filed under “sin” not because tats are sinful, but because this illustrates the potent impact of sin on all human faculties…

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On the heels of my last post, I should probably tell you what I think of Pete’s latest effort, Phil Wickham’s Heaven and Earth.

One could subtitle this album, “the triumph of the keyboard.”  Unlike many musicians I knew in the early and mid-90s, who were stuck on “real instruments” and denigrated keyboards, Pete really believed in keys.

The whole album channels Coldplay’s keys, percussion and guitarwork, a fact acknowledged by the lifting of the lyric “permanent state”.  Equally delightfully and more surprisingly, there’s even a dash of Sigur Rós here and there.  Cielo get going with a spoonful of Sigur, providing some medicine for the soul.

Of course, imitating secular acts is considered cheesy.  But when it’s done well, imitation can be a potent thing.  And imitation is inevitable anyway (again, as in the last post, see Andy Crouch, Culture Making).  Fortunately, there’s plenty of originality on this album as well.

As for the lyrics, the album is a bit more triumphalistic in tone than (say) the average contemporary Reformed worship song, but with more desire and passion than we sometimes pour into tracks.  I hope my Reformed friends will agree that In Your City is great theology; it’s message is certainly worth getting excited about.

Albums committed to a concept (in this case, heaven) can sometimes pay a heavy price in terms of monotony.  Thankfully, that is not the case here.  On a few tunes I would have loved to have seen a a bit less striving for heaven-ish sounds with the keys and the soaring guitars.  But that critical note is almost a stretch, because this album really rocks.

Try sampling Eden; Heaven and Earth; In Your City; and Cielo if you want something quiet.  Safe is getting played on K-Love.  It’s okay, pretty good by K-Love’s standards, but still sounds like a better version of Phillips, Craig, and Dean. 

(Thanks to Memphis’s greatest male vocalist and top tier musician/singer/songwriter Josh Smith for tipping me off to this album.)

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I’ve been spending time with the family a fair bit, as well as working on nerdy writing projects, so blogging has taken a backseat.  I thought I’d blog on the soundtrack for my most recent work, and lessons learned as a pretty subpar musician.

One of my projects was on heaven.  So Phil Wickham’s new Heaven and Earth, produced by my old friend Peter Kipley, seemed like a good fit.  I haven’t seen Pete in about 15 years.  Given his popularity now, I’m unlikely to see him ever again!  But I can tell that Pete still loves the sounds he loved back then, and it takes no stretch of the imagination to see his goofy grin behind a sound board.

One note on Pete.  He was crazy about music, one of the few people I’ve ever met who loved music more than I did.  He certainly had raw talent, an uncanny feel for what worked, and he was prepared to mine sounds and concepts from the strangest sources.

But more than anything, Pete worked.  He was persistent and invested.  I can’t remember him ever being lazy about a musical challenge, an opportunity, a gig, or a riff.  In his early 20s, Pete was broke and running around DFW saying that he wanted to be a Christian music producer.  Now there are many ways that story could have ended.  This one ended with a Grammy (for Mercy Me’s album).  And it’s not over yet; I predict this album wins another Grammy.

It turns out there’s a secret to Pete’s success, and it’s not that complicated.

Pete leapt to mind when I read Andy Crouch, Culture Making.  You want to do something?  Work hard at it.  Take criticism.  Grow where you need to.  In all likelihood, if you have artistic aspirations, your work ethic is not what it needs to be right now. 

(Sidebar:  If you are an artist, or have any sort of creative aspirations, you must listen to Darren Doane’s excellent audio on this:  http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2009/09/22/christians-in-filmmaking.  Note Justin Taylor’s summary; I’d add that Doane challenges his audience of aspiring filmmakers to go film 100 sunsets, and get back to him.)

What little success (and it was very little) I had in music, I owe a fair bit of it to what Pete taught me about nurturing passion and working hard on a craft.

Fortunately, passion and hard work are transferrable assets.

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