Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Shield eyes before reading

February 23, 2008

Brad’s got a 3-DVD set of the BBC show “The Old Grey Whistle Test,” which ran forever and had a million different performers on over the years. Johnny Winter was on in 1974, doing a completely rocking version of “Jumping Jack Flash.”

But the visual experience of this performance is traumatic, to say the least. Check out JW’s sleeves:
winter1.jpg

If you can’t see them, they are cut off at the elbow, and have 4-foot-long red silk sashes coming out of them.

And the mullet (and lips) on the drummer should receive mention:
winter2.jpg

Ska granny

November 29, 2007

Went to Savers this afternoon because all tags of a specified color are $1 on Thursdays. Today it was green tags. (Didn’t find anything good with a green tag, dagnabbit.) At this price, you could walk out of there with pants/shirt combos to last you a week, with no repetition, for $10 (not counting weekends).

As I was making my way to the cash register, I saw an old woman browsing the racks. She was wearing a broad, weaved lanyard that said “SKA” on it. I thought it was a little strange, that at her age she would feel the need to advertise her taste in music. Then my eyes followed the lanyard a few inches to the right, and saw the word “ALASKA.” Less strange.

Wal-Mart’s pushing the Osteen poison

November 12, 2007

After spending all weekend grappling with revising an essay, I figured a good balancing measure would be a 10 p.m. Sunday night trip to Wal-Mart. I was not disappointed. A brotha struck up a conversation with me in the DVD section over some action movie I hadn’t seen, and berated me for not having seen “300.” And the mullets never rest at Wal-Mart, be it Sunday night or any other time.

I saw two products that put the fear of God into me anew: One was a 2-CD set called “Thomas Kinkade: Handel’s Messiah.” I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Oprah puts her stamp of approval on a book, or Kinkade on a CD, and people go out and start reading and listening.
kinkade handel’s messiah
Reading and listening are good things, especially when the material is first-rate, as it is in the Handel case. And the Kinkadians might get their taste expanded in a healthy way. I guess I hate to see Handel presented as if he had to be endorsed by TK in order to have credibility.

Wal-Mart is also pushing Joel Osteen’s new book in a big way: Become a Better You. (I saw two giant sales displays in the store: one was for Osteen, the other was for the movie “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.”) I flipped through Osteen’s book, and quickly came to realize that it’s a collection of reworked sermons from the past couple of years. The chapter that gave it away was the one on your “bloodline.” One of my favorite Osteen moments was when he gave that sermon: he looked out at his stadium full of 10,000+ people, of whom many were normal and even sub-normal in various respects. He said to them, “I don’t believe I’m looking at ordinary people . . . I’m looking at thoroughbreds.”

To quote Christopher Hitchens from his debate last month with Dinesh D’Souza, “gag me with a spoon.” But Joel knows what the people come to hear, and he gives it to them. He seems to think that one can “choose” whether to be sick or healthy. In his new book, he talks of a woman whose debilitating disease disappeared. This was not a miracle, but a result of her choosing to “live under the blessing” and not “under the curse.” (quoted from memory). Name it and claim it! I think we should be thankful that the world does not work that way.

NY Times on contemporary Christian music

November 6, 2007

There’s a decent article on the NY Times site talking about the growth of High Desert Church in Victorville, CA. It focuses particularly on the music ministry there, which to my mind seems simultaneously gigantic and sophisticated. I thought the writer was fair, and that the subjects came off very well; though you know the “typical” Times reader (if such a creature exists) will be expected to shudder after reading that the church was able to collect $20 million in member donations for a new building project. (I.e., with that kind of money, what CAN’T they do?)

I’d just like to comment on two parts of the article. The senior pastor says:
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My half-baked theory about praise songs

October 6, 2007

I’m listening to the local praise-song station, and positively cringing at every single song. Yet I agree with everything in every lyric. It’s not that I’m embarrassed to hear such messages. Something is up.

It occurred to me that the very directness of the message may play a big role in my extreme distaste for praise songs. Augustine said in De Doctrina Christiana that things are more pleasing if they are presented obscurely, and understood through effort, than if they are stated openly. I’ve been listening to this praise station for about 30 minutes now, and haven’t heard a single lyric more subtle than a sledge hammer to the head (repeatedly, for 4 minutes at a time).

But I call this theory “half-baked” because there are a lot of undeniably great songs with openly-stated lyrics. Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”—I shudder to think it—might be the 18th-century equivalent of the praise song: about 4 minutes long, with the same words repeated over, and over, and over. But what is it that makes Handel sublime and these pious folks on the radio so intolerable? I suspect that the difference is the quality of the music. If the music is good enough, you can sing anything you want to it, and it will sound great. If you don’t think so, head over to Rich’s blog and watch the Pearl Jam “misheard lyrics” video. What is that guy singing? Who knows. Do we care? Nope, because the music is good.

Still, I think there is something—a lot—to be said for indirect communication in lyrics. Jesus spoke in parables, after all. If it was good enough for him . . .

Clarification to the last two posts

September 29, 2007

The concert at my church was NOT by the bagpipers and drummers whose CD I bought today. That was a few blocks away at a pub, at 6 p.m. I left there at 7:40 for the 8 p.m. concert at my church, which was incredible sacred music written in 1610. Good night for music.

My neighbors love me

September 29, 2007

I just got a CD of bagpipes and drums.

All the way up, 24/7, friends!

Brett Michaels is a Platonist

September 12, 2007

Brett Michaels is the frontman for the rock group Poison. On their live album released in 1991, Brett announces some of the songs in this manner:

“This next song is called ________; it goes something like this.”

A variation on this is “it goes a little something like this.” What this means is that Brett and the boys in Poison are giving their audience a time-bound version—a mere shadow—of an eternal exemplar. Somewhere in the World of Forms there exists the Form of the song “Look what the cat dragged in,” and of the others. This is good news, because so many of those songs, and the 2-disc monstrosity itself, are self-indulgent and poorly played, and it’s nice to know that we will be decisively distanced from their like once we reach the Undiscovered Country.

Johnny Cash, Rick Rubin, how could you disrespect the Blessed Sacrament?

September 2, 2007

Long essay on Rick Rubin’s efforts to turn around the failing business of Columbia Records.

I was thoroughly disappointed to read this section:

Rubin and Cash also had a deep spiritual kinship: during the final months of Cash’s life, they took communion together every day, even though Rubin, who was born Jewish and now sees himself as not having any specific religious orientation, should not be eligible for the holy sacraments.

I thought Johnny Cash was a better-informed Christian than to invite not only a non-believer, but a Jew, to Holy Communion . . . and I would have thought that Rick Rubin was more respectful of religious traditions than to wrongly use this Christian sacrament.

Some Christians see communion as nothing more than a public declaration of solidarity and community, but the truth is that, as Jesus said, the host and cup are the body and blood of Christ (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19), and it is wrong to say that someone who consciously rejects Jesus as the Son of God partakes of his body in the sacrament. Not to mention, that such people are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord (1 Cor. 11:27).

The Macy’s pipe organ

August 1, 2007

While in Philly I stopped at Macy’s for the 7 p.m. organ concert. The store has the largest working pipe organ in the world, with nearly 30,000 pipes. The organist didn’t play anything I recognized (no Bach, either!), except for a billowy rendition of “Danny Boy,” but it was a great experience to hear, all the same.

Video clips of the organ in action:

30-second clip of some large-sounding piece.

I would have also linked to a 2-minute clip of “Danny Boy” featuring a woman falling down with a *smack* at 0:44, but YouTube rejected the clip because it was “too long.” The file was 44 MB and 2 minutes long . . . that seems to meet their 100 MB / 10 minute restrictions. This has happened before and I don’t know why. Any clues?