Saturday, March 18, 2006

Thoughts on Music, part II

Adding to what I said below, I think it is important to note that goood music, written by a Christian, will be good music that happens to be Christian. Explicitly Christian art of all kinds has its place, which is why there are hymn writers, and icon painters, and church architects. But what I am referring below to is music intended for popular consumption, music for listening to in the car on the way to the mountains for a weekend of camping, or playing during surgery, or while fixing the car in the garage. Music you play softly while healing a broken heart, loudly while playing volleyball at the beach.

We use music as the soundtrack to our lives, to accentuate emotion, to understand experience deeper, to unify cognition and emotion in the spiritual whole that makes us human. It aids our search for truth. And truth is not painted in the colors of Candyland, it is not always sweet, it is not always pretty. There is great sadness in this world of our destruction, no matter how much beauty waits beyond. And by telling that story, the whole story, of love and loss and pain, an artist shows us ourselves, in a way we cannot.

But I'm reasoning myself into a corner. If music is so deeply affecting, why should it not be explicitly focused what matters most?

I think it has something to do with the reason that every man is not called to be a pastor. For the world to continue, we must have janitors, bus drivers, factory workers, even doctors. We cannot live lives secluded. But does that necessity for interaction require music of the kind I am describing?


Alex said...

The thing about music is that, just as in life there are absolutes. It is that which reflects some particular element of truth that speaks to us.
As for Christian artists, they ought to strive for excellence. But even non-Christian artists can unwittingly point to truth and beauty. Chopin, for all the immorality of his life, cannot hide the fact that G-d was so gracious as to grace that man with incredible talent. In that way he points to Xp.
The fact that things can have elements of validity in them, despite unavoidably fallen aspects is the whole reason we can be discerning. We have to determine to whether something is worthwhile or whether it lacks sufficient means to redeem it for our enjoyment.

MrStandfast said...

I don't think Chopin foresaw Windows XP. The fact is, Bach doesn't articulate any theological truth. His music is made for the glory of God. Leland Ryken edited a wonderful volume about Christian Creativity, and Dorothy L. Sayers "Mind of the Maker" does a great job of addressing the christian as creator made in the image of The Creator.

The christian artist's allegience is to God, to Truth, and what is good outlined in scripture. It is not propogandism. I don't know what it means to complain about art that isn't "explicitly christian".

I just got done watching tommy Lee Jones' directorial debut, "the three burials of Melquiades Estrada" so I'm full of Flannery O'conner justice and redemption. (though the movie is quite graphic) But thinking about O'Conner gives me some interesting insight into the sorts of things Christian art can aim for. The fallen world isn't always pretty, however charged with the grandeur of God it might be. A story, filled with the violence and ugliness of the world, that knows this justice and believes that this world is ordered as God fashioned it...that's explicitly Christian. (degrees of depiction is another discussion)

The fact is, I don't like the term explicitly christian art. I don't know what that means. For one, as you know, I think iconography, apart from its artistic merit is idolatry. Christian art...does that mean art made by a disciple of Christ? or is it simply art intended to glorify God? Anything I write I hope glorifies God by taking delight in my creative capacity, and following my faith in Christ. I hope that's Christian art.

I suppose there's something of insensitive hardness in this. I think a lot of people try to, but fail to properly understand truth when they say only Christian music etc is alright for Christian consumption. This might not be a worthwhile discussion for me to have, at least not in this fashion. I'm not trying to ruffle feathers, and I know I've been a kind of venomous insect lately about disagreeing with things. Take this for what it's worth.

Eutopia's aren't Christian. I guess at the end of the day I think it's cool you like James Blunt and Sufjian.