Friday, July 31, 2009

Chris Tomlin, Andy Kaufman, John Cage, and Mob Art

I struggle with editing my titles. . . . .

Anyway, if you're a musician in the church these days, you've undoubtedly come across the music of Chris Tomlin. He has written most of the current widely-sung worship music in the church today. . .here's a taste: "Forever", "The Wonderful Cross", "Jesus, Messiah", "How Can I keep from Singing", "We Fall Down", "Be Glorified", "How Great is our God", the list goes on.

As with most people who become popular or very successful, Chris is now an easy target. The artistic community, especially, has come down on him for having simple music, sometimes simplistic themes, and not alot of "pushing the envelope" artistically.

It is my opinion that folks who criticize Chris Tomlin in this way have missed it. Even the magazine "Worship Leader" ( a magazine which, without Chris Tomlin, would probably not exist) cannot review a Tomlin recording without talking about how it's 'more of the same' or 'we've heard it before' etc. . . . (they do give him positive reviews. . .but those phrases are always sprinkled throughout, as if they wish he would do something different)

I think that Chris and the band are genuinely trying for artistic excellence on their recordings, and have become pretty solid musicians in the process. I also think that neither one of those things is their goal.

Chris Tomlin's goal is to have everyone singing his songs, to the Lord. He writes with the church in mind, and writes so that the church will be singing deep, glorious truths, in a way that is singable and familiar.

"Jesus, Messiah" declares the theological truth of "substitutionary atonement" in 3 or 4 minutes in a way that everyone can sing. "Forever" paraphrases Psalm 135 in a memorable way. "Holy is the Lord" comes from Nehemiah and leads us in how to respond to God's presence. . . . .

This is a different kind of art,. . . "Mob" art. Two folks in history who are masters of mob art are Andy Kaufman and John Cage. Andy Kaufman was a comedian who would perform bits that subtly "involved" his audience without them really knowing what was going on. This was frustrating and maddening to some. . .and you often didn't know what was happening until you realized you'd been had by the master comedian and the joke was on you. (check out the movie "Man on the moon")

John Cage was an innovative composer who actually invented alot of musical instruments (he has his own museum". He wrote pieces like " 4'33" where the orchestra would sit there for 4 minutes and 33 seconds, not play a note, and the art was happening when the composer would turn a page, someone would clear their throat, someone would shuffle their feet, etc. . . You were a part of the work of art and you didn't know it. Here's a performance of 4'33 here.

With Chris Tomlin, it's the same way. The songs he writes are meant to be sung by the church. So, the next time you're in a church meeting and everyone starts singing a Chris Tomlin song together. . . . that was the idea. That was his goal. You're a part of his "art" at that moment when you're singing.

Now, I'm not saying we can't appreciate artistic excellence at church. Even musical excellence, beauty, and virtuosity should be celebrated.

Its my opinion, though, that during most church meetings. . .we should celebrate God and what he has done, together, in song. Chris Tomlin is trying to help facilitate that,. . .and in those moments, be "artistic".

So, if you're going to criticize him, or others who are trying to write congregational anthems, just realize that the purpose is different for them than in most musical compositions, and recordings. He may not have the most intricate guitar patterns or alot of "old english" language in his music. But, folks all over the world are being given voice to declare great truths about God, express their heart to Him, and even learn some theology in the process.

Thanks Chris Tomlin!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wedding Dance

So, the new uber-hip thing to do is choreograph an elaborate dance piece for your wedding reception (especially the wedding party entrance). I do alot of weddings and have seen a few on youtube as well.

I have always thought this was kind of lame,. . . .Jody and I missed the trend (we're old). . . and usually it's just not that good.

But, this video is really, really cool. I am tempted to use the word, wicked. . but will stick with ridiculous/awesome.

This is one of the few "auto-tune" songs I like, and the degree of sophistication is amazing. To top it off,. . this is in the CEREMONY, not the reception. I'm sure there are better ones out there. But, this is my favorite.


ps: watch for the slo-mo at the end and the bridal entrance.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Edmund Fitzgerald

Yes, it's the Chick-fil-a guy. But, this clip is really funny, especially because I (and my GHS homies) sang "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" in high school. Enjoy. . .

Oldest man on earth

I found a pretty amazing story about the world's oldest man, 113 years old, passing away this last week.

He was the last British veteran of WWI. The dude was born in 1896!

But, I had two thoughts as I read this:

1) what an amazing guy, and still full of strength a year ago at a British war memorial service.

2) His life still "was a vapor" even though most of us can't get our heads around 1896.

Good read.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Elijah was just a man. . . . . . . and so was John Calvin

I really appreciated this post from the folks at Desiring God. They have a conference coming up to celebrate the 500th birthday of John Calvin. Sometimes conferences like these can turn into a chest bumping, self congratulatory affair that lift too high the principal topic or person that is being discussed.

Obviously John Piper and the folks at DG are trying really hard to fight against that. I think this is an important lesson. . . to hold your convictions with humility. After all, John Calvin was only a man who had flaws, sins, and historical slip-ups. Does this make him less of a theologian and not worthy of our attention? Not at all. But, it's good to be nuanced, honest, and humble about our theological camps/teachers/fathers. . . . After Jesus, they were all just men. And, after the biblical writers were done, there were no more inspired texts. It's helpful to remember that.

I still remember doing a paper on John Calvin for my American History class in college (it was on the Puritans). I went to the Library at UNO (go mavs) and read some exerpts of his work for research purposes. I still vividly remember walking back down the main concourse at UNO, outside, in the summer (this music major was a big fan of summer classes) walking about 2 feet off the ground as I felt I had just discovered a whole new zip code of theology, heaven, and God-saturated thinking. That was a big day for the Holy Spirit's work in my life. I'm grateful for John Calvin. . . .the man.


ps. these videos are mostly done by baptists. . . so don't take offense at their baptist slant on some of Calvin's traditional reformed views. I'm most concerned with the overall tone of humility.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hello! LOL

A modern day parable (unfortunately it's 100% true) that speaks to our cultural disease of not being fully present where we are. . . . and some pretty funny blame-shifting.


HT: Drudge

Friday, July 10, 2009

Happy Birthday John Calvin!

Today is John Calvin's 500th birthday. Here's a great article from Kevin DeYoung on being relevant in 500 years, (as Calvin most certainly is)

In Calvin's honor,. . . spend some time inspecting a worm today. It'll be fun with the kids, and you'll get some humility out of it!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Paris Jackson

I feel a little funny suggesting that you check out some music. . . . from a funeral. But, suffice it to say, that was a masterpiece today during Michael Jackson's funeral. My Favorites: Usher, Jennifer Hudson, Mariah Carey/Trey Lorenz. . . .and John Mayer, oh my goodness. That's the coolest version of Human Nature I've ever heard. That dude could play the 1812 overture on guitar and it would be cool. But, it was very haunting, him playing that song solo. . . .and way, way cool.

But, then something happened. . . sad, terrifying, and heart wrenching all at the same time.

Michael's daughter, Paris got up to speak. And, then I saw it. That classic face, the face the whole world knew, the face he tried so hard to destroy (and succeeded), the face that shone forth innocence, love, the human spirit, the face we hadn't seen for 25 years or so, hidden behind his "masks". . . was all right there in his daughter.

She said, while crying, "He was the greatest daddy, I love him so much". And, then I lost it, as Aunt Janet held her, weeping.

Why did that affect me? I feel so sad for her and her brothers. Their dad was a tragic figure, but the face he tried to destroy lives on in them. I also felt her pure emotion in that moment. I hope that my daughters say the same thing of me one day. She was able to find the emotion for her father that he could never find from anyone else or from himself, or from God.

There was much to mourn at this funeral. . the humanism, the tragic figure, the lack of a Gospel rescue in his life.

There was music to celebrate. And, in the face of a beautiful, little girl there was hope, hope that she finds her Father, hope that she can learn to love the face He, and he gave her, and hope for healing for her pain.

Seriously, check out Fox News or CNN where you can see clips from the funeral. Amazing music, amazing daughter. Sad. . . hopeful.

Monday, July 6, 2009

From the mouth of Babes...

We've been praying for the unreached people groups of the world by these flash cards that the kids got in Sunday School. It's very cool, "The Joshua Project" is the organization that blows the trumpet for unreached peoples. Many of them are tribal people, and all are 3rd world. The flash cards have cool pictures for the kids and some interesting facts about their culture.

So, tonight, Eden says: (go ahead, do your best whiny voice. . . )

"Dad, do we have to pray for the naked people again?"


yes, Eden, naked people need Jesus too. . . and besides "naked you came from your mother's womb and naked you shall return".