Classical, Hip-Hop, Music and Culture, Music and Worship, Pop Music, Rock, Theology Through Music

Miscellaneous Musical Meanderings (v. 4)

A weekly look at the world of music from a gospel perspective.

1. Bassnectar: From Death-Metal Kid to Superstar DJ

Lorin Ashton, the outspoken 34-year-old whose DJ name is Bassnectar, sold over 250,000 tickets to his solo shows last year – more than any other dance music DJ except for Tiësto and Deadmau5 – but he’s cut from a different cloth than most EDM DJs. He has a slender physique and a gentle, upbeat manner; he also grew up in a commune in Silicon Valley but his parents took the family out when he was five, becoming born-again Christians.

In part as a reaction to this upbringing, Ashton became a metalhead. “I went from heavy to death to black metal, always looking for something harder, darker, more underground,” he tells Rolling Stone.

2. U2 Bassist Adam Clayton Testifies Against Former Personal Assistant

3. Look Up to the Heavens and Listen

The visual spectacle amounted to 2012: A Space Odyssey, as Dr. Emmart filled the planetarium’s dome with a moving composite of photographs and illustrations, taking the viewer on an hourlong journey from somewhere in Earth’s orbit near the International Space Station to the farthest reaches of the universe, where the skies seemed to be raining galaxies in glorious profusion, and back. The Cassatt players, meanwhile, offered night-themed, time-related or merely melancholy or mysterious works and movements by Bloch, Sebastian Currier, Ramin Arjomand, Dvorak, Borodin, Andy Teirstein and Gershwin.

4. The Artist as Prophet

5. Prone to wander? What happens when we update classic hymns?

Recently, Mark Altrogge, the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church and writer of such hymns as ”I Stand In Awe” and “In The Presence”, wrote that he was troubled by a line in “Come Thou Fount”, a line that he found theologically suspect. The line in question is “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it” speaks to a reality in our lives, a reality that the Apostle Paul touches on in Romans 7:21. When I sing that line in church, it is for me an honest admission of my weakness and frailty, of the struggle that constantly occurs in my heart, and of my dire need for God’s grace and mercy. Such a thought is a bit more downbeat, at least on the surface, for we don’t like to think of ourselves as weak and frail, but that is the beauty of the line: it forces me, if only for a moment, to confront the terrible reality of my sinfulness and the great need I have for God to seal my heart for His courts above.

6. Elvis Crypt Pulled from Auction

7. Thrice Plays Final Show

8. Can you identify this music in the Peanuts cartoon?

9. God and Country Music: Why White Kids Are Eating Up Hip-Hop and Country Music

10. Katy Perry Says She ‘Did Everything’ To Save Her Marriage

11. Spice Girls Come Together to Launch New Musical

The Spice Girls came together to launch a new musical in London’s West End today, reports the BBC. Victoria Beckham, Melanie Brown, Emma Bunton, Melanie Chisholm and Geri Halliwell briefly united to announce Viva Forever!, a musical based on the group’s hits. Conceived by Mamma Mia! producer Judy Craymer and written by comedian Jennifer Saunders, Viva Forever! will involve the “bitter reality of fame” in a TV talent show.

The show will open at London’s Piccadilly Theatre on December 11th, with previews starting November 27th. The Spice Girls last reunited in late 2007 for a world tour that was cut short in February 2008.

12. Report: Suspect Admits to Involvement in 1994 Tupac Shooting

Sorry but despite Tupac’s recent holographic ‘resurrection’ this article confirms that he is still dead and only one man ever came back from the dead.

James Rosemond, a drug lord long tied to the 1994 robbery and shooting of Tupac Shakur, has reportedly implicated himself in the crime, according to the Village Voice. On trial for a separate drug trafficking case, Rosemond apparently admitted to the ambush. Court transcripts show Rosemond secretly confessed his involvement in the attack during a proffer session last fall, and that he was trying to figure out a cooperation deal that could lead to a lighter sentence.

13. Lana Del Rey, A$AP Rocky ‘National Anthem’ Video: Rewriting History

14. London Olympics Choose Muse’s ‘Survival’ As Official Song

and a response to music as part of the Olympics:

15. What Haydn taught me about Creation: A Reflection from an Opera Singer

The book of Genesis, and in particular, the creation account, is undoubtedly one of the most controversial issues in contemporary theology and Christianity. In many places, the lines have been drawn: faith vs science. For those who draw this distinction, they seem to be unable to read the opening of the Bible without wanting to turn it into a scientific question, asking things such as ‘How old is the earth?’, ‘Are the days literal?’, ‘Did God use evolution?’ and so forth. However, through reflecting on ‘Creation’, I get the feeling this is not exactly the right response.

Genesis is a book of theology, that is, it is primarily about God. While it includes narrative, some history, as well as a few other genres, I think it is also a book written to teach people about their place in the world as created beings. It is written as an introduction to the great biblical meta-narrative, the overarching story of God redeeming a people for himself. The creation account puts that all in perspective, showing us who God is as the creator.

Through ‘Creation’, what struck me about Haydn’s rendering of Genesis 1-2 is the way each creative act is followed by a chorus of praise. When one of the angels recounts, for example, the creation of plants, the chorus responds with a call to ‘awake the harp!’ in order to praise God. It seems to me that this starts to point to the response that the creation account ought to provoke. Scripture calls us so often to sing unto the Lord; it seems like a natural, creative response to a creative God.

16. Sistine Chapel Choir to Sing With Westminster Abbey Choir

A historic day!

17. Rihanna Escapes London Hotel Fire

Praise God that no one was hurt.

Rihanna escaped from a London hotel fire early this morning after a blaze started in an elevator shaft, reports the Associated Press.

The singer, who was among 300 people evacuated from Corinthia Hotel during the blaze, tweeted a picture of a fire engine following the incident. The London Fire Brigade reported no injuries in the 7th floor fire.


Theology Through Music

Dubstep: Shake The Heavens and the Earth

This past weekend I stayed in a cabin at Donner Lake with my wife, daughter and some friends. After our kids went to bed, we were sitting around enjoying each other’s company when the entire house started to shake. Afterwards one of my friends asked, “What was that?” I replied, “I think that was an earthquake.” However, my wife thought that the shaking was one of the large nearby pine trees falling in the woods but I was not convinced. So I took out my smart phone, downloaded an app that tracks earthquakes across the globe (they have an app for everything!) and I was able to confirm that we were a mere 16 miles away from the epicenter of a 4.2 magnitude earthquake. Not a very strong quake but it was still impressively unsettling to feel the ground move on its own.

I experience a similar feeling when I listen to Dubstep, which is often characterized by an ever present wobbling sub-bass intended to shake the ground (listen to the chorus of the appropriately titled Earthquake by Little Boots below). Artists will play around with the speed of the wobble as well as include rapid changes in the volume of a single bass note, which will create a feeling of uneasiness in the listener. While the wobble bass is primarily used for its rhythmic effect, it is a musical device that can be fairly uncomfortable to the ear as well as the body. Played loudly, the wobble bass can be felt in a person’s body and border on “brown note” territory.


Throughout history God has in various ways shaken people and creation in order to fulfill his purposes. Jeremiah’s bones shook because he heard God’s holy words (Jer. 23:9). The voices of the seraphim shook God’s heavenly temple which led Isaiah to cry, “Woe to me!”… “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (Isa. 6:5) After Jesus screamed out his final words and died on the cross, the earth shook tearing apart the curtain covering the Holy of Holies (Matt. 27:51). Then there is the prophesied shaking of the earth, heavens and nations that God will enact at the end of history (Hag. 2:6-7 and Hab. 3:6). These are all spectacular examples of God shaking people and created things, however, God will often shake things up in people’s lives in small ways.

Recently, I have come to understand that God operates in this way because He shook things up in my life, taking my wife and I out of the church we had been a part of for six years. This church was our home so when God moved us from that place we felt uneasy, uncomfortable and unsure of where God was leading us. As with any earthquake there was also damage to the friendships we had established at the church and the aftershocks of our leaving were felt by many people that cared deeply for us. But this is par for the course for God, who takes us out of our comfortable situations so that we may lead lives that are more about Him and less about us, even if it means we feel unsettled.

However, I can take comfort (and so can all believers in Christ) in knowing that in the midst of being rattled that I am part of something that cannot be shaken. Jesus said that anyone who comes to him and obeys his words “is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.” (Luke 6:47-48) The writer of Hebrews also tells us, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” (Heb. 12:28-29) While God may shake us he does so to bring us into his kingdom and ultimately to him, the “unshakable” one.

Childrens, Classical, Hip-Hop, Music and Culture, Music and Worship, Pop Music, Rock

Miscellaneous Musical Meanderings (v. 3)

A weekly look at the world of music.

1. What’s Behind Israel’s Unofficial Ban on Wagner?

2. Laura Jane Grace’s Transgender Life
“For my daughter, I’m hoping it doesn’t affect her in any negative way, as far as kids can be cruel to each other, once she starts school. It’s already weird enough when your dad is in a band, explaining that to other kids, but when your dad is transsexual as well … I just hope people are kind to my daughter.”
Two recent articles to read about the effect on kids:
Gay Marriage and the Limits Of Consequentialism

Why The Science On Gay Marriage Doesn’t Matter

3. ‘Ears of the Future’: Schoenberg’s ‘Pierrot Lunaire’ at 100
4.The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson: ‘I Don’t Think I Look or Act 70’
5. Pusha T Denies ‘Exodus’ Is A Lil Wayne Dis
In the intro to the resulting video, he shrugs, “I didn’t know all you fools read books — but apparently you do. So let’s see how I did.” And he did pretty darn well, in our estimation — the song is clever, catchy, and filled with bookish puns like “Choose my own adventure, never scared, man, Oliver Twist!” It’s enough to make any book nerd into a hip-hop convert. You’re welcome.
Country icon Glen Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease last year, and in this touching new video for “A Better Place,” Campbell revisits his life and career, sitting down with Josh Homme to flip through a book of memories as he says farewell.
Even Robert Johnson himself was a committed Baptist until his wife died in childbirth and he left the church and his family for a life of aimless wanderin’, juke joints and womanizing. Whatever the reason, he and many other blues musicians had been burned by or left the church dramatically (quite a ruckus in the 1930-something Deep South). Feeling abandoned by the church, they sought spiritual meaning somewhere else, in their music. The church, understandably, didn’t know how to handle itself so they fought back against what was seen as an attitude of rebellion and sin. And the blues singers liked that. It gave them some credibility. Thinking if the church doesn’t like them, they must really be doing something big!
Classical music trying to get young people more involved in its music.

Even now few visitors spend much time in the room where the Swiss music boxes are displayed. Yet, being a musicologist, I lingered there alone last January as my children ran ahead. I kept listening to one box in particular, a harmoniphone from around 1877, equipped with a reed organ and able to play six Chinese tunes from a cylinder.

Confused at first, I suddenly realized that I had stumbled on the key to a musicological mystery many decades old. Scholars have long known that Puccini used Chinese tunes in his opera “Turandot” (set in China and left incomplete on Puccini’s death in 1924). But they have been puzzled by the origins of two “Japanese” tunes in his “Madama Butterfly” (set in Japan and first performed in 1904). What I had found were Chinese sources for two major themes in “Butterfly” and a surprising connection between that opera and “Turandot.”

Was it possible that Puccini had heard this very box in Italy and that it provided crucial inspiration for “Madama Butterfly”?

15. Building 429’s “Where I Belong” Longest-Running No. 1 Single on Billboard Christian Audience Chart

16. Ringo Starr’s Birthplace Saved from Demolition

17. The Best Beatles Cues in Movie History


Apocalyptic Romance: “When I am Laid in Earth”

In this series we explore music which places the need for significance and transcendence into romance and love.

The short opera Dido and Aeneas, composed by the English composer Henry Purcell in 1689, is a story of two star-crossed lovers set during the Trojan War. Woven throughout the opera is a recurring theme of fate, explored in different ways throughout the opera; however, in the end fate is ultimately tied to romance and death. The tragic final aria, When I am Laid in Earth, sung by Dido embodies these two elements of fate and summarizes where Dido finds meaning in her life. To fully understand the final moment of the opera, we must explore the romantic relationship between Dido and Aeneas.

At the beginning of the opera, when Aeneas first meets Dido he is so attracted to her that he proclaims his love for her right away. Dido on the other hand is not so sure about entering a romantic relationship with him. 


Fate forbids what you pursue.


Aeneas has no fate but you!

On the advice of her friend Belinda, Dido relents to Aeneas passions and chooses to enter a romantic relationship with him. They then go on their first date (a hunt in the forest) and for some unknown reason a coven of witches separates the two lovers in the woods. One of the witches disguises herself as the god Jove and tells Aeneas that he should leave his love Dido:

Jove commands thee, waste no more
In Love’s delights, those precious hours

Aeneas, thinking that he has no other choice, follows through with the god’s instruction, yet he at the same time curses his new fate.

But from her arms I’m forc’d to part.
How can so hard a fate be took?
One night enjoy’d, the next forsook.
Yours be the blame, ye gods! For I
Obey your will, but with more ease could die.

When Aeneas is reunited with Dido he tells her that he must obey the command given by Jove but then changes his mind based on her reaction.

No, no, I’ll stay, and Love obey!

But Dido is committed to another fate, not of romantic love with Aeneas but her impending self-inflicted death. 

To Death I’ll fly
If longer you delay;
Away, away!…..

[Exit Aeneas]

But Death, alas! I cannot shun;
Death must come when he is gone.

It is at this moment that Dido seeks the comfort of her friend Belinda as she commits suicide, seeing death as her only choice.

Thy hand, Belinda, darkness shades me,
On thy bosom let me rest,
More I would, but Death invades me;
Death is now a welcome guest.
When I am laid in earth, May my wrongs create
No trouble in thy breast;
Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.

Musically, Dido’s vocal line (from “Thy hand” to “welcome guest”) moves rapidly through the twelve notes of the Western tonal system, symbolic of her disorientation at losing Aeneas. Then prior to when she enters with the words, “When I am laid in earth,” the accompaniment is characterized by the musical trope of a descending chromatic lamento bass.  The sorrowfulness of Dido’s lost love and her descent into the grave are represented in this musical expression.

But why does Dido see death as her fate, whether Aeneas stays or leaves? Throughout the opera Dido understands the meaning of her life as being contained in Aeneas and since Aeneas did not fit her expectations of love, the only way out of her now meaningless life is death. Because she believed so much in her true love with Aeneas, there was never a moment in her mind where she could imagine a different fate for herself other than death.

Tim Keller in his sermon “The Struggle for Love” explains how Jacob saw the romantic relationship as the epitome of life’s meaning. Jacob worked for seven years for his one true love, the stunning Rachael (Gen 29:15-20), but at year seven he was tricked into marrying her sister Leah (Gen. 29:21-26). Not satisfied with unattractive Leah, he worked for his father-in-law another seven years to obtain Rachael as his wife (Gen. 29:27-30). The most interesting part of Jacob’s story is actually the story of Leah, who desired to have her husband love her in the same way that he loved Rachael. God seeing that Leah was unloved by Jacob opened up her womb and closed up her sister’s. Leah hoped that with the birth of these children that her life would be meaningful through Jacob, as shown by the naming of her first three sons.

Reuben… “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.”

Simeon…. “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.”

Levi… “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” (Gen. 29:32-34)

However with her last child, she realizes that she cannot find ultimate meaning in her husband but only in God, so she names her son “Judah… ‘This time I will praise the Lord’” (Gen. 29:35). Unlike Dido who succumbed to what she thought was her fate, Leah came to the understanding that her life should only be viewed in the context of how God saw her and not how Jacob saw her. If Leah had followed the same path as Dido after having three children, she would have never had her final child and this would have had huge ramifications for God’s plans of redemption. Judah is the one through whom the promised messiah would come, expressed in the final blessing given by his father Jacob, “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he [Jesus] to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.” (Gen. 49:10) Without Leah putting her trust in God’s love instead of Jacob love there would have never been a Judah and without Judah there is no Lion of Judah.


Out of the Mouths of Babes: ABC’s

In the series we explore the practical ways in which children’s songs can be used to reveal the truths of the gospel to our children.

The ABC’s song is an iconic American tune believed to be written by Mozart in the 1780’s but given lyrics in 1835 by American music publisher Charles Bradlee. ABC’s also shares its melody with many other children’s song like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Baa, Baa Black Sheep. It is usually the first song we learn to sing as children and transcends through the generations. As parents we sing it repeatedly, with the hope that one day our children will be able to connect the song with the letters they read or write. As a culture we stress the foundational importance of this song and it is highly unlikely you will ever meet someone who does not know it.

As a Christian the cornerstone to our faith is the gospel, that we are all sinners and Jesus came to this world to overcome our sins through his death and by his grace we are redeemed. It is through him that I am forgiven and I wish to live my life as a response to that gift. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 it states, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” These verses give us a tangible way to live our lives in response to the gift of salvation by reminding us to rejoice, pray and give thanks continually.

As a mother of a toddler I wonder how much I am doing these things intentionally in the same way my daughter sees me singing ABC’s to her. Am I rejoicing in all God has done throughout my day or praying other than at meal times and before going to bed? Honestly, I am lucky if I remember to pray before lunch. By not doing these things I am missing a great opportunity to show my daughter my love for Jesus and model the relationship I desire for her to have with Jesus. Out of the three practical ways to live out the gospel found here in 1 Thessalonians, giving thanks seems the easiest for me and I can see this reflected in my daughter who will say thank you to practically everything. I tell her she needs to wash her hands and she will say, “Thank you mommy.” It reminds me, am I thanking Jesus continually throughout my day for the simple things and truly meaning it? When my daughter says “Thank you” she truly means it, even if to me it wasn’t necessary because she appreciates me. When we sing ABC’s to our child we are showing them that it is important for them to know the joy of singing. Even more so, I want my child to grow up knowing the importance of the gospel and what joy comes from it. I want to intentionally spend my days rejoicing, praying and giving thanks so that my child can see the joy of the gospel lived out each day in our home. Every moment of our day is an opportunity to show God’s love and grace to our children.

Classical, Hip-Hop, Music and Culture, Music and Worship, Pop Music, Rock, Theology Through Music

Miscellaneous Musical Meanderings (v. 2)

A weekly look at the world of music.

1. Is Adele’s ’21’ This Generation’s ‘Jagged Little Pill’?

Worldly fame is never what it is all cracked up to be:

The exposure, which Morissette likens to “riding the crest of a really big wave,” wasn’t exactly what she had hoped for, though. “Grabbing the brass ring of fame during that time was disillusioning and gorgeous in a way because it furthered my journey of inward-looking, since there was nowhere else to go,” she says. “The fame didn’t give me what it promised. It had promised to make everything OK, and it didn’t.”

Adele’s own story has little to do with celebrity. The singer distanced herself from pop stardom by declaring to Rolling Stone last year, “I don’t make music for eyes, I make music for ears”… In her primetime NBC special on June 3rd, Adele said that the tabloid “investigations” of the lover who inspired 21 has made her “wish she’d kept a lot of things to herself.”

2. R. Kelly Owes 4.8 Million in Taxes

3. Metallica Lending Help to Solve a Murder

4. Hacking Western Music Institutions

5. Replacing ‘God Bless the USA’ with ‘Baby’

A Christian response:

6. Justin Bieber ‘Still Needs Guidance,’ Manager Says – Music, Celebrity, Artist News

“Adult artist? Just because he’s legal now doesn’t mean he’s an adult,” his manager, Scooter Braun, told Billboard about the growing pop star. “He still needs guidance; he’s still finding his way. He’s no longer a boy, but he’s definitely not yet a man.”

See my article: Musical Maturity Through Sexuality

7. Ranking Intergenerational Musical Collaborations from Best to Worst

8. Plans to ‘resurrect’ more dead rock musicians: Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix

9. Billy Corgan on God:

Music is his spiritual teacher:

I think that if God is a mystery, what is the point to the mystery? Let’s start from the precept that God exists. If you agree that God exists. Well why doesn’t God just make himself or herself or itself known? Why is it this weird kind of virtual reality thing? What’s being asked of us? I think we’ve all had a sort of inner sense of who we are, and of course life will suppress that, repress that, encourage you to be somebody that you’re not. And a spiritual teacher will remind you that until you really know who you are you can’t accomplish anything. Your life is wasted. So in my case I’ve had to take a very long, circuitous route through my talent and my obsessions to realize that there’s some guy in there who’s trying to get out. It’s mixed in there amongst my need for attention, and ego gratification and whatever else.

10. Carrie Underwood Comes Out In Support Of Same-Sex Marriage

Like Obama a misunderstanding of Jesus and what the gospel is all about:

“As a married person myself, I don’t know what it’s like to be told I can’t marry somebody I love, and want to marry,” she said. “I can’t imagine how that must feel. I definitely think we should all have the right to love, and love publicly, the people that we want to love.”

She told the paper that her liberal attitude about same-sex marriage is actually a result of her Christian values, not in conflict with them.

“Above all, God wanted us to love others. It’s not about setting rules, or [saying] ‘everyone has to be like me’. No. We’re all different. That’s what makes us special. We have to love each other and get on with each other. It’s not up to me to judge anybody.”

11. Oscars venue reopens as Dolby Theater

Unlike Dolby Surround 7.1, which uses different audio channels, Dolby Atmos can render sounds in space by harnessing individual speakers instead of entire speaker arrays. Dolby Atmos also adds overhead speakers, which were installed in the Dolby Theatre on two 50-foot-long trusses that must be removed for the acrobatic acts in “Iris.”

12. Music Review: Leif Ove Andsnes’s Ojai Festival Riffs on ‘Tristan’

13. Family Force 5 release “Zombie” video

14. ‘Once’ Wins Best Musical, Seven More at Tony Awards

15. Lady Gaga Suffers Concussion During Concert, Responds To Madonna?

16. 50 Cent And Oprah: The Feud is Finally Over

17. The “Call Me Maybe” Tribute Videos That Are Actually Worth Your Time

The best one, featuring our President:

18. Idaho Paper Picks Fight with Nickelback

19. Europe Preparing to File Charges in Universal-E.M.I. Deal

20. New-Music Works With Surprising Problem: Dated Instruments

But in a preamble to his question Mr. Geffen noted that he had once visited the old Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, where Milton Babbitt, Otto Luening and other electronic music pioneers composed on the room-size RCA Mark II Synthesizer, which was state of the art when it was built in 1958. Anyone who had ever worked with electronic music could see where Mr. Geffen was going: visions of 1960s vintage Moog modules, 1970s Buchla boxes and 1980s Atari computers passed before your eyes. Mr. Geffen wanted to know how Ms. Saariaho deals with the technological change that renders an electronic composers’ tools archaic with alarming frequency.

This, Ms. Saariaho acknowledged, was one of her worst nightmares. Several works on her program dated to the 1980s and ’90s. The technology behind them had to be revisited before they could be revived.

20. New James Brown Bio Reveals Godfather of Soul’s American Revolution of Rhythm

Messianic or Mosaic complex? Plus an interesting hermeneutical definition of the golden rule:

He was an artistic genius who yanked the fundamental structure of the song inside out, an entrepreneur who dragged himself up from horrifying poverty to wealth and comfort by sheer blood-spattered force of will and a flabbergasting work ethic, a black revolutionary whose idea of what a “black revolutionary” should be was his and no one else’s. Of course, his ego was unimaginably immense: He’d never have survived otherwise, much less accomplish what he did.

Smith’s title shifts its meaning over the course of the book. It could be The One as in “the chosen one”: Brown always saw himself as uniquely glorious, a leader and spokesman for his people, and in his later years sometimes compared himself to Moses without a hint of irony. It could be “the one,” as in the great rhythmic shift that Brown commanded when he invented funk with his string of mid-’60s hits, including “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and “Cold Sweat.” Or it could be “the one,” as in the almighty dollar bill, in whose power Brown never lost faith, and which he never made a secret of chasing. (In the early ’70s, his children made a plaque for his house that read, “THE GOLDEN RULE is as follows: Who ever has the gold makes the rules. Who has the gold? DADDY. Everyone is in agreement that DADDY sets the rules in this home.”)

The Godfather of Soul once had been poor, helpless, and in chains; for the rest of his life, he fought to make sure that no one would ever have any power over him again. “Control I must have,” he said, “of everything, of myself. Either that or I can’t give you James Brown.”

21. Grammys Add Three Categories, Make Changes In Jazz, Latin, R&B

22. Fiona Apple’s New, Cephalopodic Music Video for “Every Single Night”

23. A Wild Time

Classical music is searching for relevance in the same way that people think that Christianity is searching for cultural relevance. While classical music unfortunately may one day fade away, Christianity has the gospel which will never not be relevant.


Music and Worship

Singing Badly to the Glory of God

This is a video of Balinese Gamelan, a shriek of clanking out-of-tune bells, which most Westerners have a hard time listening to. In the next video we hear the high-pitched, nasally, shaking voice of Peking Opera, another type of musical sound not easily digested by the Western ear.


Neither one of these musical pieces are bad nor are they lacking beauty, however, the way in which they will be received relies heavily on the cultural background of the listener. To someone who is Balinese or Chinese their respective musics are beautiful but to someone outside of those cultures this music can be heard as bad, ugly, annoying, etc. There is a false assumption in Western societies of a universal standard for musical aesthetics that music must always be beautiful. But as the famous Twilight Zone episode so effectively displayed, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

However, in some specific contexts Westerners not only accept “ugly” music, they celebrate it. At baseball games during the seventh inning stretch, the entire stadium will sing Take Me out to the Ballgame loudly and proudly in out-of-tune voices and yet, no one complains of the music’s ugliness. Or who could forget the American Idol reject, William Hung? Celebrated for his awful singing, he went on to produce an album which debuted at #34 on the Billboard 200, selling a little over 37,000 copies in the first week. Recently, Burt Crane a 77-year-old man rapped his way into infamy on America’s Got Talent with his Casio keyboard and his terribly catchy chorus stating, “Watcha Gonna Do?” Then there is the context of the Christian worship service where a good number of people cannot carry a tune but oddly enough no one pulls a Simon Cowell telling the bad singer next to them, “Excuse me I don’t mean to be rude but your singing is terrible.”

While in some contexts we celebrate “bad” music, we need to look at all the music we create (ugly and beautiful) from a heavenly perspective. Do we not understand that before God is a choir of angels continuously singing the refrain “Holy, Holy, Holy” in the most beautifully perfect voices anyone has ever heard (Isa. 6:3, Rev. 4:8)? Day in and day out this music is ever-present in front of our creator. So if you really think about it, how can any of our music, regardless of culture, ever compare to that pure everlasting music praising the true “beholder?”

The good news is that God’s standard of beauty is different from ours. Beauty is perfectly defined in the blood, gore, pain and suffering of Jesus on the cross, so when God hears the “bad” singing of the one who worships him in the spirit and truth of the gospel he says, “That is good.” Our sacrificial worship of God, even in a voice that breaks glass, makes dogs howl, sounds like screeching brakes on a car or nails on a chalkboard is to God a beautiful fragrant aroma (2 Corinth. 2:15-16). That aroma is the sweet smelling offering of Christ in us who makes our singing beautiful. So sing loud, sing badly, be bold in making an awful sound but sing with all your heart, mind, soul and strength in love for the one true triune God (Mark 12:30).