Childrens, Cinema Coma, Musicals

I’m not ashamed to admit as a 34-year-old man that I love Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. It is beautifully animated, has some fantastic songs and Belle, in my humble opinion, is the best Disney princess. As the beautiful daughter of a eccentric inventor, she is more than a pretty damsel in distress but a strong, independent and intelligent woman. She refuses the advances of Gaston (the prototypical “prince” character, who is actually the villain), self-sacrifices her freedom to save her father, chooses to fall in love with the hideous Beast and in the process she saves him from himself. Disney with this film laid the groundwork to question through creative narratives the tropes of fairy tale romances, a subversive move, I believe, only now coming to fruition with two recent Disney films, Frozen and Maleficent.

However, Beauty and the Beast is not without its flaws, despite the positive trend towards a more complex and assertive female character. For instance, many have suggested that Belle is a victim of Stockholm Syndrome, falling in love with her abusive and violent captor. My own personal issue is that while the film starts to chisel away at the typical fairy tale narrative, in the end it still adheres to the idea that romantic love fixes everything. All one needs is true love’s kiss to live happily ever after. Cue music. Sprinkle pixie dust. Ride off into the sunset with your new found love. The End.

But let’s be honest here, who of us can claim any innocence when it comes to believing that finding “the one” will make our lives more fulfilled, meaningful and plain better? Isn’t that the dream we all secretly hope for? That finding love would be true for me as it was for Belle, Cinderella and Snow White? As Michael Novak, Catholic philosopher and journalist, writes at First Things:


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.

Two funny videos from “Portlandia” exacerbating the importance of our music choices in shaping our children’s lives.

Childrens, Classical, Country, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Music and Culture, Music and Worship, Music Genres, Musicals, Pop Music, Rock, Theology Through Music, World Music

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Out of the Mouth of Babes: ‘The Cat Came Back’

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 Cat Came Back is probably one of the most violent songs for children ever created and as Christians we should never endorse/encourage the singing of this song to/with any child. That being said there is a bit of truth expressed in the unfolding narrative of the song, where if a child has been exposed to the song through other means, a parent can direct them to that truth. In the story no matter what Mister Johnson (and the countless unnamed characters) does to try to kill this cat, the cat is always able to come back from the dead (sound familiar?). These cat killing vignettes become more violent as the song progresses, from drowning the cat mob-style, fashioning a shotgun into an IED, pummeling the cat with a brick, tangling the cat in an electrical wire and then dropping an atom bomb. These mini-narratives of death and resurrection can move a person to the grander narrative of Jesus, who in his life men and Satan tried to kill him.

These moments of violence are found throughout the gospel narratives beginning with the conception and birth of Jesus. The hymn Silent Night underscores a peaceful night at Jesus’ birth but Revelation 12 depicts a night full of violence, displayed most vividly in verse 4, “the dragon[Satan] stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.” Then at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry when he announces that he is the messiah at the synagogue in Nazareth, the people of the congregation turn on him and drive him towards the edge of a cliff, with the intention of throwing him off (Luke 4:14-30). Then there are the many instances of the Pharisees/Sadducees plotting to capture and kill Jesus but Jesus is always able to get away. It is not until the fullness of time comes when Jesus allows men to capture him and put him on a Roman cross to die the death of a sinner.

But unlike the cat, Jesus’ death was on his terms and when he rose from the dead he defeated death, sin and Satan to welcome those who would put their faith in him. While the cat comes back to life despite numerous deaths, Jesus dies once, comes back to life in victory and will never die again (Psalm 16:10) no matter how hard Satan and his forces try to destroy him and his kingdom. In the final scenes of redemptive history Satan is the one who will be tied, bound and thrown into the lake of fire and Christ will forever reign as king (see Revelation 19:11-20:10).


Out of the Mouth of Babes: John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt

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.

John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt is a nonsense song with unknown origins but as most children know, the words to this song do not matter. Like Bingo where the fun of the song comes from clapping and leaving out letters, John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt in each repetition becomes quieter and quieter  while the “la la’s” at the end are shouted, screamed, yelled, barked, etc. Children love to shout the “la la’s” so much that during the quiet portion of the song they wait with eager anticipation and snicker with delight, awaiting the arrival of the shout section.

As children look forward to shouting “la la’s” with unfettered joy, are we in the same way anticipating worshiping our God and shouting when we do (well maybe not shouting but at least with some excitement)? The psalmist could not contain his excitement about worshipping God  proclaiming, “Shout for joy to the Lord” (Psalm 95:1, 98:4 and 100:1). Also the crowds as Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey shouted, “Hossana! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” (John 12:13)  Then there is the worship of God after Satan and all evil are once and for all destroyed in Revelation 19, where the worshipers are recorded four separate times as shouting praise to God. Contemplation and meditation are important aspects of worship but God also desires us to be excited and filled with joy when we worship him.

Thinking of how we currently worship through song, do we sing to God with the same vigor and excitement as we would sing a secular song? Then with our children how do we model worship in a way where they see worship as a joy-filled experience instead of one that they dread?

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