Monthly Archives: April 2013

Sentimentality: My take

I read an article for my Music in Worship class a while ago that I’ve turned back to for my final essay. The assignment was to write about our own theology of music. It’s a rather scary assignment, but maybe not as scary as “Write about anything,” which was an assignment for my creative writing class. As I’ve talked some about my basic theology of music before on here I won’t go into too much detail, but my take is that almost all music can be used for worship. I believe that even songs by the Beatles or whoever can be used as long as the lyrics are “good” and directed at God when one is singing them. You can check out more of my opinion on this in older posts.

Anyway, the article I read was about sentimentality and it’s relation to art and music. The writer was using a slightly different definition of sentimentality than I think a lot of people are used to, so I’ll briefly explain. His (Jeremy Begbie’s) explanation was that sentimentality is essentially emotions without objects or emotions that are self-directed. He explained that the sentimental person loves to feel things such as guilt or pity because they are the correct things to feel in certain situations. They do not actually pity the person they are “grieving” for, but take delight in the fact that they can exhibit the correct emotional response.

Begbie also said that the sentimental person will not take the appropriate action even though they can exhibit this emotional response. For example, a sentimental person will get teary eyed at those commercials about starving children in Africa but will not actually do anything because they do not want the object of their emotion (i.e. the starving children) to be eliminated.

This worries me for a few reasons. I hate those commercials. They make me so depressed. I usually change the channel or turn the TV off altogether if one of them comes on. I don’t know why, but in the past few years I’ve become much more emotional. I never used to cry about sad movies, but now I cry all the time. I cried when Dobby died for Pete’s sake! The obvious solution would be to donate money to one of those organizations. I don’t however and my reasoning for that is because “I don’t have the money.” Hear me out on this. My thinking is that sure it doesn’t cost much, but I don’t have a job and at some point I will run out of money, at which point I will feel ridiculously guilty about stopping my payments. I keep telling myself that as soon as I get a job I’ll do it, but I want to do something now.

I’ve always had a bit of a “gonna save the world” complex, as I’ve probably mentioned before. I worry that my new found emotional tendencies are just sentimentality. As I said I wasn’t always emotional. In fact, when I was younger I tried very hard to suppress my emotions partly, I think because I was too proud to let people know I was upset and partly because I’ve always felt like it was important for me to be strong for other people. I think coming to faith might have had something to do with me becoming more openly emotional because it was okay to cry to God. I still need to get over feeling a little like a Whiney pain in the neck when I do.

The other issue is that there are just so many problems in this world from poverty to hate crimes to slavery that I often feel like there’s nothing I can do anyway. My hope is that I can use my music as a platform to try and work at some of these problems, but I have to get my music going somewhere first and that’s taking a lot longer than I had hoped. I guess I’m just impatient.

Well anyway, thanks for reading. I’ve probably complained about this kind of thing before, so I apologize for the redundancy. Comments would be appreciated. If you’ve read this whole thing you get 8,000 awesome points!

“Don’t Stop The Madness”

I saw Tenth Avenue North on Friday. Their latest album is called “The Struggle.” I’ve been listening to their song “Worn” a lot because I’ve been getting about 2 to 4 hours of sleep during the week for about a month now due to final papers and such. I don’t know the story behind the song, but it’s basically about being tired and really needing God’s help.

Another song on their album that I haven’t listened to much though, is called “Don’t Stop The Madness.” Mike (their lead singer) told us a story about a horrible car crash he was in when he was 17 or 18. He almost died, but he didn’t, and even though he could have got mad at God, he didn’t. Instead, he got incredibly bored because he had to lie on his back to heal for many weeks, so he got a guitar to pass the time and that was how he learned to play

The point of the story is that when things are going wrong for us, or we feel like we’re in a hole we just can’t dig our way out of we pray for God to stop the madness. I know lack of sleep is no comparison to a nearly fatal car crash, but I’ve been in a really bad mood for the past few weeks because I’m rather sick of it and I just want a way out. Well, the only way out is to finish the semester and complaining to everyone I know, including God isn’t going to change anything. So today I’ve decided to just be in a good mood. Good things can come from the messes we get into, so we can gripe and moan, or we can get through it and learn from it and laugh about it later.

Have a super awesome day peeps! 🙂

Album Cover Part 5: Effects On Glass

I’m taking a break from writing an essay about my theology of music. I decided to take one of the pictures I showed y’all in my last post and see what I could do with it. The original pic was a close up of a blue glass. I played around with some effects on Paint.NET, and this is what I came up with. It might not match perfectly with the theme of the album, but it looks pretty cool, I think.

RMES ALBUM COVER GLASS PIC

I also made this one really quickly. I think I like the second one a little better.

RMES ALBUM COVER GLASS PIC V2

“Marching Bands of Manhattan”

I just bought a Death Cab for Cutie album on iTunes. I’ve heard a few of their songs on Pandora and liked them so I figured, “What the heck, I’ll just snag the whole album.” They’re a little more “emo” than I’m normally into, but I just really like their lyrics.

One song that I think has particularly good lyrics is:

Also, I promise I’ll actually talk about stuff soon. I just don’t really have time for the next two weeks or so.

“The Waking”

I don’t have time for a long post now. I don’t think I’m going to get much sleep this week. I have an essay due every single day. Long ones at that. Anyway, I thought I’d share a poem because like music, poetry is AWESOME for spiritual peace and balance.

The Waking
by Theodore Roethke
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

 

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

 

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

 

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

 

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

 

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Enjoy! ❤

Help! I Need Somebody! Not Just Anybody!

A few days ago I took my 3rd and last test in my American Lit class. Quite frankly, his tests are impossible, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. I’m not doing well in that class and it’s been getting me pretty bummed out. At one point I was trying to listen to a worship song to try and get hyped up– or something– I don’t really know how to explain it, and I felt no connection to the lyrics at all, which got me even more bummed out. Then on the day of the test I got “Help” by the Beatles stuck in my head so I just started singing it, and it felt like a prayer. I hadn’t listened to that song in a very long time, possibly years, but singing it felt like the most sincere thing I’d done in a while.

Help me if you can I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ’round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you pleas, please help me!

Someone in my MIW class said that the trouble with using secular music in worship is that you think about the artist more than the setting and the lyrics, but why wouldn’t you do that with a Christian band? I like Tenth Avenue North because they’re good musicians and I like their musical style. It’s impossible to separate that stuff entirely from worship, and I don’t think you should. When I was singing “Help,” I wasn’t thinking about how much I love the Beatles (because I love them lots), I was thinking that at this rate it’s going to take a miracle for me to pass this class, and if I don’t do well on this test I’m going to have to get A’s on the next few essays and projects. I know God has been holding my hand through the past four semesters (there’s always been one class that gives me trouble– Grr), and for that reason I’ve survived thus far.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Sneaky-Sneaky

Something that has come up a lot lately in my classes is the issue of using “Christianese.” If you don’t know, “Christianese” is basically a way of describing all the cliche words and expressions that Christians use in writing, song lyrics and even just in speaking sometimes. For example, a lot of contemporary worship music all sounds the same. It all has imagery of mountains and valleys and God calming the seas. I think people are just afraid to get away from Biblical language in worship. The problem this creates is that no one who hasn’t grown up using that kind of language and listening to that kind of music is going to have a very difficult time relating. Furthermore, people generally don’t tolerate cliches in “secular” music and I don’t think we should tolerate it in worship. To me it feels like taking the easy way out. It makes it feel too routine and practiced and less genuine.

Something else that came up in my “Music in Worship” class is the idea of using secular music to worship. I am of the opinion that we can use secular music and even instrumental music if it helps us feel a spiritual connection. I am also a fan of metaphor and allegory in worship music. I like artists that are what I call “sneaky-sneaky.” I think the best kinds of worship songs are one’s that could be passed by as secular if you weren’t paying attention.

Some great examples are:

I’ll admit the Tenth Ave song is a little less subtle, but it’s different than a lot of Christian songs, which is why I like it.

I like the Andy Timons tune because it technically has nothing to do with grace or love or sacrifice, but it sounds happy and it makes me think of freedom and forgiveness in a way. It makes one feel like there’s been something difficult to overcome and it has been overcome. It isn’t cliche, which I think makes worshiping to something like this more genuine.

Also, just for the record, I know nothing about Andy Timons. I just heard this on Pandora and liked it, so I bought it on iTunes. It may have been his intention to do a sneaky-sneaky worship tune for all I know.

Something else that came up in my class is whether using or misusing Christianese is a moral issue. I’m still not entirely sure what that means, but I feel that it is generally better to be original in worship. The only foreseeable problem is that there should also be unity which means singing and playing songs that everyone knows. I think the best thing to do is to keep creating new music and teaching it to people so that everyone will constantly be able to express their faith in new ways and change as the world changes and as God changes. People don’t stay the same and God certainly doesn’t stay the same, so neither should the music that connects us.

Free For All

My mom picked me up from the studio on Friday and somehow the conversation went very quickly from music to money– specifically taxes. I’m more liberal than Ken or my mom on a few issues, but when it comes to money I’m very conservative. My mom started talking about how there is basically no incentive to work hard anymore because middle class families are paying absurd amounts of money to the government to pay for handouts to people who don’t work and don’t pay any taxes.

There are several problems with this structure. The first is that fewer people are willing to help each other out of the goodness of their hearts because they are being forced to help by the government. There is much less trust because people assume that everyone on welfare abuses the system when in fact there are people in this country who badly need help for legitimate reasons. The second problem is that people do abuse the system. There are people who are perfectly capable of finding a job and working hard but prefer to collect unemployment and use food stamps. I personally know some of these people and they have nicer stuff than my family does because we hardly go out and we don’t see super expensive stuff as a priority. I’m not saying that having nice things is a bad thing, but you should have to work for them.

Furthermore, high taxes hurt small businesses. Ken told us that after taxes and expenses he hardly makes any money from the studio. He loves his job and he’s very good at it and he has great ideas for expanding the business, but his hands are currently tied. My ultimate goal is to become a touring musician, but if that doesn’t work out I’ll get some kind of writing or editing job. My plan is to get at least popular enough so that the taxes won’t kill me. I just want to be able to live comfortably without worrying about money.

My mom’s grandparents didn’t have to worry a out this stuff when they came over from Italy. They worked incredibly hard and even though they were poor, they didn’t gripe about it. They worked, and eventually they bought five houses on the same street. They had fourteen children and all of those children lived in those five houses unless they decided to leave. Those children all had children and they were still poor, but they all helped each other. Their children grew up happy, educated and successful. No one helped them except their family. If the options are to work or starve, people will work. It sounds harsh, but it seems that some people need to be forced into that position. This still does not mean that individuals and other organizations should not help each other. It is in fact the duty of the Church to take care of the poor.

Now because travel is so easy, families are separated sometimes by entire continents or oceans. It should be families, friends and private charities helping people, not the government. The government should be worrying about international affairs, keeping the peace within our own borders, education and taking care of infrastructure. When they forcibly take people’s hard earned money and give it to people who may not deserve it they make them want to hold onto whatever is left with both hands, creating an “every man for himself” mentality.

Ok…. Rant is over.

Almost The Weekend: Celebrate With Music!

Well guys, It’s almost Friday! I thought I’d post a few music videos that were happy and Friday-ish. Music is universal and heals all wounds.

Check out this fantastic display of musical joy!

I also thought I’d share this song because I found it pretty helpful when I was feeling down, and maybe somebody whose week is dragging will find it helpful too.

Finally, I thought I’d just share one of my all time favorite songs because it makes me happy!