If Then There Is Encouragement

This is another hymn I wrote for the fun of writing it.  In Philippians, Paul quotes a hymn that is widely regarded as the “‘Christ Hymn,” one that was used in liturgical circles by early Christianity.  When I came across it, I said, hey, why not make it into a hymn again.  The text is Philippians 2:1-11, and in this version there are nods to Galatians 3:28 — “In Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male and female” — and Psalm 85:10 — “Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed.”  Honestly most of my hymns have nods to this last one, it’s my favorite scripture ever.

The hymn is below the jump.  The tune is Forest Green.

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Pandora, you don’t know me

So I am experimenting with Pandora Radio, because people told me I should, and it’s on my newfangled Droid thingy, so I figured, why not.

It has its good points.  For one, I actually listen to music outside of my car now, which before recently was something I almost never did.  It was just how I treated music — it was compartmentalized to car rides, and usually longer drives when I couldn’t just listen to NPR the whole way.  And since I spent a lot of time in choirs, making music, it just never seemed to be something I lacked or needed to fill space with.  (I also spent waaaay too much time filling the space with video games, but that’s another story.)

Despite this pleasant addition of more sound to my daily life, however, I have a severe beef with Pandora Radio.  Namely, it doesn’t have a clue who I am.  Consider the alternate title of this post “In Defense of the Eclectic.”

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The Mikado: A Most Amusing…Minstrel-Show?

So I went to see The Mikado, by Gilbert and Sullivan, tonight.  I was of mixed feelings about the whole affair.  It was amusing enough and the singing was alright (although certain roles left something to be desired — I had the distinct feeling one of the actors was trying to do his best interpretation of Scooby-Doo as an opera singer).  Others were quite good, especially the unscrupulous character whose “shtick” was being an official who held a number of positions — attorney general, prime solicitor, chief justice, home secretary, chancellor of the exchequer, and so forth — and who often used these positions to a…synergy…not often found in government.

At the same time, the choreography left much to be desired, and the articulation of the chorus made much of the singing a mash of undistinguished words.  I laughed not a few times when a particularly inept chorus member bumped into someone or handled a set piece badly in between scenes.  But hey, it was a university production at a university not known for its opera programs or music department.  I’m not going to be too picky.

But there was something I didn’t like…below the jump.

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Christ Comes to Our Humanity

One of the things I do with my spare time, and sometimes one of the things I do with my time that isn’t spare, is write new words to old hymn tunes.  I am particularly interested in writing hymns that focus on certain concerns of Christianity I feel need real expression in fresh ways in every clime and culture: creation, providence, incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and eschatology.

In writing these hymns, I strive to think of these notions as enmeshed with one another.  For example, I cannot think of the crucifixion, of the pain and torture it entailed for a real human body, without also holding up the incarnation, a moment that reminds us Christians that it was not only a human body suffering on that cross, but the divine body of God.  Take John 14:8-10*:

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

And so when I write hymns, I try to include and connect these doctrines with one another: they are, in my mind, incomprehensible without the connection.  If Jesus is merely a human dying on the cross to pay off in blood and pain some cosmic injustice, the Christianity is an ugly religion with an ugly god who demands torn flesh as a payment for sin.  But if Jesus is God, then the crucifixion is God’s expression of a solidarity and relationship with humanity that goes so deep as to understand the most extreme pains and heartaches that characterize human sadness and the failure of justice.

So in light of this thinking, I present a hymntext written recently.  After the jump!

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“…every blow of the great convulsive drums…”

I read this article today about a computer that creates music.  A reader at Andrew Sullivan’s blog outlined some of why it bothers me, especially in its assumption that all composers do is follow logical rules in their composition.  But the following quotation stands out:

In [Cope’s] view, all music — and, really, any creative pursuit — is largely based on previously created works. Call it standing on the shoulders of giants; call it plagiarism. Everything we create is just a product of recombination.

I don’t really mind him thinking this latter part, that creation is a process of recombination.  There’s not a lot going on in our heads, if you ask me, that wasn’t fed to us by society and education and culture.  But to assume that the process is mechanical, that the recombination doesn’t have intent behind it or doesn’t synthesize something in a new or profound way, that doesn’t seem right.

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