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An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Friday, December 16, 2005

We must be different - the kneejerk

The new Fellowship of Orthodox Christian Artists quotes St. Nikolai Velimerov:

We must be super-conservative in preserving the Orthodox faith, but super-modern in propagating it.

I'm not fond of how this translation sounds (I think hyper as opposed to super would have been cooler...but this opinionated attitude is, I think, indicative of why Orthodox converts like myself have a hard time accomplishing much in "one accord")
There is a sort of underlying NEED for us Orthodox to be different....just different. For instance, we LOVE not having pews (because its different and only later do we learn to appreciate it for its practical attributes) and even go on to chastise those parishes that have pews for not being TRULY Orthodox...a label which is of course never directed toward us - the pewless - by ruddered "super"-cosnervative TRUE Orthodox Churches.

Anyone else notice how we converts (especially) tend to feel a deep seated need to NOT be like the Protestants...no matter what. All practicality and positive results aside, we dare not model ANYTHING we do to look ANYTHING like Protestants have or are doing...because we are different.

The newest edition of "The Handmaiden" contains an article about Contemporary Christian (Orthodox)Music which I really appreciated. Christian Music played a big and beneficial role in my early years as a convert to Christianity...and we really ought to encourage talented Orthdoox Christians who wish to express themselves in this artform. I particularly liked this quote from Orthodox Musician Justin Mathews: "The reality is our 13- to 40-year-olds are not getting up in the morning and listening to chant all day long."

Yep, it's true, I've heard what the teens of my Parish are listening to in their cars in the Church parking lot. A dose of intelligent music from an Orthodox artist is something we as Orthodox Christians ought not to reject - especially as a kneejerk simply because Protestants do it and by jove we are different! Or equally pretentious: because we are "cool" enough to listen to all sorts of garbage and don't need it. I'm totally hip to my kids listening to "The Lost Dogs" and if I can find Orthodox artists of the same caliber (and yes, there are) then expect to find it playing in my house and hopefully in my kids' cars in the church parking lot.

I remember how rock music with a Christian message worked so positively in my life.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:41 AM [+]



I have MAJOR conflicts over this issue. Much more than i could share here. But for all the good you experienced (and I believe you did), I'll say there's a lot of damage going on there as well.

Personally, I've experienced both...so I have a hard time saying we should or shouldn't.

But one question I have, which some Prots have been asking a LONG time, is what does Christian music look like?

Here's a big question/problem, one that I personally struggled with. The kind of music/scene that kids are attracted to will likely only be played BY KIDS. Those same kids playing the music, 99% of the time, are in no way ready for the pressures that come along with the music business. They aren't ready to answer those questions and deal with those issues. Most ADULTS couldn't deal with it without being scarred. Even withing the "christian" industry.

Like I said, I'm not necessarily against it...but I definitely got some red flags poppin up.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:11 PM  


Can you be more specific Chance?

Two problems I see, both of which I think are endemic in the Protestant setting: seeing it too much as a ministry - in other words more of a ministry than say my work in virology. And, musicians who know little more than I do about theology - let alone GOD, preaching with authority.

In the context of Orthodox faith and practice I wonder if these particular pitfalls would be at least partially negated.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 1:00 PM  



I'm having a difficult time narrowing the focus of any of my thoughts about this enough to be workable within a comment box, without being so general as to be meaningless (which is the same reason i've stopped posting to my own blog).

But I do agree that the problems you mentioned would at least be lessened within an Orthodox context.

But in general it comes back to...what would your vision for Orthodox artists look like. Are you looking for "Orthodox speed metal"? What about "Orthodox Rap"? Maybe some "Orthodox indie-pop with a lo-fi Americana twist"?

What exactly is it we want? Is it simply Orthodox lyrics to established genres of music? You mention wanting your kids (at church) to listen to it, so I assume you mean something like that.

But choosing to do music becomes more than a hobby, more than even a job. For most musicians I've know (and I've know A LOT), it becomes an identity, and therein comes the struggle. And it's been my experience that a significant percentage of those who self identify that way at an early enough age to want to play speed metal or rap or whatever, lose that battle of identity, or walk away from it scarred.

The identity of musician or artist provides a very real and tangible sense of fulfillment. "I created something." "People like what I do". This self-identity is often much more immediately tangible and comprehensible than the one of "Christian". Add the praise and adoration of fans, and which one do you think starts being set aside?

I could go on and on about a host of pitfalls that relate to this topic. But I really DONT want to play the naysayer. I really do think there's something valid in the idea...I just don't know what it looks like in reality.

Any ideas?


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:16 PM  


CRIMINY....that should have read I"VE KNOWN...how do you make the same typo twice in the same sentence?


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:18 PM  


I would submit that perhaps the biggest obstacle to Orthodox music as a genre is the slightly alarming tendancy of many converts to decide that since they are Orthodox they must replace their CD collections with "The Monks of Mt. Athos Chant Obscure 9th Century Orthodox Hymns in Armenian"
and other hits.
An Ortodox music scene would ultimately have to be organic to be "real". One of the more mind-boggling aspects of CCM (like the Christian Rap groups) is the idea that you can take the sound and style of the Backstreet Boys, and add a certain amount of JPMs (Jesus per minute) and viola you have hip, evangelical music.
What probably needs to happen is Orthodox Christians need to get over their "Was it strumming guitar in 19th century Russia?" fixation and jsut start making music. A St. Nicolai can compose songs about Christianity in the folk idiom and bring it off, but probably the best advice for lesser mortals would be to simply make music and let the inner strand of Orthodox Christianity weave it's way through it.

By Blogger Radoje S., at 2:22 PM  



Since I don't know how to do quotes or italics and the lot...you wrote "probably the best advice for lesser mortals would be to simply make music and let the inner strand of Orthodox Christianity weave it's way through it."

I agree. The only problem is it'll likely never happen. The Christian musician usually has two options. 1)Join the Christian label ghetto, which I wouldn't wish on any artists soul, or 2)join the secular industry, which is either better or worse, depending on which aspect you're looking at.

One of the problems with this whole issue is the fact that there IS a business side of it, and of necessity, if you want yer kids to hear it, there must be. I'm not saying that business is in itself evil or bad, but I am saying that the businesses and their respective cultures as they currently exist are rarely GOOD for us, as either artists or consumers.

SO back to my underlying question then...what is the model that IS good. What does it look like? Again, I want to believe in this, but I'm a tough sell, having spent 18 years in both sides (christian and secular) of the industry.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:18 PM  


I dunno, one of my favorite artists (at least when he was wearing his "western/folk/blues" hat) Chris Whitley, who died of cancer a few weeks ago, managed his entire career with a fierce independence from the Recording-Industrial Complex. While he was never a top 40 sensation, his music was available and his artistic brilliance was made accessable to those who sought it.
Perhaps he was the exception that proves the rule, and I am admittedly ignorant about the music industry, but I think Orthodox artists would be OK in the end.

By Blogger Radoje S., at 11:00 PM  


What exactly is it we want? Is it simply Orthodox lyrics to established genres of music?

Well, we ought not to speak like contemporary Orthodoxy music doesn't already exist, I think we all know that it does - though I've nto yet heard Orthodox punk music.

But let's be more succint. Music cannot be Orthodox...only people can. I'm not asking for anything specific...except to say that we should support Orthodox Christians who are also musicians and unashamedly speak their faith in their music.

Book publishing is also a business, and yet how else would we read any of those great "Orthodox" books if a company - a business needing to make money - did not publish them?

People sailing can ruin themselves on any beachhead set before them...but it is not a foregone conclusion, I hope. Especially those rooted in Orthodoxy which we may assume is a pretty darn good chart and compass.

I've never given up the idea that media - including music - is a unfathomably powerful influence on kids. I see it when I try and get my kids' attention while they are watching TV. And while I don't eblieve demons arise out of speakers (though a Saint said something intrguing about this - possibly), but I do believe there is a lot of JUNK out there.

I certainly would not mind my kids having the option of a Hip-Hop song about St. Mary of Egypt. So...if there is an Orthodox Christian with a taste and talent for Hip Hop music, I say GO FOR IT. Even if you have to keep a day job like many priests do.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 7:17 AM  


It's sooo easy to imagine some earnest young Orthodox singer coming out with utter nonsense that will knock the Kum-bah-yameter offscale...Of course, it must have guitars, perhaps a (gasp) tambourine??? Maybe some nut will use a simandron for the rhythm section? This is undoubtably trying to attract kids, whose musical "taste" is what got us where pop is today. As Artie Shaw said around sixty years ago, the American public will pay to hear a windshield wiper go back and forth. I think the last time someone tried to be up-beat with Orthodox texts and musical settings, we got the wacked-out John Tavener doing Star-Trek liturgical music. Before he went New-Age. Remember Lewis: All that is not eternal is eternally out of date. When was the last century that seemed to rely on pop songs to "evangelize"? What's wrong with us? This is something like, I fear, the idea of an "Orthodox" school, usually invented by some well-meaning person who hasn't seen 3 Easter services. You don't just invent some things, they happen. The mistakes are alot more common than the successes. Maybe try to learn the (good) liturgical music that's available and suppress the bad stuff, which is always more in volume. Let that flavor music *somehow* in an unplanned, surprising way. -- Bob Koch

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:31 PM  


Well I'm not talking about something neccesarily choreographed...but more something along the lines of when I pick up my guitar and beat out a few chords and might even add a few lame lyrics that speak to my experience as an Orthodox Christian. Only....perhaps people far more talented than me doing so. If I may use that oft abused post-modern term: something rather organic.

I'm utterly against the notion that Orthodox artists must ONLY paint (ahem...sorry...write) Icons and that Orthodox Musicians must ONLY perform liturgical chant. Surely no one is saying this, right?

Nor am I talking about bringing a drum set into the Nave.

And as I said...I don't here Eikona thumping in our teens' cars at Church. If you are Orthodox and you like "thumping" and you have the talent...why not express your hopefully more positive values in some hardcore thumping music...silly though I may think it to be.

In the meantime...I'll be barking the Nicene Creed with the Lost Dogs.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 9:10 AM  


My contribution to this is a saved instant message dialogue i had with Chance. Chance is Agios TTavlos and I am Phosandzoe. I know cute names huh. It's grammatically low brow, so be prepared.

Agios TTavlos: maybe...i REALLY DO try not to be too much a pessimist. I really want to believe that it's more that just barely possible...but I don't see the evidence of it. There are a ton of bands that were good...even great at what they did, weren't preachy, signed to a Christian label, and never went anywhere, unless they bailed on Christianity....
phosandzoe: i'm sorry but what are you looking for here?
phosandzoe: christians to get big in the music scene???
phosandzoe: to be successful???
phosandzoe: i know i'm not looking for that
phosandzoe: that's the last thing i want is world domination through OCCM
Agios TTavlos: i could care less about how "big" or successful they are. But what's the avenue for what James is calling for? What DOES it look like? I can list a thousand ways NOT to do it...that's easy. But there's a lot of people saying "this would be awesome" but with no idea what IT is.....
Agios TTavlos: I would love to help out in the cause, I'd record them for cheep if I could...but then what?
phosandzoe: there is no place for that, to me, that is meaningful in an organized way
phosandzoe: and it's cheap
phosandzoe: unless you'd record them for a bird's cheep
Agios TTavlos: no place for what?
phosandzoe: okay, don't take this too dogamatically, but i'm going to speak in extremes that i don't really mean, but they communicate what i want to say...hyperbole right
Agios TTavlos: hit me
phosandzoe: i don't want to see some O label come up
Agios TTavlos: ok
phosandzoe: i don't want to see kids with a huge collection of O cds
phosandzoe: i don't want my kids burying their heads in "O music"
phosandzoe: i want my kids to enjoy ALL music
phosandzoe: i want them to grasp for meaning and find it in all kinds of places
phosandzoe: i don't want to be some void of culture excuse for a copy of culture pile of dung
Agios TTavlos: YES!!!! finally someone w/ the balls to say THIS IS WHAT I WANT!
Agios TTavlos: now we're talking
phosandzoe: i rarely got any good experience out of the christian scene, and had great experience with the secular scene...i felt MORE thirst for Christianity and it's tenets to be imbued in me when i was at a secular show than at ANY time at a Christian show.
phosandzoe: i knew at a secular show that i was different, and i knew it was good
phosandzoe: at a Christian show, i wanted to rebel against all the "we're the good bad guys"
phosandzoe: or the bad good guys
phosandzoe: whatever
phosandzoe: i hated that
phosandzoe: we're supposed to be good, quit pretending like you're some new kind of christian toughness
phosandzoe: anyways i'm way off track now
Agios TTavlos: no...you're right on track...these are the kinds of things I was trying to lead the discussion into, without coming off like a polarized jerk.
Agios TTavlos: I want people to say "this is what I want". I'm a music lover in a big way, and i want to see quality music out there. I want to see uplifting music in whatever form. And if enough other people have a vision for it, something "organic" WILL come of it.....
Agios TTavlos: but the problem is no one knows what they want...they just know what they DON'T want. It's like when you've got 20 people trying to figure out where to go for dinner. Everyone says what they don't want, but no one's making suggestions of what they WANT to eat. So you just keep standing around looking like lame asses in a parking lot with yer hands in yer pockets. It's likely that if someone would just say something good, everyone would rally and eat rather than stand and starve.
phosandzoe: but nobody wants to suggest something with conviction that might offend another's taste

By Blogger Aaron, at 12:18 PM  


Interesting Aaron...niceto know I inspire conversation elsewhere...BTW, what service are you guys using and if it is Messenger friendly how is it I've never exchanged ID's with you?

My response: I think you guys are letting your negative experiences in CCM color you too much. And please...(you've hit a hot button) can we quit with the "secular music" is cooler crap???? Good night...if a Christian dressed up and did some of the stupid stuff that Marilyn Manson did we'd be SOOOOO much quicker to call it stupid...even though they'd both be stupid. I've been to some great secular concerts...even got hi from second hand pot smoke at a U2 concert (secular?), but I'm not about to offer some grander coolness to secular music...because I'm unconvinced there is anything grander to it. Sure they have a much larger pool of talent to select from, but so what. You can use all sort os pretty and poetic metaphores to describe the glories of fecal matter. I don't read very many atheists blogs, mainly because I am more interested in the experiences of people who share some semblance of my faith. Same with music.

Please, I'm not talking about insulating ourselves from the world...I just think we should support Orthodox artists who chose to express their faith in art - whatever form it might take. If you had the choice between quality music by an agnostic and quality music by an Orthodox Christian...which would you prefer your kid listen to REGULARLY? Heck, I might give an occassional listen to an atheist's band (or hindu or muslim...whatever) but frankly I'm not going to make it a regular thing.

Fact is, music is a pulpit - even secular music. A powerful pulpit too...it is easy for us who are on the other side of teen and pre-teen years to dismiss the influence of rock or rap stars...but lets face it, there is a helluva lot of intellectual and spiritual crap you have to wade through to find gold even in "good quality secular" music.

So by no means do I want my kids to enjoy "ALL" music, rather I want them to be able to discern - not just quality in terms of talent, but quality in terms of message. I want them to be able to say: "That's spiritual crap."

AND, why not have the option to put on a CD of an Orthodox group who love music and play together...let's not talk like we are designing something new here though...it is already happening/happened: we have Contemporary Orthodox Music, and if they can match the quality of Terry Taylor et al...well I am ALLLLL FOR IT!

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 1:21 PM  


First James...i think we're definitely talking past each other here, but I'll play along.

James, I came up in the Christian music scene at the wane of the LSU's, Undercover's, Altar Boys (All local bands as you know) and rise of the whole Tooth and Nail scene. The newer, "cooler", more indie label and promoter of the 90's. And while they did produce one or two gems...VERY little of it ever felt authentic to me. And authentic doesn't mean "try really hard to write a great song" as i think some of these artists think it does. I'm not touting a "Christian music isn't cool" cause i don't have to. I don't want Christian music to be cool, i want it to be authentic. And you know what...the Catholics have their CCM and then they have their authentic musicians whose faith bleeds through all over the place. U2, absolutely! The Innocence Mission...Bill Malonee (former evangelical fighting CCM)...Bach (Lutheran but he wrote the Mass in B Minor)...The list could go on and on...you probably know more great Catholic musicians than i do. I'm sorry, but i don't buy that my kids need a scene to fit into...they need a scene to stick out of! That whole "last true rebellion" thing is true James. It felt good to be in the punk scene, and still really be rebelling. Yeah, i probably took it a little too far, beating up a couple of skin heads, but there i felt like i could take a stand for something. And for all the crap that I listened to, i somehow arrived at a place where i was able to discern music at 16 and 17 that today I still find to be of great substance.

By Blogger Aaron, at 2:01 PM  


But James...you are making my ver point for me. You write "we have Contemporary Orthodox Music, and if they can match the quality of Terry Taylor et al...well I am ALLLLL FOR IT!" But one (and only one) of the points I'm making is that it doesn't. Most of it in fact is quite awful, in terms of artistic quality, lyric writing, song structure, production value etc.

For that matter, most of "Christian" music is the same. There are VERY few Christian artists of any artistic merit. I'm not saying they're non existent, but even you have repeatedly only brought up only the Lost Dogs (whom I think are brilliant too). And most of the time it's because the music they write is so derivitive of what the world is doing, because that's what will sell, that's what Christian labels are willing to "take a chance on".

And so we return to my question from the beginning. What is it we want? I can tell you what I want. I want more bands whose faith is what they do and why they do it, but in the same way that my faith, however feebly, is what I do here at a battery company, and why I do it. I want them to focus on being the best at their craft, and to actually treat it like art.

But I want those of us (including myself) who whine about the lack of it to put our money where our mouths are, and that means more than buying a CD here or there. Artists need to make a living, and someone needs to pay the cost of recording, mastering, duplicating, distributing, advertising etc etc. Who do you want that to be? Secular labels? Good luck. The gems will occasionally find a way there, but VERY rarely. We no longer have a cultural climate that will purchase the Simple Minds, The Alarm, Lone Justice, U2, Vigilantes of Love...the list was much longer when we were younger.

Sadly, I believe those days are past for the most part. I think there were a LOT more parents who were willing to raise their kids to care about what they digested. So I applaud you for caring. But the traditional models of the music business won't work for us anymore. So our choices are twofold. Join the Christian ghetto, or find a new model. It seems we're all in agreement the ghetto's no good. So what's the alternative? What are you willing to do, even if all you're willing to/can do is discuss what needs to be changed. BUt my question still stands...what does the face of the future of "Orthodox" music look like?


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:28 AM  


I'm all for authenticity.

But as my kids get older and are in public school...I do (rightfully so I think) worry about the influence of the crap out there.

There is precedence in both the Scriptures and the Fathers for guarding one's heart and mind, right? Especially kids...yeah I know...if I do my job right I needn't worry - but newsflash: I ain't gonna do my job perfectly.

I'm not excatly sure where our arguments is here...I don't think I'm advocating an inorganic corporate movement here...rather support for soon to come and existing Orthodox artists.


I've not listened to much of the existing stuff out there. But we certainly have a much smaller pool in the Orthodox world. Give it time...and by the same token I DO give the quality of the musician personally a little more sway with regard to their art. In other words, even the best darn musician out there still won't garner much support from me if he preaches fecal matter in his music.

Quality is important...but quality is in more than just how quickly he can move from a G to a B on his guit-fiddle.

I'm not sure I even remember what I originally wrote.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 9:38 AM  


only the Lost Dogs...

Well, they continue to put out some great stuff. And how about those within the Lost Dogs: 77's and Mike Roe. The Choir? (Whose music I've ALWAYS enjoyed...and as a relatively new parent I invite you to relisten to "Wide Eyed Wonder")

I don't claim to be able to identify real talent - musically or poetically - heck I'm the guy that can listen to some cheesy country song and be moved to tears to the point of having to pull the car over. But, I'm okay with that...such things are good and wholesome...worthy in my mind - even if I can play the song on my guitar too (thus demostrating the lack of talent)

I'm a simpleton, I know. But, I'm okay with that...in fact, almost proud of it - God help me.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 9:51 AM  


Yeah..I'm not sure we really disagree anywhere. I just get passionate about this topic in general, because I REALLY DO want to see people making good and beautiful music. I'm sure some out there are. In fact I know some out there are.

And as I sit here thinking this all through again, perhaps I've unknowing touched on the answer. Perhaps if I do my part to create a world that appreciates beauty, who relates to joy rather than anger and sex, who knows peace rather than loneliness, perhaps then that same world will appreciate GOOD music again, and then the corporate machine will sell it to them.

But that means I must have those things in my own heart, and cultivate them in my own life. Hmmm....it always seems to come back to that.

And it's funny you mention the Choir, I was just playing them yesterday while my daughter danced with (got held by) me.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:44 AM  


I can only think of one example of *real* pop music that was used in Orthodox history, and that's by Arius. He supposedly got the stevodores of Alexandria to chant his heretical ideas as the toted that barge and lifted that bale...
For music that makes me glad to be listening, I suggest Nat King Cole or Sinatra. Not because it's dogmatic, or "shares my faith", but because there is some beauty to it. Artie Shaw again, a few years ago was reflecting on Rock. He couldn't relate to it because it is purposely ugly and angry. "Who says music has to be ugly? Life is ugly." Music might just be better for you if it's beautiful. That is a rare thing in the last fifty or so years.
-- Bob Koch

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:31 AM  


Bob...surely you are not going to start shouting things like "Is ecumenist innovation! Was it pop music in 4th century? Yes, but only by heretic."

You'd appreciate the Lost Dogs, Daniel Amos et al Bob, they have a talent for wit and cynicism from time to time. "Ugly" only when it fits the theme...often beautiful and thought-provoking. (in my humble opinion, THEIR way is better than Sinatra's way...but then again I've kinda been humming a lot of Neil Diamond lately.)

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 1:11 PM  


I guess in the end I wonder exactly what the point of "Orthodox music" is. Or to the deeper question, what is the purpose of music in our lives? What do we want music to do? If I look at traditional Serbian folk music, very little of it is directed towards matters of faith. Like most music the world over it deals with issues of love, loss, suffering, joy; all of the things that make up this fallen life. Do I need to concern myself with whether a Serbian folk song that tells of a girl's dispair that her parents will not give her in marriage to the poor shepherd she loves adheres to Orthodox Christian theology or praxis? By the same token can I enjoy "Yesterday" and "My life" by the Beatles even though they were pot-smoking Hippie atheists? Now that I think about it, I think the thing that annoys me most about CCM is that it doesn't know how to sing about anything but Jesus. Now of course there is nothing wrong with having songs about Our Lord, but there are other things in our life aside from Jesus. So it gets back to the question of what purpose music serves in our lives. Why do you listen to music? I listen to music to hear things said with tune and poetry that I could not otherwise express to myself. I listen to music to learn something about man and the world, and I listen to music simply because God created us to enjoy things that are beautiful (though the devil has convinced many of us that ugly is beautiful). Very few of the reasons I listen to music call for a specifically Orthodox type of music (aside of course from worship).
Naturally the kids are giong to want to listen to whatever is popular, and short of keeping them in isolation it is almost impossible to keep what their peer group is listening to.

By Blogger Radoje S., at 5:07 PM  


Oh, I LIKE popular music...I was just born about 30 years too late for it to have been originally mine! I marvel that my parent's generation grew up with music you could actually whistle. Not dominated by mere noise.
My sister sings in the Seattle Choral Company. Besides classical stuff (and, oddly, Orthodox liturgical music sung phonetically), they often do movie backgrounds and trailers for things like King Kong and other recent flicks. When they did one thing for the Hollywood folks a couple of years back, the music they were singing suddenly made the choir laugh. It was classically-styled music, but with a rock beat added. The director from the movie makers apologized; yes it was very strrange and out of place, he said. But without the idiotic thumpa-thumpa-thumpa, it wouldn't sell. Sigh. The people who sell sounds know the public needs their music to sound like an over-amplified sports car driving by with it's sound cranked up.
Chance mentioned that mosty kids would play what attracts them. A singer from the fifties, Jo Stafford, was asked why her style of music fell out of favor. She suggested that the Baby Boomers were the first generation of 12-13 year olds to emerge as a big group and have money in their pockets. In an earlier era, mostly adults bought music. The musical taste of the kids drove the industry, and the rest is history. The musical preferences of Middle School agers has ruled since then, and it has never, never grown up. To me this explains a huge amount. I can't think of very much mature content, like the Christian faith, that can be very successfully transmitted given the limitations of the listeners. -- Bob K.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:22 PM  


I think the thing that annoys me most about CCM is that it doesn't know how to sing about anything but Jesus.

Remind me to play some songs for you when you return Rade.

I kinda seen music like movies - sure I will watch/listen to works made by non-christians...but I would also have a special interest in works created my christians. There are some terrific movies out there...beautiful works...not made by a Christian.

But, there is also ALOT of fecal matter out there. I would not watch a film that despite its excellent acting or its wonderful writing is still essentially a porno. Pornos are not only bad movies because they have neither good acting or good plots.

If Orthodoxy changes us in a unique way...if it inspires a unique outlook on life (particularly american life), I should like to see that blossom into music, movies, art of all forms. Unless of course we think that we Orthodox have nothing better, nothing grander, nothing more beautiful to say than Korn, the Beatles, or Sinatra.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 8:24 AM  


Bob...let me be as specific as I can.

If I like to make pottery...let's say decorative plates. Would it be wrong to make such plates with scenes from the lives of the Saints? Or perhaps a series of plates that represent each of the beatitudes?

Musical tastes are musical tastes. I hate rap, and the notion of a bunch of greek monks rapping makes my skin crawl...but you know...I'm not sure I'd call it "wrong"...just not something I'd digest very well. (As a side, you can keep Sinatra and Nat King Cole, too)

I have, however, always been more concerned with the lyrical content of songs. It always used to frustrate me when peers of mine who listened to some of the most atrocious (lyrically) music and would just shrug off the lyrics because they knew realized that they did not agree with the voice from the pulpit either, but just LOVED the music.

Using the movie analogy - it can be beautifully filmed, wonderfully directed and written. The acting can be fabulous...but if it is about two persecuted gay cowboys and reeks of a radical political agenda...sorry...not gonna buy.

I'd rather watch a mediocre cheesy film that represented positive values (like "Cheaper by the Dozen") than some pretentious well made film that glorifies assisted suicide.

To all of us: our bitching and moaning about the quality of Christian art is abit like armchair quarterbacking isn't it?

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 8:34 AM  



Your point about what music is for is well taken but only to a point. Even the music you mentioned was intended for pleasure, or at a minimum self-gratification, which keep in mind I'm not at all saying is bad. But we all can agree that for the most part, even the folk music you mentioned wasn't intended to lift the spirits to the Gates of Heaven.

But I don't think anyone is necessarily arguing for it to do so. But here's my hope for my kids, and I think this is the jist of what James is getting at.

There's a whole lot of music that I listen to that is just about life as it is experienced in the world, about human experience. Again this is not in itself bad or good. Most of what I listen to is on the "cleaner" side of that experience, meaning they aren't singing about raping, pilliging, killing themselves etc. You'll have the occasional song about someone being pissed at someone, or someone wanting to get w/ someone else, but I guess that's human experience too, and I just have to make an adult decision not to be that way.

But my hopes for my children are higher. Would I be content and even happy if they grew up only as messed up as me and listening to similar lyrics/music as me? Well, I suppose they could be worse. But I HOPE for more from them. I HOPE my children will WANT to glorify God in all they do, and not just merely "not piss him off." I hope they will WANT to meditate on him in all things, and that they would choose music that aids them in this.

And I hope there will be something there for them if those hopes become reality.

I know...I may have too high of hopes for my kids, but I hope it nonetheless. But then I may have too high of hopes to even hope for my own salvation...but I hope it nonetheless.

Again, if my kids grow up to listen to Radiohead or Sigur Ros, or Johnny Cash or Soundgarden or anything else I listen to (or the equivalent to them at that time), I'll at least be glad my kids have decent taste. And if they grow up to like that music and love God the way I do, I will rejoice and thank God he gave me the wisdom to not ruin them by my example.

But believe me, there are much higher aspirations in the kingdom of God than to be like me. And if my kids should excel me, as is my hope, even if unlikely, I also hope they will be able to choose GOOD music to go along with their GOOD lyrics.

(I told you in the beginning I had too much to say about this topic.)


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:05 AM  


Jamesofthe NW -- Pottery. Great idea. I'll buy it. No Precious Moments stuff, I'm sure. Part of this discussion reminds me of Malcolm Muggeridge talking about the arts 40 or so years ago. He was a great mind...Several times he said one of the most ghastly things he ever saw was Godspell. He happenned to sit next to the late great Michael Ramsey, then Archbishop of Canterbury, at a performance. At the end, the Abp. leapt up and exclaimed, with the song, "Long live God!". Muggeridge was the editor of Punch, the old British satire magazine. He said later that when you have the Archbishop of Canterbury shouting "Long live God!" in a theater it makes it nearly impossible to invent satire on the man; everything he already does is so crazy. How could he invent anything as absurd as the reality? He likened alot of artistic attempts by Christians to present the Gospel as a gladiator in the first century who converts, then thinks he can be a gladiator for Jesus. -- Bob K.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:19 AM  


Am I, or am I not a virologist for Jesus? Or perhaps I am simply a virologist who happens to try and "be for Jesus" Is there a difference? Is my commitment to Christ somehow reflected in my work?

I dunno...I suppose I can imagine ways in which it should, but alas the creativity of my job is rather set and my witnessing and giving tracts to HIV particles have yielded no fruit.

But if I were a professional musician converted to Orthodox Christianity...must I change careers? And I might go to all efforts avoiding the label of "orthdoox musician", in the end I would indeed be one as surely as James Ferrenberg is an Orthodox virologist. One would hope that the creative aspects of musicianship would perhaps make this fact more evident.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 10:40 AM  


I can't name them, but there's supposed to be two Orthodox churches in Russia that survived all the hell of the Stalin era because Pavlov was a member of the choir. He wasn't known for announcing himself as the Orthodox Christian Neurologist, but happenned to be a believer. In a very different field, Bing Crosby was known to be a serious Catholic and (ask a Gonzaga student) supported many good church institutions for decades, with little fanfare. -- Bob K.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:43 AM  


Ah yes, and C.S. Lewis was known to be a serious Anglican. GK Chesterton was known to be a serious Catholic.

They were also writers...but were they CHRISTIAN writers?

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 1:54 PM  


Yes, Christian...Neville Coghill is mentioned by Lewis in his autobiography as a great scholar *and* a Christian. I don't know if he wrote anything with that as a hood ornament, though. --Bob K.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:25 PM  


In this whole conversation over "Orthodox" non-liturgical music, nobody has brought up any actual Orthodox recording artists. Visit SaintRomanosRecords.com and listen to what's out there. We have concrete examples of what's being done that can be discussed. Some are better than others, but St. Romanos Records carries most of what's out there in the US these days.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:27 PM  


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