Wooden Heart by Listener

This is one of the most poignant videos I’ve ever seen.  Days after I first watched it…and I’m still mulling over its intricacies.  The lyrics pack such powerful punches, it’s staggering really…and then to marry that to such raw visuals…I feel like I’ve been hugged and torn open all at the same time.  I find myself wanting to stop after each small phrase and contemplate the deepness of intent and the elegance of the metaphor.

It’s very rare that a music video leaves me stirred up AND speechless, and yet this one does…with no apologies, no regrets.  It’s as if I was lovingly bludgeoned by its beauty. The poetry is so authentically and passionately delivered that I ache with empathy, and yet want to weep openly for my own fragile condition.

I hope you watch it.  I hope you engage with it.  And I hope it completely and utterly ruins you…forever.

Theology & The Arts

I ran across this video online, and found Jeremy Begbie’s explanation of how he relates his creativity with his faith as simply elegant.  He takes a somewhat heady philosophy, and shows in practical terms how his art form, music, unlocks the truths of the Gospel in breathtaking ways.

I took the liberty of including notes below, in case you wanted to share them with your worship team or creative group.  He offers up a most interesting case for creative expression being inextricably linked to faith, transformation and innovation.  

For me, it served as a beautiful reminder of what it means to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world–that who we are and what we believe is communicated through what we do…and that it is meant to affect transformation in the lives and hearts of people around us.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


How does an artist who comes to faith in God relate the two worlds of:
  •  Thinking as a musician
  •  Thinking as a theologian
Two ways to view creativity in relationship to your faith:
1.  Theology for the arts – you start with a Christian world view, or doctrine or biblical text…and you apply it to the art form.  So you try to understand the art form in light of the theological world view.

2.  Theology through the arts – you start with the art form (music, art, dance, etc.)…and you ask what the art form can bring to theology.  How can the powers of creative expression help us to unlock the great truths of the Gospel?

Lessons that can be learned from considering theology through the arts:
  • The most wonderful things can come out of the most unpromising/unlikely material.  The arts show us over and over again the possibilities of transformation.  They show us how things could be.
  • Even the worst can be woven into God’s purposes.  God can take your worst mistakes and make them into His beautifully unique bits in life (ie. His “passing notes”).
  • Life is full of possibilities.  Many of us think that the only two options in our lives are Order & Dis-Order.  We’ve come to associate Order with good, and Dis-Order with evil. Order is fruitful, while Dis-Order is destructive.  But there is a third option to consider:  Non-Order or The Jazz Factor – something that is unpredictable and irregular, but is not destructive.  The real skill comes from learning the inter-play between Order and Non-Order.
    All art represents an inter-play between the given and the unpredictable.  
    One form of the given is tradition.  As a creative you are apprenticed to a tradition –  the tradition of classical music, or modern dance, or Shakespearean English, Impressionistic painting.  That is the only way you will innovate in the future. Most great innovators rely intensively on their tradition…and from within it, they begin to play around with its structure…creating a play on the traditional that  becomes something unique in its own right.  Some people try to innovate far too soon, but involves a great deal of practice and being inculcated into a tradition.  
  • You’re always innovating for a particular circumstance – innovation involves interpreting the art while being mindful of the context–innovating for the occasion.  Improvisation is the exploration of occasion.  This time, this place, these people, on this occasion. A great doctrinal example of this type of innovation in the moment is the work of the Holy Spirit…he moves on this heart, in this place, or in this congregation to affect this change…

WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Do you have trouble relating your faith to your creativity?
What role do you think your art plays in society?
Have you considered which themes of the Gospel are represented in your art?
Does Mr. Begbie’s perspectives on faith and art influence the way you see your art? 

Restoring Creative Innocence

Some people may watch the video below and quickly judge the parents for exploiting their daughter’s talents.  Others may be incensed because their child could do comparable work.  Still others may be drawn in by the pure innocence of the young girl’s desire to create, experiment, and discover.  I, personally, find the video somewhat challenging to watch because I realize that in contrast my creativity has lost much of its child-like wonder.

My confession is that I have taken myself too seriously.  I have sullied the simplicity of my creative nature with complicated schemes for what I should do with my creation after I have created it.  I have weighed my innovation down with convoluted notions and the pressure of public opinion.  I have dishonored the purity of the process by focusing my attention and (if I’m completely honest) my a affections on the potential of the end product.  I have resigned myself to living within comfortable boundaries, and have limited my vision with regulatory restrictions.  I have censored my inquisitive courage, and have instead numbed out to the drone of the familiar.  I have busied myself with the dullness of preconceived notions, paying little regard to the awaiting adventure of the unknown.  I forget the visceral reactions to awe…and wonder…and delight.  In contrast to Aelita Andre, I have become bored, anemic and frail.

So whether this video frustrates you (because your child is just as good as she), or whether it infuriates you (because you think her parents opportunistic), or whether you think it brilliant in some aspect or another…may it cause you to take a moment of pause to consider your own creativity…and to hunger for a return to child-like wonderment.

…for some odd reason, I have a sudden urge to paint in a bright pink tutu.

Does Context Define Beauty?

Context in creativity is an interesting concept.  If you were to see a million dollar painting hanging in a coffee shop, would it catch your attention?  If you heard a multi-platinum band playing in a local dive, would you recognize the genius in their music?  If you saw a legendary dancer dressed in street clothes performing at a bus stop, would you be awed by life-long sacrifice and investment in their craft?  If a distinguished artist of any kind were to perform outside of their traditional context, would we be lured and captivated by their greatness?

I also love entertaining the flip side of that coin.  If no one is listening to your music or buying your art or attending your creative functions…are you less of an artist?  Are your skills called into question?  Does popular opinion and response truly determine the quality of the art?

Recently this quote from Seth Godin caught my attention:

‎”Popular is almost never a measure of impact, or genius, or art. Popular rarely correlates with guts, hard work or a willingness to lead (and be willing to be wrong along the way).”

…and yet, as artists, popularity tends to be what we crave.  Tweets about our latest blog entry.  ‘Likes’ on Facebook.  Fans on MySpace.  People attending our concerts or gallery openings or poetry readings or theatrical performances.  All they while, we’re holding up the giant question mark:  Do you like it?  Is it any good?  Is this beautiful?

I ran across a stunning article in the Washington Post about renowned violinist Joshua Bell playing in the DC subway station.  It’s a hefty article in length, but also in impact (TOTALLY worth the read).  It uncovers the more unlovely aspects of America’s painful relationship with artistic expression, and serves as a stinging indictment of our lack of value for the arts…but it also speaks loudly to this idea of how we artists tend to rate our value based upon the response of the audience.

In the article, Bell, a preeminent violinist who played on a multi-million dollar violin typically would pack out entire concert halls, with most mediocre seats going for $100 or more.  But on this day in January, the only things that changed were that he dressed in street clothes and played in the DC subway.

The article notes that before he began, Bell hadn’t known what to expect. What he does know is that, for some reason, he was nervous.

“It wasn’t exactly stage fright, but there were butterflies,” he says. “I was stressing a little.”

Bell has played, literally, before crowned heads of Europe. Why the anxiety at the Washington Metro?

“When you play for ticket-holders,” Bell explains, “you are already validated. I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I’m already accepted. Here, there was this thought:What if they don’t like me? What if they resent my presence . . .”

It strikes me as rather odd that a hugely successful musician with world-wide acceptance and validation would find himself in a bit of a fragile place, simply because of the change of context.  He once again felt the pressure to win the affections of his audience.

So if you are a creative, and the masses do not recognize your name or your style of art…or if your music isn’t packing out clubs with clamoring fans…don’t lose heart. Popularity does NOT determine the quality or value of your work!  Sales figures do not validate the brilliance of your art form.  Many of the legendary Masters of art went to their graves, penniless and unappreciated…only to fall into popular demand after their death.  So sad, but a strong reminder that we cannot judge our creative work by the response from the crowds.  Our validation MUST come from a different place…a more consistent place…a less fickle place.

Stop chasing the illusive affections of a numbed out crowd. It’s only when we learn to create for an audience of One and find our deepest satisfaction in obscurity that our creativity will be whole and healthy and pure.

Please take the time to read the original article by clicking the link below.  It’s so fascinating on so many levels.  Enjoy!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html

 

B Flat 2.0: A Collaborative Project

I’m so inspired by Darren Solomon’s innovative idea to orchestrate existing YouTube videos into a collective work of beauty.  What a fantastic idea.  I find it simply brilliant! (Giving the viewer control over the mix and start time for each piece simply adds to the awe factor.)

The whole thing makes me think: Isn’t this what creative community is supposed to look like?  Made up of varied, quirky and oddly-matched parts, but harmonious when joined together in focus and mission.  Simple in it’s individuality…and breathtaking in it’s complexity.  What a powerful visual of how God intends for us to be woven together into a song that is unique and unlike any other.

…and oh, by the way…if you made plans for the rest of the day, cancel them.  This is just too much fun…ENJOY!

inbflat

Bb 2.0 is a collaborative music and spoken word project conceived by Darren Solomon from Science for Girls, and developed with contributions from YouTube users.

The videos can be played simultaneously — the soundtracks will work together, and the mix can be adjusted with the individual volume sliders.

Learn more in the FAQ.

You may also enjoy marker/music, another music, video and spoken word project, produced in collaboration with NSU in South Dakota.

http://www.inbflat.net/

Bringing Music and Art Together

I was delighted to watch these 2 videos that fused Derek Webb’s hauntingly ambient music together with edgyy visual representation from two exceptionally talented artists.  It just simply made my heart happy.

The first is a behind-the-scenes look at Scott Erickson‘s creative process in the making of the “Feedback” paintings:
YouTube Preview Image

The second is a speed video of Jeremy Cowart‘s creation of “A Portrait of Christ”:

Quite honestly, we here at Sacred Muse would love to see more and MORE of this kind of creative collaboration happening within the Body of Christ.

So what about you?  Have you got any cool collaboration ideas runnin’ around in your brain?  Let us know…maybe we can help! (…and if we can’t, maybe we can connect you with the people who can!)

The Righteous Re-Work

It’s so inspiring to find artists who are willing to look at something iconically familiar and have the courage to ask, “How can we give that a righteous re-work?”

These musicians from Croatia embody that moxie…and they do it with bravado and skill. Kudos to you, Sulic & Hauser!  You’ve made me want to look at everything I’m accustomed to in a fresh and innovative way.  Thanks for encouraging the creative process!

Have you taken a new approach on something lately?  If you have, please share it below.  If you’re struggling to answer…well, then I double dog dare you…