Saturday, November 21, 2009

What Music Feeds Your Soul?

Great to hear from some of you. Thanks for saying hello. I dig it!

My last month since rushing to the emergency room has been a bit interesting to say the least. To be blunt, I almost died. And this, of course, has affected my thought life considerably.

I’m not 100% better. I still have some exhaustion that is worse than usual since I still don’t have full use of my lungs. My biggest issue is the shortness of breath that creates a strange sense of restless anxiety. The Apostle Paul urges us to take every thought captive. Well, I’ve been working to take every breath captive. Perhaps you’ve seen me taking slow, deliberate breaths—‘cleansing’ breaths. I take off my glasses, rub my face and stretch my neck to the left and right rolling it around gently. This slower pace keeps me mindful of the fragility of life, of how serious it was. Shortness of breath. Shortness of life. The strange gift of sickness. Breathing never felt so good—especially breathing outside. A few full breaths of Autumn air are the best of cleansing breaths.

Here is one alarming experience post ER: I’ve found it hard to enjoy much of my favorite music. In the past four or five years my musical interests have moved further into the obscure. It is obscure to most of my faith community anyways, an emphasis on sounds over lyrics, musical explorations rather than musical statements, music as experience first and communication second. I’ve found myself stuck in the progress of my own side project. It's the place where I experiment with all that I can’t use in corporate worship music. Developing a taste for this has caused me to lose my taste for other things. It is difficult to carry on a conversation with several different voices. If you are interested in one conversation, no doubt you will need to turn away from other conversations. And right now, I’m finding that the conversation that I’ve given my attention to is not “doing it” for me.

I am the last person to make heavy handed secular/sacred distinctions. I don’t choose not to listen to a particular kind of music because it is “worldly.” I do not want to live out an oversimplified, naive or a fearful posture toward society. I write in these blogs to describe a redemptive enthusiasm for the world. This is a fundamental reason why I’ve been interested in paying attention to bands like Animal Collective, Broken Social Scene, Sunset Rubdown etc. I want to find the good, even the beautiful in these parts of our world, to discover an artistic integrity somewhere in the murky waters of popular culture.

Yet, right now, for this season at least, I’m in search of music that explicitly and gladly names Jesus. Other than a bit of Jazz, I’m turning to worship music. I dug my old 100-disc binder of CDs out of the closet this morning. I haven’t listened to or look at these CDs in years. What does my soul good: Fernando Ortega and John Michael Talbot. Both have voices that are sincere, fragile but still full and strong. Integrity. I trust them. Two of my favorite worship CDs are John Michael Talbot’s “Come Worship the Lord” Volumes one and two. They are live recordings of him leading the Brothers and Sisters of Charity at Little Portion Hermitage in Eureka Springs Arkansas. A nylon string guitar, an upright bass, some tambourines, a synth playing trumpet-like leads and a congregation of voices, that is all that is needed to create a holy, spirit-filled raucous.

Why has it been so long since I’ve found other CDs like this? It is no doubt a result of my own musical direction and interests, but I do believe that there is a vacuum of good Christian music available. I actually believe part of my movement toward the obscurity of independent music is a result of the disappearance of Christian music that has any integrity.

I’ve been hacking away at these questions and have almost a fully completed essay on this topic, but I don’t think it’s best to dump the whole thing here on the blog all at once. So, I’ll be posting a portion of it at a time. I still want to work out a few things and I invite any of you readers to offer your own thoughts on this. What do you listen to? What feeds your soul and encourages you?


john michael talbot said...

thanks for the mention. i do not find much christian music that is artistically or spiritual deep or powerful either. but that is just me. there are many who seem to like it.

Rachel said...

funnily enough, your 2 cds as joshua banner are the failsafe of christian music that me and my husband listen to. we don't trust many others! i'm always holding out a hope you'll make another one :)

Joshua Banner said...

wow. I promise this blog was not intended to bait the hook for complements, but thanks! Just this morning I was dreaming up a way to make another worship record. We'll see.

Christopher Clark said...

What has been most inspiring for me lately it music that causes movement or a communal response. When an artist does something so powerful it causes people to respond. Here is one strange example but illustrates what I am talking about: Beyonce's "Put a Ring on It" Such a simple call out, that sent a huge wave across Pop Culture. Did it change people? I don't know....but man did it make people dance and say amen. Love it!

I believe this happens when artists are true to what they believe and confident in there gifting, but also humble in the delivery.

OKC Herbivore said...

yeah i place "Know it's You" and "meaningless" as go to faith songs, so be encouraged there, but i also get a strong ache from time to time to hear something that stands well in the streams of music out there, that is naming Jesus explicitly, or at least is by folks who do (it could be instrumental).

i find there is little that does that now, either in the main stream of ccm or otherwise main stream.

ordinary neighbors needs to be unleashed, for one.

but man i am with you, it seems like so many thoughtful artists are feeling agnostic or fed up with the bs of a lot of culture, and it would be nice to see some responses that don't continue to alienate the thoughtful among the faithful.

Anonymous said...

What feeds my soul? Any kind of music that is honest, that strays, if even slightly, from the formulas that songwriters can so easily subscribe to...but what really feeds my soul? This is a great question. Singing hymns a cappella with my family at Christmas time, U2s "Where the Streets Have No Name" still takes me to that hopeful yearning for breakthrough, for true and final redemption. A lot of it depends on how hungry I am! I've fed off of country music, jazz, classical, pop, modern rock, dance/trance.... if the music is true art there is almost always something to feed me. The question for me is am I getting an appetizer or a 5 course sit down satisfaction. I think seeing Julie and Buddy Miller live in Chicago was one of those feasts!