music.2

A swift music update for the space between real blogs as I leave for Christmas break! Aw man, has my musical interest taken a few interesting turns.

Passenger, Patient Love.

The thing I love most about Passenger, apart from the raw sweetness of his voice, is the way that he turns songs into very personal stories.  He knows how to get to the real center of things, and he points out problematic societal things while mourning or celebrating the little things.

This song made me cry.  I was sitting on the ground at 2am right before I was supposed to go to England, and at the line, “Though you will not wait for me, I’ll wait for you,” I lost it, because I realized then that that’s exactly what God does for us.  In that moment I felt the weight of my own refusal and the passion of His quiet but persistent grace.  He manifests an unconditional love toward us, and this song transmuted so much of that emotion and barbed wholeness of love that I began to weep.

Bonus: some rappin’, Night Vision Binoculars, Travelling Alone, Holes (profanity!), Let Her Go.

Anais Mitchell, HADESTOWN.

http://grooveshark.com/#!/album/Hadestown/4345264  (They took down the youtube video, sorry!)

Oh my gosh.  Oh my gosh.  I apologize to my friend who tried to introduce me to this folk-opera an entire year ago.  I didn’t listen, but I’m glad I have rediscovered it.

It’s a retelling of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice set in depression-era America, composed by the lovely Anais Mitchell (Eurydice) with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver as a beautiful Orpheus.  Greg Brown and Ani DiFranco are absolutely perfect as Hades and Persephone.  The lyrics are some of the most poetic I’ve ever found, and the jazz is compelling.  You can’t help but see it played out in your mind.

OneRepublic, Counting Stars.

This is just a fun one.  A compelling beat, and a deep south, deep magic sort of vibe.

Bastille.  As usual.

I may or may not have spent a long time typing out a detailed music video proposition for this song, but alas.

Noah Gundersen, Jesus, Jesus.

(profanity warning, my dear ones)

Oh, songs that made me weep profusely? Let’s add this one in, along with pressing theological questions and issues.

This song is incredibly important.  Please listen to it.  It’s someone who’s struggling through the problem of hardship in the world and the existence of God, understandably.

Ed Sheeran

He’s actually talented??  The way he uses the voice looper is miraculous. (bonus: Wayfaring Stranger)

Fall Out Boy, (oops).

You’re all going to make fun of me (you already have).  I don’t care what you think, really (as long as it’s about me?). Confession: there’s something very hilarious about witty wooing in lyric form (I’m looking at you, John Donne).

I’m angry that no one happened to mention that Patrick Stump, their lead singer, has such an incredible vocal range and massive instrumental intuition.  This band makes me want to dance on my bed or join a revolution, sometimes, and other times (in songs like What a Catch, Donnie), it makes me very sad.  I do this, a lot.  With listening to this band, like I do with so many, I look at the lyrics and the music they make and wonder what drives the person behind the songs.

The problem with being an artist is that they make a living out of taking out personal parts of themselves and exposing themselves to the public eye.  Their job is to make art, but we think it’s to be likable for our personal use.  Fame is terrifying to me, and I think I’ve been realizing lately just how dangerous it is to think a person is not a person.  We dehumanize famous people in two ways, by putting them on a pedestal and by overlooking their own personal needs, emotions, and privacy (paparazzi?).

That has little to do with this band’s music, though, so I’ll just go back and say that Fall Out Boy manages to mix rock and pop and punk and soul in a really cool way – and I love Folie a Deux, no matter what anyone says.

Bonus: The After Life of the Party, Sugar We’re Going Down, I Don’t Care, Life on Mars cover, What a Catch Donnie, The Take Over the Break’s Over.

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the symphony

I’ve been trying to write this blog post for weeks.  I jotted down all of my thoughts the night of the event and proceeded to lose and find that sheet of paper at least five times.  It’s currently lost.

One weekend in April this year, I went to the symphony for the very first time.  My friend and I gawked at the Rococo gold-and-white beauty that is Powell Hall, settled down in our fancy dresses, and waited for it to begin.

It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, and I can safely say that it was life-changing.

Although I expected to like it, I didn’t expect the explosion of thought that would accompany enjoyment of the music.  I was completely fixed in my seat, but it was as if that tethering of intense focus only gave my thoughts more room to come alive above the wordless music.  Each different twist and turn of the music pushed my mind in another direction, prodding it, summoning up ideas and realizations.

The symphony itself was incredible.  I sometimes listen to classical music as I study, but this was arresting, much more so than mere background music.  There’s that lovely moment of prescience on the note right before where you wait on that cusp, feeling a contented jolt at a correct prediction and an electric pleasure at being proved surprisingly wrong.

Berlioz was terrifyingly brilliant.  Paganini was a madman. Aren’t all artists mad, though, I thought?  If madness is seeing something that isn’t there, then poets and artists – seeing the past, the future, and people that don’t even exist – are raving.  If madness is seeing what isn’t, then I was hallucinating right there, living in between two realities, planted in one and peering into the other.  These are some of my visions.

Watching so many people move together as a unit evoked an imperfect metaphor of the body of Christ and how beautiful true community can be.  In true community both people’s individual selves are kept intact as well as the group as a whole (Romans 12).  Diversity in the midst of community is one of the most beautiful things the body of Christ exhibits, people from every tongue and tribe and nation coming together for the singular purpose of living life together to praise God.

I thought about the misjudgement people make in comparing writing to music, and the beauty in telling a story without any words at all.  I tried to feel the plot from the notes and the instruments, and I didn’t completely get it.  But I remember feeling uneasy as my hairs rose, prickling, on my arms, or feeling relief at the tolling of bells.

I was also utterly captived by Augustin Hadelich, the violinist.  I saw how beautiful passion makes a person, and how much more there is to beauty than just physical appearance.  As he played, I thought about the intimacy of relationship between a musician and his or her instrument.  He knew every inch of the violin, exactly what to do with it, how to explore and find new wholes and play old melodies in an entirely new way.  He played, and I found myself in a space outside of time, and the rest of the world could keep on moving while I stayed and listened to him.

I imagined him as a boy, learning to clumsily pluck the strings of his new instrument, or maybe a borrowed violin, lightyears different from the borrowed violin that he currently played.  I imagined his first recital, his frustration that, even though his ability was growing, he still couldn’t play the hard pieces.  I imagined the horror that he felt after being trapped in that fire, his flesh rearranged and reconstructed, the terror that must have gripped him at the idea he might never play again.  And I imagined him with white hair, his mended skin wrinkling, playing with as much feeling and skill as he did here.

I saw the dome of the symphony hall tremble, speed up, begin to decay.  I imagined the cushions falling from their seats and the lights blowing out and leaving tiny shards of glass on the dirty carpet, the roof sagging and the paint peeling and the wind blowing leaves across the empty stage.  I imagined the hall in a hundred years, desolate, nature performing for herself and no one else, and I wondered if, even then, it would remember the sound of that symphony, if it would somehow ingrain itself into the structure.  If it would hold it close and bring it back up on lonely days, when the storm outside didn’t quite reach the inside, when the plinked dripping of the rain through the floorboards of the stage renewed itself in Paganini or Berlioz and the ghostly tune swelled within the shell of the hall.

And then a gasp of air, and the hall is glowing golden again, complete and full of life and music and the hushed rustle of hundreds of bodies shifting in their seats, fabric against velvet.

I’m sure there was more than this, and I’m disappointed that I don’t remember the flood of ideas.  I wished that symphonies could be like museums, letting everyone experience what I had; I wondered if everyone would want to.  I thought much of writing, much of inventiveness, much of God, some of others, and little of love.  But the symphony was nearly two months ago, now, and my memory has left me with this and with a feeling of fulfillment, peace, and reaching beyond my own shell.

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Listen to this: Augustin Hadelich playing Paganini: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsJyuJppA7s

Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DWjI1uLSzw

a black friday metaphor

A bit of a tardy note on Black Friday.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated the “holiday”.  The hype, the ads, and the crazed shoppers that trample their fellow humans all serve to make me wonder what we value most as a culture.  This year, they pushed it even farther back, Black Friday extending into Thanksgiving itself as some stores opened at 8 pm Thanksgiving night.

I think it’s a metaphor.

What’s happening in our society is an obsession, and one that I’ve bought into as well.  Of course we need things, and things matter to keep us alive, link us to others, and make our lives easier.  The trouble starts when little things become our ultimate Things, taking the place of God, family, and friends, and we begin to trade relationships for power, wealth, and stuff.  When the desire for a new iPad becomes more important than the safety of the person next to you, we have a problem.  Traditions, time with family, and counting our blessings are slowly having the rug pulled out from under them by our own looming greed and desire.

As humans, we are relational beings at heart, and the fascination with things continues to tear apart our links to others just as it has for years.  Mankind is selfish at its core, and that greedy egoism rears its head at every new invention and toy.  But things cannot fulfill us.  They cannot love us back, encourage us, or pick us up when we fall.  The very technology designed to connect us to one another is damaging our ability to hold real conversations, and instead, we revel in anonymity and feel lonelier and lonelier as we scroll through websites that don’t really mean anything.

America in particular is so consumerist, and that’s only getting worse – or maybe just more obvious.  We’re concerned with practicality, and we value the accumulation of wealth, power, and fame above most anything else.  We value things for their immediate use to us, and so things art, music, and writing are marginalized.  Does it bother me? Yes.

But I am thankful for my wonderful family with whom I got to spend my Thanksgiving, and my love for them was able to overshadow the distress I felt for the consumerist encroaching of Black Friday.  And, I have to admit… I did get a pair of jeans.

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Read this:  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Download this: StayFocusd.  I downloaded it recently, and it only lets me spend ten minutes a day on my blocked sites (aka, tumblr).  Take THAT, Internet!

 

EDIT:  This article just came up, and I think it’s relevant to this.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gordon-brown/child-labor-trafficking_b_2245536.html .  Fourteen child laborers were just found and freed from making Christmas decorations for the west.  We tend to just assume that what we buy appears in the stores, and we don’t think about where they come from and what pain was put in to try to make this.  I’m not proposing a solution.  This is just something to think about.

announcements! posts! huzzah!

Hello, my darlings!  I have some exciting news… I found out TODAY that two of my articles have been published on other sites! Eep!

Firstly, I’ve been published in the website for a real, live magazine – Relevant!  If the article looks familiar, it’s because I posted a version of it earlier.  Here:  http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/why-newest-latest-brightest-isn%E2%80%99t-always-best

Also, I wrote a guest post for Teens Writing for Teens about writing advice, and they put that up today as well: http://teenswritingforteens.blogspot.com/2012/08/guest-post-best-advice-to-being-good.html

I’m sort of excited.  I’m struggling to be a competent, professional human being when all I really want to do right now is sob into my sandwich.  I’ll probably write more soon.

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mumford and sons and knowing something well

I was listening to Mumford and Sons for the billionth time in the car, and as the first plucked notes of Sigh No More came through the speakers, I was struck with this feeling.  It’s hard to put into words, but I’m going to try.

It was a feeling of comfort, like something you know so well that it never fails to wrap its arms around you, hold you tight and close to its heart, and soothe you, whispering.  Folds of melodies and harmonies slowly pull me in, wind their way around me, and settle me down in their familiar fabric.

Sigh No More is a favorite shirt that you got years ago and can’t stop wearing, no matter how faded the dyes on the T-shirt become and how thin the fabric wears between your fingers.  You rub the corner of it, and it’s so comfortable and familiar that it makes you smile.  You’ve worn it so long that it has more than become your shirt.  Friends know it well and it reminds them of you easily.

Or it’s a figurine that someone carved for you out of wood.  You know it so well now that you’ve almost forgotten the story behind it, but not quite.  You trace its figure between your fingers and you know that every inch of it is wired into your tactile memory.

Or, most accurately, your favorite book that you’ve read so many times that the binding is starting to break, the pages are turning yellow, the ribbon bookmark has frayed at its edges, and the corners of the cover have bent and rounded.  You know every word, trace them with your finger, find the places where you’ve annotated with pencil, the eraser marks.

I remember the joy of first hearing the CD, and the countless loops I subjected my family to.  I remember first reveling in the voice and the passion behind it, listening to the CD again and again until I learned each line and strum.  Catching the references to literature and history, grinning at the lines from Shakespeare, trying to unravel Mumford’s spiritual state and battles through the lyrics, frowning at times and being moved by his own struggle.  Thinking it over and turning it around in my mind, deciding what I agreed with and what I definitely didn’t.  Learning to love certain songs, like Dust Bowl Dance, that I’d hated upon first hearing them.

And still the songs never grow old.  I never tire of hearing them.  Your shirt will fade and thin, and the figurine will wear away under the pressure of your fingers, like the stone stairs of a well-trodden castle staircase or the constant beating of waves against a cliff.  The songs do not physically change.  They’re recorded forever in the same state, the same notes, the same lyrics, the same breaths.

But my perceptions change.  As I grow, the songs change and touch my heart in different ways.

And today, as I was sitting at work with my headphones in, I finally recognized the few words that had been previously ambiguous in one of the songs, I Gave You All – “brass wires”.  I didn’t know that I hadn’t known them.  I found something new in the middle of something I knew so well – another whittled facet to the figurine, a tiny tag on the inside of the shirt that you hadn’t noticed before.  And that’s the fun of getting to know something complex.  It will always surprise you.  Caravaggio’s masterpiece reveals something new even after years of drinking it in with your eyes.  Your best friend of fifteen years pulls out a talent you never knew they had.  A single Bible verse shows you something different when you need it the most.  Even though you know every single line of your favorite movie, you finally see something in the background that foreshadows the end from the very beginning.  Every time you read that novel, something new jumps out at you, arrests you, and draws your attention.  A harmony finally clicks for you, you hear an instrument that had hidden from you in the depths of the song, and you find a reference that you didn’t understand before.

It changes as you do.  That’s why it’s worthwhile to do things again, to re-read, re-view, re-listen, re-touch.  That’s why the most beautiful and complex things can never be fully understood or known – while we’re stilll earth-bound, anyway.  That’s why it pays to pay attention, and that’s what’s so lovely about loving something.  So I’m going to get back into my car, turn up the volume, and sink down into the undulating waves of sound and word.

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Re-read this: something you haven’t read in years that impressed upon you.

Hear this: Sigh No More ;

I Will Wait, the new single:

Hoo.  I’m already moved to near-tears by the lyrics. Okay.

music.

First of all, I’m terribly sorry I’ve not updated recently.  Secondly, (just as a heads up), I’m going to be on vacation for all of June (I leave tomorrow! Weird).  I may get a chance to post something while I’m gone, but it’s very doubtful.  I’ll have plenty to say when I get home, though.  Okay on to the real post!

This will be fairly quick, because there is SO MUCH I could say on this subject and not enough words to adequately convey my feelings.  During exam week, I’d been listening to quite a lot of Pandora, which is nice because I don’t have to worry about picking each song.  But every once in a while, a song will catch me off guard, gently pull at my heart, buffet me until I listen to it again, and grow on me every time I hear it.  I would listen to a hundred songs just to find one like this that touches something internal and refuses to budge.

I think it has to be a combination of lyrics and melody for it to stick.  The actual music is clearly more important, because there are hundreds of gorgeous, gorgeous pieces without any words at all that move me in a way that I really don’t understand (hello, Beethoven).  But I love it when the chords surprise you and the lyrics inspire or incite or raise up some emotion or make you think about something in a new way, and think deeply… And the two things, working together, intertwine to create something absolutely wonderful and amazing.

A few weeks ago I found myself literally tearing up at a song because of… just everything about it.  Music is relatable, and touching, and somehow creeps into your very heartbeat, taking something from creationand repurposing it.  It’s made up of sound, of vibrations – it literally moves you.  I think, of all of our senses, we tend to take hearing for granted.  Listen, right now.  There’s a lot happening around you that you’re barely aware of.

Anyway.  It’s a beautiful connection when their intensity and emotions somehow move me into emotion.  A bond is formed there, and you’re torn between wanting to share the song with everyone you meet and wanting to hold it close to your soul to play it on repeat as your personal anthem.  It’s intensely personal and wonderfully communal all at the same time.  Music both unites and speaks to you as an individual.  I don’t understand it, but it’s a beautiful thing.

So, yeah.  Heh.  If you couldn’t tell, I sort of love music, and the way it gets inside of you, and the power behind a good song.  Even the amount I sing in the shower is a pretty good indicator of my happiness and/or need for catharsis.  I’ve got so much to say about music in general, but I’ll leave it at that.

Recent obsessions:

Australia, The ShinsI love this.  I just… I just love it.

Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley.  I was actually crying at this.  Also I couldn’t decide between the above version and this one.

Little Talks, Of Monsters and Men.  I can’t take how beautiful this song/ the described relationship is.

Down in the Valley, The Head and the Heart.  I actually love Lost in my Mind just as much as the above (if not more?), but the music video is pretty and you can watch it at that link.

Breathe, Anna NalickI just… really like this.  Alright.

Old favorites that never get old:

Awakening, Switchfoot I think that hearing this in middle school was one of the first times I realized how cool music is.  It still makes me happy.

Death and All His Friends, Coldplay.  There’s… there’s something special about this one.  It always, very gently, touches something inside of me, calms me town, or makes me tear up.

ANY MUMFORD AND SONS EVER.  I can’t even tell you how good they are.  Sigh No More is one of the only physical CDs I own.  Here’s Awake My Soul.

Alright, my dears.  If I continued on with all the songs that I love, this would be far too long, so I’ll leave you with some Queen and Boston.  I hope you like classic rock.

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a confession

Hear this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpI5tJoncS0  <<Pertinent and on repeat.

Okay.

Lately…

I’ve been feeling a certain unrest in my soul.  By lately, I don’t mean the-past-week lately, although it’s certainly been resurfacing within recent weeks.  I want to do something important- something that matters.  I was talking to my friend about this, and she pointed out that that unrest wasn’t necessarily a bad thing- that in those moments, we don’t become complacent, but instead notice the things that we need to change and fix.  And I completely agree.

But I’ve been entirely too hard on myself.  I beat myself up all the time for not doing anything important, for not doing as well in school as I think I should do, for being less than others are.  I want to be great, and that sounds terrible as I type this, but this is a confession of sorts.  As I read these fantastic authors’ work, Dostoevsky, Keats, Joyce, Dickens, Shakespeare, Eliot, Donne, Lewis… I can’t help but want to join them in some way.

Is it bad that I yearn for greatness, to make a difference, to be known or remembered?  Not necessarily.  But my motives bear an explanation.  What has been driving me to such distress?  Do I crave this because God has placed it in me and because I want to say something important, change people’s hearts, and speak his truth as an instrument of his will?  Or do I simply want to make a name for myself, draw attention to my own talents and abilities, and be remembered by humanity for my skills and intelligence rather than the Holy Spirit inside of me?

I want to know I’m doing something important.  I want to have a purpose in this life.  And yes, I know my purpose is to praise God in whatever I’m doing, but it’s frustrating not knowing what he’s created and formed me for.

Comparing myself to others to gauge my own worth or progress isn’t helpful, either.  In fact, it’s terribly detrimental.  Whenever I try to measure myself off of others, which is something I struggle with every day, I can never come close.  I end up feeling stupid, out of place, and worthless, and that’s certainly not a good place to be.  I read the work of these beautiful, fantastic, amazingly brilliant authors and think to myself almost every day, I will never measure up.  I could never create such a thing of beauty as they have already, so why try? 

I focus in too closely on myself and let this selfishness grow until these worries consume me, pull me down, and pull me away from the problems of other people.  I could be showing them the love of God, but instead, I tear myself down from the inside out with worries about the future, about my calling, and about what I do with myself right now.

And… here’s the thing.  I’m not writing the next great American novel right now.  I haven’t produced anything radically world-altering or brilliant.  I don’t do something every day that would be considered successful in the eyes of the world… and that’s okay.

Trusting that God will guide me is hard, because I’m fallible, and I’m human, and I doubt and forget what he’s done for me every single day, getting mired down in stupid things.  But I’m trying.  Scratch that.  I don’t have to try, because nothing that I do could get me any closer to God.  He’s already done and given it all for me.  In my weakness, I rely on His strength.  And I’m not saying that I won’t relapse, or that everything will be fixed tomorrow.  I will, and it won’t.  These are things I struggle with all of the time, doubting and idolizing my intelligence or personal glory above God and His power and plans.

But He is changing me, and will show me what He has planned for me in His timing.  That’s a beautiful thing.  And although it’s dreadfully hard to rest in this uncertainty, He makes it a possibility.

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Read this: “Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth to dust; the dust is earth; of earth we make loam; and why of that loam whereto he was converted might they not stop a beer barrel?
Imperious Caesar, dead and turned to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.” Hamlet, V.i

“There’s a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will” V.ii

We’ve been in Hamlet for my Shakespeare class (it’s GREAT, I have a minor crush on him… problematic?), and he’s got a lot to say about fleeting greatness and God as the orchestrator of fate.  Well, he gets there.  Eventually.