Saturday, July 16, 2011

authentic music

It's no secret that I like music ~ I have since I was old enough to remember. I recall (in the days before online lyric searches) asking my mom to transcribe Wild Montana Skies so I could sing along with John Denver. I didn't, and probably still don't, have the best voice or pitch, but I've always loved being able to participate in creating music.

I certainly appreciate individuals and groups who have a large stage, who are well known, especially if they're playing their own instruments and writing their own music. I've also discovered, and rediscovered, that I really enjoy listening to artists who aren't big names. And hearing artists who I've met, who I've personally interacted with, play their music is something that really thrills me. It doesn't even matter whether the music is great ~ what I resonate with is that the artists put themselves in a vulnerable position, sharing themselves in a way that transcends the simple spoken word. But when the music is good, when the lyrics fit with the lyrics and with the music in compelling ways, it's a much deeper experience of music (and maybe even of the divine) than the latest pop song snaking through a white earphone up from a pocket ever could be.

Of course, I'm guilty of listening to music through those white earphones on occasion. I have to say, though, that I have three albums of music on my ipod that (a) I enjoy listening to, and (b) I enjoy listening to much more because I've met the artists.

Live in Vermont by Kent Gustavson and Micah Schonberg sounds like an ideal evening on the front porch ~ a couple guys who know each other well playing music together. This record makes me think of what music ought to be at its most fundamental level ~ that which brings people together and creates community.

Another album that continues to get under my skin is Captive Audience by the duo Fair Witness. I met these two amazing musicians at the Greenbelt Festival a couple years ago when I was there leading the musicians who played the Light Into the World liturgy (written by Kent Gustavson ... see above). I went to their CD release show at the festival. Seeing them live added so much to the lyricism of Suzanne's voice and Sandy's guitar, that I've been listening to them ever since.

The third record is Storydwelling by Heatherlyn. I met her when I preached for a group of high school students who were beginning a week of service work in Denver. As soon as Heathrlyn started singing, I was hooked. But beyond the music, what grabs me about this album is the idea behind it ~ that through music, we can share deep parts of our own story with one another, thereby healing relationships and creating community. And it's not just the idea ~ the music is good. Much of what she does walks a comfortable line of tension between 'I'm a Christian" songs and real songs about real life & real people (can you tell from my tone of blog that I dislike the former and appreciate the latter?).

These three records are reminders that one thing we're missing in our over-electronicized world is that most of us don't create music together. In fact, I think I'll turn off the computer right now and go practice the fiddle.


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