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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Art and Christianity

I just came back from a concert of my former choir (I wish, I still had the time for it). They performed ein deutsches Requiem by Johannes Brahms. It was really beautyful even if I don't really care about the lyrics. For some reason, most classical pieces for choirs are stuff like masses, requiem, or special pieces for Christmas or Easter. (Just some examples from the repertoire of my choir)
I prefer the pieces with Latin text. The lyrics don't hurt that much, if they are not in my native tongue (Really, singing "crucify him" for more than ten minutes isn't that exiting because of the text...). But the music is wonderful and I can fully understand if somebody feels God in there. I almost do, especially when I sing it myself. Participate in something that is somehow bigger than the sum of fifty mediocre voices.
But it's exactly this "almost" that totally keeps me from believing in the Christian god or any god at all. I really feel that this spirituality originates inside me. I can't see god as something else than a human construct. And what I feel has its cause in an increased dopamine concentration in certain areas of my brain. But that's just me. I can't and don't want to controll my feelings but I also can't say that my feelings are more real than other people's feelings.

Well, it wasn't my intention to start a rant. I just want to ask what you feel about Christian art. Are we allowed to like it? Or why shouldn't we?


  1. Tilia

    I think that art is art, and music is music.

    Well, that clears that up, doesn't it?

    Seriously, I think that "Christian art" and "Christian music" are false labels. There's good and bad in both.

    Although I will say that almost all of the music that I hear on the stations that call themselves "Christian Music" broadcasters is boring and unenjoyable pap. But then again, almost all of the music that I hear on stations that call themselves "Urban" is similarly boring and unenjoyable.

    To all-

    Aside from whalesong, do any other animals besides humans make music?

  2. Aside from whalesong, do any other animals besides humans make music?

    Guinea pigs...
    They sometimes make strange piping noises and so far nobody found out, why they are doing it. They probably just like the sound.
    And my parents dog starts "singing" when my mother plays flute.

    What about birds? You could argue that they are just singing to tell other birds to have sex with them, but maybe that's also how humans (or apes) started this.

  3. Since the church commissioned so much art, paintings, sculpture and music, the greats created religious art to put food on the table. That's not to say they weren't moved to do it but if they wanted to get paid they worked for the church.

    Are you allowed to like it? Absolutely not. I kid. You wouldn't be human if you couldn't find something there to like.

    To BF, My dog sings with me. That's probably not what you were looking for.

    Just for the hell of it, I'm compiling a list of religion inspired band names.
    Teenage Jesus & the Jerks
    Texas Jew Boys

  4. That reminds me of the time I wrote the folks at the David Letterman show about my talking dog, Rex.

    Well, they had us come in for an audition.

    I said to Rex-
    "Rex, what do you put on top of a house?"

    Rex said "Roof"

    I said to Rex-
    "Rex, who was the greatest baseball player of all time?"

    Rex said "Roof"

    The talent coordinators at Letterman told us to get the hell out.

    Outside, a dissapointed Rex said to me-

    "Do you think I should have said Hank Aaron?"

  5. Tillia,

    I haven't read any comments yet and I want to say that I absolutely love all those great compositions! So fun!

    Religion has inspired many a beautiful building, melody, and philosophical moment and that is precisely why it is so insideous, so successful....
    Just think about how much farther ahead we might be if it were not for the constraints of those pervasive ancient belief systems.

  6. The Christians burned down the greatest library of the time, at Alexandria. I want to cry every time I think about that.

    That was the repository for works on Calculus, et, infin, shit that we will never know.

  7. BF,

    "Aside from whalesong, do any other animals besides humans make music?"

    Well, there happen to be certain birds that sing songs. They call them "Songbirds."

    And the Elk that make music. There is more but just relax as you see your absurd comment go up in the smoke of reason.

  8. Melodies are everywhere you go.---The Frog, circa 2008

  9. I liked the animals when they did "House of the Rising Sun"

  10. Growing up, my first exposure to art was through my mother's Bible. It was a huge family Bible that had a large section of famous works depicting different scenes from biblical stories.

    She still has that Bible and while I was on vacation visiting her last week I spent some time looking through those pages again. I don't particularly like what the art portrays (the slaughter of the first born), but it has a nostalgia for me since it was what I grew up looking at. Other than that I'm not really into religious art. It's just not my thing. I think people should like what they like, though, and not be ashamed of it. Art is art and if a person likes it then it shouldn't matter what they believe theologically.

  11. Considering that the variety of Christians staggers the imagination, I'd say that it would be far worse to lump them all into a group somehow defined by people like Ray and Terry and Jinx, etc.

    Really, Christianity is a small part of who the person is. To be sure, there are people who choose to let it define them - those are the ones I tend to avoid, as they're the exception.

    One of my favorite bands in the whole world is The Fringe. The trio teaches at Berkley in Boston, and plays the most amazing jazz during the night. They've been at it for 30+ years now - amazing talent and creativity. So unlike anything else I've heard or seen elsewhere.

    I learned that the sax player (George Garzone) is a devout Christian. I never would have known from the way he plays and talks on stage - he's funny and relaxed and occasionally crude; lots of personality.

    Still, his religion either has nothing to do with the stuff he plays, or it has everything to do with it. And I don't particularly care either way - I'm there to see the art.

    Simply put, I doubt most Raytractors would avoid Christian products (unless they're designed *for* Christians); I don't see that art should be any different

  12. Tilia -

    Don't know if you're still following this, but I've got to admit, you sound like a very, um, soul-full(?) person?

    I hope you don't lose this.

    I see a compassion in you, an ability to empathize and sympathize - all good traits for a person, in my opinion.

    I understand the feelings you get about art. I can understand the atheist/agnostic desire to remove religion from art and just enjoy art for art's sake.

    I think it quite interesting what you said about birds and how perhaps humans (and apes? didn't know they sang but I guess I learned something new) picked this up from them.

    Interesting. Good post.

  13. laof,
    even atheists can be empathetic ;)

    thanks for the kind words


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