Prince: Dance. Music. Sex. Religion.

Iʼm twenty years old, maybe twenty one. Weʼre four deep in my little two-door Saturn, on our way back from a show in the city. Itʼs late. I canʼt remember who played, but they were good. (They were all good back then, or at least I thought they were.) Weʼre passing the auxiliary cord, sharing . . . . Continue Reading »

David Bowie's Search for God

One doesn’t often find people of faith, especially conservatives, rallying around an entertainer who became famous for dressing up as an androgynous rock-star named Ziggy Stardust, singing, “Rebel, Rebel,” and pushing musical expression to its outer limits. And yet, when David Bowie died last . . . . Continue Reading »

Worship Wars

I listened in on a conversation recently on “the worship wars” in evangelical-style congregations and I heard some interesting observations. My main dissent, which I did not express, was that the discussants were treating the battles about worship as a relatively recent phenomenon—several . . . . Continue Reading »

The Play of Daniel

Earlier this month, I had a chance to see the Gotham Early Music Scene’s production of The Play of Daniel, a medieval Christmas pageant, performed as part of the annual Twelfth Night Festival at New York’s Trinity Church. The festival, which the church started several years ago, revives the idea . . . . Continue Reading »

Winter Songs

Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession by ian bostridge knopf, 528 pages, $29 One hundred and fifty years ago, lieder—art songs, in English—held a place in society that no music holds today. These were songs for a soloist with piano accompaniment, something for two people of . . . . Continue Reading »

Go Tell It on the Mountain

Not long after the Civil War, John Wesley Work, an African American church choir director and scholar in Nashville, Tennessee, realized that the rising generation of black southerners might best understand the importance of spirituality by learning the songs their ancestors sang during the days of . . . . Continue Reading »

I'll Write Til I'm Right With God

“I am a sinner, who’s probably gonna sin again”Kendrick Lamar’s breakthrough album, good kid m.A.A.d. city, is a conversion narrative, tracing the moral journey of a young Kendrick through vice, violence, and grace. I don’t mean that the album is just redemptive or that one can interpret . . . . Continue Reading »

Planning for Beauty

Discussions of liturgical music in many Catholic parishes have become needlessly polemical. The one thing we all agree upon is the poor state of liturgical music in most Catholic parishes. Like silly children taking up their parents’ quarrels, however, it’s not uncommon to see thirty-year-old adults arguing polemically about the “Spirit” of Vatican II and “hidebound” Latin traditions. While this irony may escape some, 2015 marks forty-five years since the Vernacular “Novus Ordo” Mass was introduced. The liturgical revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries are dying out. Priests ordained before the Council are few, and folk groups are quite literally aging out. Continue Reading »

Reflection on Ascending Light

G-major, D-major. Amen. So be it.It is week two of the Festspiele here in Salzburg, where Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms echo through the streets every day. However, in a city filled with the world’s greatest musicians performing the stuff of musical legend, it is a relatively new piece of music that floods my mind. Continue Reading »

Scops and Skalds

Becoming a Poet in Anglo-Saxon England
 by emily thornbury
 cambridge, 338 pages, $99 My years of mandatory Latin began when I was eleven. Almost immediately I hated the language more than the mandatory tie and jacket that made me an easy target for bullying on the six public buses I rode each . . . . Continue Reading »