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Learning to Play

My piano tuner is well over eighty years old. Each time I call him, I fear I’ll learn that he has died. So far he is still with us, though at each visit a little more white-haired and frailer than before. I worry that he will hurt himself when he lies under the instrument or takes out the . . . . Continue Reading »

Music Man

Readers often find the opening chapters of 1 Chronicles stultifying. These pages contain list after list of names, with occasional mini-biographies thrown in to break up the monotony. Chronicles is hardly the first place we turn to for deep insight into human nature. Yet the fact that Chronicles . . . . Continue Reading »

Songs of Exile

Where has all the dark Christian music gone? It doesn’t take much listening to notice how blithe and breezy popular Christian music has become. At the data journalism site FiveThirtyEight, Leah Libresco has run the numbers and found that the lyrics of recent Christian hits skew towards life, . . . . Continue Reading »

No Apology for Bach's Theology

As the cantor of Leipzig, Bach was responsible for composing music for Sunday ­services, which produced reams of choral ­music, mostly cantatas. Because of this, it would be difficult to find a composer who wrote more sacred music. Like Victoria and Bruckner, Bach’s works stem from his own devotion. But more than any other composer, Bach uses complex music to articulate theology. . . . Continue Reading »

Rhyme and Reason

Hymns are chimerical critters. Their bodies are made of poetry, and their breath is music. The natural ligature of these beasts is rhyme. But sweet rhyme has fallen on strange times in both poetry and music. In poetry, rhyme is terribly out of fashion. It has come to serve more as a rhetorical . . . . Continue Reading »

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 »

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