Coloratura Christian

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. (Psalm 34:4-5)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Arts and Culture at Reformation 21

The current issue of Reformation 21's online magazine contains some interesting music articles by Derek Thomas and Carl Trueman.

Derek Thomas writes an excellent article on Dimitri Shostakovich, a twentieth century Russian composer who lived under Stalin's regime. Shostakovich's music is characterized by dark and dissonant harmonies and very much reflects the horrors of his time.

Thomas' article is a good introduction to the famous composer, and it also answers some important questions for Christians in assessing the importance and worthiness of the arts. For instance, does "good" art come only from the minds and emotions of Christians? Is dissonant music less "Christian" than harmonious music? Was the apostle Paul culturally grey, and should we even invest time and energy into fine arts?

I have done some thinking on these questions lately, but it seems that Thomas would call a lot of my conclusions "naive". As I recall learning about the significant composers in University, I remember being shocked at the moral corruption and even evil insanity of some genius composers. My tendency is to think that their music is tainted because of who they are and that music of a "Christian composer" such as J.S. Bach is more commendable, lovely and excellent (Phil. 4:8). However, Thomas rightly points out that music composed by Christians is not intrinsically better than music composed by unbelievers and that "Christians are capable of appallingly bad judgments and poorly expressed artistic productions." You just have to turn on the Christian radio station to know this it true!

I have also thought that perhaps Christians should compose music with structure, consonance and beautiful harmonies as a reflection of God's order and beauty. And although I do enjoy a little chaos and dissonance in music, it does seem to convey more of the passions of the flesh. But Thomas makes the good point that this type of music can more accurately display the struggle of man and concludes his article by saying, "some truths can only be heard in minor keys."

On a lighter note, Carl Trueman admits he watches American Idol. It's a bit surprising, but I have to respect him for admitting it and being able to laugh at himself. He has some excellent insights into North American culture and our obsession with idolatry. After reading his article, I wonder if I'm a bit of a sadist. Be prepared to laugh because he's hilarious.


  • At April 03, 2006, Blogger Ian said…

    That article on American Idol was one of the funniest I've ever read. Now I don't feel so bad for watching it, although I'll still blame Vicky for making me!


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