Monday, February 23, 2015

Originality, Freedom and Form

Every discipline has its fundamentals. Chemistry is built on the periodic table; football greatness stands on blocking and tackling. Painting rests on the foundation of color, line and perspective. Musicians build upon the scales and chord progressions. Writers don’t write novels; they craft sentences. If you want to create art for the glory of God, master the fundamentals of your medium and allow your creativity to build upon that foundation.

A famous guitar player visited a local high-school music classroom for some question and answer time. One student asked, “How much did you practice when you were my age?” He answered, “I played my guitar nonstop day and night, surely more than 6-10 hours a day including band rehearsal. And NO, it did not come naturally as I struggled to discover my unique voice on a very difficult to control, loud, feeding back Gibson Byrdland, but I never gave up!”

Another student asked, “How do you memorize a song?” He answered, “To truly be one with our music, we must be naturally driven to play till it hurts. By playing our favorite licks or songs over and over and over again, the song & patterns become part of us. It takes enormous work ethic and dedication to ‘nail it’.”

Originality builds upon mastering the historic fundamentals of your craft. If you master your craft, you can create what you dream. It is a perpetually frustrated artist whose imagination constantly writes checks that his skills can’t cash! Creating art to convey a message without understanding the form, structure, and techniques developed in your discipline is like trying to perform surgery on someone without going to medical school. As a communicator of truth, remember that excellence in your work earns you the right to be heard by the culture.

When I was learning the guitar I practiced religiously. However, as all guitar players know, you get to a place where many people quit. It’s learning the F-chord. You must barre the entire first fret and then place your remaining fingers in an unnatural position and then SQUEEZE! Playing the F-chord actually hurts! Many a beginning guitar player has put his instrument in the basement after encountering the F. Every discipline has an F-chord. You must persevere past it if you hope to walk in greatness.

- an excerpt from an upcoming book on the arts by pastor and author Carey Waldie. Visit his website at

Friday, February 13, 2015

Black Mirror

Black Mirror is a British TV sci-fi series that takes a serious and provocative look at the unintended consequences of technology. Writing for The Guardian, Charlie Brooker, a creator of and co-writer for the series, noted
”I coo over gadgets, take delight in each new miracle app. Like an addict, I check my Twitter timeline the moment I wake up. And often I wonder: is all this really good for me? For us? None of these things have been foisted upon humankind – we've merrily embraced them. But where is it all leading? If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side-effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror, my new drama series, is set. The 'black mirror' of the title is the one you'll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.”
Though not prolific (seven shows in two seasons so far),  Black Mirror has won numerous awards, and its viewership around the world is growing tremendously. At least one episode is being turned into a movie, and an American version is sure to show up soon. 

After watching Season One, I was struck by the notion that Mr. Booker is a secular voice crying in the wilderness. Black Mirror is prophetic in the same way that Brave New World was ominously prescient. There are a lot of reasons to fear that the things we love will destroy us, and Mr. Booker has shown himself capable of pulling back the curtain on a future that simultaneously fascinates and terrifies. If you watch an episode without getting very uncomfortable, you're not paying attention.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Katy Perry's Experimental Game and Superbowl XLIX

Katy Perry is charismatic, creative, and bold, and she sings songs that get stuck in your head (I dare you not to hum "Roar" once you hear it). She has more Twitter followers than anyone else in the world. She's also a great performer as seen by her impressive Superbowl halftime show that featured Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliot. If your measure of success is technical showmanship, musical talent and star power, it was a solid show. If your measure of success also involves the appropriateness of the show, a different kind of discussion takes place.

Quite a few people weighed in on social media commenting on how "family friendly" and "clean" the show was. There were no wardrobe malfunctions or nudity. Nobody twerked. I heard, "It wasn't Beyonce!" more than a few times as people recalled previous shows that pushed the envelope much further than this one did.

That's all true, but in order to conclude that it was "clean" or "family friendly" I think we need to define what that means. Yes, it was more visually appropriate than a number of recent shows. However, that's hardly the only marker for whether or not the whole family can sit down and enjoy the show. To a large degree the medium is the message, but the lyrics of the songs are messages too, are they not?  So to get a clearer picture of the "family friendly" or "clean" nature of the show, I offer a lyrical snapshot of what was celebrated during halftime of the Superbowl. (Not all of these lyrics made the cut for the show, and some that did were changed, but they are part of the original songs):