Tag Archive: MUSIC


Researchers at the University of Greater Heybridge in Essex, United Kingdom, have been working on a project which could be set to turn the music world upside down…

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Professor Scat “the cool cat” Higginbottom has been at the center of an advanced study, picking up from where the late and great Vivian Stanshall left off.  That is, the discovery that hamsters have more musical talent in their genes than Mozart and Beethoven had between them. You will surely remember, dear listener, that Stanshall spearheaded the ground-breaking research in “Snail Music”.

It all began late one December night in 1971 when Stanshall, then still working on his own masterpieces for the “Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band”, detected  a small, shrill but heavenly voice coming from the corner of his living room. To Stanshall’s amazement, it was his thirty-two year old hamster “Minks”, who, after having relieved himself copiously on the floor of his cage, was jubilantly singing “Moonlight In Vermont” with a gusto which would have sent Sinatra into a rage of envy. The University of Heybridge was poised to spearhead the study of this phenomenon.

Unfortunately neither Stanshall nor the Uni. were able to find the funding needed to conduct a thorough study of Minks’ talent, and the raver rodent was all but forgotten. However, similar discoveries made by other hamster-lovers in recent times have revived interest in these amazing creatures, and thanks to Prime Minister May’s personal interest in the humble hamster, government funding has at last been forthcoming to the tune of two million British pounds (twenty-eight trillion dollars).

Professor Higginbottom is absolutely delighted:

“I’m absolutely delighted”, he said.

So stay tuned folks, it’s only a matter of time before the newest heart throb on your favorite radio station will be…a hamster.

* Apologies to all you hamster-lovers out there who’ve read my report on this amazing research before. Please allow me to be slightly insane, or I will go completely insane… Why did I select the “Evolution/ Creation category for this post? You may well ask…

 

Bring on AI and the super-comedians-I don’t see how they can be any worse than the real ones…

Being originally British and a beneficiary of the fine and outstanding tradition of British comedy, I was conducting a little search for “British Comedy” last night on Youtube for something fresh or fairly recent to have a giggle at. The conclusion of my search was that BC is both dead and buried. Not one to want to say that whatever occurred in the past was always better than what goes on now, I must reluctantly admit without any hesitation that in the case of BC the past was better. “Better” may not really be the correct word to use here: it assumes various levels of “good”.

Of course, it wasn’t always good, it wasn’t always funny, and it certainly was sometimes pathetic. But now on a scale from “hilarious and uplifting” to “pathetic, sick and putrid”, the laugh-ometer is definitely pointing very close to the latter. Why anyone can find a string of “f” words so gut-rumblingly funny is completely beyond me. Of course, the same thing goes on in the US, but at least once in a while Hollywood manages to produce some real laughs for real people…

One of the strengths of British comedy was self-effacement and the willingness of the purveyor of humour to make himself or herself the butt of the jokes. But what’s now called “comedy” is mostly designed to attack, to denigrate, to humiliate and to shame someone else, and to brainwash an audience of cabbages unable to think for themselves into believing in a certain politically-correct way, and to accept things that people would not normally accept: it’s the old bitter pill wrapped in sugar trick.

Comic irony has become vilification, propaganda, and hate-speech for the twenty-first century. I suppose it had to happen that once the four-letter word barrier was broken and all the taboos trashed, the sights of the wanna-be funny guys would be turned on the enemies of the day: the Donald Trumps of the world. Yes, lets all humiliate someone who isn’t here to defend themselves or set the record straight.

The saddest, most inexplicable part of it all is that these “comedians” and their producers manage to find an audience willing to hoot, howl and shriek with what on the surface could be called “laughter”. Can hate really be expressed in laughter? I personally can’t do it myself, but I’m convinced that many can, and do.

The death of comedy and natural, hate-free fun has to be another sign of the near-death state of the Western world.

I once wrote a post titled “What should Church Music Sound Like?” The natural sequel to such a discussion, to my mind, has to be concerned with what worship should look like…

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This may seem like an odd question to some, but it’s pretty straightforward really. When we all sit or stand in our churches those of us blessed with eye-sight are unavoidably looking at something or someone. And the trend in latter times towards what is termed “contemporary worship” has been towards watching a performance up there on the stage: how cute the girls and guys are, what they’re wearing and how they have their hair; how impressive the guitar licks and drum rhythms are; how cool the light show is; how expensive the sound system is.

There are times when the worshipers are not heard-not necessarily because the band is too loud but because the congregation isn’t singing-they’re too busy watching the performance. In a really bad scenario you will get a dirty look from those around you if you do sing loudly.

Well excuse me, but I can’t help being one of the few voices to raise an alarm here. Who are we supposed to be worshiping: Jesus Christ, or the band? I’m not against the principle of guitars and drums etcetera. What I’m against is the idea that we-the congregation-have to be entertained and impressed. I know for a fact that some people go to church because the music has a “great beat”, or because the vocalist is “cute”. Eventually that “cute” guy leaves his wife and goes off with one of his admirers.

I’m sorry, but that just makes me gag. And on a more spiritual note, it makes me sad and frustrated because the entire point of church is being missed. It’s not about entertainment, it’s about loosing our life to become Christ-like, and so to gain it. It’s about giving all our worship to our Creator: the almighty, omnipotent God and His Son, who alone deserves it all and requires it all.

Alright, I can’t expect churches to do it my way, but let me give a little example of what I personally think church music should look like. For me the most moving and uplifting moments of corporate worship have been when the musicians-at floor level-were obscured by the believers all around me (and I say this as a musician myself-I don’t want to be noticed if I’m playing in church). There was no visual focus, and no sensual stimulation: it was just me, God, and my brothers and sisters in Christ, lifting up our voices far above the music, singing a song written by someone who had been moved to write from his or her own experience with, and view of God. The music was good, yes, and part of the worship, but it was the accompaniment to our worship-not the reason for our presence.

If you’re a music lover you may have experienced at least one of those sublime moments while listening to a piece of music when you sense the presence of God, and when you’re convinced that the music must have been inspired…

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(Apologies to my long-term readers: this is a version of a post I wrote a few years ago: I felt it deserved another airing)

Of course, the ultimate purpose of music is the worship of our Creator, but I’ve enjoyed that sensation many times with many different kinds of music-sacred and secular. No-one could persuade me that Beethoven’s hand and mind were not guided to write “Moonlight Sonata”, or that Liszt was not similarly driven to pen “Consolation No. 3”. Could Debussey’s “Claire de Lune” have been the product of chance and time – the emission of a creature evolved from nothing? Ridiculous! I even experience the feeling occasionally in Electronica, Jazz, Surf, or “Classic Rock”. You may get the buzz from something very different, but I know it’s a fairly common phenomenon: I’ve heard people say that they feel close to God when they hear certain music.

I’m not saying that every time someone has this feeling it’s because God is giving it to them, or that the music they’re listening to is necessarily inspired by God: it can be caused by a number of different things. God has made humans creative, and he’s arranged the physical universe so that we can enjoy music. He’s given us the ability to make it, hear it, decipher it and experience pleasure from it. However it’s not always him writing it, and it’s not only believers who get that buzz, because we were all created to be able to enjoy what he’s made.

Scripture suggests that our Enemy is an inspirer, writer, and a shaper of music. You don’t have to hear much modern music to notice that. So how do we tell the difference between what God inspired, what man has contrived through talent alone, and what our enemy is using? The result of our listening experience is one clear indicator. If it leaves us feeling empty, angry, insufficient, incomplete, suicidal, or like doing something we know is against God’s will it’s certainly not from God.

I’m sure that most often the music was contrived by the mind of man, with God-given creativity. However, I’m convinced that sometimes that feeling, that emotion, that buzz is a physical sign the Spirit of God is ministering to us.

I’m a predominantly melancholy sort of character, and people who aren’t made that way may not understand my following ramblings, but I’m attempting to illustrate what I want to convey. I listen to almost all kinds of music, but I usually find that melancholy music is my ticket and my courier to peace, rest, resolution, hope and faith. It connects with my inner being. It unlocks my soul and opens it up to be repaired, cleansed, refreshed and loved.

I was listening to Philip Glass’s “Solo Piano” recently. His music – not his most repetitive material but the more melodic music-moves me to tears sometimes. Glass not only stirs my melancholy emotions and keeps them stirred, but takes my heart down to the depths of my soul and makes it wallow there for some considerable time. Part of what gets to me in his music is the simplicity, the understatement, and the masterful control amidst those perfectly selected minor scale intervals and chord changes: a delicious touch of minimalism. And more than that, there’s the knowledge that in order to write that very piece which touches my soul the composer and musician must also experience very similar feelings to my own.

Perhaps Glass does not have similar beliefs to mine, I don’t know, but no matter, because God can speak through a gentle breeze, a donkey, a storm, or an unbeliever. We drive cars designed and made by unbelievers, we wear clothes designed and made by unbelievers, we watch movies conceived and made by unbelievers, so why not listen to some beautiful music created by unbelievers?

Philip was sending waves of sensations down my back and through my body, making my hair stand up. But beyond the physical, he was connecting with my psyche, my soul. Unwittingly perhaps, he was causing me to think something along these lines:

“There is a God! God is incomprehensibly creative and powerful! He is in ultimate control of this universe, both the physical and spiritual. And since there is such a God, one day all things will be as they should be!”

Now, some people are going to listen to the very same music and after two measures proclaim: “This is boring! This is depressing! This is garbage!”

I wrote once that I wished there were far more real variety in Christian music to reflect God’s creativity. Thankfully, contrary to what some would have us think, he didn’t create one kind of music wishing to force-feed us with it. Instead, we find that we all have differing tastes: music I like may be detestable to you, and although you may find it hard to believe, your kind of music may be detestable to me. But here’s one of my main points: God made us all different intentionally, and it’s okay to have different tastes. It’s not sinful to politely dislike what others think you should like.

Even better, God can speak to us individually in what moves us but what may not move others, because somehow there is a universal “language” behind music-behind our conscious minds-and music is just an interface that translates between us and the spirit world what our very finite human brains cannot process into expressible logic.

In heaven, yes, everyone will sing together. But oh what music! Oh what songs! The Inspirer of “Moonlight Sonata” and “The Alleluia Chorus” has something even better in store for those of us who want to praise Him for ever.

I personally prefer to listen to instrumental music. I find that most lyrics are contrived and dull, unable to really express what needs to be said. So many songs say so little, but music alone can be free to let that language of the spirit do its work for me, unhindered.

Paradoxically, there is a song which brilliantly expresses the conundrum of words being inadequate, backed with musicianship which suitably amplifies the frustration expressed in the lyrics. Andy Partridge with XTC, in his song “No Language in Our Lungs” laments that we humans are unable to adequately put into words our deepest and most profound thoughts and feelings.

It’s unfortunate for Andy and so for us all who could greatly benefit from a genuine song-writing talent like his if he were a believer, that while the spirit language of music is free to work through his talent to minister to others, and even though he may well sense something beyond the music, his agnosticism/ atheism prevents it ministering to him to the extent that it should. Oh the dreadful irony!

Even more ironic is the fact that Andy’s words “There is no language in our lungs to tell the world what’s in our hearts” are actually in agreement with the word of God.

THE SCRIPTURAL CONNECTION

The apostle Paul also observed that there are times when we’re unable to put into words what needs to be said. However, says Paul:

“The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:26, 27).

Linking Paul’s point with mine, it’s my belief that the Spirit does indeed pray for us, not only when we’re on our knees in meditation and supplication, but often when we’re being repaired, cleansed, refreshed, serenaded and loved, through a beautiful piece of music.

Believe it or not, it’s time to discuss music again!

As this subject really has little to do with apologetics-the main focus of my blog (but see my last paragraph) I’ll try to keep this post short…

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I’ve played in many bands over the years-none of them famous-and in professionally produced musicals, such as the Rocky Horror Show. However, the point of this post is not to produce a musical resume/CV by listing them all, but to express the thrill I’ve experienced in certain situations, hence this particular experience taking third place in my list of lifetime greatest (to date).

Probably more than half of the thrill came from playing in bands with my best mate of all time, Terence Ruffle. Terry always had an ear for exciting music. His tastes in music were to me sometimes questionable in terms of philosophy behind the lyrics, the character of the people involved, and their musicianship, but they were always the complete antithesis of boring.

Being the central driving force of the band’s morale and musical direction that Terry normally was, his intense passion for it all rubbed off onto others including myself, and at times produced incredible results. I don’t mean we all got rich and sold millions of recordings-it was quite the opposite. I mean that the main aims of producing energetic sounds and sheer playing pleasure were most certainly achieved.

The Accidents, a punky/new wave band I joined with Terry who was one of the founding members, didn’t really pop my cork. It was first of all the “Flying Heroes”, led by Carl Seager, and ultimately the “Surf Rats”, who caused me to hit the highest heights of natural euphoria while plucking, twanging and pounding on my bass.

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The Surf Rats perfected playing fun. We took raw, well-known surf instrumentals such as “Pipeline”, plus some winning old songs, and cranked up the tempo and the energy, so that we were attacking them with as much vigor as we could muster. I don’t know if I can adequately describe the sensation I felt at times, when all five of us were giving our all-if only in the rehearsal room; when all five of us-a team, a club, a family, an army- were playing such exciting creations as fast as we could play them, as artfully as we could play them, and with as much expression and passion as we were able. I don’t believe any drug could produce the same feeling… it was a feeling of extreme happiness, levity, joy, madness…and there really is nothing like it that I know of.

At the bottom of my “About” page there’s a link to a video of the Surf Rats while I was in the band. It’s a poor recording made in a noisy pub, with hardly any bass frequencies, but you can get an idea of what we were about.

Switching musical styles radically, I bring to your eager attention a totally different musical sound I was involved in. Below is a sample, recorded badly, live but alive…

(INVERSION: “02”)

 At the age of fifteen I was roped into a group of musicians who were virtually in avowed opposition to the kinds of sound the Accidents and similar bands produced. Two brothers were at the centre of this: Colin and Ian Woolway. Their influences were mainly from jazz and “jazz-rock Fusion”, an altogether more technical and challenging playing style. I found myself struggling to meet the demands of musicians who thought that men like Jaco Pastorius, and not Bill Wyman, were the measure of a bass player. It took me many years to figure out what people like Jaco were actually playing, let alone how they played it, but nonetheless, we really did hit the heights of playing pleasure as surely as the Rats did.

Ian and Colin, both super-talented for their age, were not only technicians but were close to mastering the art of climax in musical expression. Along with very competent keyboard player and joke-teller extraordinaire Jerry Saltmarsh, Ian composed some pieces which stretched our abilities and imagination, and which also challenged the ears and the relatively pedestrian tastes of most of our listeners. For example, we routinely played and jammed in time signatures such as eleven-eight.

We, later named “Inversion”, were not polished by any means, and we were far from professional in our presentation and sound quality. But most significantly in relation to this post, we hit the same kinds of emotional highs as the Rats later hit, by means of stretching our musical minds to the fullest extent, and by playing as one, in some kind of sublime unity and communion not possible when playing alone. It’s that sense of oneness with other musicians, and playing music you love to the maximum extent in your power, which creates the buzz and the euphoria. It’s the creation of some never-before heard sounds emanating from brains, fingers and instruments, which sparks the light of inner ecstasy.

Once again I have to thank my God for the pleasure he’s allowed me to have and still allows: these days I play with my fifteen year-old son who’s a budding jazz trumpeter and already matching what I can achieve musically. God created music. He created sound and our ability to hear it and create it. He created our imagination, our fingers, our dexterity and all that’s required to produce an amazingly diverse array of sounds, and he created our ability to enjoy it, sometimes to the point of reaching a feeling of indescribable joy.

Of course the ultimate expression of the gift of music is in praise of our creator. I would love to say that I’ve had that feeling of euphoria while playing or listening to contemporary Christian music, but I personally cannot. Some of the greatest old hymns do it for me. I’m sure the music of heaven is and will be far beyond what we know now in terms of creativity and joy-giving qualities, most of all because of the great God that we will be worshipping with it.

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