Blog

Why Today’s Best Artists are All Amateur

Van Gogh Starving artist

These days, calling someone amateur is an insult. If you’re an amateur, you don’t have the “skillz to pay the billz.” By amateur, we generally mean an inept know-nothing with no expertise—a hack.

But I want to rescue the label amateur from its current dishonor. It’s my opinion that the greatest potential in the arts today comes from amateurs. We need more of the amateur spirit, not less. What do I mean?

When Truth is Rescued by Fiction: Damien Jurado and the Maraqopa Trilogy

Visions of Us on the Land

The Maraqopa trilogy, by Seattle singer-songwriter Damien Jurado, brims over with the uncanny prescience of genuine hope and the bittersweetness of sincere nostalgia. A delicate suspension incorporating choice morsels from at least five decades worth of music, it manages to be both behind and ahead of its time in all the right ways. It is, ironically, the ideal tonic for an age that refuses to live at peace with the present.

Beginning with Maraqopa in 2012 and going further down the rabbit hole with Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son in 2014, Damien Jurado has finally (for now) completed his Maraqopa concept trilogy with Visions of Us on the Land, released March 18.

Why the Church Needs More “Ugly” Art

thorns header

My friend Jimmy used to play guitar for the musical worship team at his church. One Sunday, after the service was over, a man approached Jimmy and said, “I don’t think you should put distortion on your guitar. It’s evil. It’s Satanic.”

Jimmy, being a well-humored and quick-thinking guy, turned the distortion down to 0% and strummed a few chords. “So this is okay? This is not evil?” he asked. The man replied, “Yeah. That sounds good.” Jimmy proceeded to incrementally increase the degree of distortion, play a few notes, and ask again at intervals, “So what about this? Is this evil?”

Why Tolstoy Was Wrong about Happiness: A Review of Deep Sea Diver, SECRETS

cover

Wistful and fierce, Deep Sea Diver’s SECRETS submits the strength of craft to the demands of feeling to yield an exquisitely well-balanced and self-controlled musical recollection of the (sometimes broken) promises of intimacy.

Craft Riot

In an interview with the Stranger, lead singer and guitarist Jessica Dobson expressed how she wanted to push her boundaries on SECRETS:

Tradition and Originality: Finding Your Own Creative Voice

Copying Original Tradition

Some musicians have an unmistakable sound. It only takes a few seconds to audibly recognize Billie Holiday in her penetrating rendition of “Love for Sale,” Glenn Gould and his emotive interpretation of J. S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations, or even the Punch Brothers in their progressively intricate compositions for bluegrass ensemble. What makes these artists so distinct? This question lies at the center of every musician’s creative journey. As an artist, one is always seeking a more unique self-expression through his or her medium. Unfortunately, this search is so ambiguous and esoteric, it drives many to give up before that desire can be fulfilled. No musician is born fully realized—creative self-discovery is a rite of passage for all artists. However, by examining the elements of creativity, it is possible to demystify the process and practically cultivate one’s own distinct musical identity.

Those elements can be condensed to two broad categories: tradition and originality. Every creative output inevitably traces back to some combination of these two aspects. The specific utilization and appropriation of each strongly influences the formation of one’s musical identity. One without the other leads to stagnation and artificiality. In contrast, the artists who experience the most distinct creative success are the ones who stand firmly on the experience of past tradition in order to step forward into new original territory. Let’s unpack this a little.

We Sin Because We Have Bad Taste

goat with bad taste

According to one study, 64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women look at porn at least once a month. Those numbers aren’t all that different from the statistics of non-Christians. Is it at all strange to you that pornography is so popular? It’s singularly one of the most tacky things on the planet. It’s garish, badly acted, badly shot, badly directed, badly “written,” completely unbelievable, contrived, mindless, and absurd.

How do we normally condemn pornography? By calling it immoral, abusive, socially destructive, and shameful (all of which are certainly true). But shouldn’t it be enough that pornography is mind-numbingly tasteless? Somehow that isn’t enough. Which makes me think sin is very much connected to horribly bad taste. Let me explain.

Support Our New Kickstarter: Warbler — Sea of Glass

Warbler Sea of Glass Kickstarter Cover.indd

It’s that time again. After successfully funding Fiery Crash’s In Clover through Kickstarter earlier this year, the Nehemiah Foundation is ready to release our seventh sponsored album of music—Warbler’s sophomore record, Sea of Glass.

And we need your help. Here’s the Kickstarter video to get you started:[1. The Nehemiah Foundation made this video entirely in house, by the way. It’s the first time we’ve ever been able to do that, which is a very exciting development for us.]

Tomorrowland: It’s Not Personal … It’s Just Programming

Tomorrowland2

Global annihilation. Epistemology. Belief. Hope for the future. No, we’re not talking about a Bible conference on eschatology. We’re talking about the latest summer blockbuster from Disney. Tomorrowland is certainly similar to most summer blockbusters. It has action, explosions, adventure, suspense, and all the other things you would expect. But it also has a defined, at times even heavy-handed, moral riptide that has been generating some unusual conversations.

I use moral somewhat loosely, however. This is the Disney version of morality. And it has almost nothing at all to do with religion, narrowly defined. Strangely enough, in a movie this preachy, there isn’t even a single mention of Christians. Or a religious believer of any kind, really. Even in the all-inclusive, ham-fisted, politically correct finale montage, not one religious person is included as a “dreamer.” I guess the brave new world of the dreamers is peculiarly free of religion. Or is it?

How to Improve Christian Movies Without Bigger Budgets

Christian Movies header

Have you ever wondered why most Christian movies fall so flat? The vast majority of the Christian films produced in the last few decades rank among the worst movies ever made. In fact, at least one of them, Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas, had the dubious honor of being IMDb’s worst-rated movie of all time. (It’s currently tied for last.) It nearly swept the Razzies in 2014 too. One of its wins was for Worst Screen Combo: Kirk Cameron & His Ego. Ouch.

Some of the mockery and scorn leveled at Christian movies certainly stems from ideological differences. Most of the people who call Christian movies “lame” and “preachy” don’t belong to the choir. But as I’ve written before, much of the criticism leveled against Christian movies is completely legitimate, and we should take it seriously.