Music with Morgan, Billy, and Ylvis

My kids have now reached the age at which we start having music fights in the car.  Our travel playlist has become quite eclectic.  For example, tonight we spent an hour in the car and our selections included:

  1. This summer’s VBS theme song (Stand Strong)
  2. Bon Jovi
  3. Billy Joel
  4. One Direction
  5. The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Theme Song
  6. Matt Maher
  7. Elton John
  8. Hakuna Matata
  9. Kenny Chesney
  10. Sidewalk Prophets, and
  11. What Does the Fox Say

One particular song that hit our playlist tonight was Billy Joel’s Summer, Highland Falls.  The lyrics of this song are so moving and beautiful that when I was studying poetry in college, I wrote Billy Joel a letter thanking him for the way he was able to evoke such emotion by pairing beautiful imagery with haunting melodies.

“It was by music that the ancient kings gave elegant expression to their joy. By their armies and axes they gave the same to their anger.” – Confucius

Just to give you a brief example:

We are forced to recognize our inhumanity
Our reason co-exists with our insanity
And though we choose between reality and madness,
it’s either sadness or euphoria.

You can listen to the whole song here:

I suppose it’s no wonder that I started thinking about lyrics considering that tonight’s playlist moved us from Billy Joel’s poetic genius immediately into One Direction’s Best Song Ever.

The refrain to that song?

I think it went oh, oh, oh / I think it went yeah, yeah, yeah / I think it goes oh

To say that One Direction is no poetic genius is putting it mildly.

To be fair, I must admit that  I sang the “oh, oh, oh” and “yeah, yeah, yeah” with just as much gusto as I did Summer, Highland Falls – and with significantly more dancing.  By the time we got to What Does the Fox Say, I had hopped down from my mental soapbox and forgotten all about my concern for modern song lyrics.  It could be that I was just too busy trying to make my kids laugh by imitating the CGI fox dance moves at the end of the song without sacrificing my driving.

“Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are, and for what, whence, and whereto.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Then, I got home and found this gem on my Facebook feed:

I listened to these classic actors, with their rich voices, reciting such banal…well…crap… and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  Hearing One Direction (and Miley, and that idiotic Chinese Food song) in that context brought the point slamming home again.

“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.” – Shinichi Suzuki

The songs whose lyrics are recited in that video (along with a thousand other modern pop and rock songs) make me want to laugh, dance, sing along, and bop my head.  But while that makes those songs entertainment, I don’t know that it makes them music in the idealist sense.

“[Music is] the exaltation of the mind derived from things eternal bursting forth in sound.”  -St. Thomas Aquinas

Truly good music has been a soundtrack of my life.  From the heart swell that begins with the opening bars to “Over the Rainbow” to the short story revealed in Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” to the mind bending insanity of “Bohemian Rhapsody” to the tears that well up each time I hear the “Ave Maria” – in its purest and most ideal form, music evokes emotion.

I can’t say I get much emotion out of

“You a stupid hoe / You a / You a stupid hoe / (stupid, stupid)”

unless you count dismissive condescension as an emotion? (That was Nicki Minaj, btw.)

Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy. Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents. – Ludwig van Beethoven

Maybe (probably) I’m over thinking it – and I’m still going to sing along with “What Does the Fox Say” – but every time I do, I’m going to imagine Morgan Freeman…

You're Kidding

I’m also going to try to be a little more deliberate about including some truly great music in the car’s playlist.

Good coffee won’t save your soul – Part 1

There is a plague that has run rampant in Catholic Churches for years. Few have sought to end this scourge. Most have just accepted this fact as an unchangeable reality. The elderly sigh and talk about the good ol’ days when things were different. The young don’t bother to come to the Church for this anymore because they can get fancier, flashier versions somewhere else. The world has become so relativistic that some even challenge the notion that there is good and bad of this fundamental substance.

Of course, I’m talking about coffee.Coffee Cup

Church coffee is notoriously bad. When our bulletin folders are in the office, the coffee is so thin you could read the bulletin through it. For some reason, when particular people make coffee, there is this oily film covering the top. Some days the coffee is so wretched to call it burnt sludge would be an insult to burnt sludge.

Frustrated and deeply desiring a “real” cup of coffee, I made a desperate move. I went to Target and purchased an $18 coffee maker, $3 worth of filters, and an $8 bag of good beans. I brought them back to my office and brewed myself some good coffee. It was magnificent. Read More

Not a Grammy Review or Just Dance: I wish I could

GrammyI’ll admit it, I watched most of the Grammys. I’m not going to blame my wife, though it was on when I got home from work. I enjoyed much of it. Paul McCartney, the Boss, and Dave Grohl on the same stage = awesome-mind blowing-weird-goodness. I’m not going to touch the ridiculously silly Nicki Minoj spectacle (Am I the only one that thought it was funny to watch someone try so hard to be controversial and fail because everyone was so distracted by her lack of talent? Also, if you need proof Catholic persecution is alive and well, there you go. Okay, I guess I am going to comment on it). Adele is proof that talent plus the less is more attitude is beautiful and moving beyond words.  Jennifer Hudson same thing, beautiful tribute. May God have mercy on us all us sinners.

Wait, this isn’t a Grammy blog. I, an adult male, am not reviewing the Grammys. I am writing to say I wish I could listen to more of the kind of music played at the Grammys. I wish I could play some of the big time, top 40 dance music on display last night. But I can’t in good conscience do that. I can’t subject my children, my wife, or my own heart for that matter, to lyrical content of most of the top 40.  Call me a prude, but my job as a husband and father is to protect my family. If that means physically, I will do my best to talk my way out of it (lover not fighter, but will if I have to). It also means I am called to protect their holiness, which means I will do my best to protect them from sin or an occasion to sin. I’m not great at this, but I do my best where I think I can.

I don’t mean to get on my high horse about this, and if you feel judged by this, know that I don’t mean to judge your holiness or level of commitment to your kids.  However, I will judge the lyrical content of music, and I can judge how I behave when I listen to certain lyrics or watch certain movies or TV (had to quit Sopranos for this reason).  I just can’t in good conscience give my daughters a snake when they ask for a fish (goldfish).

Nearly every night as dinner is slowly ending, my family puts on a little dance music and throws a dance party while we clear the table and do the dishes. My girls are fun and funny and bring great joy to our family when we do this. I just wish there was more fun music that I could play while we have our crazy dance party.  Until there is, I will just have to rely on my man Elmo to parody the top 40 for my family.

Praying Twice

I’ve always been enamored with music writers.  It’s so impressive to me how they can put into words things that are sometimes hard to express.  They have a handle on the English language and can manipulate words in surprising and insightful ways.

Then, you add to that gift a deep love of God and a desire to use those words to give Him praise, share truths of the faith, or meditate on prayer and scripture and the results can be truly incredible.

I am a big fain of praise and worship music.  I wouldn’t say I’m really a connoisseur of the Christian music scene, but I do have a few favorites.  An artist who’s high on my list is Matt Maher, a Catholic singer-songwriter who has recently broken into the Christian music market in a major way.

I celebrate Matt’s entire collection of music, but I particularly enjoy his album “Alive Again”.  There’s a great personal and spiritual journey that he took when writing this album and it is really obvious when you listen to the lyrics of his songs.  But, the depth and beauty of this album goes beyond the lyrics into the music itself.  They’re are songs that are stirring, others that are uplifting, some that are mournful, and others that bring hope.  Last night, I was listening to one of my favorite songs on the album, “Sing Over Your Children”…Here’s an excerpt from the lyrics…

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