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Archive for February, 2008

It’s not the best idea to get to know a band by way of a greatest hits album. It’s the Cliff Notes approach to music, worthy only to the degree that it leads to deeper immersion.

My son gave me this CD for Christmas. Prior to this, I knew the Goo Goo Dolls mostly via the preternaturally beautiful `Better Days’. But I’m beginning to get it. (more…)

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Threat and danger concentrate the mind exquisitely. They bring matters of life and death to the fore. Lesser arguments drop away.

Israel’s constitutional narrative considers through the lens of threat and danger the fledgling nation’s trek out of servitude in Egypt, into the still lethal wasteland of wilderness, and then into a land of promise that was—importantly—a place possessed by others who were not eager to hand it over to a wannabe people and their peripatetic god. (more…)

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The gospel writers occasionally seem to have lost the thread of communication theory.

What end is served, for example, by quoting one of your story’s main figures in a language that your readers do not understand? Such an obfuscating move might be put down to the desire to impress, the practice of linguistic elitism. There, the ability to toss off a foreign phrase rather than a desire to communicate weighs heaviest in the writer’s mind. (more…)

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In a short career studded with the jaw-dropping actions we call miracles, Jesus’ most spectacular confrontation with the crowded spaces of the gospels’ spiritual geography goes under the title ‘the Gadarene demoniac’.

This was the fellow who wandered among the tombs, the ineffective chains of citizens’ arrest hanging from his body, cutting himself and crying out in a madman’s chaotic and irresolvable delirium. Every detail underscores that his life—if it can be described as such—takes place at the margins, in the netherworld of those who have been ejected from human society and will never return. To call this man a castoff is to underestimate the spiritual slavery that led to his ‘cutting off’—as the Pentateuch unceremoniously calls such a thing—from his people. (more…)

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In the gospel accounts of his life, Jesus’ authority over all things—an advised rather than careless description—becomes increasingly evident as his little cohort follows him around the land. The confidence that emerges in fits and starts runs a course that is at cross purposes with fear, its primary alternative. (more…)

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It might have been the sheer numbers of people who followed Jesus into the region of the Sea of Galilee that spooked the custodians of religious stability. On the one hand, it is not easy to fault them. Religious madmen and the gullibility of the throngs had caused considerable harm to the Jewish people’s destiny, encased as they were in Imperium’s airless wax. (more…)

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When we might have expected paternal wrath or rebellious fury or grief’s loudest howling, Aaron gives us only silence. It is an enigmatic, even mysterious, stillness. In the wake of the summary execution by Yahweh of his sons Nadab and Abihu for the offense of offering unsolicited ‘strange fire’ on Yahweh’s altar, Aaron’s quiet is patient of more than one interpretation:

Now Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, each took his censer, put fire in it, and laid incense on it; and they offered unholy fire before the LORD, such as he had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the LORD meant when he said,
“Through those who are near me
I will show myself holy,
and before all the people
I will be glorified.”‘

And Aaron was silent.

Perhaps Aaron’s silence speaks of his resignation before YHWH’s judicial response to his sons’ innovation. His closed mouth may even represent assent to the circumstance, a tacit recognition that the death of reckless religionists—even when they are flesh and blood—is right and proper. (more…)

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This stunning Damien Rice offering is by turns imperfect, soulish, quirky, self-absorbed, and fantastic.

Rice’s persuasive voice is complemented with uncommon tact by gorgeous female accompaniment. Though it never ceases to be a Damien Rice album, Lisa Hannigan and her friends are so good that they play a solid supporting role without which Rice would not be what he is. Almost the same can be said of the understated but skillful acoustic guitar that encircles Rice’s voice throughout O‘s tenspot of tracks. (more…)

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Like the mythological Athena, Daughtry seems have sprung full grown and fully armed from the head of his father, call him Music. I mean, where is the warm-up here? Where is the amateurish posing, the awkward yearning to be profound?

This eponymous debut album plays like a very strong sophomore effort, not the uneven first shot that one anticipates from a First Time Thing. The band’s sound fronts Chris Daughtry’s convincing voice and persona against the backdrop of tight vocal harmonies, crisp guitar and bass work, and unobtrusive but effective drumming. (more…)

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As an amateur music lover with only a spotty control of the repertoire, it always amazes me when it turns out that a composer whom I’ve come to know via the big works–his symphonies, for example–excels in the small stuff as well.

The Quartetto Italiano does Brahms proud on this Philips Duo recording of his complete string and clarinet quartets. Brahms the late Romantic composer sounds almost modern in these tight, diminutive, four-pieces. Something of the Modernist angst comes in to complement the celebratory reflex of Romanticism itself. One senses that we stand here at the hinge of two artistic eras. (more…)

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