Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Let Time Be Still

This is beautiful. ‘Let Time Be Still’ is a song by Greg Johnson, inspired by the words of poet James K Baxter. It is one of 12 songs recorded for 2000 tribute album Baxter: settings of poems by NZ songwriters. The backdrop is Jerusalem, up the Whanganui River, the centre of Baxter’s final years. The lyrics “matins making” chimes with the Catholic symbols – Mary and the crucifix – which complexified so much of Baxter’s imagination. The beat and vocals slow the tempo, echoing the lyrics, the dream of perfect moments in which time stands still.

Posted by steve at 12:10 PM

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

John 21 and Waiting for a voice, Dave Dobbyn

Those looking for some contemporary creativity around John 21:1-19, the lectionary text for this Sunday, will find helpful Dave Dobbyn’s latest album, Harmony House, released last week. I hope to provide an album review soon, but in the meantime, the opening single, Waiting for a Voice, is intriguing. Here are the lyrics (my transcription from the album playing on the car stereo this morning)

Verse 1 -
I look across a clear glass lake
Not a ripple on it, not a minnows’ wake

I saw a stranger on the opposite shore
Cooking up a meal for me
And what’s more, I heard Elijah
I know it was him
Get into the water man, and lose your sin

And Heaven is waiting for a choice
Waiting for a still clear voice (repeat)

Whether intended by Dobbyn or not, the references to the story of Jesus in John 21 are multiple. Beside the Sea of Galilee in verse 1 (I look across a clear glass lake), the disciples catching nothing in verse 3 (not a minnows’ wake), the presence of the risen Jesus, initially unrecognized in verse 4 (a stranger on the opposite shore), the charcoal fire in verse 9 (cooking up a meal for me).

The reference to Elijah is not named in John 21, but it is a way the disciples might have been making sense of this encounter. There is clear confusion between the Jesus unrecognized in verse 4 and verse 7 “It is the Lord.” A number of times in the Gospels, people wonder if Jesus is Elijah. This shows the power of the Old Testament imaginations that holds. It also shows how the human mind always works within known structures of meaning when trying to assimilate new experience. This has significant missiological implications of course. People move from their known to the new, so any communication needs to begin with the known. In so doing, it will always run the danger of being misinterpreted.

I love the baptism imagery (Get into the water man, and lose your sin). Again, it is not in the text. However it is a lovely imaginative working with the role of water, that is for baptism, and consistent with the actions of Peter in verse 7, as he jumps into the waters of Galilee in his rush to get to Jesus. The lyric makes total sense of the pathway to redemption, that we come to faith through the waters in which are sin is washed away.

The chorus is a catchy mix of crashing chords and ecstatic vocals, channelling the ecstatic sounds of a Nick Cave. The lyrics are distinctly evangelical. Heaven is waiting for a choice. Personally, I wince at the focus in the lyrics on human agency, at the danger of human pride in “my choosing to follow Jesus.” At the same time, there is a sense in John 21 of choice, particularly and repeatedly, in the three questions Jesus asks of Peter in verses 15, 16 and 17. Are we willing to trust ourselves to a stranger, who insists we make clear lifestyle changes (and lose your sin) in choosing to sit around a fire with Jesus?

So how would I use it? Probably I would mention some of the lyrics during the sermon, then play the song after the sermon, as a seque into communion. I would weave some of the lyrics into the communion prayers (thanking God for the saints, including Elijah; for the gift of creation, including lake shores and the waters of baptism, through which we find communion with God). I would ensure the prayers allow a time of silence in which I would invite us to listen for God’s “still clear voice.”

If I knew the community well, I might even invite them to share what they heard at the end of this listening. If I was doing this, my sermon would focus more on a lectio divina approach to Scripture, in which I create space for imaginative listening. Then I would play the song, mention the lyric – listen for God’s “still clear voice” – and invite that space for silence, for listening, and then for sharing.

Who knows what that still clear voice of the risen Lord, so strange to us, might say?

Posted by steve at 08:13 AM

Saturday, February 27, 2016

song for the homecoming: Longtime by Salmonella Dub

It’s good to see you again my friend
It’s been a long, long time

Don’t you fall from grace
Be cool with your space
Check your place
In the race

Posted by steve at 07:53 PM

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Aha, there’s a storyteller: Daniel Lanois, Brandon Flowers and a ministry of imagination

Daniel Lanois is a record producer and musician. His CV includes working with Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Brian Eno and U2. Quite a list! Three of the albums he produced have gone on to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Quite an achievement! Soul Mining: A Musical Life is his autobiography. Part poetry, part techhead, part philosophy it’s an intriguing and stimulating window into art and the artist – as it is glimpsed in the recording and music industry.

Here is his reflection on deciding to work with Brandon Flowers (formerly with The Killers) on his 2010 solo album, Flamingo.

I can hear Brandon’s influences, and that’s okay by me; we all got into this because we fell in love with already existing works. The part of me that looks for the original turns a blind eye to the influences and a good eye to the imagination of this young man. Aha, he’s a storyteller. There is it is, the never-ending frontier – storytelling. Life experience lives beyond the medium. (208)

It’s a lovely insight into how different generations might work together, Lanois born in 1951, Flowers born 1981. It’s a fascinating insight into the music industry and the valuing of originality. It’s a reminder for those of us who work in the religious and spiritual world, that yes we need to have our influences, our traditions and our authors. But lets not lose our good eye for imagination and the valuing of life experience.

Isn’t that the biggest challenge for teaching and for ministry formation – to cultivate imagination in the midst of the sifting of life experience?

Posted by steve at 02:50 PM

Friday, October 23, 2009

free Black Seeds Kiwi music download

for next 48 hours here.

Here are my thoughts on the free download:

Funky beats. Laidback vibe. Nice guitar. But the wind section is just too predictable. This is a live version of a song from their On the Sun album (2004). Which is an OK album, but is not nearly as strong as their more recent Into the Dojo and Solid Ground albums. In other words, this is not necessarily a strong advertisement for their new album release: The Black Seeds Live: Vol 1 for the start of their NZ tour.

And it also raises an interesting question: Why would you release a live album to coincide with the start of a live tour? Surely a live album should come AFTER a live tour?

Posted by steve at 07:25 PM

Saturday, February 07, 2009

groove armada new album free download

Groove Armada‘s new EP is out. What’s more, until March, it’s a free download from, a new experiment in digital sharing. For Andy Cato, “Sharing music has always gone on. It’s giving music away that’s the problem. We wanted to come up with a 21st century version of what we used to do with cassette tapes. When you give music away for free it’s disposable. When you share it, it’s done with love.”

Here’s the “sharing” deal – click below and you also get to download the EP. What’s more – the more that click through from this blog, the more of the EP tracks I get to download. I share the linking luv with you, I get some luv shared back.

emergentkiwi has shared an exclusive Groove Armada track with 0 people on B-Live Share

Get the track for yourself and start sharing

Posted by steve at 11:46 PM

Monday, May 05, 2008

worship and new zealand music month

To celebrate New Zealand music month, I posted a short review of 5 Kiwi albums released in the last year. It has occurred to me since that each of the 5 albums have been incorporated in various shapes and forms into worship here at Opawa Baptist. For those what are interested in worship as “all that we are responding to all that God is” (superb definition from John Drane), here is how:

Salmonella Dub’s Heal Me has a track titled “Seeds” We used it to as part of Grow through gardening, over 3 weeks. We had a hanging basket. Everyone got given a “flower” laminated, on which they wrote their name and planted themselves in the hanging basket. It served as a call to worship. It became for me a very spiritual moment to hold that basket and then pray for those gathered to worship that evening, that they would grow.

Two albums; Tiki Tane, and Little Bushmen start with a track using traditional Maori instruments. We have used these tracks in recent weeks in our morning service as a call to worship, followed by this prayer:
We gather at a place on which many have gone before. Thanks for land on which we gather. Thanks generations worshipped in this church. Thanks for those who have shaped our faith, mentored and encouraged us. May our acts of worship continue your work of shaping generations for ministry in our world today. Amen

SJD’s album has a funky track titled Jesus, full of questions about the place of Jesus in our world today. We used it in our Grow through searching for the real Jesus. The service includes a time in table groups, in which people discuss together – as we listened tonite, what did questions would we like to ask Jesus if he was sitting beside us; and as we listened tonite, what words would we use to describe Jesus. The song “Jesus” made for a helpful soundscape as people talked in groups. What people discussed is then collected up, and placed on the Grow service website.

And, as for my top album, Into the Dojo, by the Blackseeds. Well they have a track titled “One by One.” With lyrics like “Come on and take me up, one by one” and being a song filled with up-beats, well, it’s a great song for during the offering! With a smile of course.

So there you are. Five examples of using songs in worship, honouring that pathway, as a layer allowing, “all that we are – even our contemporary musical life – responding to all that God is – alive in Aotearoa New Zealand today.”

Posted by steve at 06:15 PM

Thursday, May 01, 2008

new zealand music month 2008

It’s May, which means New Zealand music month again. The month dawned golden, with news that Flight of the Concords debuted at No. 3 in US charts. It’s been an excellent year for Kiwi music.

Salmonella Dub were back with Heal Me. While they missed Tiki Taane, their partnership with the NZSO was a wonderful blend of indigenous beats and luscious harmonies.

Speaking of Tiki Tane, he went solo. Past, present, future is not a great album, but it holds promise of musical creativity worth nourishing.

Another album from Little Bushmen is well worth a listen. Pendulum feels like a lot more of unified narrative that the Onus of Sand. Experimental and thoughtful.

SJD was back and I’m glad. Songs for a dictaphone is much more mainstream in sound than his earlier work. But it works, presenting a much more cohesive and accessible sound.

But my top album award goes to Into the Dojo, by the Blackseeds. Great beats. Laidback. Superb.

In the year ahead, I’m hanging out for the partnership between Richard Nunns and Paddy Free, and that mix of beats and indigenous Maori instruments. This is a definite creative stream in New Zealand at the moment. It has led to me trialing an innovation in our Sunday morning service, whereby we start with a brief recorded karanga, or musical call, using snippets of indigenous Maori instruments, followed by a prayer, acknowledging our sense of place and those who have gone before. Still waiting for feedback, but for me, it deeply connects me with God here and new in Aotearoa New Zealand.

What about you? What has been your musical highlights of the last year, and how has that enriched your connection with God?

Posted by steve at 10:19 PM

Sunday, October 22, 2006

5 star music review: tim finn’s imaginary kingdom

Tim Finn’s latest album, Imaginary Kingdom, is a superb listen. From the sing-a-long opening of the single Imaginary Kingdom, to the beautifully arranged strings of Winter Light (which appears in The Chronicles of Narnia), this album is a musical feast, from an artist who has mastered the craft that is the 3 minute pop song.

Amid the catchy riffs you become aware of a thoughtful humanity. Whether it is the impact of suicide and loss in songs like Salt to the Sea and Dead Flowers, or the mystical appreciation of nature in Astounding Moon, this is an album of poetical depth.

Tim Finn has been penning rock songs since the 1970′s, first with Split Enz, then Crowded House and The Finn Brothers. His mop of grey hair is a reminder that writing good music is like a good red wine. It is a skill that matures with age.

Buy it internationally here; or in New Zealand here.

Posted by steve at 08:09 PM

Saturday, May 28, 2005

recommend: fat freddys drop


after initial dislike, “based on a true story,” by fat freddy drop, is growing on me. i still think they are better live, but that is a reflection of how good they are live, rather than the album.

Posted by steve at 02:19 PM

Saturday, December 04, 2004

how to dismantle an atomic bomb

Sometimes you can’t make it on your own; makes me cry, because I love my dad, and he’s not in the best health.

Love and peace or else; has got this great big fat base-line that begs to be played loud.

City of blinding lights; is classic U2 that affirms the Edge as the Original of the lead guitar species.

Posted by steve at 02:47 PM

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

designer U2

I love the simple yet bold effect of the U2 Vertigo/itunes sample. (Download from here). When I see work like this, I am re-affirmed in my awareness that I am not a graffic designer …..

Posted by steve at 10:26 PM

Friday, July 02, 2004

u2 go home


Just found U2 Go home DVD cheap
(At the Warehouse, for all the NZ U2 groupies).

It’s not many bands that in one concert, both protest arms dealing and conclude singing

Dear God,
please may U2 lead worship at my celestial pad.

Posted by steve at 09:38 PM

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

love is blindness: u2 all sweet pain

reading this reminded me of being at the feelers concert last week. they did a fantastic rendition of U2′s Love is Blindness, a perfect mix of loud, angry guitar and plaintiff sweet vocals, which captures the pain of loving, the risk of giving, the sweetness of hoping.

Love is clockworks
And cold steel
Fingers too numb to feel
Squeeze the handle
Blow out the candle
Love is blindness

Posted by steve at 08:08 AM