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Archive for the ‘Song’ Category

Everyone catch the halftime performance at the Super Bowl last night?  If so, you’ll understand why I timed this post as I did.

Christopher West is a Catholic apologist and, most likely, the foremost American commentator on Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.  In this short video, which he made in 2008, West takes a very balanced and heartfelt look at the songs of one of our culture’s most beloved current pop icons.

Fair warning: West’s style may seem like a lot to handle at first.  Not that he is “preachy” in any way, but he is…well, rather colorful at times.

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Well, okay, it was 1990…close, though.

Granted, the video is a bit out there — but the music and lyrics are, in this blogger’s humble opinion, powerful and moving.

This is 80s British electronic band Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence,” and what we see in it is, I think, an expression of humanity’s universal longing for God.  I am especially struck by these lyrics:

Words are very unnecessary,
They can only do harm.

This reminded me of many of the great mystics of the Catholic spiritual tradition (St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, among others) who have spoken of advanced stages of prayer in which the soul is absorbed in the contemplation of God…an experience that is beyond both words and comprehension.  I was also reminded of the fact that throughout the prayer journey, one seeks to cultivate interior silence so as to be present to God, and to better hear His voice.

Whether they know it or not, this kind of intimacy with God is what all people seek deep in their hearts.

But I’ll get off my “soap box” now.  Enjoy the vid. 🙂

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This is Valentina Lisitsa playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Op. 27, No. 2, Movements 1, 2, 3.

Keep in mind that Beethoven was considering suicide at the time during which he wrote this song.  Facing his slowly approaching deafness, he sank into despair and depression.  He later credited his music for preventing his suicide.

Indeed, the power of art — both for the artist who pours his/her soul into it, and for the recipient whose soul it touches — can be inestimable.

By the way, if you have about an hour and a half — or would like to listen over time, in pieces — here is a great audio presentation on the nature and history of the imagination (which embraces art, music, literature, etc.):

http://www.peterkreeft.com/audio/22_cslewis_imagination.htm

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This is Sister Cristina Scuccia, of the Ursuline Sisters of the Holy Family, performing on Italy’s version of “The Voice” (only a couple minutes long — the rest is dialogue, and all in Italian).

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I’m not a huge country music fan; but I have heard this song on the radio a few times, and I’ve grown fond of it.  I think the words describe the Blesséd Virgin Mary perfectly.  No one “loves us like Jesus does” more than Mary.

(BTW: I am fully aware that the Virgin Mary is not the subject of this song.  But I don’t think I’m stretching things, because in fact all women share in the dignity of Mother Mary)

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les-miserables-dawnTom Hooper’s adaptation of “Les Misérables” ends with a re-gathering of all the characters — including those who have died — in some mysterious “new dawn” accompanied by the song “Do You Hear the People Sing?”

I have two things to say about this:

1) We notice that the song is reconfigured a bit from its performance earlier in the film, going from an anthem to an earthly utopia to a testament to man’s greater hope.

2) This moment is in some sense prefigured not only by the earlier performance of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” but also in the general use of music throughout the film.

We notice at various times that different characters in different physical locations are singing the same song, or else singing different songs with a very similar thematic structure…

lovers

…whether it is Marius and Cosette pining for one another…

rebels

…the rebels seeking a new order…

anne-hathaway-les-miserables

…Fantine weeping for her lost innocence…

Javert…Javert seeking justice…

Valjean_Prayer

…or Jean Valjean seeking redemption.

However different our circumstances in this world, however different our roles and goals, whatever our worldly destinies, and however different our paths through life, we are all ordered to the same destiny.  We are all meant to form the family of God eternally, to the crowning glory of the New Heavens and New Earth — or the summation of all things in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:10).

This is God’s desire for all humanity. It is for this reason that He sent His only Begotten Son to become a man, like us human beings in all things except sin, to bear our sins in His own body, to die for us, and to restore our life by His Resurrection.

There are none left out of this destiny except those who are excluded by their own choice, by their refusal of God’s call to repentance and conversion.  In the case of “Les Misérables,” this includes Javert (see my post “Act II, Scene 2/3” — https://intothedance.wordpress.com/2013/06/08/les-miserables-dvd-review-act-ii-scene-23-the-small-stuff/) and Monsieur and Madame Thénardier, the devious innkeeping couple who use poverty as an excuse for behavior that is inimical to community.

On that Final Day, we will know all we need to know.  We will finally see how and in what ways our actions, our sufferings, our prayers, and our very presence in this world affected others.  We will learn why some had to suffer more than others.  We will see the whole of history and creation fulfilled, its meaning disclosed.  Made to share by grace in the very life of God, we “will shine like the sun in the kingdom of (God the) Father” (Matthew 13:43).

Until then, we must strive to help one another reach this sublime destiny.  As C.S. Lewis wrote in his book “The Weight of Glory”:

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.  All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

Such is the song — the “dance,” if you will — of daily life.  So let us be people of hope, not despair; virtue, not vice; kindness, not cruelty; moderation, not self-indulgence; generosity, not possessiveness…

…Let us sing.

SUPPLEMENTAL VIDEO

In closing, here is a video that in some way bears witness to the higher hope I have touched on.  Most of you have probably already seen Minnesota teenager Zach Sobiech’s moving music video, which he made after learning that he had only months to live — nevertheless, here it is:

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I must confess, I don’t usually like listening to sad songs.  Why?  Because they make me…well, sad.

But Bruno Mars’ popular and fairly recent single “When I Was Your Man” has intrigued me.  If you haven’t heard the song, take a few minutes to watch the above video before reading any further.

I don’t know whether or not this is based on an actual past romance of Bruno Mars.  Either way, it is compelling.  It should get us thinking of our own relationships, whether romantic or otherwise.  There is nothing worse than having had something truly special, failed to appreciate it, and then lost it.

Unfortunately, most of us have to learn this the hard way.  Perhaps that’s why the song resonates with so many people.

Let’s assume for a second that “When I Was Your Man” does, in fact, tell a true story.  Is there any silver lining to it?

I would say there is, but you have to look hard.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking line in the song occurs toward the end, when the singer acknowledges his lost love’s current relationship with someone else:

I just want you to know, I hope he buys you flowers…

Notice that he does not betray any hope of getting his girl back.  He sincerely desires her happiness — even if it is with someone else.

Though the end of his relationship may in itself have been a tragedy, a greater good has been drawn out of it.  Through tragedy, he has finally learned to love.

Before the breakup, he was all about himself.  He was too preoccupied with his own pursuits — whatever those were — to take his girlfriend out dancing, or even to buy her flowers.

Now, not only is he more focused on the unnamed woman’s happiness, but he desires said happiness for her own sake.  To truly love is to will the good of the other without expecting to get anything in return — even the restoration of a lost relationship.

Picture the relationship in question lasting.  In other words, picture the singer and his significant other getting married and spending the rest of their lives together.

But apart from that, imagine no difference.  Assume that the egotism and self-interest the singer laments in himself remains.  What would that mean?  For one thing, it would make for a lifetime of unhappiness for the woman.  But while it seems like the male partner is getting his way by keeping her by his side while still getting to shirk his responsibility to show her the love and admiration she deserves, is this really good for him?  If we consider human dignity within its most comprehensive context, is it good for anyone to go to the grave with this kind of a legacy?

Whether the male protagonist of “When I Was Your Man” is Bruno Mars or a fictional character, we can assume that he has been saved from this type of a legacy.

True, his relationship did not have to end in order for this to happen.  But again, as fallen creatures in need of redemption, we often have to learn the hard way.

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