Tuesday, August 28, 2012

On Music and Transcendence

"If your songs come forth with great fervor, you not only reach deity, but deity comes and possesses you, becomes part of you, and gives you the strength to do whatever you've got to do to win your battles, to harvest your crop."
Joe Carter

My moments of greatest transcendence, where I have briefly escaped the routine of daily life and experienced a higher spiritual plane, have largely taken place in the musical world. That's why I love this quote from Joe Carter [not the baseball player]. It rings true for me. I have been grasped and possessed by deity in the context of music.

I think everyone is searching for transcendence. Something to get our heads away from the mundane reality of our day-to-day laundry and taxes and lunch-packing routines. We seek to be a part of something great, something Bigger. At our worst, we seek it though addiction--to drugs, to hobbies, to religion, to politics, to our children. At our best, we receive a taste and see, however briefly, that the Lord is good. 

Personally, I taste and see most often in music that "comes forth with great fervor." But it isn't the music that bring the high. Instead, I believe the high is very literally God. It is a felt sense of the presence of God.

But even those who commit their lives to remaining in God's presence receive only a taste. No one lives in a perpetual state of transcendence. God is not to be grasped. Transcendence is a rare gift from the Giver.

It is not transcendence that we should seek, but rather God, the author of every good thing.

Transcendence is the icing, not the cake.

In what contexts have you experienced a higher spiritual plane? Music? Prayer? Nature? Family? Something else?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Six Bands I Love Right Now

Here are some of the bands I'm listening to right now, and what I like about them:

1. Sigur Ros - Nobody does the musical slow burn better. They, as much as any group I've ever heard, create opportunities for transcendence. It's non-worship-music worship music. Try not to cry at the beauty.

2. The National - This band manages to be singable while still incredibly unique. I also enjoy their lead singer's lower, more relaxed vocals. 

3. Fun. - I shared some of their music with a friend, and he said they are music for people with ADD. He's right--every song of Fun.'s has three songs within it. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more interesting group right now. And yes, their music is incredibly....fun.

4. Gungor - A new album comes out in October from these guys. They are a good model for an artist like me, because they have some songs that could be classified as "worship" music, but others that are songs just about life and faith. And God is in the in-between. The more I write, the more I find myself in this position. So I have lots to learn from a group like this.

5. Bon Iver - I have rediscovered this album from earlier in the year. Such a unique sound, and such creatively structured songs. Every song is hooky, but not cheesy. Instead, the hook finds its root in sonic and lyrical depth. Very impressive. And try not to emote during "Holocene," I dare you.

6. Passion Pit - Well-produced, melodic, unique, pop-tastic. This group has everything.

How about you? What are you listening to?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Creative Voice

Last week, as I worked from home and wrote new music, I realized the biggest challenge in songwriting is to find my own voice. Particularly, in writing lyrics [or these blog posts], it's difficult to voice who I am and to articulate my own paradigms.

I have noticed that it's much easier for me to emulate some artist or songwriter, as if I were writing a song for them, than it is for me to simply create something original. In fact, many of the songs I've written have been emulations of some famous artist. In many of these instances, I can tell you the exact song I was trying to emulate. [But I won't, because then you'll never be able to shake the comparison!]

Steven Pressfield [must reading for anyone who works creatively] says that our aim as artists is to "get better, go deeper, and work closer to the bone."

I love that phrase, and I am trying to allow it to guide my work. I feel like I am brand new to this journey, despite the fact that I've been songwriting for over a decade.

I think, in the end, it takes time and practice to find one's own voice. Habits must be undertaken; disciplines adhered to; reps "repped." So, I am beginning to work hard to do these things.

How about you? Have you found your own unique creative voice? Or are you still chasing it?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Being Biblical

On any given issue, most Christians I know want to have a bibilical position--that is, they want to form the basis of their position on the Scriptures. Here's the problem: there are often several "biblical positions" on any given issue. In fact, the Bible presents several viewpoints on many foundational Christian doctrines and discussions[heaven, hell, salvation, judgment, war, end times, capital punishment, atonement, creation, marriage, etc.].

The Bible is simply too messy. As much as we would love it to be, it is not a legal constitution. It is poem, narrative, legend, song, letter, prophesy, and much more.

Wouldn't we be wiser [and more humble?] to offer others A biblical position, or perhaps OUR biblical position, rather than assuming that we always offer THE biblical position?

Friday, August 10, 2012


Last weekend I played the Feed Ur Soul Conference, and as part of that event, played a concert. This was a bit of a coming-out party for me, as I had never before played a concert that was billed as "Terry Waggoner, Live In Concert." I introduced a lot of new material that people hadn't heard, and put myself out there for the first time.

While I loved being a part of the event, and feel like it went well, the whole process was extraordinarily stressful for me. Here's why:

1. I battle perfectionist tendencies. "Good" wouldn't be good enough. I wanted to be unbelieveable. 

2. I am a people pleaser. So I wanted everyone to like everything I did, even though art is subjective. It was highly unlikely that a roomful of people would have the same musical taste, which would be uniquely be met by my music alone. Didn't matter to me--everyone had to love everything. 

3. I want to be authentic, and not pander to what I knew would "work." In a roomful of enthusiastic Christians, it would have been easy for me to just yell "Jesus!" every few minutes and get people into it. However, I wanted to be myself, and do it the way I would do it.

4. The concert was challenging in a number of ways. I don't talk a lot leading worship---but I would have to for this, in order to set up songs, explain ideas, and such. Additionally, the material would stretch me as a vocalist and guitarist. So I knew going in that it wasn't going to be easy.

In the end, things went quite well. It was well received [Christians can be good encouragers], and I feel like I played pretty well. I am now trying to see how this artistic journey is just that--a journey. Not a one-off, end-all-be-all concert event. So I feel good about last weekend as jumping off point for this artistic journey. More to come.

Which of these inner battles do you fight most--perfectionism? People-pleasing? Authenticity? Inadequacy? Feel free to comment below.