Monday, March 18, 2013

Jazz in Church?

Interesting article in the New Yorker, about church services centered around jazz performance. From Marc Hopkins:
At Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church, located at the top of the city’s Magnificent Mile, each Sunday at 4 p.m. the Lucy Smith Quartet draws heavily from sacred offerings like Coltrane’s “Dear Lord,” and songs from his A Love Supreme album. Adam Fronczek, associate pastor for adult education and worship, started the weekly services in mid-2010 to reach people who didn’t grow up in church or had stopped coming and wanted to return. Fronczek found jazz particularly useful because he sees the music as theologically rich. “There’s a musical journey that goes on with a piece of jazz music that I think mirrors our journey through the life of faith,” he said, referring to improvisation that occurs during performance. 
The line about the theological richness of jazz intrigued me, so I spent some time this morning digging around the internet, and I found this interview with “jazz theologian” Robert Gelinas. 
Jazz theology is what happens when we express the basic elements of jazz in our relationship with God—syncopation, improvisation, and call and response. These allow us to find our own voice within Scripture; experience life in concert with other practicing Christians; truly have time as servant leaders instead of time having us; and sing the blues so as not to waste any pain.
Curiously, Gelinas also writes “But my favorite jazz artist is the great American novelist Ralph Ellison, who demonstrated that jazz is more than music with his classic novel, Invisible Man. He showed that if we understand the basics of jazz, we can see it expressed in a variety of ways.”
See? It all comes back to my dissertation.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Blogging at Pterodáctilo

Speaking of new projects, I've been blogging for pterodáctilo, the literary magazine of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Not long ago, I wrote about trying to follow the ghost of Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges around Austin, one of his favorite cities in the US. Here's a sample:

For Borges, this was always a place of wonder. Miguel Enguidános—on faculty here when Borges arrived—wrote in the introduction to El hacedor that, “Texas was, for him, an epic-laden dream.”  Borges came as a visiting professor in 1961 and left in early 1962. He came back several times for short visits, but still, that’s not a lot of time. And yet Austin and Texas kept showing up in his writings over the next two decades. There’s the short story “The Bribe,” (“El soborno,” 1975) set on the UT campus. There’s the sonnet, “Texas” (1967), in which Borges expresses his surprise at finding so many similarities between my home and his. In another poem, Borges calls Austin the city through which he “discovered America.” And then there’s Paul Theroux’s interview with Borges, as described in The Old Patagonia Express. As Peter LaSalle puts it, “Borges started talking about Texas almost as soon as Theroux got through the door to his apartment. Borges asked him if he was familiar with Austin, Theroux said no, and Borges chided him for having missed it on his trip: ‘You should have gone to Austin.’

You can read the whole post here. It features cameos from Kinky Friedman and Janis Joplin.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Drinking With Women

I’m about to launch a new project/series of posts dealing with the theology of booze, and I’ve been doing lots of research—reading, I mean, not drinking. Though I’ve been doing my share of drinking, too.
As part of that reading, I found this interview with Dr. Taylor Marshall at the very interesting whiskeycatholic site.
Asked for his thoughts on “virtuous drinking,” Marshall responds:
“Virtuous drinking involves male friendship, plain and simple. It’s usually a time for men to remove themselves from the company of women that they love and sit together around a fire pit, in the darkness, or on the back porch. Some of the most meaningful conversations that I have had with my father, my brother, and my friends have been over a Scotch. Real relationships are forged. It’s a beautiful thing.”
I’ll never, ever, ever get this sort of homosociality. I know that other people feel that way, but I just don’t. It must be some kind of innate orientation that I just flat-out don’t have. I like fire pits and back porches, and I like male friendship. But I’ve done enough sex-segregated activities—spent enough time in locker rooms, in sports camps, etc.—to state with confidence that just about everything worth doing is better when there are women around. Drinking maybe most of all.
We’re coming up on the 4th anniversary of the day my mom died. I’ll always remember the drink I shared with my grandmother that afternoon. I had just lost my mother; she had just lost her only daughter. We were stranded in our bewilderment, both of us entirely without words. But when I offered to drive her to the liquor store for some bourbon, her face lit up in appreciation. It was all I could do at that moment, but it meant something. Arguably, it meant everything.
So Marshall is absolutely right that alcohol forges bonds. What I don’t get is why he doesn’t want to forge those relationships with the women in his life; why he needs a space that excludes the women he loves.