The Common Good

A Year in Music

This year I have been trying something new to me. I’m trying my hands at a little music or concert review. It’s a chance to experiment with this nascent methodology I’m developing. The posts have been some of the most commented upon on Facebook and even on the blog. Thanks for everyone’s engagement!

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English rock band Mumford and Sons Mat Hayward/Shutterstock

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Though not the beginning, certainly the central review is this duo about Mumford and Sons and eschatological banjosCathleen Falsani was in town and we had a great time at these shows. These concerts are all about the eschaton, transcendence, immanence, and banjos. There are always banjos. I know.

The eschatological is not transcendence. It is, instead, the awareness of the whole of creation including our own place in it. It is awareness.

Then there was the Goat Rodeo at The Greek. More mando than banjo, and a little viola de gamba from The Ma. 

We live lives that can best be described as a goat rodeo. Genres are collapsing. It is all just music. And what we’re left with is the glory of the chaos that is human beings in constant negotiation with one another. Such a life demands a kind of virtuosity and flexibility, an anticipation of what is to come and a willingness to fill in the gaps we leave to one another as we play together. As Thile said, “it is wholly unnatural that we should be separated ... It is the other people that we want to hear.”

There’s this one about the Milk Carton Kids. This concert was more about the great cloud of witnesses and the elasticity of tradition rather than the eschaton for me. Though, when one thinks about it, elasticity and the great cloud of witnesses are rather eschatological notions.

They remind me of early Simon and Garfunkel mixed with Bob Dylan and, yes, John Denver. The patter reminded me of the Smothers Brothers when they were at their zenith. I know that it seems corny now, but they were tremendous musicians who could wrap an audience around their fingers. Add some 21st-century nihilistic irony, influences like Jerry Seinfeld and Steven Wright, and you might begin to understand. Harpo Marx, too. We dare not forget Harpo who carried us all. 

Recently, Aiofe O’Donovan and Evie Laden were at The Chapel. 

The eschaton is the beginning. I keep saying this. Beginning with the ending is simply good form. It’s theologically and spiritually arresting. There are no endings, just more and more beginnings. 

As an aside, from 2012, this wasn’t the first time I had heard Aiofe sing. I have heard her in concert three times now. I’m looking forward to the next opportunity. 

Then there was Bobby McFerrin

Participatory, joyful, polyphonous, a Bobby McFerrin concert is an explicit act of sonic theology.

’Nuff said.

Finally, there’s this post that comes somewhat close to outlining the methodology behind these reviews. I’m still working it out. It’s incomplete, but here we go: Liturgical Cognition: Eschatological Knowing

The limit I am encountering has everything to do with how to translate from what I know with my body, the information that I receive from playing and singing and being in prayer in worship. How to make sentences out of intimations? I just don’t know. I want to “show”people. I am rightly teased around here, “No, you may not play your dissertation for us.”And yet even the most accomplished have to unearth metaphors like "goat rodeo" and then put on a concert.

I’m excited about the music I will encounter and make in the new year. More reviews to come! St. Grohl, preserve us. 

Tripp Hudgins is a doctoral student in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, Calif. You can read more of his writings on his longtime blog, "Conjectural Navel Gazing; Jesus in Lint Form" at AngloBaptist.orgFollow Tripp on Twitter @AngloBaptist.

Photo: Mat Hayward/Shutterstock

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