Writing about Music Is Like Dancing about Architecture

Mark Beuving —  April 14, 2014 — 4 Comments
This entry is part 20 of 22 in the seriesBook of the Month

This great quote is attributed to Elvis Costello: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” Indeed.

That’s one of art’s greatest characteristics. It defies description. It resists paraphrase. So when it comes to writing about something as complex, subtly nuanced, and experience-driven as music, you may as well be using a waltz to explain the Eifel Tower. But that doesn’t stop us from trying.

Resonate Mark BeuvingAt the end of this month, I’m releasing a book through Zondervan entitled Resonate: Enjoying God’s Gift of Music. It’s essentially a music lover’s approach to the topic. I have always loved music. Always. I still remember the time my dad came home with a new boom box and a cassette tape of the Beach Boys’ Surfer Girl album. Music has been a constant part of my life since that moment.

And that’s exactly where the description-defying nature of music comes in to play. I can’t tell you exactly what music has done for me. Inspired me? Deepened my emotional life? Helped me to contemplate key aspects of human existence? Enlarged my being (to borrow a phrase from C. S. Lewis)? Yes. All of those. But what do these grandiose claims mean precisely? As an educator, a book lover, and a writer, I spend a lot of time around intellectual types who would rather be reading commentaries than listening to Radiohead. That type of person gets suspicious when you talk about an “enlargement of being” in connection with melodies and tones. Yet I am convinced that all of us need to embrace the gift of music more deeply.

In my experience, we tend to take music for granted. It’s everywhere. Many of us pursue it eagerly, but even those who don’t care much about music are exposed to it constantly. The trouble is, we rarely think about the music we hear. Is music actually good for us? How so? Can it be harmful to our souls? If so, how? And how do we guard against the harmful affect? What kind of music should we be listening to? Is it okay for a serious Christian to listen to “secular music”? Should we be primarily focused on “Christian music”? And what does “Christian music” mean, anyway?

These are all questions that I’ve had throughout my music-loving life. I haven’t always had good answers to those types of questions. To be honest, I went through many years without even considering them. And yet music has always remained with me—affecting me in ways I didn’t understand, attracting me in ways I can’t articulate, even leading me into worship in the oddest of situations (a concept that I was not entirely comfortable with).

So while writing about something as mysterious as music is inherently difficult, I felt compelled to explore this gift from God. Anytime we find one of God’s gifts going unappreciated, or we find the gift being used but the Giver going unacknowledged, we need to think more deeply. If you’ve never felt awe at how unbelievable the gift of music is—if that gift has never left you in awe of the Giver—then you need to think more deeply about music.

That’s what I hope to offer readers through Resonate: the opportunity to think more deeply about music. In the first half, I explore a theology of music. What does the Bible say about it? How do we explain the universal fascination with music (there has never been a culture that has gone without music)? How should we as God’s image bearers relate to music? How should we think about the distinction between secular and Christian music? Then in the second half, I explore ways that we dive in and interact with music. How should we listen to it? How should we create it? How should we share it? How does music relate the worship and mission of the church?

Over the next few weeks, I’ll keep posting about music here and there. That’s partly to promote the book (what’s the point in writing it if no one reads it, right?). But I also genuinely care about music, and I sincerely want you to see the beauty, brilliance, and mystery of music as you’ve never seen it before. And my prayer is that you would see the beauty, brilliance, and mystery of God as your grow in your enjoyment of his gift of music.

If you’re so inclined, you can pre-order it here:

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Mark Beuving

Mark Beuving

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Mark Beuving currently serves as the Associate Pastor of Equipping and Discipleship at Creekside Church in Rocklin, CA. Prior to going back into pastoral ministry, Mark spent ten years on staff at Eternity Bible College as a Campus Pastor, Dean of Students, and then Associate Professor. He is passionate about building up the body of Christ, training future leaders for the Church, and writing. Though he is interested in many areas of theology and philosophy, Mark is most fascinated with practical theology and exploring the many ways in which the Bible can speak to and transform our world. He is the author of "Resonate: Enjoying God's Gift of Music" and the co-author with Francis Chan of "Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples." Mark lives in Rocklin with his wife and two daughters.