Jazz, modern art, Terrence Malick, raindrops on roses

There are a few things I’m very much looking forward to in these hectic days. One of them is being able to take a few days off with Andrea to recover from this past week. Somewhere in the flurry of activity I had my first jazz guitar gig at an event for Tyndale Seminary and it was a lot of fun. I’m no Django, but all in all for someone more accustomed to playing bass than guitar it worked out OK (I played bass in the Jazz Orchestra at York for several years, but since then my jazz chops have been a bit rusty). Throwing out the window all the nuanced discussions we’ve been having on this blog about “Christian” music, Albert and I did indulge ourselves in some jazzy instrumental versions of popular worship songs… I think our bossa nova cover of “Blessed Be Your Name” was a highlight. Tucked in between standards (“Autumn Leaves,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “St. Thomas” which we played at least 4 times) I don’t think anyone noticed anything out of the ordinary.

Another thing I am excited about is the Abstract Expressionist exhibition on now at the Art Gallery of Ontario until Sept. 4. I can’t wait to see this collection, on loan from the MoMA in New York, which includes pieces by giants of American art like Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Ad Reinhardt, Gorky, Guston, Pollock, Rothko and of course Barnett Newman, whom I am presenting a paper about at the annual AAR meeting this fall. I was quite surprised to encounter a reference to Barnett Newman in, of all places, “Iron Man 2.” Tony Stark has quite a collection of modern art in his underground lair, including an original Newman which he moves out of the way in order to hang up a Shepherd Fairey-style poster of himself in his armour.

A final source of excitement is Terrence Malick’s new film “The Tree of Life,” which you can read an insightful review of here. Malick is often described as an auteur for the personal vision and exquisite artistry he brings to his films, and in his case the oft-debated designation seems particularly appropriate considering the mystery surrounding his personal life (he’s no Thomas Pynchon, but still is known for his avoidance of the public eye). Another Brett – Brett McCracken, who is probably still recovering from James K.A. Smith’s scathing review of his book “Hipster Christianity” – has dedicated a seemingly endless number of recent blog posts to Malick (covering his films, their spiritual/religious dimension and “The Tree of Life” in particular) which are worth checking out. His compendium of reviews is interesting, especially this one:

Andrew O’Hehir (Salon): “A massively ambitious work of allegorical and almost experimental cinema that seeks to recapture the lived experience of a 1950s family, after the fashion of a Texas Proust, and connect it to the life of the universe, the nature and/or existence of God, the evolution of life on earth and even the microscopic chemistry and biology of life… The Tree of Life may appeal to more adventurous Christian viewers.”

Who are these “adventurous Christian viewers”? Hopefully some of them read this blog. In speaking as we have been of ‘secular’ (ie. normal!) films that deal with spiritual issues in an adept, artful way, I think Malick’s oeuvre is not a bad place to start. Another reviewer summons not only Proust but James Joyce and Ray Bradbury. Sounds like a good convergence to me!

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