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Posts Tagged ‘Philip Glass

Why I Don’t Listen To Christian Music

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Short Answer: No One Likes Being Manipulated

On Conversation is an Engine I mostly write about communication and conversation and copywriting and how business interacts because I am fascinated by what happens when people talk. But undergirding this sense of wonder is a faith in God that makes me see much of life in theological hues. The fallout from that theological saturation means I want to approach the work of communication and persuasion from an ethical perspective—as best I can.

Lots of music labeled “Christian” does not do that.

OneTheMove-05122014The college I occasionally teach at has a radio station that spins out Christian music. I stopped listening years ago when I realized my emotions were being manipulated by music that was nearly content-free. It had a veneer of faith, but seemed much more about living a good life and having positive feelings.

Especially positive feelings.

I’m not against positive feelings. Happy is good in my book. Happy makes sense to me. But if happy comes from a sugar-like high that dissipates as quickly as it formed, was it real? And is happy the point of faith in God?

I argue: No.

Happy is good. Joy is better and depending on how you define things, joy lasts longer. And true is best.

And really, what is Christian music? I might argue Tom Waits has a lot more truth to offer than whatever contemporary Christian band is currently famous. The Talking Heads seemed to provide many glimpses of truth—so do many of the folk musicians I listen to. Certainly Mr. Bach and Mr. Mozart and Mr. Telemann and Mr. John Adams and even Philip Glass provide more soaring and more depth and more truth.

Of course, music is a very personal thing and there is no right or wrong. We like what we like and I don’t want to disparage anyone’s choices—really I don’t. But if I sense I’m being manipulated by sentimental lyrics, I move on.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston, in response to on the move

Click Farms Vs. Philip Glass

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The Glass problem: Prolific production of something no one wants.

01072014-tumblr_myxgewhLv31qe6mn3o1_500I’ve heard rumblings of sweatshops where thumbs and fingers are put to use liking various social media status updates. An AP story running in the Startribune a couple days ago identified even our own State department as buying clicks, possibly from a click farm in Dhaka, Bangladesh. If not exactly illegal, the practice certainly carries the sense of fraud in the false “Like” economy Facebook introduced us to and to which all social media fall prey.

The desire to be liked is so compelling. I’m hoping you’ll like this story (as if you needed to read such a disclosure). But I’m also trying to wean my myself off this desire for constant attention and this eagerness to let a click tell me how successful I am in life. There’s good reason to investigate the internal compass of gifting and bent and pairing those with the hope of connecting solidly with a few rather than seeking the transient adoration that “like” seems to represent.

Then again, the money is in the Likes.

A more balanced and possibly more productive approach to doing our best work is to dive ever-deeper into the well of “What am I here for?” When we ask that question and look to see what fascinates us and what (some, few) others react to or what seems to help those few, then we are on to something. That is a very different process than scanning keywords and offering click bait.

Consider Philip Glass. Maybe you like his music. Maybe you despise his “repetitive structures.” I find his music soothing and at times invigorating and always terrific for writing. But when he started playing and composing, it sounded very different thing from everyone else. He had very few “likes.” In fact many just said to him,

Please stop playing that.

But he persisted and found something new.

That’s what I’m expecting from many: to find passion and service flowing together, even if others don’t understand it. It takes courage to keep walking forward in this way. But that’s the kind of courage we need.



Image credit: un-gif-dans-ta-gueule via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

January 7, 2014 at 7:57 am

When I get discouraged about writing, I think on Philip Glass

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Philip Glass is known for repetitive structures in his music, among other things. Mr. Glass is famous (ish) today and you hear his music most commonly on film soundtracks. But not everyone likes those minimalist, repetitive structures (some members of the politburo of Kirkistan will sit for only limited doses of Mr. Glass’ music).

The 2008 documentary about Philip Glass contained quite a few unguarded responses to his music. Watch the film for the exact quotes, but the general sense people communicated to Mr. Glass as he developed his unique style was something on the order of “Please go away” or “Please stop playing that” or  “I think we’ve heard enough of that. Can you do something different?”

In a 2009 Esquire interview, Mr. Glass, said this about his resolve:

When I struck out in my own music language, I took a step out of the world of serious music, according to most of my teachers. But I didn’t care. I could row the boat by myself, you know? I didn’t need to be on the big liner with everybody else.

I often think of Philip Glass when I get discouraged about writing.

Writing is difficult, so says anyone who writes. Just like with anything worth doing, there are all sorts of missteps and problems and wrong directions and mistakes involved with getting a thought on paper. And then there is the problem with the audience. I might call it the Glass Problem: prolific production of something no one wants.


But one continues forward. Despite responses. One must be just thick-headed enough to continue sorting out what it is one is trying to say. That’s what I understand when I think on Philip Glass: an infusion of courage to move forward despite all outward evidences that I really should stop.


Image credit: IMDB

Written by kirkistan

June 3, 2013 at 9:39 am

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