Wednesday, January 19, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different!

I received an email advert from The Liturgical Press touting a number of new releases. One one these, a short (184 pages) treatise entitled "Rock-a My Soul" was featured, though it won't be released in book form or online until February 1. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have purchased an online version which contains an acknowledgement section and the author's introduction. I perused the introduction, but I won't reproduce any of that here, as the book is not formally "out." However, the following was gleaned from existing reviews, from the publisher and a prominent review agency.
Why mention this at Chant Cafe? Well, as I chatted with Dr. Mahrt on the way back from NOLA, when one hears anecdotes about what actually goes on musically or otherwise at St. Perpetual Motion, the stark reality of just how far from center our philosophies and practices can stray from one another is breath-taking.
For your consideration:

Rock a My Soul

David Nantais is the director of campus ministry at the University of Detroit Mercy. He lives in Detroit, Michigan, with his wife Carrie and son Liam. Dave, a former seminarian in the Society of Jesus, has played drums in several rock bands for over twenty years and has attended over 150 rock shows since 1986.

"David Nantais is, hands down, one of the best young writers on Christian spirituality: inviting, inventive, and insightful. In Rock-a My Soul, he offers a fascinating look at how rock music, often thought to be a threat to faith, can actually support and nourish one’s spiritual life. If you’re a music fan, Nantais, a rock musician himself, will show you how the music you love can draw you closer to God. If you’re a believer, Nantais will serve as an experienced guide to modes of experiencing God that you might never have considered. And if you’re a music fan and a believer, well, then this book will, as the band said, rock you."-James Martin, SJ - Author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything

...the review from "Publisher's Weekly"

"A tension between the worldly and the spiritual has existed in “rock ‘n’ roll” since its foundations in African-American spirituals, gospel, and blues music. But for Catholic drummer (and PW reviewer) Nantais, the very music often feared by religious folk has served as both balm and outlet to help him understand God. In this short, first-person musing, Nantais argues that “theology can be done through music,” encouraging Christians to see “rock ‘n’ roll”as a “mode of theological expression.” Setting aside contemporary Christian music (which he says is not the only way to marry rock and religion), he argues that mainstream rock has many virtues: community building and transcendent elements, meditative qualities, expression of emotion. Nantais admits to some less edifying aspects of rock (e.g., segregated crowds at rock music venues, ties to consumerism). He also chooses not to address a major sticking point for some--offensive lyrics--and so may not be able to convince every reader of rock’s merits. Despite that, his enthusiasm for mix tapes and chord progressions is infectious. Christians will learn to find God in a rock concert, and lovers of all things drum and guitar will find spiritual validation."
...the advert review from The Liturgical Press

"Rock music and organized religion have suffered a tense relationship for over sixty years. Rockers accuse religious people of being too rigid and irrelevant. People of faith have labeled rock "the devil's music" and say that nothing good can come of it. But what if both of these groups are wrong? What if rock music can actually aid one’s religious faith and spiritual life?
Few styles of music engage the human body as much as rock and roll. From toe tapping to air guitar, listening to rock music, like religious ritual, requires attention to the present moment and can help the listener (or believer) reclaim a sense of identity as a creature of God. In addition, several social causes include both rockers and religious advocates. During some of the most tumultuous times the world has experienced, both groups have given succor and hope to millions. No matter what side of the religion/rock debate you are on, perhaps it is time to bury the hatchet (or pick up your axe!) and start rocking your religion!"

I remember thinking back around 1976, after about five years of being a parish choir director that "Whoa, wouldn't it be righteous to be able to do music that sounds like BOSTON or TOTO at Mass. More than 30 years later, I can reflect that I simply mixed my desire to perform, innovate, inflict my enthusiasm via the megawattage of effects-pedal power and volume, and ultimately my ego upon a captive audience, sincerely believing the whole while that they'd get it or come around because I was ever so sincere!
I won't comment further, because I believe I ought to read the book when it shows up on my laptop.
But another reality is also worth pondering. How did the editors at The Liturgical Press come to agree this was a serious enterprise to ponder for RC musicians and pastors?
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