These are just some ideas we’ll be researching this summer:

  • The ethics of international aid, the moral impulse behind it, and the relationship between wealthy and poor countries as a matter of policy
  • Music… The “music show” idea just won’t die, but we just can’t seem to find a way to pin down such a broad topic
  • The spiritual scene in China right now as its economy soars and it hosts the Olympics
  • Gay marriage, as Kate posted earlier
  • The relationship between humans and animals, the bonds that exist there
  • The ups and downs of the faith angle in the U.S. presidential campaign/marathon/extended director’s cut of Lord of the Rings

We’re digging up some great names and speakers, but don’t be shy about suggesting someone.

Share Your Reflection



Martin Luther said "I am not ashamed to confess publicly that next to theology there is no art which is the equal of music, for she alone, after theology, can do what otherwise only theology can accomplish, namely, quiet and cheer up the soul of man, which is clear evidence that the devil, the originator of depressing worries and troubled thoughts, flees from the voice of music just as he flees from the words of theology. For this very reason the prophets cultivated no art so much as music in that they attached their theology not to geometry, nor to arithmetic, nor to astronomy, but to music, speaking the truth through psalms and hymns."--perhaps that's an angle for your second idea.

I'm not musically inclined, but I'm continually reminded about music's spiritual power, not only from Christians but also from people whose spirituality is as diverse as Einstein to your guest Mr. Ivakhiv who noted music's "magical effect on people." I, for one, would be intensely interested in hearing a discussion about what it is about the intrinsitc nature of music that allows it speak and enliven the soul.

This is an important discussion to have given the transition humans have gone through in recent years. Whereas throughout human history groups and families would gather together and sing, modern people now gather together and merely listen to music through speakers. So the follow-up question for me is this: does living in a media age where people purchase and play music instead of singing it themselves like in ages past have an effect on the vibrancy of our spiritual lives and our experience of God?

Eric, you hit the nail on the head. And with these types of questions, we could easily go two ways: 1) a musicologist or such; 2) a musician. Although there have been some high-profile books in the past year from musicologists (Alex Ross' The Rest Is Noise for example), we've been looking at Number 2 as the direction we want to go in. Finding the right musician(s) is the stumbling block for us. If John Coltrane hadn't passed on, sigh, I'd want to get him, maybe get a little improv jazz during the interview, a little sax magic perhaps?

First, I am not an audiophile--a fact that should greatly influence how
seriously you should take my following comments, i.e., not very. But
when you mentioned a musician I immediately thought of Bono--but that's
a well-trodden path that probably isn't at all what you had in mind.
Then, oddly enough, I recalled an interview I heard on NPR with Pigeon
John. He was a fascinating guy. I have since read/listened to other
interviews and listened to two of his albums with much interest. I am
not at all a hip-hop fan (as evidenced by my knee-jerk reaction to think
of U2), but Pigeon John seems compelling on some level. He's
charismatic, spiritual, and his music seems to be infused with the joy
of life. I can totally see his fans experiencing his concerts in the
similar way that Evangelicals experience worship with a good set of
praise music.

Although my contact with Pigeon John doesn't lead me to think that he's
the type of person you'd do a show on--especially given how you're
seeking to approach the topic. Then again, maybe the interviewers I've
heard weren't asking the right questions. Anyway, perhaps he can make an
interesting secondary interviewee with a short segment at the end.

Just thought I'd share some out of the box thoughts.

Wondering of the melodies David may have played on his harp for a raging king, and wondering how our world would be if our weapons were saxaphones, guitars, pianos, and violins? Other tribes and nations would have their particular instruments. Artistic expression would be the new diplomacy, with little need for verbal translation. Another realm.

Talk to Carrie Newcomer, or. rather, listen to Carrie Newcomer. and Cathie Ryan too. both are thoughtful, articulate, and often funny musicians who work with the sort of ideas and questions and lines of thought you often explore.

on Ryan:
>> A magical, mystical, shape-shifting dance that suggests hope, passion, connection, and healing -- that's the invitation Cathie Ryan offers with "What's Closest to the Heart," the original song with which she opens her latest release, The Farthest Wave. What follows is, at least at times, a bit quieter on the surface, but that's a musical and lyrical contrast that serves the singer well. There's heart-cracking pain and resignation in the title track, which in a lesser singer's (or writer's, this is also one of Ryan's) hands could have turned bleak or sentimental; instead it offers a full confrontation with pain as a path, it may be, to hope. The fierce and flaming independence in John Spillane's "The Wildflowers" resonates with connection to Ryan's meditation on the courage it takes to heal in "Be Like the Sea" and Karine Polwart's exuberant and celebratory welcoming of change in "Follow the Heron."

Respecting both sides of the traditions of her heritage (she is first generation Irish American) Ryan includes traditional pieces sung in Irish and songs from American Folk back story. Among these are the fast paced "Peata Beag do Mháthar" and a thoughtful cover of the bittersweet love ballad "Rough and Rocky." She brings the twelve-song collection to a close with a quiet reflection on the many sides of meaning to be had from an old grade school favorite, "Home Sweet Home."

There's powerful musical and emotional intelligence at work here, leading the listener on a journey from pain to hope, from loss to healing, from despair to the possibilities of grace -- those things which really are, and remain, closest to the heart.<<

on Newcomer
>>Carrie Newcomer’s music comes from heartland, heart and spirit. The Geography of Light, the Indiana based musician’s eleventh album, finds her considering the bridges between light and dark, between the physical landscape and the spiritual one, between sorrow and healing, and sometimes, between the holy and a good laugh. It’s an adventure for Newcomer, who’s never been afraid of a little rock with her folk or a little (or quite a lot) of percussion with her poetry. She has those elements here, along with some string lines and quiet melodies which will please listeners of classical music and classic folk, as well.

These all serve to frame Newcomer’s natural, storyteller’s style and gorgeous alto voice as she brings listeners along to a gospel music tinged consideration of the crazy places God and faith may some times flash across your view or call your name, in Where You Been, and a quiet consideration of what beautiful surprises may lie within the unassuming Indiana clay of Geodes -- and perhaps, within the next person who crosses your path. Light gives way to darkness sometimes in Newcomer’s universe, and to shadows as well. There’s recognition of the pain of causing pain and repeating familiar mistakes, in You’d Think By Now, a look at how confusing it could have been for Lazarus to come back from the grave in Lazarus, and in a story set in the early days of the Ohio Valley, the tale of a strong woman dealing with loss, anger, and grief in Biscuits and Butter.<<

those are excerpts from reviews I've written on their most recent recordings. I've been writing about the sort of music that asks good questions for some years for places ranging from VH1 to the folk music magazine Dirty Linen to, and these women are two of the best at that. see if either of them might work for what you have in mind -- even if they do not I think you may enjoy their music. and of course, I think music is worth more than one show, too<g>.

Eric, for me, music is my feeling connection to Spirit/God/Universe, rather than my more usual thinking-it-through mode. I came to the church I attend head first, hearing Sunday talks as a series of philosophically interesting lectures, but the music caught me up, engaged my heart and taught me what it was really all about. I look forward to Sundays as my chance to make joyful noise, something rare and precious in a culture where "divas' and "idols" are the only ones who sing.

I keep waiting to hear a conversation with Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Or, whoever is deeply conversant with the spirituality in mythology.

When is the spirituality in China topic going to be presented?

Krista has two interviews this week on that topic. The challenge has been finding the right person and the right focus, but we may have narrowed it down.

The music show: musician/artist Carsten Nicolai aka Alva Noto is an experimental musician who explores the creative and expressive through mathematical representations of music and sound. This, along with an interest in fractals, has helped me in my exploration of spirituality in a world of science and laws of physics.

Mr. Janjua,

We are exploring the issue of faith in music, and music in faith, every month in my new online publication, On the surface it may seem odd that a bluegrass publication would have such a department. However, I have noticed an increasing number of artists dealing with matters of faith in their music, especially those working in the traditional music we cover--meaning country, bluegrass, blues, jazz, and classic pop (yes, we consider all of these "traditional" music, but that's another story). Also, no good bluegrass show is complete without a gospel segment, hence the name of our department, The Gospel Set. If you log on to, you'll find a most interesting subject this month--a young New York City musician and Jewish scholar, Jeremiah Lockwood, who is steering his band The Sway Machinery into some interesting directions as he couples turn of the century Cantorial music--much of which he learned from his grandfather, Cantor Jacob Konigsberg, one of the most revered Cantors in American Jewish life--to a rock 'n' roll beat. He's drawing packed houses to his shows, too, some attending for the spiritual experience this music offers, others to, shall we say, rock the night away. Jeremiah is a most eloquent young man, as you will learn in the feature story about his work. Also, check out our archives for the first issue (we've only had three so far, as we launched in April) for a feature on one of the great contemporary songwriters of our times. Beth Nielsen Chapman, who has cut two stirring albums back to back: a collection of the Catholic hymns she learned in her youth, called "Hymns," and, newly released, a double-CD set of songs of various faiths. Titled "Prism," this album finds Chapman immersing herself in the worlds of religions other than hers, as she continues to define her own spirituality; she is so deeply invested in these songs that she even sings them in their native tongues--thus the album finds her singing in nine different languages, almost all of which she had to learn for this project (including Gaelic). You will find both of these artists to be articulate and thoughtful people who know the history informing their art and are engaged daily in the process of spiritual growth. Chapman recently survived a bout with breast cancer, and a couple of years prior to her diagnosis she lost her husband to cancer, so she's been thinking hard about God, religion and spirituality for many years in the wake of her personal travails. Let me add that the idea for The Gospel Set sprang not only from gospel music's importance in bluegrass music, but from my deep admiration for "Speaking of Faith"--no question that I was inspired by Krista's inquiries into faith to find an entry point for same in the musical world. I even have listed in our Links section in hopes of drawing new listeners to your show. Maybe we can help--our first issue registered 1,000 readers, according to Google, but the second has already logged more than 5,000 readers, with no marketing or promotion to speak of. Someone's tuning us in, you might say.