A New Member to the Family | Bowed Guitar

Bow GuitarBetween the videos of guitar bow legends Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) and Jonsi (Sigur Ros) to the countless wannabe’s across youtube – investing in a bow and rosin was absolutely one of the best ‘on-a-whim’ decisions I’ve ever made. Not ever thinking the horse-haired apparatus would actually amount to musical creativity on guitar, considering Page usually just slaps his guitar with it, and Jonsi’s fx-laden guitar is often buried in the mix, I was optimistic about the potentials of a properly bowed guitar. Needless to say, I’ve been especially surprised. Between the forte E & A string power double-stops to the high E tremelo with the extended register – Yes, this is a tool that deserves as much credit as a slide and more discipline than 2-handed tapping. To naysayers, skeptics, and traditionalists all-around – an expertly bowed guitar is serious business. I look forward to studying its techniques and sharing its sounds with you all.

“Noah”, “The Fountain” & Darren Aronofsky | Why You Won’t Like It

Years ago, I saw a film called ‘The Fountain’ by Darren Aronofsky that completely puts me in awe now every time I see it. Even beyond the film’s three parallel plot lines, Clint Mansell’s work with Kronos Quartet on the soundtrack is brilliant! Between the music and the implied Christianity – I give myself liberty to write about it and Aronofsky’s upcoming film “Noah.”

The Fountain
The Fountain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The film, The Fountain, was supposed to be grandiose, big-budgeted, & star-laden; however, business & politics happen, the budget was cut – and what we were left with is an art film on, albeit small, a hollywood budget. Without going into too much detail, The Fountain is about love, loss, & the pursuit of eternal life and it delves into science, Christianity, & Buddhist beliefs without being a film that remotely fits into any of those genres… it’s an art film and Aronofsky is an artistic director. If you’ve seen or are remotely familiar with his past films, Black SwanPiRequiem for a Dream, you might know this. But, if you did not know this – you have been warned.

Noah will not be the Old Testament’s Passion of the Christ or this generation’s Ten Commandments. If you’re planning on taking a church bus to the film or studying with a church small group – your plans will be detoured. If your plan is to see the movie rather than read it straight from Genesis – you are foolish.  If you’re planning on seeing an artistic take on the idea of Noah and his Ark that’s going to take significant liberties on the template of the biblical story – you might be more on the right track.

Humanists, rationalists, & Christians alike often attribute more to the book of Genesis than its text. People rationalize the events of Noah and the flood whether it be as grandiose as the movement from Pangia to our current land-ocean configuration to as simple as a Mississippi-style flood in the region. If it’s these kind deviations from scripture you’re concerned of, Aronofsky’s approach is more sci-fi than rationale.

Darren Aronofsky
Darren Aronofsky (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And while the reports of “six-armed” angels in the film are most certainly not out of reach in the realm of God’s creation, fundamentalists will be offended…period. Hollywood is not nor ever will be a substitute for the Bible. Even with the recent airing of the miniseries The Bible, much is either left out, portrayed incorrectly, or in the case of Christ’s gospel – the four accounts aren’t fully represented – no matter how good the intentions.

If Aronofsky’s Noah is anything like The Fountain, I’m sure it will continue to receive terrible reviews all-around. On the other hand, it will have a cult following like his films already accomplish, and with Clint Mansell on board as usual, it will be full of great music.

Dark But Lovely |Unearth

2010 (Photo credit: Michael Mistretta)

In writing the worship songs I’ve been regularly posting, I’ve discovered that it is my favorite way to devour scripture, research theology, and get in touch with God’s heart;  a musical instrument, pen & paper, and open Bible tend to have that affect apparently. As I’ve just begun my journey through the Song of Solomon, finishing my 1st song of the book and now editing the 2nd song – I’m thrilled to have my eyes opened to the depth of vulnerability & beauty that this otherwise awkward book has to offer. (I’ll be writing analysis and allusion from the first song “Deeper Still Than Red” shortly!)

As the bride of Christ (taking from Song of Solomon 1:5-7) we are enlightened that even though we are sinful, we are still lovely to Christ. To describe this poetically, I’ve used the terms “sinner but saint” and “unearth, but still of dirt.”  Further, I use for the refrain “Here I confess, I’m a wreck, I’m a mess” and then “Under the sun, I am undone” going along with Song of Solomon 1:7 (tell me, you whom my soul loves, where you pasture your flock…for why should I be like one who veils herself beside the flocks of your companions?) to represent our longing to be with Christ because we are through with being of the world…or “under the sun.”

Even the terminology of the vineyard representing our heart is especially powerful; Misty Edwards uses it all throughout her music. I’m thrilled to get to use the terminology from the passage  “…but my own vineyard I have not kept (Song of Solomon 1:6) as a bridge in my song representing our failure to tend to our own heart.  I use the words “This vineyard is overgrown, come make me Your own…”

While Song of Solomon 1:5-7 may seem a bit dreary or gloomy in nature at first glance, I’ve found renewed excitement, freedom, and hope from it and I think you’ll feel that excitement and optimism in my upcoming song “Unearth.”

Embracing Explicit Intimacy | Deeper Still Than Red

English: The Song of Songs (1853) by Gustave M...
English: The Song of Songs (1853) by Gustave Moreau, Oil on canvas, 319 x 300 cm, Musee des Beaux-Arts de Dijon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every couple of weeks or so, I’ve been posting a new worship song on Youtube with chord charts available here at ExplicitJesusMusic.com. The most uncomfortable of them was the 1st song – embracing the awkward amateur-ness of me not being a vocalist by trade; however, being academically trained as a composer in addition to the calling on my life to compose music for the King & Kingdom, to “sing a new song” and spread the gospel to all the nations. Whew – that’s a lot!

Now, I’ve come to write “Deeper Still Than Red” based on The Song of Solomon 1: 2-4. I’ve been quite apprehensive about releasing it and so I’ve spent more time on it in the studio than I have previous songs. Besides not being a terrific vocalist, it still makes me self-conscious publicly singing to God “I want to be alone with You, I want to be known by You” and “more pleasing than sex, better still than life.” Still, in writing and releasing these songs with the chords, I want to be obedient because that’s where breakthrough comes from – that’s where transformation comes from – being faithful in the little. And I feel it upon my heart even more so with this song. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing & recording it.

Johnny Newman Guitar Tone Preview | Pushing The Envelope in Contemporary Worship

I’ve always been an advocate for new sounds, tones, & instruments in worship. It keeps things fresh and inventive in terms of musical ‘sound’ when it comes to playing worship music – and after playing music on Sunday mornings for over a decade, I’m always searching, creating, and open to the new. I remember being so excited to hear Misty Edwards’ Point of Life album because she simply incorporated a chapman stick on the album – an instrument that would most certainly bring progressive rockers to salvation. And with albums like Point of Life and Bethel Music’s Without Words, it’s a wonder why I haven’t brought my thumb piano to worship, or invested in a theremin…. I have; however, been adventuresome with a vocoder. And even with these ideas and innovations on earth, there’s more to worship than we see now!

More Than Ever – $5 Month of September | New JMN Video

A few highlights for the month of September!

  • Johnny Newman’s More Than Ever album is now on sale for $5 for the month of September at Johnny-Newman.com Get it now at this low price in anticipation for Newman’s sophomore release The Great Mistrial!
  • Speaking of The Great Mistrial – Production is underway at WaveTransform Recording Studio in Knoxville, TN. Johnny Newman & producer/drummer Yanic Bercier are hard at work bringing this biblical epic to life!
  • Also JMN has a new worship video live from the studio, be sure to check out “Knee Deep in the Dead

The Joy of Unplugging | Combatting Social ADD

My wife and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary this past week. This time, we opted to not go to the beach; rather, we switched things up and enjoyed the beautiful downtown scene of Asheville, North Carolina. Of course, it was bittersweet coming back home. Yucky because we both had to go back to our day jobs, but it certainly was nice to come home to our overtly affectionate spazz of a cat, Madam Meows-A-Lot.. (jk..her name is Sushi).  One thing I did notice, despite us checking in on the Facebook & social media while we were gone, is that it was nice to unplug for a while, yet delightfully strange.

English: Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Car...
English: Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We came back home to turn on the t.v. and see that there were hailstorms out west where snowplows were being called in, there are heightened terror alerts across the world, and I’m sure there’s something else dramatic we missed. I most certainly wasn’t upset about missing out on these world news stories. In all actuality, it was nice to be blissfully ignorant to it all as much as I prayerfully wish well to all those involved in these ongoing events.

In Asheville, we spent our time downtown either sightseeing or biking – and if we were inside, we were reading, enjoying dinner together, or some of the time we were working a puzzle. Even if we weren’t trying to accomplish anything, it felt like our days were fuller, more productive & resourceful and overall – we were much happier… kind of a given with it being a vacation et all.

But magical things happen when we put the laptops aside.. and thank God that I don’t have a smartphone – He only knows how much I’d be plugged in if I had even a minuscule data plan. When the access is at our finger tips – any micro-thought of anything..whether it be news, video, your favorite song, or an email you’re looking to receive, we find ourselves typing the few keystrokes it takes to see the information we’re looking for.

But none of this is new – we all know this. So, why am I writing about it? I bring it up because of this lecture I recently watched by Misty Edwards (I’ve enclosed it below). It didn’t really hit me until I came back from vacation; however, this constant access; perpetually being plugged-in here in the west has changed our minds to the point where it’s hard for us to focus, to dig deep in meditation or study without our minds shooting off in a million different selfish directions. As a song-writer, deriving from and poetically crafting scripture into songs could be so much MORE if I took the steps needed to power-down everything connected to the web in the house. Instead of writing one song from a selection of scriptures – I might be able to write a suite of songs from a single passage. (something I’m soon to try). I can only imagine how much more I could be plugged in to the Almighty if I unplug from everything else.  All the information at our finger-tips is great – but is it allowing us to think for ourselves? Is it allowing us to…simply think? And how much more are we disconnected from God when we are connected to the web?