Music to Read Books By

Last week I wrote about the books I’ve been reading, so naturally (to me, anyway) I thought this week I’d write about the music I like to listen to while reading those books.  I recognize that everyone has their own preference where music is concerned, but as with introducing you to new books I’m reading, I hope that maybe you’ll come across some new artist in this reading and be better for it.

I have varying tastes in music depending on what I’m doing at the moment.  My running playlist has a lot of U2, Beatles, Rich Mullens, and Billy Joel – just to give you a sampling.  While working around the house on the weekends, I like to turn on Spotify and listen to 70’s and 80’s playlists.  But while writing and reading, I like to listen to music that is fitting for the moment.

I have, for a while now, enjoyed listening to Indelible Grace Music and the music of Stuart Townend and Keith and Krystin Getty.  I think it was while listing to a radio station on Spotify based on their music that I found many of the following artists.  If you’ve never heard their music, they are all on Spotify or Youtube, and I would encourage you to listen to a couple samples (I’ll provide the links where possible).

So here’s a list of some of the artists I like to listen to while writing and reading:

Josh Garrels
I like to think that I have a pretty eclectic taste in music, and Josh Garrels is a pretty eclectic musician.  His description on wikipedia says, “Josh Garrels is a singer-songwriter, hip-hop, pop producer, and orchestral folk composer from South Bend, Indiana. His music combines traditional folk music with other musical elements and the nontraditional exploration of Christian themes.”  I don’t really know how to classify his music, but I can say that it speaks to me.  He doesn’t give a candy-coated, top 40 Christian message in his music; but the imagery of the struggle and hope in this life is real and richly Biblical.  With songs like Don’t Wait for Me and Beyond the Blue, Garrels articulates a longing for completion that is only met in Christ, but that it is met completely in Him.  My favorites would have to be The Resistance and All Creatures, two hip-hop influenced songs that have great messages.

Audrey Assad
As I was listening to Audrey Assad just this morning, I realized what it is I like about her music. She sings like Amy Grant did when Amy Grant was just starting out.  Innocent, beautiful, heartfelt expressions of faith in the midst of real life.  Her song The House You’re Building is especially Amy Grant-esque. She has a wonderful cover of His Eye is On the Sparrow in Sparrow, and her song Good to Me is an excellent reminder of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

Their name is a reference to Page 116 in their copy of C.S. Lewis’ book, The Magicians nephew, the passage where Aslan begins to sing Narnia into creation out of a black void.  Starting as worship leaders in church, Page CXVI’s self-stated purpose as a band is to make hymns accessible again.  All of their songs are re-writes of familiar hymns, accentuating different themes that the hymns, with their traditional tunes, might not convey.  Some of my favorites include O Sacred Head Now Wounded, Wash Me Clean, and Be Still My Soul.

Sons of Korah
Sons of Korah is an Australian based band that sings the Psalms – and that’s all. On their website they explain, “The Psalms have been the primary source for the worship traditions of both Judaism and Christianity going right back to ancient times. With their unique acoustic, multi-ethnic sound Sons of Korah have given this biblical songbook a dynamic and emotive new musical expression. They endeavour to lead their listeners into an impacting encounter with this book that is often described as the ‘heart’ of the bible.”  Often times I will turn on Sons of Korah and read the Psalms as they sing, word for word.  Their on my running playlist, and I’ve found that by singing the Psalms, I’m learning them by heart too.  A few of my favorites are Psalm 148, Psalm 73, Psalm 51, and Psalm 1.

Ludovico Einaudi
“One of these things is not like the other…” There are times when I am looking for quiet background music, instrumental or piano music, while reading or writing.  through Spotify I cam across Ludovico Einaudi.  Not under the Christian Music label at all, Einaudi is an Italian pianist and composer who uses a wide variety of styles and genres including pop, rock, world music, and folk music. I don’t know how to describe his music other than stunningly beautiful.  A couple that really stand out to me are I Giorni and Nuvole Bianche.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these artists and their music.  If you have any recommendations, please make sure to give them in the comments below.


Joining the Song

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth… Come into his presence with singing!”
Psalm 110:1-2 (ESV)

I love to sing.  If you know me, you know that much is true.

At different times in my life, singing has meant different things for me.  In Junior High, it was a way to get close to girls – and I suppose that would be true of me in High School as well.  Think about it, in most school choirs, the girl to boy ratio is like 3 to 1, so your odds of meeting, and perhaps getting a date, with a girl dramatically increase (but now that I think about it, I’m not sure if it actually helped).  I can admit it, now that it is ancient history, the whole reason why I joined the Baptist Church youth choir was so that I could be near a girl (and now I sound like a singing stalker).

Singing in High School and College meant a way to help pay for school.  I got a scholarship to sing in the touring choir in College, as well as a scholarship for Theatre.  So singing was a source of financial resource for me as well.

When the kids started coming into the picture, singing was my way of calming the kids.  Many a night in the seminary apartment I would pace up and down the hallway, crying baby in one arm, hymnal in the other, singing hymns and spiritual songs to help comfort and sooth.

These days, I’m teaching myself to play guitar (and by “teaching myself” I mean trying to memorize chord fingerings; and by “play guitar” I mean butchering songs so badly that we no longer need an exterminator to come to the house, but it’s okay because I never really intend to play for anyone else).  The blessing of having the guitar is that now it’s not so weird for me to incorporate song into my daily devotion.  I love starting my day, or ending it (however it works out) with time in scripture, prayer, and singing to the Lord.

I think the reason why I love singing in worship is because it involves the entire body in that moment before the Lord.  Singing requires the use of the voice (of course), the lungs, the ears, the mind, and the heart – all working together in harmony to make beautiful music before the Lord.

Singing is also a deeply catechetical matter: we learn when we sing.  Think about it, we teach our children the alphabet it song;, a two year old can sing a Justin Bieber song; you don’t even have to try to learn the words to your favorite songs, you just listen to them enough that they come naturally.  In the church, we learn and store great doctrinal truth through song.  The old hymns, like “Amazing Grace,” “It is Well with my Soul,” Be Thou My Vision,” “A Mighty Fortress is Our God;” you could probably sing them without ever looking at the hymnal.  Even some of the new songs, like “In Christ Alone,” and “All I Have is Christ,” they are steeped in scripture, resound with solid theology, and teach the faith through song.  Because of its ability to both glorify God and edify the people at the same time, singing is essential in the worship and life of the church.

Friends, we sing because we must, we must because God commands.  1 Chronicles 16:23 says, “Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day.”  Psalm 105:1–3 “Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!  Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!”  These passages and others like them in Scripture are full of imperatives, commands to sing.  This command is not a burdensome one, this obedience is a joy.

Singing is joy, not because of its ease, but because of the reason why we sing.  Psalm 98 implores us, “Oh sing to the LORD a new song… for He has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.  He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness… all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”

Creation was born in the resonance of the song sung by the lover of our souls.  Our response to that love is to take up the song in joyous chorus.  There is a chorus that is already raging; when we take up singing we are joining the throng.

Won’t you join me in the song?