Segues, spaceships and Suzuki

By , 1 November 2007 10:15 pm

This is an early blog this week as I am away over the weekend. For new readers and others, I try to post weekly, Friday evening, UK time. And those interested in commenting on the books may wish to know that there is a rather fun Lamb among the Stars Facebook group.

I have always been a fan of the segue: the art of seamlessly moving from one section or theme to another. (Mind you, it took me a long time before I realised it was pronounced seg-way.) Anyway, there are a couple of instances below.

I seem to have survived last week’s posting on JKR and the outing of Dumbledore. I was worried I would either get damned or praised for being anti-gay. One comment I made last week did though come back to haunt me: my criticism of her ladyship for tinkering with the plot post-publication. The reason was that I have been finishing the final edits on the Infinite Day (it is half-term: I get to work at home and drink my own coffee) and I realised that if I was to make any changes, now is my last chance. One change I would like to make but alas, it is in the first book and beyond recall, is where I mention a spacecraft named after Shih Li-Chen, someone who Merral recollects “was poet, church leader and unsurprisingly for early twenty-first century China, martyr.” In hindsight, I think it would have been more daring (and conceivably more prophetic) to hint that the martyrdoms for the faith had been in the West rather than the East.

The fact is that Christianity is alive and well in the East. If you wanted proof of that it was very audible this week with the long-awaited (and not just by me) release of J. S. Bach’s B Minor Mass under the conductor Maasaki Suzuki. For those outside the blessed elect of Bach fandom, let me explain. Although elements of the B Minor mass were written earlier, Bach compiled the whole work in in his final years. Two hours long and in Latin, it was quite unperformable in any church context, least of all in Bach’s own Lutheranism and seems to have been intended as a monument for posterity, summing up all that he could do. Anyway, it is one of the most perfect masterpieces of Western music and Maasaki Suzuki does it proud.

Suzuki, a Japanese Christian, and a very considerable musician, has been working his way for years through the vast canon of Bach cantatas (36 CDs so far and about 24 to go) to growing acclaim. What distinguishes his work is a polished musicianship plus – and here is the key – a sensitivity to what the text is saying. Apparently, he makes sure that his singers fully understand the meaning of Scripture. (There is a fascinating article on him and the growing Japanese interest in Bach here.) Anyway, they’ve just released his version of the B Minor and I downloaded it off eMusic for a very reasonable cost. It seems to me that he gets it wonderfully right; reverent without being slow; dramatic without being too theatrical and everywhere beautifully played and sung. It’s an awesome piece of music, and in his hands you can happily believe that no one has written anything finer. Even if it seems imperilled in the West, Christianity is alive and well in the East

And now ladies and gentlemen (roll of drums) for that rarity: the return segue. When the Voyager spacecraft was launched in 1977 – by now it’s about 9.5 billion miles away – it bore a golden disc with sounds and musical items on it. Bach was the most represented composer with three tracks. In discussing the choice of music, the biologist Lewis Thomas said: “I would send the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach . . . but that would be boasting.”

Just so.

4 Responses to “Segues, spaceships and Suzuki”

  1. Terry says:

    Chris,

    I just read the article on Suzuki and the Bach phenomenon in Japan, on the First Things website. It’s about as significant a reading as I’ve seen for some time concerning the way God brings things together for His purposes.

    It’s also significant in the way the Japanese church is largely falling down on the job with regards to the evangelization of its country. I wasn’t struck so much by the Japanese situation, as by how closely it mirrors the condition of the church here in Canada, and perhaps also in much of the West.

    We know the societies around us are crying for meaning and hope. We have the antidote, and yet we find ourselves too embarrassingly self-absorbed to share it around. What will God use to reach our neighbors? Perhaps we need to get Bach to basics.

    Have mercy on us, God, and change our hearts.

    Take care,

    Terry

  2. Anonymous says:

    “On a separate note, for those wanting to know news about The Infinite Day, the manuscript has been well-received at Tyndale and I have been allocated someone who, is by all accounts, an excellent editor. Very soon, I ought to be able to give you a publication date.”

    You posted this in august…and still no publication date. I am the same anonymous that posted before, and a large fan but without any news when it has been said we could get it, its trying. Especially since I am a big fan and want to see how you wrap it up….
    Thanks,
    Anonymous prodigy

  3. Chris says:

    Hi anonymous prodigy.

    It must be tough being a prodigy and being anonymous; :-)

    I am waiting for a publication date myself. What I can say is the manuscript is finished and the revised version safely back with Tyndale. I am not pushing them because a) they know what they are doing (you do, don’t you guys?) b) I would rather go for later but best slot and lots of promotion than sooner and with little PR. The fact is the series is still making friends. As soon as I know I will let you all know here and on the series’ Facebook wall.

    Blessings

    Chris.

  4. davec777 says:

    My son and I are big fans of the Lamb Among The Stars series and are obviously not the only ones awaiting the last book. Glad to hear it is on its way. My son wanted it for Christmas, but I guess we will have to be patient =) It has been refreshing to read Christ-centered sci-fi. Thank you for being willing to write something that hasn’t been done much – we love it!

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