Once again, too much time has elapsed between blog posts. Work has been keeping me really busy for the last month – studio string sessions for artists including Mark Schultz and Dan Hill and music preparation for live shows for Reba McEntire and a concert this past Saturday by the Oak Ridge Boys with the Fort Worth Symphony, for which I printed about 2,500 pages of music. When I’ve had time to write, I’ve used it to finish pieces for the Rabbit Room, like this essay on Mahler’s 6th Symphony and Psalm 88.

Kicking off their 2009 concert series earlier this year, the Nashville Symphony performed Gustav Mahler’s Sixth symphony (and being the Mahler freak that I am, I attended all three performances). Mahler wrote nine symphonies in all – and started a tenth before he died – and after hearing them, it becomes difficult to try to put his genius into words. Of course, one could say that one reason art exists at all, the reason we have symphonies and paintings and jazz and dance, is to express that which we cannot put into words. So maybe it is better to say the same thing about the creators – the sub-creators, as C.S. Lewis called them – and not try to reduce their work to the written word. Still, at times, we search for ways to describe to others the effect art has on us, to explain, to ourselves as much as to our friends, why we were so moved, why we found tears in our eyes or felt our deepest secrets were laid out in the open or saw laid out before us the way we should go.

Click here to read the full essay.

I have several posts I hope to get up here soon, including one about seeing Phish perform an amazing concert at Bonnaroo, joined for three songs by the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, in a concert experience sure to not be surpassed any time soon.

I have a couple books reviews I’m working on as well:

  • David Dark’s The Sacredness of Questioning Everything – will be posted at the Rabbit Room
  • The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University, by Kevin Roose. I picked this up on a Sunday afternoon, intending to read a couple chapters before returning to work, and wasn’t able to put it down until I had read 230 pages. I finished the last 100 pages the next day, and absolutely loved it.
  • The Year I Got Everything I Wanted: A Spiritual Crisis, by Cameron Conant. This is another quick read, a well written story of one year of Cameron’s life with the narrative of Ecclasiastes serving as the thread tying everything together and providing the story arc. It includes lines like this: “It’s easier to forgive someone when they show you how wounded they are.”

    Those reviews will have to wait until later, though, because in the morning I am heading over to a three day conference held here in Nashville, the Christian Scholars’ Conference. The theme this year is “The Power of Narrative,” and the plenary speakers are Billy Collins (US Poet Laureate, 2001-2003), Marilynne Robinson (Pulitzer Prize Winner, 2005), Hubert G. Locke, and Barbara Brown Taylor . There are also several paper and panel sessions offered, seventy-one sessions over the three days in five time slots, including presentations from my friend David Dark and fellow Rabbit Room contributor Jonathan Rogers. Some of the panels I’m planning on attending are:

  • Myron Schirer-Suter, Gordon College, Wenham, MA, Convener: “Der untote Gott/the undead God : Theology, German Literature and Literary Scholarship”

    Gregor Thuswaldner, Gordon College: “God is in the Details: The Question of God in Contemporary German Literature and Literary Scholarship”
    Olaf Berwald, University of North Dakota: “Reading as Self-Surprising Process: Hermeneutic Approaches to Religion in Schelling, Hölderlin, and Schleiermacher”

  • Michael Harbour, North Street Church of Christ, Nacogdoches, TX, Convener: “Hope for Meaning: Hermeneutics After Postmodernism”

    Kevin West, Stephen F. Austin State University: “Following Eco through Woods and Worlds: Meaning and/as Quest”
    Michael Harbour, North Street Church of Christ, Nacogdoches, TX: “Working for a Better Reading through Communities of Informed Judgment”
    Bryan Tarpley, Stephen F. Austin State University: “The Hopeful Midwife: Facing Epistemological Limitations”

  • Julie E. Harris, Harding University, Convener: “God in the Shadows or Amazing Grace?: Searching for God’s Hand in History” (A Peer Reviewed Session)

    Jason Jewell, Faulkner University: “All the World’s a Stage: The Reformed View of History”
    Allen Diles, Harding University: “Christian Historiography & Identifying God’s Hand”
    Jason Fikes, A & M Church of Christ, College Station, TX, Austin Graduate School of Theology: “Historiography in Emergent Church Movement: How Church leaders are using looking at the Past and Shaping what is to Come”

  • Richard Goode, Lipscomb University, Convener: “Case Studies in Questioning the Narratives” (Part II)

    David Dark, Vanderbilt University: “The Sacredness of Questioning Everything”
    Randy Spivey, Disciplinary Counsel, Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee: “Questioning Society’s Criminal Justice Narratives”
    Damien Durr, Vanderbilt Divinity School: Respondent

  • I plan on tweeting (twittering?) throughout the conference on my newly created twitter account, www.twitter.com/jstephenlamb.