Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sublime Sufi Singing // A Report from the World Sacred Music Festival

Full Article Here // Excerpt Below

by Hussein Rashid

Some people had Elvis. Others had The Beatles. My dream concert is the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music. With a rotating list of performers, it does not matter who was there, but the idea of the festival is what counts.

Over ten years ago, I bought a CD called B’ismillah (“In the Name of God”), a two-CD set from a Fes concert. In that moment, I knew the power of music. The organizers started the festival 16 years ago to bridge the rift amongst civilizations after the first Gulf War and they sought to use music as a common language. The concerts continue to bring in a variety of musical traditions from around the world to show what all people have in common.My review at Religion Dispatches explains the mechanics of this year’s festival. However, one highlight that I was totally unprepared for was Sufi Nights. Sufism is a broad label for a wide variety of mystical traditions in the Muslim faith.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Celebration in Song // See Performance of “The Holy Sonnets of John Donne by Benjamin Britten”

Duke Divinity School celebrated the installation of Dean Richard B. Hays on Aug. 31 with a performance in Goodson Chapel of The Holy Sonnets of John Donne by Benjamin Britten.

Dean Hays, the 12th dean of Duke Divinity School, introduced the public performance with reflections about the theology of Donne’s Holy Sonnets.

Elizabeth Byrum Linnartz, a lecturing fellow in Duke’s Department of Music, was the soloist and also presented a lecture on Britten's expression of mood and meaning prior to the musical performance. She was accompanied on piano by Jeremy Begbie, the Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology at the Divinity School.

The concert marked the first event of the year for the Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts, which Begbie directs. The event was a collaboration of DITA, the Divinity School, and the Duke University Department of Music.

Learn more.

Performance: The Holy Sonnets of John Donne by Benjamin Britten from Duke Divinity School on Vimeo.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Composer Robert Kyr Finds Inspiration at Christ in the Desert // From NPR Music

Learn more here.


This is one of my favorite places on the planet. -- Sarah

Treasures of Heaven // Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe @ the Cleveland Museum of Art

Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe [at the Cleveland Museum of Art Oct. 17] offers visitors a unique glimpse of the Middle Ages, a time when art mediated between heaven and earth and wondrous objects filled churches and monastic treasuries. Relics—the physical remains of holy men and women, and things associated with them—were especially important to the development of Christianity, which emerged as a powerful new religion in the Late Roman world.]

Learn more

Old & New/Bold & Blue // The Art of the Harpsichord

Sorry I didn't get this posted ahead of time, but I just learned about this very cool event that just made a quick tour of the Triangle area. Old & New/Bold & Blue: The Art of the Harpsichord--"Music meets museum in a multi-media presentation," with a harpsichord builder, a painter and a harpsichordist. Very cool. Learn more here, and check out the trailer of The Birth of the Harpsichord below. -- Sarah

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"Unpacking Imagination" // The Future of Playgrounds

Full Article Here // Excerpt Below

by David Rockwell

In an age of childhood obesity and children tethered to electronic consoles, playgrounds have rarely been more important. In an age of constrained government budgets, playgrounds have rarely been a harder sell. Fortunately, the cost of play doesn’t have to be prohibitive. In creating the Imagination Playground in Lower Manhattan — a playground with lots of loose parts for children to create their own play spaces — we realized that many of the elements with the greatest value to children were inexpensive and portable.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Duke Arts Festival 2010 // Call for Submissions

The Duke Arts Festival takes place Oct. 22 - Nov. 7. Student artists are invited to submit work in all media forms including, but not limited to, painting, photography, poetry, sculpture, mixed media, digital art, animation, film, video, music, dance and poetry. Submissions will be displayed in a public exhibit in the Bryan Center during the festival. A jury of students and arts department faculty will select visual art works for exhibition in the Bryan Center’s Louise Jones Brown Gallery — a gallery that traditionally exhibits the work of professional artists. Prizes will be awarded for works selected as Best of Show.

More info/submission guidelines

In Jerusalem // Designs unveiled for Museum of Tolerance

Full Article Here // Excerpt Below

by David Ng

Years in the works, a planned Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem took a significant step forward this week when the Simon Wiesenthal Center unveiled new architectural designs for the structure, saying that the museum is likely to be completed in four years. The complex is expected to feature exhibition space, a theater, an educational center as well as an outdoor sunken area in front of the building with a garden and amphitheater.

At London Design Festival // John Pawson's "Plain Space" opens

Full Article Here // Excerpt Below

by Pilar Valadis

Today, the exhibition “John Pawson: Plain Space” opened at the Design Museum. (It runs until Feb. 27, 2011.) Pawson, a master of minimalism who is designing the museum’s new home, has — strange to say — never before had a major exhibition of his work in Britain. This one covers his 30-year career, with material on projects ranging from Calvin Klein’s New York flagship store to the sublime Cistercian monastery of Novy Dvur in the Czech Republic.

[ Read a Q/A with Pawson in this previous New Creation post from September 9, 2010.]

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kafka's Last Trial // The unbelievable publishing story behind one of the 20th century's greatest writers

Full Article Here // Excerpt Below

by Elif Bautman
[read a previous New Creation post by/about Bautman, "Between Art and Criticism," by following this link]

During his lifetime, Franz Kafka burned an estimated 90 percent of his work. After his death at age 41, in 1924, a letter was discovered in his desk in Prague, addressed to his friend Max Brod. “Dearest Max,” it began. “My last request: Everything I leave behind me . . . in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others’), sketches and so on, to be burned unread.” Less than two months later, Brod, disregarding Kafka’s request, signed an agreement to prepare a posthumous edition of Kafka’s unpublished novels. “The Trial” came out in 1925, followed by “The Castle” (1926) and “Amerika” (1927). In 1939, carrying a suitcase stuffed with Kafka’s papers, Brod set out for Palestine on the last train to leave Prague, five minutes before the Nazis closed the Czech border.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Images from the Field" 2010 Field Ed Photo Exhibit // A Video

Here's a video that provides a glimpse into the 2010 "Images from the Field" photo exhibit, now on display in the Divinity School.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Jewish Prayers Are Modernized in New Book // Awesome vs. Awe-Inspiring, Bowels, Hip Hop and Updating Prayerful Language

Full article here // Excerpt below

During the Jewish “Days of Awe,” culminating with Yom Kippur, many Conservative Jews will be turning the pages of a prayer book that no longer regards God as “awesome.”

The word, which has become an all-purpose exclamation that spread from Valley Girls to much of American teenagerdom, has lost its spiritual punch and dignity, say the authors of a new book for the High Holy Days that tries to bring the prayers in tune with contemporary times.

The authors prefer “awe-inspiring.”

“If you say God is awesome, you are immediately in street language, rather than inspiring language,” said Rabbi Edward Feld, who headed the committee that over 12 years wrote and translated the new book.

Keep reading...


The first thing I thought about after reading this article was the song "Awesome God" by Rich Mullins. Somehow that song still imparts to me something of the original meaning of the word "awesome"--maybe it's the dramatic use of the flat-7 chord (sorry, music geek here). But at what point do English words get so emptied of their forcefulness that they are no longer useful for the same things?

Say we were to update the hymns and prayers in the United Methodist Hymnal. What sorts of changes would we make? I can think of one particularly amusing change that already has been made. One of my favorite hymns (and a lesser-known one) is "Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown." It is a wonderful hymn written by Charles Wesley. Here's how one verse goes in the current edition:

’Tis Love! ’tis Love! Thou diedst for me!
I hear Thy whisper in my heart;
The morning breaks, the shadows flee,

Pure, universal love Thou art;

To me, to all, Thy mercies move;

Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

Lovely, right? Here's the original of the last two lines:

To me, to all, Thy bowels move;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

Good grief! Was Chuck (as my worship professor affectionately calls him) referring to God having a bowel movement?! Well, no--as it turns out, an archaic English use of the word "bowels" meaning great depth or a gut feeling of yearning or compassion (per this book, excerpts of which are available on Google Books). That's great, but it's not really practical to pause during a hymn to explain strange wording that probably already has a few more irreverent types (myself included) rolling with laughter. It's almost too bad, because if you think about it, "bowels" gets at a sort of physicality of God's love and mercy that just doesn't come out in more abstract terms. But moving bowels now evokes images of porcelain and bad magazines, so the change is absolutely worthwhile.

On another note, in this article, Rabbi Feld sets up a contrast between "street language" and "inspiring language." When might the two be one? What do you think about things like The Hip Hop Prayer Book by Timothy Holder?

-- Sarah

The Endurance of Religiosity // The Burning Man Festival as Modern Desert Pilgrimage

Full Article Here // Excerpt Below

by Peter Schmidt

Lee Gilmore, a lecturer in religious studies and anthropology at California State University at Northridge, had an epiphany one night in the Nevada desert, brought on by visions of the Virgin Mary, the Buddha, and Elvis Presley. She had ventured out there for Burning Man, an annual festival held during the week leading up to Labor Day in the Black Rock Desert, about 120 miles north of Reno.

The product of her subsequent ethnographic study of the festival is Theater in a Crowded Fire: Ritual and Spirituality at Burning Man, out recently from the University of California Press. Based mainly on structured interviews and informal conversations with festival participants—as well as surveys of more than 300 people who participate in the Nevada festival or one of several regional spin-offs—the book makes the case that spiritual imagery, thinking, and ritual abound at Burning Man, even if the organizers and most participants soundly reject any effort to tie the event to any sort of religion.

Keep Reading...

In Damascus // Poetry creates space for new voices

Full Article Here // Excerpt Below

by Kareem Fahim and Nawara Mahfoud

DAMASCUS, Syria — Lukman Derky, the host of a weekly poetry salon here, was in classic form, a beer perched below a microphone he used to joke, to soothe, to provoke. He read a short poem by Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian national bard, and gave a shout-out to a regular, a young American named Mitch, who sat in the crowd, among dozens of other foreigners. “We brought you an imperialist,” Mr. Derky kidded his audience. “So you would have some peace of mind.”

He also politely apologized to any secret policemen he might have offended with one of his stories. Two men who fit that description, sitting at a table by the bar, quietly sipped their drinks. So it goes on Monday nights at Bayt al-Qasid, or the House of Poetry, a space for freewheeling expression in a country where that space is usually in short supply.

Seeing "New Beauty in the familiar, both near and far" // NASA unveils topographic photographs of the moon

Full Post Here // Excerpt Below

by Trent Gillis, senior editor of APM's Krista Tippett on Being

Wired Science has posted some incredible images from NASA of the first complete topographic map of the moon. These magical images also serve a practical function. They create a way of seeing and analyzing the formation and development of our solar system by way of its craters. Our planet has a shared history with the moon: “Among other things, the map confirms theories of an onslaught of massive asteroids around 3.9 billion years ago that likely evaporated any water present on Earth at the time.”

There’s a lesson here too. If we point our lens at something a bit nearer to us — whether it’s an interstellar object or the neighbor next door — we just may learn something about ourselves, and our future. Or at least we’ll see new beauty in the familiar, both near and far.

Hope Floats: The Community Rafts of Fizagat, Pakistan

On September 4th and 5th the Karachi chapter of Architecture for Humanity continued post-flood assessments in partnership with the Karachi Relief Fund. On Sunday the team was surveying a potential site at Fizagat, which is approximately 3-5km from Saidu Shaif. They were stunned by what they found. A village that has designed their way out of the floods and into economic recovery.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

CALL FOR PAPERS: Why Have There Been No Great Modern Religious Artists? // From The ASCHA

The Association of Scholars of Christianity in the History of Art (ASCHA) have issued a call for papers that
New Creation became aware of just this morning. The question that the papers are to be in response to is: "Why Have There Been No Great Modern Religious Artists?" The deadline for submissions is October 1st. Details below from the ASCHA's website: [special note: the focus here seems to be solely on the visual arts]

Many of the most prominent and celebrated artists of the 20th century have employed religious themes, iconography, and forms in their work. However, many have been ignored, dismissed as aberrant, or condemned as an improper combination of incompatible traditional and avant-garde values. We seek 20-minute papers for a Symposium to be held day prior to CAA meeting in New York Feb 8, 2011 that examine specific examples of art from the 20th century employing religious subjects, symbols, and contexts. Paper proposals of no more than two pages double-spaced should be submitted with a cover letter and c.v. by Oct 1 to James Romaine ( and Rachel Smith ( It is hoped that symposium participants will also contribute to the development of the Association of Scholars of Christianity in the History of Art. Also see:

Keep Reading...

Friday, September 17, 2010

New NCAG Website Live

The new NCAG website is live! Check it out--we've got a calendar, contact info, ministry resources (which will be added to over time), and more.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Resurrection from the Rubble // Resurrection Dance Theatre of Haiti Performing Sunday at Duke

Sunday, September 19, 2010 - 4:00pm
Reynolds Theater (Bryan Center)

There will be a fund-raising performance featuring The Resurrection Dance Theatre of Haiti, an internationally recognized dance troupe of orphans, former street children, and child slaves from Haiti. The young men are affiliated with the St. Joseph Family, which was formed under the leadership of Michael Geilenfeld 25 years ago to bring street children into a Christian family setting. Two of the family’s three homes that housed over 55 children were destroyed in the January earthquake. The dance troupe is touring the U.S. and Canada to raise awareness.

Tickets are $10 for general admission, $8 for Duke faculty and staff, and $5 for students and senior citizens. All proceeds will benefit the St. Joseph Family in Haiti.

Read Miracles Beyond Miracles in the Spring 2010 edition of DIVINITY Magazine to learn more about the St. Joseph Family.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Masterpieces 35,000 years old, now in 3-D // Werner Herzog's new documentary "Cave of Forgotten Dreams"

Full Article Here // Excerpt Below

by Michael Cieply

TORONTO — On Monday night here, 3-D may have found its future in the distant past. Certainly, Werner Herzog broke some ground by screening a new documentary, “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” in 3-D.

“Cave of the Forgotten Dreams” is an examination of the paintings in the Chauvet Cave of Southern France. Discovered in 1994, the paintings are believed to be 35,000 years old. Only a handful of scientists and care-takers have access to the cave, but Mr. Herzog was permitted to shoot there.

Keep Reading...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Muslim Mason Immortalized at Catholic Cathedral in Lyon, France

Full Article Here // Excerpt Below

by The Associated Press

A Muslim stonemason who spent nearly four decades helping to restore a Roman Catholic cathedral in France has been immortalized as a winged gargoyle peering out from its facade — with the inscription "God is great" written in French and Arabic. It was conceived as a symbol of inter-religious friendship that reflects the city of Lyon's links to its large Muslim population.

Keep Reading...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Welcome To The End Of The World // The film-makers who risked their lives to document the atomic bomb

Full Article Here // Excerpt Below

by William J. Broad

The blast from one detonation hurled a man and his camera into a ditch. When he got up, a second wave knocked him down again.

Then there was radiation.

While many of the scientists who made atom bombs during the cold war became famous, the men who filmed what happened when those bombs were detonated made up a secret corps. Their existence and the nature of their work has emerged from the shadows only since the federal government began a concerted effort to declassify their films about a dozen years ago. In all, the atomic moviemakers fashioned 6,500 secret films, according to federal officials.

Keep Reading...

An Architecture of Social Justice // "Humanitarian Design" continues to grow in popularity

Even before the economic collapse of 2008, architects -- and young architects in particular -- had turned away from designing splashy new icons and toward anti-poverty projects, disaster relief and other kinds of community-minded work. Now that financing for the architecture of spectacle has all but disappeared, that alternative grassroots approach, broadly known as "humanitarian design," has found itself in an increasingly bright spotlight. It will get even brighter on Oct. 3 when the Museum of Modern Art in New York opens an exhibition called "Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The New Season // The NY Times profiles the nation's Arts in Autumn

Link to full list of articles here // Excerpts below

The New Season
Joon Mo Kang

Are Films Bad, or Is TV Just Better?

Attendance is down. At the water cooler, they’re talking about “Mad Men.” It’s hand-wringing time for cinephiles.

Think You’ve Seen It All? You Have

Broadway this season is the land of second chances for celebrities looking to reignite their careers and for plays that failed miserably in their first outings.

Fall sitcom haves and have-nots: from left, Robert Michael Morris, Will Arnett and Mel Rodriguez in “Running Wilde,” about a lovable heir to an oil fortune.

Embracing Malaise as a Plot Point

New fall sitcoms (like “Raising Hope” and “Outsourced”) and dramas (“My Generation”) suggest a pervasive national sense of pessimism and decline.

Art from the “Olmec” show, coming to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Globetrotting While Staying Close to Home

Coming exhibitions provide familiarity with the rest of the world’s art, which means exposure to ideas and values that keeps museumgoers in the cosmopolitan loop.

Madhavi Mudgal and her company, right, will present “Vistaar” at City Center this month and will appear at the Kennedy Center in Washington in March as part of its Maximum India season.

Visions of India, Plum Fairies And a War

The dance season includes Merce Cunningham’s “Xover” and a world premiere “Nutcracker” by Alexei Ratmansky for American Ballet Theater.

Kings of Leon, from left: Nathan, Jared, Matthew and Caleb Followill. Their next album, “Come Around Sundown,” is scheduled to be released on Oct. 19.

Wary Coronation

Kings of Leon, a grungy, nervy Southern rock band, has developed into full-fledged American hit makers, a commercial but unsettling position.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

New Creation Asks: How can the Arts assist Christianity in reconciling with Islam?

As violent protests broke out in corners of Afghanistan yesterday over a proposed Koran-burning by a lunatic fringe pastor who doesn't seem to realize he is putting Christian-Americans all over the world (not to mention the future of his country) at risk through his vitriolic speech and threatening actions; as American Muslims continue to ask the question "Will we ever belong?" (even to the degree that they once did in America pre-9/11); amidst the ridiculous debate surrounding a "Ground Zero Mosque" (a term hyperbolically reinforced by none other than Fox News) where apparently an Islamic Cultural Center containing a prayer room (which is not even actually a Mosque!) is not suitably respectful of the hallowed ground but where topless bars (The New York Dolls Gentlemen's Club and The Pussycat Lounge) less than a block away are apparently quite alright and which, as Nicholas Kristof notes in the case of The Pussycat Lounge, "says that it arranges lap dances in a private room, presumably to celebrate the sanctity of the neighborhood"; amidst all this divisive din and painfully absurd clamor, it has to strike any Christian interested in the potential of the arts as a reconciling, healing, and re-imagining force (when properly deployed) that perhaps there are ways (albeit usually small ones) that the arts can assist in mending the frayed and fraught relationship between Christianity and Islam. No doubt the future of Christianity (as well as America and the wider world) depends in no small measure upon how this strained relationship is handled in the months and years to come.

So where do we begin? One place to start thinking about potential answers to this question can be found in a previous New Creation post from this past January 2010 where the proposal of a "Festival of Abraham" was discussed. Although the author of that original New York Times Op/Ed proposing the Festival would like to see it happen on an incredibly large scale (ideally in Jerusalem and now it looks that it may well occur the not-so-distant future in Istanbul), there seems no reason why smaller versions of it couldn't pop up on college campuses, coffee shops, and in cultural centers across the nation and around the world in order to start the healing and reconciling with one's neighbors who live just around the corner, as well as those who live half-way around the globe. It's just the beginning of a response to New Creation's latest searching query which we invite you to urgently reflect upon: How can the Arts assist Christianity in reconciling with Islam?

-- Leif

A Rock Impresario Gambles on 'Spiderman' // Michael Cohl bets the farm on 3 artists he believes in

Full Article Here // Excerpt Below

A high-school dropout who became a powerful rock-music promoter for U2 and the Rolling Stones, all but inventing the modern concert tour, Mr. Cohl is the potential savior of the $60 million show, which begins performances on Nov. 14. He was recruited a year ago by U2’s Bono and the Edge — the first-time theatrical composers for “Spider-Man” — to try to salvage the show from a premature death when money ran out.

Bono, replying to questions on Thursday by e-mail, said he first reached out to Mr. Cohl last August when Mr. Cohl was on vacation in Spain and pleaded with him to take over the show. “U2 were used to risking and sometimes losing our own money, trying to push the envelope on what was possible with our stage shows,” Bono wrote in the e-mail. Referring to Mr. Cohl, he added, “His experience with Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones had confirmed his theory that the public understands production value and will reward risk-takers if the end result is superlative, not overindulgent.”

Friday, September 10, 2010

Local Church Deploys Worship Arts Group // Orange UMC's Worship Focus Tree

Orange United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill recently assembled a worship arts group for the purpose of encouraging holistic, creative participation on the part of the congregation in crafting an artistic, theological worship space. Their focus is the 9:00 a.m. Pathways service, the contemporary service that is one of three Sunday morning worship gatherings. OUMC has already been intentional about seeking to integrate music and liturgy, searching for a mode of contemporary praise that is still definitively Methodist, and they are expanding their vision to imagine how the visual aspect of the space can contribute to that.

The Pathways service meets in the fellowship hall, and the latest contribution of the worship arts group has been a tree placed at the front of the space. This is the "worship focus tree," and attention has been drawn to the tree in the context of Jeremiah 17:7-8b, "Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water... It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green." It is a real dogwood tree cut from the yard of a church member, with die-cut leaves attached to the limbs.

The plan is for the tree to change with the liturgical seasons, and along with it the worship focus. The worship arts group will continue to brainstorm and produce means of creating a worship space whose focus is reinforced visually in connection with the Scripture. What do you think of OUMC's worship focus tree?

Is he the keeper (or extinguisher) of Modernism's flame? // Gerhard Richter's "Lines That Do Not Exist" at The Drawing Center

Full Article Here // Excerpt Below

by Holland Cotter

Art-world types obsessed with painting’s supposed endangered status point to Richter as a keeper of the modernist art-for-art’s-sake flame, a true believer. Others take the distinctive coolness of his art as proof of his skepticism toward virtuosity, originality, expressivity, all the qualities that modernism holds dear.

One reality seems fairly clear. At present, the fashion for work that is ideologically overdetermined in meaning, political or otherwise, has passed. We are now in a phase of retreat from easily readable content. And Mr. Richter’s career offers a model for how to build art on ambiguity.

Keep Reading...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Miles Hoffman asks, "Why is there no Jewish sacred music in the classical canon?"

Full Article Here // Excerpt Below

by Miles Hoffman

TODAY is the first day of Rosh Hashana, the holiday that marks the beginning of the Jewish new year. For the next 10 days, through Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Jews around the world will gather to chant the prayers of the High Holy Days to melodies that have been used for generations. Some of the melodies will be simple and some complex, and some will be particularly beautiful. What almost none of them will be is “classical”: Western classical composition, the dominant feature of Christian sacred music for more than a millennium, remains mostly absent from Jewish liturgical music.