“Created” Book Review, Part 2 (of 3): Challenge Your Audience

If you haven’t yet heard of the Created project — Likable Art‘s cool new book for artists and creative types interested in the unique intersection of art and faith — I recommend checking it out. Submitted by 62 different artists [of various mediums], the articles written for the book are just as diverse in style and substance as the artwork created to complement them.

I’m about half-way through the book so far. Since it contains so much rich content from so many uniquely enlightened contributors, I’m taking it slow. I want to make sure I soak in each perspective, to consider each contribution on its own and in light of the greater collection. After reading each article, I’m sitting silently for a few moments to contemplate the corresponding artwork. I’m trying to not simply consume but digest the material.

Part three of this “review” will have more of my thoughts on the other contributors’ thoughts. For now, I’ll simply share this: As someone who experiences creative inclinations in a variety of artistic mediums and appreciates authentic artistry in any form, reading the learned wisdom of others has been invaluable. I definitely have some favorite nuggets so far, and I’m looking forward to sharing them with you.

Part one of this review featured one of the two articles I submitted that was not chosen. I’ve dubbed these “the rejected articles.”

Here’s the second…

Challenge your audience. Be controversial.

Flannery O’Connor once remarked: “I am not afraid that the book will be controversial; I am afraid it will not be controversial.”

That resonates with me. I get it. I’ve felt it — that need to be controversial, to push the envelope, to provoke discomfort, to challenge myself and my audience. Perhaps, on a subconscious level, this need exists to ensure resistance against the formulaic, to prevent the asexual reproduction of art wherein passion and the joy of discovery are absent from the creative process and the offspring lack the beauty and necessity of genetic diversity.

In the quest to understand what it means to be fully alive, what it means to be human in light of the divine, there are no heights without the depths. And the depths will always be rife with controversy. Don’t shy away from it. Don’t fear it. Bring it to the light. Present it for discussion in your own uniquely creative way. To merely bask in the glory of the heights without ever diving into the depths is to remain comfortable: “But you were not made for comfort — you were made for greatness.” (PBXVI)

(To be continued…)

“Created” Book Review, Part 1 (of 3): Leave Something for the Imagination

“Wanna see a sign of the end times?”

That’s what I asked my mom as I showed her my advance copy of Created, a new collaborative book for anyone who has ever been interested in the mysterious intersection of art and faith. (The “sign of the end times,” as I interpreted it, was the strange reality that something I had written was just published in the same book as something that Bishop Robert Barron and Dr. Peter Kreeft — two brilliant minds — had written.)

When Cory Heimann (founder + creative director of Likable Art) reached out to tell me about the project and see if I might be interested in contributing, I jumped at the chance. The concept was so cool and so simple:

(1) pick 5 words to share with other creatives trying to do great work
(2) unpack those 5 words in 200 words or less
(3) a graphic/visual artist would create an image to complement + accompany my article

After taking some time to think about which 5 words I felt moved to share, I came up with a couple different options. I sent Cory two sets of five words and three different articles expounding on them. And I let him decide which of those three articles would be my official contribution to the project.

To find out which article he chose, you’ll have to get the book. You can order it here. And if you place your order by February 12th, you’ll also get an exclusive digital album featuring songs from myself and few other musicians  — Alanna Boudreau, Mike Mangione, Joe Zambon, to name a few — who also contributed to Created.

I’m still working my way through the book, slowly. I don’t want the wisdom of my fellow creatives to hit me all at once. I want to let each contribution sink in, to digest each morsel individually, to fully appreciate the whole meal as best as I can. That’s why this Created book review is in three parts. Before I share my full thoughts on the book itself, I’d like to share with you the other articles I submitted for consideration — the rejected articles.

Here’s the first…

Leave something for the imagination.

Honesty invokes resonance. Intentionality inspires active participation. Details and specifics help people relate to a story and its characters. But, sometimes, being too explicit, spelling everything out, or drilling a message or moral home with obvious intent can seem preachy, lazy, or worse…boring.

When you say enough to make them wonder, to make them want to know what exactly is being said while leaving something for the imagination, you challenge the audience to engage in a whole new way. You give them something to talk about, and the subsequent discussions allow us to learn something about art, ourselves, and the people we discuss it with.

With his use of parables — stories more allegorical than explicit — Christ challenged his audience to use their God-given capacity for thought. And when he said “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” he didn’t elaborate or explain what that meant. Rather, he actually said: “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’” (Mt. 9:13). He presented his audience with a truth, then challenged them to unpack it.

When you leave something for the imagination, you leave room for exploration, for growth and discovery. And isn’t that the point?

(To be continued…)

I Don’t Want Your Love: A Retro Vibe

I don’t want your love. It’s not a statement directed towards anyone in particular — I’m generally not a mean guy. It’s a metaphor, my attempt at a classic lyrical blues hook.

Materialism. Excessive demands and expectations. Mistrust and dishonesty. In any relationship, these distort and distract from authentic love.

Conceived while meditating on Martin Scorsese’s 3+ hour documentary on Bob Dylan while imprisoned in my Baltimore townhouse as hurricane Irene pounded the east coast back in 2011, this was my second attempt at writing a blues song. It was fun to write, a blast to record and produce, and it remains a favorite to play, especially when The Honest Stand (my band) is fighting alongside me on stage.

I’ve now attempted to give this “bluesy garage-rock tune with a retro vibe” a properly retro lyric video. That was the goal, anyway. And I really hope you enjoy it. Because, honestly…I do want your love.

For Those I’ll Leave Behind: A Happy Song About Death

“What are you working on?” she asked, genuinely interested.

She had just returned home from the store to find her husband playing his guitar in the spare bedroom of their apartment. He was finally fleshing out an idea that had been festering for some time. She was eight months pregnant and looked beautiful — an irrelevant detail. “Got somethin’ new?”

“Me? Oh, uh…” he hesitated, not sure if he was ready to discuss the concept so early in the song’s development. “I’m writing a happy song about death.” He said it frankly, half-anticipating a wince at such frankness. Surely ‘death’ deserves a little less jollity and a little more sobriety. But she didn’t wince. Instead, her face took on an expression more akin to relief, a sweet relief, as if she’d just recalled a fond memory.

“I think I need a song like that,” she said. So he wrote a fourth verse just for her.

For Those I’ll Leave Behind  (OFFICIAL VIDEO)

*Us is now available on iTunes, Bandcamp + more. You can purchase CDs in our Store right here on KevinHeider.com.

The Great Flood [Revisited]

A melody. A compulsion. A guitar riff. A repeating thought: water.

All of these elements had been running circles in my head, twitching in my fingertips for weeks until one Thursday evening (several years ago now) when an old man bowed low in humility to wash the dirt from my feet. In that moment, the muffled sounds I’d been hearing in my head for weeks, the vague concept I’d been stirring to flesh out — it all finally found its form in The Great Flood.

Images of water started pouring forth from the pen onto the page as I pondered the preternatural implications of washing oneself clean and of letting oneself be washed and of all the love that must entail. These thoughts eventually became the fulcrum on which my 2013 [double] album The Spark bends. Give it a listen, if you’re unfamiliar, and then read on…

Grounded firmly in the middle (it’s the 11th song out of 22), The Great Flood is the summit upon which the album ends an increasingly heavy, dark, and difficult uphill journey of asking “Why?” and begins a solemn and adventurous exploration into “Because.”

The themes of life, love, longing, purpose, and place that drive The Spark have all been ordered around the album’s centerpiece — The Great Flood — a modern hymn [of sorts] kept in time by a subtle beat, a beat that lingers, becoming more clear when the music fades, a beat that, at the time of the song’s recording, belonged to the heart of an unborn child at 36 weeks in the womb. The child’s name is Pierce. He is my nephew. He lived in water for the first 9 months of his life. Shortly after his birth he experienced, for the first time, the great flood of grace in which all the lost get found and all the found get lost.

So as you struggle, perhaps in vain, as I often do, to walk amidst the sharp and rugged rocks that bloody our paths and dirty our feet, remember the beat of the heart that’s waiting to burst forth. Remember that it once was yours and that it can be again.

Sincerely,
Kevin Heider

P.S. This is a slightly updated re-post of an older article that has become our annual Easter post. If you’ve enjoyed it, please pass it along. Thanks for reading. And thanks for listening! Happy Easter :-) 

*The Spark is available on iTunes, Bandcamp, and a variety of other digital media outlets. CDs can be purchased in the Store here on KevinHeider.com. Be sure to sign up for the mailing list to get email updates on upcoming projects and shows!

If you follow Kevin on Instagram…

…you’ll get instant access to backstage pics, cool in-studio photosweird shots of his musician friends sleeping, and the preposterous[ly awesome] graffiti he likes to leave on his friends’ refrigerators. You’ll also get to participate in fun photo contests (where you can win CDs and song downloads!) and see short videos of non-violinists “playing” the violin, his beautiful wife laughing, and what’s it’s like inside a recording studio.

If you already follow Kevin on Instagram, then you’ve most likely seen this adorable + funny video of his nieces and nephews trying to roller skate…

I love these kids so much :-)

A video posted by Kevin Heider (@kevinheidermusic) on