Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dylan on a Sunday

Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Dylan are touring this summer, playing mostly minor league ballparks. Would love to see that. Not so much for Mellencamp, though I think he would be fun live, but I'd love to see Willie, and of course Dylan is Dylan.

The NYTimes had a review of their recent rain-soaked performance in New Jersey. The thing about the Times is not only that you get the news (I know, a certain take on the news), but you get it with great prose. And John Caramanica has some great prose here. I love how he describes Dylan: "Mr. Dylan doesn’t have the relationship to melody he once did, but for Mr. Dylan it’s less of an obstacle than an opportunity to reframe." I love this sentence. This is the key to classic, even inspired. The reframe.

First of all, who among us has the relationship with melody we once had? I've never been more exhausted before in my life. Moving across the country feels different than it did 20 years ago. I had coffee with Tony Jones a few weeks ago, and he talked about being located in a seminary just isn't right for him, but for someone like me, and I quote, "in your stage of life it makes a certain sense." We just moved into an apartment right across the street from, I kid you not, The Older Person's Center. And today at lunch I found out that next year I qualify. That's some cold...

Point is, there are a lot of things I do differently than I used to, but I think no less artfully. Dylan doesn't sing like he used to, if singing is what he ever did, but his vocal limitations have invented all new interpretations of some of the greatest songs ever written. And much of it is way better, e.g. I much prefer his current version of "Lay, Lady, Lay."

Again, Caraminica writes of Dylan, "In his pugnacious, sprightly and often invigorating hour-plus set, the shape of songs was far more important than the meaning. He took ownership of several decades of American music: 'Thunder on the Mountain' was a fast blues, 'Lonesome Day Blues' had slight Cajun touches, and 'Like a Rolling Stone' brandished flashes of gospel and even pop-country." The reframes bring depth and new life.

Reframing is a big deal in Scripture. The richest parts of Scripture are those that have been reworked over time and in new circumstances. It's two qualities that makes them rich. They've been around. They can be reframed. They're classic and new all at the same time. It's not just saying the same thing again. It is a new thing altogether, and yet the same.

Here's the irony. It is the limitations of the new circumstances that make the classic new. Only in a new set of circumstances can timeless themes be timeless. Only in the reframe, the nod to limitations, can something new emerge. Limits can provide the opportunity for new creativity. So today I'm embracing my limits. I'm nearly old enough for the Old Person's Center. I no longer have the relationship to melody that I once did. I can't wait to see what happens. It's all about the reframe.


Anonymous said...

a music aficionado like you should check out Rob Sheffield's book - Love is a mixed tape: Life and Loss one song at a time.

Unknown said...

I second that. I'm reading that book right now, and LOVING it.

Anonymous said...

Really like your comments about "reframeing". Blessings on your ministry at Rochester.

Sean said...

Mark your posts are constantly reminding me how to engage the culture where we are. Congrats on your new job. Can't wait to read more posts.

Mark Love said...

Thanks for the tips. I'm on it.