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August 2014
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While reading New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff’s review of a NYC concert featuring the bands Salome and Landmine Marathon, my thoughts went back to the rock bestiary I’ve slowly adumbrated here at R&T. My initial description of a rock bestiary is here, and there have been many entries since then.

Ratliff served up a splendid meditation fit for a bestiary entry. Describing Salome’s lead singer Kat, Ratliff writes: “Early in the band’s second song — “Master Failure” — Kat brought the microphone to her face with both hands, enveloped two small fists around it and began a deep, dreadful growl, altering the tone with the shape of her mouth, something like yawwheeawhhhheee. She might have been singing words; maybe not. Hard to tell. It was more an earth sound than a body sound; the imagined howl of undersea canyons.”

A rock bestiary, should one ever exist, would be focused on the specific and eventful ways that Holy Mother of God! Take a listen!

A rock bestiary, should one ever exist, would be focused on the specific and eventful ways that rock culturers — musicians, fans, roadies, and more — yield up bodily wherewithals that are the potential fruit of, and power for, more life. Or should I say, with reference to Kat’s “earth sound,” that rock musicians generate ever new ways of conducting into, or at least gesturing toward, a way of being that theology should be able to appreciate, a way of being that I would call (following Gilles Deleuze) “faith in this world.”

It is this faith that scholars like political scientist William Connolly argue represents an important, if minor, tradition of spiritual exercises in the West, through Epicurus, Spinoza, Kant, Nietzsche, Bergson, Foucault, Deleuze and others. (See Connolly’s article in Powers of the Secular Modern, edited by Hirschkind and Scott (Stanford, 2006).)

Finding the live postures that give off “earth sounds” also remind me of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s reflections on his hoped-for marriage to Maria von Wedemeyer. He wrote that whatever else their union would signify, it would have to be a “yes to this world.” (See Love Letters from Cell 92, edited by Bismarck and Kabitz (Abingdon, 1995))

While Salome, Connolly, and Bonhoeffer are evidently not saying the same thing, their proximities open a new space for holding theology and secular music together. So it is worth considering that both rockish and theological cultures meet in a space of wanting postures that let through “earth sounds.”

Tom Beaudoin

Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, United States

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