- From the Vault
- Guest Entries
- Is This The New Face of Religion?
- Is This The New Face of Rock?
- Music and the Brain
- Musical Performance
- News Items
- Recommended Reading
- Rock and Theology Project
- Secular Liturgies
- Somatica Divina
- Theological Production
- Andy Edwards (12)
- Christian Scharen (11)
- Daniel White Hodge (12)
- David Dault (17)
- David Nantais (76)
- Gina Messina-Dysert (10)
- Henry Lowell Carrigan (2)
- Ian Fowles (1)
- Jeffrey Keuss (15)
- Jennifer Otter (9)
- Loye Ashton (2)
- Maeve Heaney (10)
- Mary McDonough (98)
- Michael Iafrate (76)
- Myles Werntz (1)
- Natalie Weaver (10)
- Rachel Bundang (4)
- Tom Beaudoin (763)
- Dion, “The Wanderer,” at Fordham
- R.I.P. Ray Manzarek
- Quote of the Day
- From the Vault: “On Musicianly Theological Writing”
- Two Worlds Collide
- Brandt Hardin on R.I.P. Ray Manzarek
- Joe on R.I.P. Ray Manzarek
- cnjd on Geddy Lee, Jewish Atheist
- Ian Fowles on Churches Leading the Way to Punk?
- Peter Banks on “Post-Christian Rock”
- Bruce Springsteen's "Wrecking Ball" Faith vs. Evangelical Certainty
- Hungry like the Wolf: What This Blog Is Doing Here
- Is it Weird to Pray for Rock Stars?
- Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door: What Makes Music “Sacred”?
- Rock as "Interruption" and Bearer of Dangerous Memories
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
- December 2009
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- August 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- May 2009
- April 2009
- March 2009
- February 2009
- January 2009
Posted in: Dialectic,Fandom,General,Musical Performance,Practices by Tom Beaudoin on July 27, 2010
I finally am going to bring my stretched-out (16-month!) “series” on Winger and theology to a conclusion with this post. For those keeping score at home, part one is here, which hiccuped into part one and a half, and here is part two, followed by three, then comes four, only to give way to five, and here we are presently at six.
In case you lost track, this series has come to the point of thinking out loud about how bodies in the rock culture of Winger open up matters of theological interest, and how theology finds things interesting in these hard rock embodiments. To quote myself (with permission) from my last post on this topic: “One of the theologically significant ways of rock culture is training in bodily habitation. As religion scholar Talal Asad among many others have argued, the training of sense was intrinsic to the working of classic Catholic sacramental theology and is part of what Christianity and Islam share. With regard to how rock does it, I have called this the performance of a bodily wherewithal, wherein instruments like electric guitars or basses become something like natural appendages for the musician, in a way that speaks to fans (including other musicians) of bodily integration and excellence or deep congruence in inhabiting the world.”
In part five, I was discussing lead singer/bassist Kip Winger as “trainer of sense” and object of imitative desire on the part of fans. His ballet training and classical music interests were mentioned, and I took those to signal an uncommon interest on Kip Winger’s part in refined bodily presentation in musical performance.
Steve Almond’s recent book, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life (Random House, 2010), has some fun with this aspect of Winger’s persona. In fact, Almond’s book is the only work in print that I know of that dedicates a special section to a Winger roast of sorts. That (very brief) part is promisingly titled “Interlude: The Kip Winger Canon” (pp. 144-147).
Almond, in a section definitely not suitable for kids, talks with his wife Erin about Kip Winger’s unique power of bodily symbolizing the rock aesthetic, in the context of a real or imagined (and leading to further-imagined) encounter(s) that Erin may or may not have had with Kip Winger. While the actual narrative here may not be more than a forgettable snicker for the Winger in-crowd…
(NOTE: for what it’s worth (and I aim to write a review of the book eventually at R&T), I found the whole discussion too clever by half, and similar to Howard Hampton’s recent review, wanted more from Almond. A discussion of Winger that tried harder wouldn’t have to be boring, un-arch, or lacking cultural insight, if that is what Almond was worried about. (Of course, smart writing about pop music always risks uncoolness, and cleverness will never fully patch that constitutive leak.))
…it does help me transition to the point I want to make in this post: that whatever one might laud about what Kip Winger’s rock persona, it sometimes manifests within the old masculine/heterosexual codes that dance with patriarchalism — one of rock’s oldest and tiredest songs.
Where are female bodies in this real-symbolic metal world?
As I have been sketching in a brief blog series (the most recent one is here), one of the theologically significant ways of rock culture is training in bodily habitation. As religion scholar Talal Asad among many others have argued, the training of sense was intrinsic to the working of classic Catholic sacramental theology and is part of what Christianity and Islam share. With regard to how rock does it, I have called this the performance of a bodily wherewithal, wherein instruments like electric guitars or basses become something like natural appendages for the musician, in a way that speaks to fans (including other musicians) of bodily integration and excellence or deep congruence in inhabiting the world. (I realize I have had too little to say about drums, keyboards, or other instruments; I hope our commenters or R&T bloggers will over time correct what I’ve written about guitars or fill out these other underrepresented instruments.)
Recently I took lead guitarist Reb Beach as my example. In this post, I present to you Kip Winger, lead singer and bassist for the band Winger. Kip Winger’s bodily wherewithal in performance exhibits as strong a gathered congruence as Reb Beach. In fact, he is somewhat renowned for this among both Winger fans and detractors. I speak here of his pirouettes, his near-sashays, his rockish plies, all of which were on display early on in Winger videos. The most famous is “Seventeen” (full disclosure: not for kids). But there are many other examples, like “Madalaine”:
What I did not know until recently was that apparently Kip Winger had training in ballet as an adolescent. Even more, his ballet background is coming to play more and more of an influence over his musical interests. This recent interview discusses his rising interest in composing classical music for ballet (a new composition of his, “Ghosts,” recently premiered at the San Francisco Ballet). And he’s been going back to school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville (see the interesting feature here) to refine his classical chops. This is a much more “distinguished” way of holding oneself than one typically assumes in rock.
Posted in: General,Musical Performance by Tom Beaudoin on June 28, 2010
I recently wrote about the ways that rock musicians model desire and its satisfaction, using the example of Reb Beach, lead guitarist of Winger, and the way he relates to the guitar as part of his body, as an integrated embodiment of the song, during live shows.
I have not yet mentioned how vocal chatter can comment on the bodily wherewithal during live shows. What a musician says during performance can interpret, supplement, sometimes replace, their larger bodily wherewithal.
And so it was fun to notice, at the Winger show in New York City recently, that Reb Beach mouthed a bit of a mock-parroting of lead singer Kip Winger’s opening line to the song “Madalaine,” a lyric that, devoid of irony, declares, “Tell you ’bout this lady!” As Kip Winger sang that line, Beach lip-synched it with just enough of a “Can you believe he is singing that?” smile to give the audience an interstice of irony in which to firmly plant one rock-stomping foot, as Beach himself was doing, while still enjoying a song like “Madalaine,” which includes keening lyrics like: “This is love too tough to tame,” “Beware of the girl! Beware of the pain”!
The creation of an escape-space in Beach’s silent vocality helped model how desire can work in rock: taste and see how good this sounds and feels to be hearing this loud, driving, melodic, musicianly music together.
To the degree that music is a conduit of salvation, and by salvation I mean, in a nutshell, the growing of a deep yes to reality, in, through, and beyond this world, then we have to learn how to feel that world in which we live, and these clues from musicians are part of the cues we get. We have to learn how to “be saved”; we have to learn how to be in and with our music.
To be continued (next up: Kip Winger)…
Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, United States
Posted in: Fandom,General,Guitarwork,Musical Performance by Tom Beaudoin on June 25, 2010
One of the most recognizable images of Winger’s live shows — which they share with larger rock culture — is the utter importance of the musicians’ bodily wherewithal to the sound, look, and feel of the rock experience. Last weekend, I saw Winger at BB King’s in New York City,
and before the show, I was talking with other fans gathered in front of the stage. One woman said to me that she was trying to get as close as possible to lead guitarist Reb Beach’s side of the stage because, as she put it, Beach “totally melds with his guitar,” he is “so into it, like he’s in a trance.” I could not disagree, and kept her observation with me through the performance and my later reflection on the band.
Beach is among a coterie of lead guitarists who display an uncanny familiar and lavish sympathy with their guitar, making it into a same and separate entity at once: both dance partner and electric extension of Beach’s own body. For those whose tastes run to rock, it is compelling to be in the presence of this style of musicianship. I think the fan who said that to me is pointing to the way that bodily wherewithals or dispositions among rock musicians can symbolize and refocus fans’ desires. I have felt the same way in seeing the relationship of Geddy Lee to his bass guitar, Michelle Malone to her guitar, and many fans say something similar of Hendrix’s relationship to his guitar. Rock musicians, and probably all musicians, can develop intimate relationships with their instruments, and this in itself is spiritually interesting and important, but it takes another kind of psychology and musical identity to allow the abandon tucked into that intimate relationship to show itself in that peculiar combination of a studied and unstudied showing so characteristic of rock, especially hard rock, shows. There is also something interesting here in the way that this musical surrender allows body postures for men in particular that are forsworn in larger society. In the logic of “normal” North American everyday life, these postures would be weird or, importantly, “queer,” but here the queer becomes revelatory, a “total meld.” Whatever this is speaking to in fans’ desires, it seems to be related to some kind of freedom that is an excellence, a relationship to a beyond, and the beauty of a sacred singularity.
Here is a clip of the band from last weekend’s NYC show. Beach is the guitarist with the very long hair on the right side of the screen. In addition to lead guitar, you can see he also takes a harmonica solo!
And another show I attended in Los Angeles in 2007 had Beach channeling this guitar solo:
To be continued…
Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, United States
One way to find Winger (and much of rock music and culture) theologically interesting has to do with bodies. We can ask: What does rock culture model about bodies for those who partake of that culture?
For many complicated reasons, Christian theology has been invested in this question for a long time. The human body has been a site of interest, and “bodiliness” itself a site of invention, for the entire length of the tradition. The debates often center around how the body is a conduit for divinity. Christianity has contributed a remarkable share of creative means for having the body as a beautiful experience of being reconciled. It has also contributed powerfully domesticative and destructive body philosophies and practices.
Christianity has taken on as well as contributed to such creative and domesticative body philosophies and practices. Whatever else a theology of the body is about, it is always at least a theography of cultural materials in a situation for Christian use. This should make the theologian interested in what they can learn of bodies from around them in the larger culture. This is especially true of examples from the larger culture that are influential, or can perhaps be made theologically to be influential.
Thus can we come to rock with a keen theological interest, for rock culture has too always been wrapped up in bodily expression and knowledge, somatic invention, happening, wizardry, particularly in its musicianship and fan behaviors. So we can come to Winger.
To be continued…
New York City, United States
I am driven to renew some informal reflections on Winger and theology because last night I saw — or rather, was taken to the master class of divine rock glory by — Winger at B.B. King’s in New York City.
Here, in one sentence, is Winger’s history: they started as a cross between hard rock, pop rock, and glam rock in the late 80s, became relatively huge in the MTV-type zone of musical reality for a few years, were knocked off the musical map by the rise of more “authentic” rock like grunge in the 1990s accompanied by a cultural thumbs-downing signaled by the newly generalized ironic perspective on rock as seen in the MTV cartoon “Beavis and Butthead” and their continual mocking of certain 80s “hair metal” bands (opening few seconds of infamous Winger mockery here, comment by B&B’s Mike Judge here, lead singer Kip Winger’s comments here), and then came back in the last decade in a hard-rock return in popular culture not only as nostalgia but as increasing appreciation for truly creative and musically accomplished rock bands of the 80s whose fans never gave up on them and who continue to write fresh material and mentor new bands (in the interview with Kip Winger above, the interviewer observes that the band “is having the last laugh” due to Winger’s persistent hard rock invention and remarkable staying power in the studio and on tour).
I initially tried to drag Rock and Theology into the Winger rockfest with an initial post, “Of Winger and Theology,” part one of which appeared here at R&T fifteen months ago. I suppose that since I am only now getting to part one-plus, that we will have to call this an “occasional series.” I have also posted at R&T about the band in relation to “Aging Rock Gods and Goddesses,” “Your Comfort Food Was My Salvation,” “Sleep in Heavenly Peace,” and “Rockish Help in Letting Through the Painful Truths of the Catholic Scandal.”
Winger’s show last night was a steeping in all eras at once, an overlay of 80s unironic metal muscle and post-80s ironic metal pleasure. It is the kind of musical attitude toward which Tenacious D gestures in their song “The Metal”:
As “The Metal” seems to suggest, I think that many Winger fans (and if some moments last night are any indication, the band, too) would appreciate the interweaving of a consciousness of construction and fiction, a deconstructive attitude, with the passion of direct feeling, the naturalistic or romantic attitude, that establishes the space for this music. Here already is an interesting partner and potential mirror for theology, where what will matter is that we can touch-measure our lives to places compellingly built. I will try to continue this thread in the next several days.
Hastings-on-Hudson, New York
I have been thinking a lot about this Winger song, “Who’s the One,”
as this latest crisis in the Catholic Church pulls the church down further into what I hope will be the irreversible demise of an entire strand of the Catholic tradition, indeed approaching the practical essence or at least requirement of Catholicism for many: secretive about power, openly misogynistic and officially homophobic, trading on a supernatural hierarchy of spiritual classes, afraid of education that might interfere with its sacred story, anxious about inventing and defending its superiority, sacramentally magical, and reactively floating mystifications whenever the chips are down. This kind of religion will probably never permanently go away, but its hold is loosening by the hour in this new century as we learn more and more about the mendacity of Catholic power, riven through all that has been freeing in this tradition like a subterranean capillary system. To confess, excavate, and dispossess ourselves of the will to tell people the truth about themselves toward the tradition’s own advantage – this is the ethical task for a Christian, for a theologian, who wants to live in the present, who hopes to even inhabit the same moral universe as the prophets.
Posted in: General,Musical Performance by Tom Beaudoin on December 22, 2009
While I try to feature something of an array of rock subgenres in my writing at Rock and Theology, it will be obvious to regular readers that I most often represent the “hard rock” section of the spectrum. So it is fun for me to find a band like Winger playing “Silent Night.” (I cannot embed the video in this post, so you have to check it out here.) But more than fun: an occasion for thinking again about what happens when rock and theology overlap.
As I listen and watch, I notice tints of the gendered overpush so common in rock, with the masculine plane of heterosexual desire here resituating the lyrics; how often do you hear “round yon virgin” sung like that? Made safe for public consumption, of course — or is it? — by the addition of “mother and child.” (It is worth noting the acrobatics involved in holding this safety belt fastened by keeping the wild theological imagery of “virgin mother” intact.)
What a delicious rendering of the “sleep in heavenly peace” lyric, as well! An affected growl and urgency, to be sure, but you have to suspend disbelief when you see four long-haired rock musicians with Santa hats sitting on stools in a studio belting out a Christmas classic. “Sleep in heavenly peace” — scooped out vocally and affectively with the grit that comes from (and would lead onto) years of playing shows like this — reminds me that this rockish pedagogy is not about simply lying down quietly, but about finding that place of being deeply alive, catapulting from those desires, however narrow they might look to others, that give us the courage of our strangeness and the generosity of our manner, and “resting” your whole body/being in that heaven. (“Convert people to life,” says Cesare Bonizzi.)
“Sleep in heavenly peace” becomes not a gentle supplication but — an imperative: you had better learn how to rest in your heaven, and feeling your way along rock’s path is part of the road to doing so. This does not cancel the theological lyric but turns it from a sheet into a chute.
Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, United States
Posted in: Fandom,General,Musical Performance by Tom Beaudoin on March 1, 2009
I spent this weekend in Anaheim at a conference, and as part of the creative triangulation I attempt between academic culture, church culture, and rock culture—in the hope of keeping in the air some sense of what is real and unreal in each domain and what should really be claiming my attention, time, and desire—I often try to take in a local rock show or at least some kind of live music while I’m conferencing.
While I failed on that count this weekend (deciding instead to make of the on-site conference parties the only sample of the dionysian), I did savor a particular Los Angeles memory: Two years ago while at the same conference, I ducked out one night to catch Winger at a smallish rock venue.
What follows is a “review” email I wrote to some friends after the show. In future posts I want to refer to this experience as material toward, recollection of, and symbol for some theological work.
Here it is: