Soli Deo Life Music Curator, Von Newcomb, just released a single called “Living out the Echoes” and we thought we would introduce you to him by asking a few questions about the worship behind the song.
Soli Deo Life: Thanks for letting us ask you some questions, Von! To start with, the visual art that goes with the single is really interesting, where did you find it?
Von: I am so glad you asked, because that gives me a chance to be a proud father! My daughter, Anna, is a visual artist and the concept was entirely hers. She asked me for the lyrics and some of the Biblical passages I was thinking about as I was writing the song so that she could also become familiar with the theme. Then, Anna began to worship in a visual way. The wonderful movement and textures you see now grew from a combination of strokes of various mediums, colors, and—if you move in close enough—even words or phrases. Too bad you can’t see the actual painting, it is around 20 x 24 inches large and the rich detail just pulls you into a different world!
Soli Deo Life: What a creative way to visually express “living out the echoes from the first Word”! About the song itself, it sounds a bit like you are singing to a movie soundtrack…in what genre of music would you place “Living Out the Echoes”?
Von: Believe it or not, it started out with just me and my acoustic guitar with kind of a snappy, folk-pop vibe; but then when I started arranging it, I kind of hit it with an orchestra baton. In the words of one of my friends, it is what would happen if “45 Vons were given their choice of instruments and left in a room to jam.” I will admit it probably doesn’t fit into a normal indy/pop/folk genre, so feel free to call it what you like.
SDL: [smile] Ok, we will avoid labeling it, but could you tell us a bit about why you recorded the song this way?
Von: Lately, personally, I have been working on a lot of cinematic instrumental music and that definitely leaked into this arrangement. I REALLY love the sounds of an orchestra mixed together with just about any type of instrument, and on this song in particular I thought a bigger arrangement would better fit the epic theme of God’s invitation for us to live out what some of my theologian friends call the “cultural mandate.”
SDL: Could you talk a bit more about this theological idea of cultural mandate?
Von: To find the Biblical cultural mandate you have to go all the way back and read the origin account in the Bible. According to the book of Genesis, God spoke all of the cosmos into being. As part of that, He made man and woman “in his image” (Gen 1:27) and commissioned humans to be His garden apprentices by “working and watching-over” (Genesis 2:15) his creation. He also invited Adam to begin to flex his own creative muscles by giving him the job to come up with names for everything God had created. This tending and creating commission is what some refer to as the cultural mandate.
SDL: Wow, you don’t often find the subject of cultural mandate floating in a “pop-song”. What led you to write a song with this theme?
Von: Six months ago, I read a great book by Andy Crouch called “Culture Making.” He really challenged my thinking on how God desires us to invest our talents in culture as a worship expression. I wrote “Living out the Echoes” because, for me, synthesizing deep thoughts into words and music is one way I like to breathe back what I take in creatively. It was an expression of personal worship.
SDL: How do the lyrics of this song relate to you personally?
Von: My job finds me encouraging and helping artistically creative people who live and work in various cultures as they grow in their craft and integrate who they are as creatives into what they do in the workplace. The verses address two of the forces I have noticed we all fight against as we try to live this out.
Garden stones, now hidden ruins, retrace our steps to Eden
Tenacity of entropy an unforgiving cloak
“Toil and sweat”, the Gardner said “and thorny seeds will grow.”
But shaping splendor from the rough does war against the treason
The first verse carries us back to when mankind rebelled against God causing an earth-quake of destruction that we still fight against today. If left alone, the world will tend to fall apart, decay will ruin, and weeds will take over your pristine lawn. Entropy happens!
SDL: About that, for those of us who haven’t thought about “entropy” since 5th grade science; how about a reminder?
Von: Ha, ha..I used the word because it so succinctly describes the concept that when things are new, they start with energy and order; but if left alone, they will gradually loose energy and decline into disorder. The effects of sin and death can’t be escaped. But we CAN join the battle against the fall mankind caused by responding to God’s charge to maintain, to tend and to re-create. Oh, and I also really liked the way “tenacity of entropy” rolls off your tongue.
SDL: Fair enough! So, the first verse is about tending well, but the second seems to be about the struggle creative people sometimes face?
Vacant pages, empty staves
they mock us like a critic
Thoughts assail with fear to fail, and tell us not to try
The Artist cries, “You are my child, and you are my delight…
Just like me in artistry, so take your pen and worship!”
Von: That’s right! I wrote the second verse as an encouragement to myself, to my creative children, and to any other creative person who has ever struggled with paralyzing insecurity and doubt that their creativity isn’t good enough. As a result of those nagging voices, it is so easy to just toss up our hands and exclaim, “Then why try?”. I understand that in cultures, at times, different creative expressions can carry different monetary or influential value, but that is emphatically NOT the scale by which God values our creative efforts. He values us for who we are as his children and desires us to freely express the creativity he gave us. His invitation to us all is simply to faithfully use the gifts and talents He has given us for his glory.
The Gardner calls our hands to weed, to plant and tend with grace
Beauty from the chaos where we labor
The Artist draws us to create and worship all our days
Faithful with the talents he has measured
Living out the echoes from the first Word
SDL: Thanks, Von, for sharing some deeper insights into the worship behind “Living Out the Echoes”!