Video Songs: An Emerging Genre of Internet Art

Rather than passively sitting back and being entertained, we now interact with whatever we are watching… we share it on facebook, we comment on it, and we even make response videos. It is definitely a new world of media, sharing and entertainment.

The Changing Face of Art

Listen! Can you hear it?

That’s the sound of people all over the world uploading videos to Youtube. 48 hours of footage every minute.

While that number represents an unwatchable (and perhaps unfathomable!) amount of video, what it says to me is that we are interacting online in a new way. Video has become a standard and casual medium.

Involving Ourselves in the Conversation

Rather than passively sitting back and being entertained, we now interact with whatever we are watching… we share it on facebook, we comment on it, and we even make response videos. It is definitely a new world of media, sharing and entertainment.
Continue reading “Video Songs: An Emerging Genre of Internet Art”

Quakerism 101 with Max Carter

When we were filming the scene in the hut for the music video, Tom Clement and I had some down time with Max Carter and, having asked him to prepare a brief lecture on the history of Quakerism for the video, decided to let him run once through the whole thing.

What’s amazing about what follows is that Max did this without flinching, as Tom and I were moving around the room trying to get everything ready for filming the music video.

As I looked back over the footage, I realized that there is simply no online resource as concise and comprehensive as the (less than) five minute talk Max had just given. I went to work with the visuals, and would say, humbly, that the result is as good as the music video (some might say better!)

Tom Fox Music Video

Friends,

As the tenth anniversary to 9/11 came and went, I found myself reflecting on the past ten years… especially our reaction to being attacked and the results of that reaction.

I found myself reflecting on my elder, Tom Fox, who joined the Christian Peacemaker teams to try to heal some of the damage we were doing in Iraq. And I found myself mulling over the song that I wrote about Tom’s subsequent abduction and death.

What resulted was very unexpected. I am working full tilt on a new album (due for release in 2 weeks… yikes!) and certainly did not have the spare time. But of course I had to listen, and be faithful to the call. Take a look:

Read more…

How to Heal from 9/11

“What’s important is not your emotional reaction to something, but how you hold and interact with that emotion”

It will continue to become clear that 9/11 was a turning point for our country. Not because we were attacked. Because of the way we responded to being attacked, which was far more damaging (to us) than the attacks themselves.
Continue reading “How to Heal from 9/11”

Announcing: “Clothe Yourself in Righteousness”

Announcing the release date for Clothe Yourself in Righteousness, a multimedia project about Quakers and nakedness.

The time has arrived!

After months and months of praying, not knowing, wrestling, the moment has arrived. If you’re the type to pray, great… all of us involved with the project would be very appreciative.

Also, tour dates:

  • 9/23 – Richmond, VA – 4500 Kensington Avenue – 7 PM
  • 9/24 – Philadelphia, PA – Time and place TBA
  • 10/1 – Greensboro, NC – Guilford College – Time and place TBA
  • other times and locations TBA

…And I’m spent. If you love to read, you’re out of luck. 🙂 I just spent my last waking clarity on that video. Hit play. Just sayin’.

How My Ministry Ministers to Me (Or… How I’ve Been Called Into Nakedness)

Sometimes Friends approach me after performances, on the internet, after a Meeting for Worship, and praise me, noting how deeply my ministry affects them.

With all due respect (and thank you, truly), we might be going about this thing all wrong.

Invited Into Fully Being

When I take on a new project, I find that it is more often because there is something about the subject matter that I don’t know than because I do. That is to say – I receive a leading to go where I am blind, not where I am familiar.

When I lived at Pendle Hill in 2006-07 I named my project The Art of Fully Being. I saw that our shame and fear of judgment causes us to live limited lives in which we allow ourselves to experience openly only a narrow scope.

Rather than feeling that “I have figured out the way to live fully and now it is time to tell everyone else”, I felt that I was being invited into knowing that my own shame and fear of judgment limits my ability to love myself, to allow myself to be (which undoubtedly affects my ability to love others and allow them to be!).

To be specific, I tend to panic when emotions arise in me that I am not proud of or comfortable with: anger, jealousy, doubt, shame. My panic exacerbates the emotion that I am trying to avoid. What if, instead of hating and fearing these emotions, I allow them to rise in me and examine them lovingly…?

“Why don’t you try it and see what happens?”
-The leading to make The Art of Fully Being

What a gift is art. And what a challenge.

Invited to Clothe Myself in Righteousness

My current project is about nakedness. On a similar vein to TAoFB, I have found that our shame and fear of judgment hinders our authenticity in the world. We care deeply about being loved and being accepted, and we often will go to great lengths to prove our worthiness and hide aspects of ourselves that we perceive to make us unworthy.

I see that I wrap my perceived value up into my identity. My ability to be a clear and loving presence is hindered by my anxiety about how others perceive me and what I see as my value level in the social hierarchy. I have found myself clothing myself in my value as a musician or as a well known Friend. In this project I have been invited to dig past those layers, and it has caused a great deal of soul searching.

…and the project is not done. I am still in the final stages of recording (just posted this update on the CYiR website) and surely will continue to be ministered to by the project (often it is in the presentation and reaction to the project that I am the most stretched, as you might remember from my last music video).

But I can already point to major shifts in the way that I approach art. Instead of comfortably nestling my voice into layers and layers of instruments, production, and backup vocals, I have felt called to “strip it down”, lift my voice out and place it, bare, out in the front of the mix. The guitar work, similarly, is bare, with few layers and other instruments to distract.

I am videotaping each part of each recording session and will post videos online. This is taking something that once was a very private, solitary process for me and exposing it.

I am putting the project (my baby!) into the hands of others for the mixing and mastering.

Each of these things is dramatically new and different, and oh, how naked I feel! I am certain that the songs will speak to people, but while I am glad that others can benefit as witnesses of my projects, I wonder if passive observation is an easy way out.

We are all able to listen to the ways in which we are called into radical experiments in being. It is fine to appreciate “my” ministry, but I would like to encourage us to see others’ ministries as a beginning, or as the inspiration to follow the leadings that would minister to us.

Where My Great Passion Meets the World’s Great Need, Or, How Music Became My Ministry

I couldn’t see devoting myself to an extremely risky line of work for the sake of nothing but my faith in my own talent. My studies at Guilford pinballed my professional future between subjects in which I have a peripheral interest: psychology, sociology, restorative justice, philosophy. Then I discovered Quakerism. I should say, I re-discovered Quakerism.

The Beginnings of My Vocational Discernment

During my senior year at Guilford (‘05-’06), there was an active discussion about vocation. “Where my great passion meets the world’s great need” was the phrase bouncing around in my head and the community’s collective consciousness.

I had been writing and recording songs as a hobby since my senior year of high school. By 2006 I had even released a few CDs and played some shows. Music was, without a doubt, my great passion. But there were several major barriers between me and committing to my journey as a musician: (1) It is incredibly unlikely that one will succeed in this line of work; (2) Success often comes at the abandonment of the passion or love that brought one to explore music in the first place; (3) The majority of successful musicians are doing no great service to anything but their own egos.

I couldn’t see devoting myself to an extremely risky line of work for the sake of nothing but my faith in my own talent. My studies at Guilford pinballed my professional future between subjects in which I have a peripheral interest: psychology, sociology, restorative justice, philosophy.

Then I discovered Quakerism.

I should say, I re-discovered Quakerism. Or: I was convinced (as Quakers like to say).

Examining My Roots – A Deeper Commitment

I grew up Quaker. I was well versed in the modern Quaker jargon, the institutional acronyms, the banter of Young Friends, the songs of the camping programs and the schedules and rhythms of the FGC Gatherings. I thought I was as Quaker as they come.

The Early Friends said that baptism comes inwardly and powerfully when we make ourselves open to the spirit of Christ. My senior project for the Quaker Leadership Scholars Program was such an opportunity. Tired of music being an isolated thread in my life, I was inspired to write and record a CD of songs about the Early Friends and the beginnings of the Quaker movement.

The experience was incredible, not just for the personal and moving stories that I uncovered about the Early Quakers, but for the way that the world seemed to rise up around me to supply the resources needed to make the project powerful, alive. In sharing that life with my immediate community of Guilford and the wider community of Quakerism, I‘ve seen its impact be deep, meaningful, transformational. I had found where my great passion meets the world’s great need.

Settling into Action

Today, four years later, I spend my time traveling among Friends, exploring art and ministry and our collective history. I see this as being sacred, and very important, work and I am well supported in doing it.

Certainly I would not have discovered such a perfect, unconventional way to use my specific set of gifts had I not been given the opportunity to explore vocation in the safe container of Guilford College. I think of it as threading a needle (or threading several at once), which takes a lot of trial and error, thought and space. It is invaluable that undergraduates be given the space and guidance to do this explorative work, and I am always glad to know that Guilford and QLSP are still out there, helping to shape our soon-to-be ministers, musicians and leaders.

-Jon Watts QLSP ‘06

Reposted from the Friends Center Fall 2010 Newsletter