Monday, December 04, 2006

Music for the Gospel

On a Usenet thread about film music acquisitions in 2006 (yes, for reasons that are odd enough, is active again), I just wrote a post about my recent acquisition of Jeff Danna's score to The Gospel of John, and I want to repeat that post here, edited to include some linkage:

At the church my family attends, the services (like most) always include a reading from the Bible. Now, when it's from the Old Testament or from one of the letters of Paul, the pastor just reads it out loud. But if it's from one of the Gospels, he plays a video clip corresponding to the reading from one of several "video bibles" they use. I've noticed over the last two years that two of these video Bibles are in use, with two different actors playing Jesus.

One of these Jesuses has an American accent, and plays Jesus in a very down-to-Earth manner, always smiling a lot as he dispenses his wisdom to the flock. The other Jesus, though, has a British accent, and speaks in a much more mystical manner -- in fact, the general tone of all the scenes with "British Jesus" tend to be more mystical in tone than those with "American Jesus". I've also noticed that the "British Jesus" scenes always featured very beautiful and meditative music. I tried doing some Google searching to identify this production, in hopes that maybe there was a music CD out there, but no dice. (Yeah, I could have asked the Pastor directly -- but if God wanted us talking to Pastors, he wouldn't have invented Google.)

Flash forward to about six weeks ago, when I'm channel-flipping at home on a Wednesday night. I flip by that night's episode of "LOST", a show which I don't watch, but my eyes were caught. There was an actor standing on the beach who looked a lot like "British Jesus" from church. (My daughter was already in bed, fortunately, thus sparing her my disconcerting yelp of "Holy Shit, there's Jesus!") Anyway, I watched that episode long enough to hear this guy speak, and he sure sounded like "British Jesus". So it was off to IMDb, where I dug into the "LOST" page and found an actor named Henry Ian Cusick, whose little headshot looked Jesus-like. Following the link to Cusick's IMDb page, I saw that he did play Jesus in "The Gospel of John". And a little further investigation turned up a CD on Varese of the film's haunting score by Jeff Danna.

Interestingly, the score makes extensive use of instruments existing at the time of Jesus, along with Aramaic texts. It's interesting to compare the work of Danna to that of a Miklos Rosza, since both took great pains to extensively research their scores for films set in Biblical times, with greatly differing results.

It's a genuinely moving score, a gem I'm very happy to have uncovered.

For what it's worth, the American Jesus is an actor named Bruce Marchiano, who played Jesus in a Visual Bible edition of the Book of Matthew. So upon further review, it turns out that we don't watch video clips from Mark or Luke, I guess.


Anonymous said...

Funny. Just as I drew the conclusion that you were an athiest based on the Dennis Prager post, you throw out a couple of "church" posts in a row.

Belladonna said...

I'm always intrigued by the way various faiths practice their beliefs...from snake handling in Appalachia to the high ritual a la incense and candles of my Orthodox friends, I try to be open to things that are different from my own. But I was totally surprised to hear about showing the video clips rather than reading the actual scripture. Not sure why that left me so unsettled... I'll have to ponder that some.

Belladonna said...

TIME ZONES can be so interesting. I've been sitting here blogging for a while, not really keeping track of what time it was. Then when I posted that last comment I saw the tag that said it was 10:35 AM. HOLY CRAP! I thought - I've been sitting here WAY too long and now I've missed church! How could it possibly be that late already??? But then it dawned on me. Oh Yeah. You live on the other side of the country. It is 10:35 in YOUR world. It is only 7:35 in mime. WHew! Ok - time to turn off the machine before I really truly do make myself late!

Kelly Sedinger said...

It took me some time getting used to the video clips, even with my general lack of liturgical familiarity at the time I started going. They only do the clips for texts from Matthew or John, since those are the books they have on the videos -- and the videos still have all the verbiage of the texts, with a narrator doing the "And Jesus went to Galilee..." stuff.

Today's text was from Luke, so the guy doing to service (not our pastor, who is recovering from surgery!) read it from the Bible.

And I get what you mean about the time zones! A few months after I started this blog I learned enough HTML to jigger my template, and I scuttled the time-stamps on the posts almost immediately for much the same reason.