Saturday, September 8, 2007

Danielson (or, a tribute to the Creator of all that is Good)

Today I watched a documentary on the musical artist Danielson. Danielson is Daniel Smith, one of the most eccentric and creative indie musicians I have ever heard. I first listened to Danielson at a band practice with my friend Ryan Lane, when he turned up a few of their songs and told me I should check them out. The documentary follows the Danielson Famile (made up of Daniel Smith, his siblings, and a few good friends) as they make intriguing and inspiring music.

Danielson is extremely interesting for a number of reasons. First, Danielson was making weird orchestra indie music before that kind of thing was "cool." Second, Danielson was a key inspiration/mentor for Sufjan Stevens, one of the greatest musicians in the past 10 years. (on a side note, if you have not heard the "Illinois" album from Sufjan, you should; it may be history in the making). Third, Danielson is a passionate follower of Jesus Christ.

This last reason--the Jesus one--makes Danielson an abnormal phenomenon in music culture. Danielson has played both at Cornerstone--a huge Christian music festival--and at indie bars and clubs in New York. Danielson makes music that you either hate or love. There is no in between. Either you love the fact that he is a creative artist AND a Christian, or you simply can't understand him, and therefore don't like him. In the past, Danielson Famile dressed up in nurse's uniforms for their live shows, symbolizing healing. On solo tours, he has dressed up as a tree with nine (9) different pieces of fruit hanging from its branches, symbolizing the fruits of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23). It's weird...yet strangely moving.

Why is this so interesting to me? Because he defies (and unites) both the Christian subculture and the indie subculture in one creative blow. He makes innovative art, then gives the credit to the Holy Spirit. He creates, but only with strength from the Creator. He shows that "Christian" music does not have to be poppy, repetitive, unoriginal trash. He also shows that indie music does not have to be anti-religious, self-indulgent, snarky weird sounds. It can be neither, yet it can be both. It's a strangely beautiful thing; Danielson is like when two completely opposite people fall in love and get married, to everyone else's shock and disbelief. It doesn't make sense, but that's what makes it so great.

It seems to me that if God is the Creator, and as Christians we both bear His image and live by His Holy Spirit, we should be the most creative group of people on the planet. While Danielson is still finding his greater audience, Sufjan Stevens has shown us that faith and creativity do go hand-in-hand. I was really inspired by the Danielson story. The documentary also focuses on themes like family vs. individualism, the definition of success, and defying the odds by doing something completely new. I think Jesus is honored by Danielson's (and Sufjan's!) creative spirit.

Check out Danielson here!

1 comment:

  1. I just stumbled onto your blog today, and I agree about Danielson bringing in some much-needed creativity to the Christian music world. If anybody out there hasn't seen the documentary about the band yet, definitely go and rent it. Whether you're into the band, or you're just a music lover, or you love God, the movie will inspire you.

    I started a Christian music MP3 blog called The Blah Blah, focusing on indie stuff but branching out into all sorts of Christian music and just did a post on Danielson here with some totally legal free MP3 downloads. Check it out, and come back often because I post every weekday morning.