Tuesday, April 17, 2007

50 Book Challenge: #5 and #6


Review: Bach Among the Theologians by Jaroslav Pelikan. (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1986).

Pelikan's work is an unsentimental look at the influence of Pietism and evangelical thought on a composer who has been too often oversimplified as "staunchly Lutheran." He questions the assumptions we make based on a standardized "psychobiography."

Not surprisingly, there is not an in-depth engagement with the music (he relies heavily on Spitta, Schweitzer, etc.), but Pelikan does offer some excellent textual analyses. He promotes a re-reading of Bach's career, demonstrating that a lack of sacred output in Cöthen did not necessarily define a "low point" for the composer.

While the book as a whole seems to lack cohesion in some places, it does function very well as a set of separate essays. Particularly cogent are the chapters on ""Mediation on Human Redemption" in the St. Matthew Passion" and "Pietism, Piety and Devotion in Bach's Cantatas." The book is an important contribution to interdisciplinary dialogue about the figureheads of classical music and should be embraced in that spirit.


Review: 40 Days & 40 Bytes: Making Computers Work for your Congregation by Aaron Spiegel, Nancy Armstrong and Brent Bill. (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2004)

40 Days & 40 Bytes is an excellent resource for congregations who may be in the beginning stages of electronic fortification or who may be looking to streamline their electronic efficiency. While not focused heavily on websites and e-evangelism, the book offers a thorough review of all considerations when buying CMS (congregational management software), computers, and setting up a network. It offers several helpful appendices that serve as checklists, including: "Congregational Culture Questions" and a "Technology Assessment Form."

The book is set up in such a way that you can skip irrelevant sections (some chapters are devoted to the general basics, like defining a CPU, for example). Infused with good humor and an ecumenical spirit, 40 Days & 40 Bytes is one of the best resources I have seen for the non-techie layperson interested in helping move their congregation into the 21st century.

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6 / 50

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Mostly Musicology, Teaching, and a bit of Miscellanea