Acclaimed and accomplished, Dave Brubeck died December 5 at the age of 91. He is best known as a jazz composer, who once said Duke Ellington was his mentor. He was known to cancel appearances if his racially-integrated band was asked to leave out non-white members. He was an ambassador of sorts, as well:
“Jazz represents freedom, freedom musically and politically,” he says. He notes that his tour “to show how important freedom and democracy are” targeted countries near the then-Soviet Union, including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and India…
What many did not realize was how much Brubeck’s religious faith infused his music. Of course, he did write religious pieces, such as “A Light in the Wilderness,” and his setting of Thomas Aquinas’ hymn, “Pange Lingua. He wrote music inspired by the astronauts and their isolation in space, in which he said he referenced Christ’s 40 days in the desert.
He believed the creative process was a sharing in God’s design:
In nature, “there is never a duplication, a snowflake is never duplicated. And think of how many billions come down,” Brubeck says. “If God can create like that, we ought to be able to reflect a bit of that.”
Finally, Brubeck believed that the biblical message of loving one’s enemies was at the heart of his creative process.
In a recent blog post, Acton blogger Joe Carter talked about the “cultural mandate” Christians:
As the theologian and former Dutch Prime Minister Abraham Kuyper once claimed, “No single piece of our mental world is to be sealed off from the rest and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” Because every aspect of creation belongs to God, he can providentially use our interactions in the economic sphere—whether working at our vocations or engaging in the marketplace—to help us fulfill his cultural mandate.
Clearly, this was a mandate Mr. Brubeck heartily and joyfully participated in, and our world is the better for it.