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News

Meet the Mountain View City Council candidates

Meet the Mountain View City Council candidates


Nine candidates have filed to run for three open seats on the Mountain View City Council in the Nov. 4 election – none of them incumbents. The Town Crier asked them to introduce themselves to readers in the following Q&A format. We knew the...

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Schools

LASD committee looks to rank campus improvement projects

LASD committee looks to rank campus improvement projects


Traci Newell/Town Crier
The Los Altos School District’s newly expanded Facilities Advisory Committee met for the first time last week. The 28-member committee’s first task is to prioritize campus improvement projects.

The Los Altos Scho...

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Community

Sports

New-look Lancers find their footing

New-look Lancers find their footing


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Jenna Adams, left, and Carly Deale attempt to bump the ball Friday night. The juniors combined for 28 kills.

This year’s St. Francis High girls volleyball team faintly resembles last season’s squad ...

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Special Sections

MV Whisman teachers cite low pay

MV Whisman teachers cite low pay


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
An estimated 75 supporters of higher teacher pay turned out for the Sept. 4 Mountain View Whisman School District board meeting.

Teachers, trustees and administrators are recovering from a dramatic Mountain View Whism...

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Business

Skin rejuvenation studio joins Rancho

Skin rejuvenation studio joins Rancho


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Esthetician Marjan Kashi showcases one of the treatment rooms at her new studio, Pure Serenity Skincare at Rancho Shopping Center. Kashi provides services including microdermabrasion and various light and heat energy the...

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Books

A woman's perspective on the Greatest Generation

A woman's perspective on the Greatest Generation


During World War II, Virgilia Short Witzel, a young mother and U.S. Navy officer’s wife, grappled on the home front in Menlo Park with wartime rationing, shortages and loneliness. During the ensuing Cold War, she experienced adventure and misadventur...

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People

JERALD (JERRY) NELSON CHRISTIANSEN

JERALD (JERRY) NELSON CHRISTIANSEN

Resident of San Jose and Los Altos, California

July 21, 1931 to August 4, 2014

Born in Arimo, Idaho, to Jerald Emmett and Rebecca Henderson Nelson Christiansen. Raised in Davis and Riverside, California, with summers in Downey, Idaho, and in Loga...

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Travel

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska


Sandy Powell/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident and bird photographer Sandy Powell recently visited Homer, Alaska, to photograph Sandhill cranes, below. While there, Powell also encountered moose, left.

Los Altos resident Sandy Powell, a...

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Stepping Out

Pear puts on a pair of plays

Pear puts on a pair of plays


J. Smith/Special to the Town Crier
Dan Kapler (as Teddy) and Betsy Kruse Craig (Trish) star in Pear Avenue Theatre’s “House.”

The Pear Avenue Theatre production of two interlocking comedies by Alan Ayckbourn – “House&...

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Spiritual Life

Back to Church Sunday offers opportunity to recommit

The children in Los Altos are back to school, and I can still hear parents cheering. Summer is officially over, even if the calendar doesn’t quite think so.

Parents have attended Back to School nights to meet their children’s teachers. B...

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Magazine

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living


Courtesy of Spectrum Interior Design
In place of a more traditional fireplace, this modern living room features a linear-flame firebox that emits heat while offering a sculpturelike design element.

After traveling the world and visiting a host...

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Stanford scholar examines commercialization of Christian rock

Based on his study of the booming Christian music industry, a Stanford University professor determined that the commercialization of Christian rock might be undermining its spiritual purpose.

Every Sunday around the country, pastors use Christian-themed rock music to engage their parishioners. Sounding much like standard top-40 pop-music fare, these scripture-based tunes are also becoming more popular on the radio and with consumers.

However, as popular Christian worship music gains a larger audience, Ari Kelman, associate professor of education at Stanford, has uncovered a surprising paradox: The very musicians, songwriters and music producers who create the music are increasingly sensitive to the relationship between rock music and worship.

Kelman, director of a new doctoral program in Stanford’s Graduate School of Education that integrates education and Jewish studies, found that evangelical musicians, like any other musical artists, aim to make the very best music they can. They hope their music will “at best, lead people in prayer, and at least, not mislead them,” he said.

The secularization of religious music

But it is this decidedly secular approach to music production that causes industry professionals who produce spiritual music to question the role that worship songs have assumed in the church.

Through the course of his research, Kelman learned that these specialized musicians feel they are embracing a secular culture that threatens to undermine the “prayerful purpose” of the music.

Kelman, whose current research focuses on the intersection of religion and pop culture, interviewed more than 75 songwriters, worship leaders and music producers and participated in numerous workshops and conferences on worship music.

Songwriters and performers “ultimately hope that the sacred purpose will trump the music’s secular origins,” he said. “The music ends up echoing with both sacred and secular overtones – one never trumps the other.”

But Kelman quotes Martin Smith, lead singer and primary songwriter of the Christian rock band Delirious, as saying, “As the genre of worship music developed into something more popular, it lost focus. We’ve become too song focused and, in truth, we need to become more worship focused.”

Kelman points to Bob Kauflin, a longtime Christian songwriter and teacher, as an example of someone who creates worship music yet is fully aware of the power of worship music to derail spiritual aims.

According to Kauflin, music is a gift from God to deepen and develop the relationship with Him.

However, when the song “becomes an idol … when the performer becomes the mediator … when people can’t worship God unless the music sounds a certain way, when they can’t worship God unless they sing these certain songs,” then the songwriters “have messed it up,” he added.

Kelman underscored the powerful role that musicians and music producers assume in faith practices.

“If people sing their faith, then those who write, perform and produce this music” become central to worship performance and practice, he said.

Worship songs, Kelman noted, seek to model a “heavenly version of prayer” derived from Christian scripture. They attempt to deliver theology while leading the audience through a performance by listening and singing along to a scriptural message.

Exploring the music, prayer connection

Kelman said he first envisioned his project as a reflection on what “the connection was between music and prayer, and the feeling of transcendence or powerful presence that music often evoked” in him.

Kelman, who is Jewish, grew up attending synagogue, where he first encountered music in a religious setting. However, he described the experience as less inspiring than attending rock concerts, where “often great, inspiring and uplifting things” happened.

Kelman developed an interest in worship music through his research on synagogues. He discovered that when he asked Jewish people about their music, they would often reply, “It’s spiritual” or “It’s so meaningful.”

However, personally, the music didn’t impress Kelman as “particularly interesting or innovative.” So he began thinking, “Who in the world is asking questions about music and spirituality in sophisticated ways?” This, Kelman explained, “led me to church.”

Kelman did not set out to debunk any widely held myths about evangelical culture. However, he encountered some, nonetheless.

“Lots of people have said to me, ‘Oh, you must have to listen to such terrible music,’” he said.

But he maintains that “much of the music is really good.”

Kelman’s research on evangelical worship music culture will be presented in his forthcoming book, tentatively titled “Shout to the Lord: Music and Worship in Evangelical America.”

Ashley Walters is a doctoral student in Jewish history at Stanford University. For more information on the humanities at Stanford, visit humanexperience.stanford.edu.

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