The Artist Alive

Explorations in Music, Art & Theology

Course instructors considering a book for adoption will be provided a complimentary copy.
$29.95
Digital Books

A singular and stunning achievement. This book is equally attuned to the potent creativity of the human spirit as well as the prophetic call to forge right-relationships with God, self, and others. Pramuk’s text is original and unforgettable; it is also accessible, insightful, and captivating. It will engage students in practicing wonder and awe, cultivating deeper empathy and respect, and sparking greater curiosity, joy, and hope. It will empower instructors to more effectively present the relevance, meaning, and urgency of enkindling spirituality, thinking theologically, and expanding our imagination of what more is possible for being human—together. This the exact kind of text we need to initiate and sustain reflection and discernment, conversation and commitment to act in order to be ever more attentive and responsive to the work of the Spirit in our midst.

Marcus Mescher
Xavier University

Christopher Pramuk’s deft, utterly unique, theological and literary voice is in beautiful harmony with all the musicians and other artists he lovingly and brilliantly looks into.

Fr. William Hart McNichols
Painter, Illustrator, Iconographer

With his signature spiritual depth and cultural humility, Christopher Pramuk invites readers of his latest book to participate in meaning-making through engagement with the arts, and with music in particular. Pramuk lives in the imagination that one is transformed, for good or ill, by the company one keeps. Readers are introduced to some of the guests with whom Pramuk has shared hospitality in his own interior spaces—the musicians who have formed him, as well as the thinkers who have informed him. Without any hint of patronizing, the author nurtures readers, brooding like a hen over an egg, attending to the reader’s well-being so that as members of society, we may live into healthier, even holier, lives of meaning—into persons awakened, indeed, into artists alive. Engaging with Thomas Merton as well as other prophetic voices who respond with encouragement in times of ‘endless war, crushing poverty, and horrific violence,’ Pramuk’s book is filled with practical insights and ample resources for teaching and discussing such things as paying attention, struggling for holiness, and uniting the secular with the sacred. Pramuk’s latest offering is itself a work of wonder, resistance, and hope.

Kim Vrudny
Professor of Theology, University of St. Thomas

Christopher Pramuk shows with teacherly care how popular art, especially music, opens the way to transformation of self and society. This inviting book will be compelling reading for those who seek Christian meanings of artistry in ordinary life. The Artist Alive empowers readers not only to appreciate the Christian significance of everyday art, but to become artists in their own right who can learn new ways of Christian experiencing.

Tom Beaudoin
Professor of Religion, Fordham University

Christopher Pramuk’s The Artist Alive is a multivalent exploration of how the popular arts hold the potential to transform consciousness. It is also a profound investigation for people of all ages into the transformative power of art in its myriad forms. I envy the young people who have the privilege of sitting in Chris’s classes, where theology is taught not as a series of propositions or doctrines, but as the existential basis of all genuine religion that ties us to planet Earth by opening us to mystery, “radical amazement,” and compassion. Pramuk’s book establishes that everyone has access to a common core of creative power from which abundant life, “aliveness,” pours continuously in a living stream despite the sorrows, injustices, suffering and brokenness we all experience. This is a book that takes a hard look at the world of our times yet offers hope. Enter its pages and find yourself recovering “beginner’s mind,” checking out YouTube recordings of your favorite artists, discovering new ones, moving and grooving to a deeper music that enables the mind to slowly descend into the heart and make the world a better place. As Pramuk puts it, “[T]his is one of our most urgent and beautiful tasks today: to teach to the imaginations of young people, to feed their wonder, to dare them to imagine, in spite of it all, a future of peace.”

Susan McCaslin
Poet, Author of Superabundantly Alive: Thomas Merton’s Dance with the Feminine

Christopher Pramuk asks, “Can art be a vehicle of hope, stirring that wondrous if elusive capacity in human beings to imagine a more just, humane, and joyful future?” Pramuk does not take an easy path to answer the question. He probes topics that have been the source of deep questions and divisions: sexuality, race, technology, death, and our search for love and identity.

His approach is contemplative, seeking to listen attentively to a song or gaze deeply into a painting, carefully teasing out how it illuminates human experience or points towards a deeper reality. Yet Pramuk’s approach is simultaneously communal, consistently inviting us to listen to the music, read the story, view the art, and note our own responses prior to reading his. It is an invitation to be fellow pilgrims, to bring our insights and experiences into play with the author’s. He is not offering definitive answers, but opportunities to open our restricted imaginations.

Pramuk crosses the boundaries of time, culture, and genre to explore each topic. One chapter brings into conversation the music of the Indigo Girls, letters and poems of Rilke, and the Song of Songs, to explore sexuality, love, and identity. The uniqueness of Pramuk’s approach, however, goes beyond his method and sources. His carefully crafted prose weaves sources, questions, and insights into a rich tapestry of love and hope, crafting a poetic and imaginative theological vision, a work of art in its own right.

Paul Pynkoski
Member, International Thomas Merton Society

A profound and beautiful book, The Artist Alive: Explorations in Music, Art & Theology allows us entry into the contemplative classroom of a gifted teacher. Drawing skillfully on religious and philosophical insights from a range of diverse traditions and perspectives, Christopher Pramuk allows us to experience musical and visual works of both popular and classic art—the Song of Songs to Pink Floyd—as “texts” or doorways through which the creative and spiritual dynamism inherent in each of us might be awakened. For those who seek such an awakening, The Artist Alive will be a treasured companion.

Wendy M. Wright
Professor Emeritas of Theology, Creighton University

About This Book

Overview

Are songwriters, painters, filmmakers, and other artists modern-day prophets in society and church? Can art be a vehicle of hope, stirring that wondrous if elusive capacity in human beings to imagine a more just, humane, and joyful future?

Through critical and contemplative engagement with classics in music, film, literature, and visual arts, Christopher Pramuk’s The Artist Alive: Explorations in Music, Art & Theology invites us to explore these and other questions. Attentive to the deep longings of the human and spiritual journey, Pramuk posits the arts as a doorway into the life of spirit and sacred presence. Rather than proposing “answers,” he outlines a way of seeing, hearing, and praying through some of life’s most enduring spiritual and theological questions. With more than a dozen case studies featuring various artists, prompts for contemplative practices, and a focus on today’s most urgent social and spiritual issues, The Artist Alive weaves a spirituality of wonder, resistance, and hope: a prophetic response to the utilitarian, militarized, marketplace vision of reality that bears down upon and dehumanizes so many in our time. Through loving examination of artists and their art, Pramuk convincingly conveys the possibility of a more humane and joyful way of being in the world.

Details

Weight .8 lbs
Dimensions 9 x .5 x 6 in
ISBN

978-1-59982-838-1

Format

Softcover

Pages

324

Item # 7090

Customer Reviews

A singular and stunning achievement. This book is equally attuned to the potent creativity of the human spirit as well as the prophetic call to forge right-relationships with God, self, and others. Pramuk’s text is original and unforgettable; it is also accessible, insightful, and captivating. It will engage students in practicing wonder and awe, cultivating deeper empathy and respect, and sparking greater curiosity, joy, and hope. It will empower instructors to more effectively present the relevance, meaning, and urgency of enkindling spirituality, thinking theologically, and expanding our imagination of what more is possible for being human—together. This the exact kind of text we need to initiate and sustain reflection and discernment, conversation and commitment to act in order to be ever more attentive and responsive to the work of the Spirit in our midst.

Marcus Mescher
Xavier University

Christopher Pramuk’s deft, utterly unique, theological and literary voice is in beautiful harmony with all the musicians and other artists he lovingly and brilliantly looks into.

Fr. William Hart McNichols
Painter, Illustrator, Iconographer

With his signature spiritual depth and cultural humility, Christopher Pramuk invites readers of his latest book to participate in meaning-making through engagement with the arts, and with music in particular. Pramuk lives in the imagination that one is transformed, for good or ill, by the company one keeps. Readers are introduced to some of the guests with whom Pramuk has shared hospitality in his own interior spaces—the musicians who have formed him, as well as the thinkers who have informed him. Without any hint of patronizing, the author nurtures readers, brooding like a hen over an egg, attending to the reader’s well-being so that as members of society, we may live into healthier, even holier, lives of meaning—into persons awakened, indeed, into artists alive. Engaging with Thomas Merton as well as other prophetic voices who respond with encouragement in times of ‘endless war, crushing poverty, and horrific violence,’ Pramuk’s book is filled with practical insights and ample resources for teaching and discussing such things as paying attention, struggling for holiness, and uniting the secular with the sacred. Pramuk’s latest offering is itself a work of wonder, resistance, and hope.

Kim Vrudny
Professor of Theology, University of St. Thomas

Christopher Pramuk shows with teacherly care how popular art, especially music, opens the way to transformation of self and society. This inviting book will be compelling reading for those who seek Christian meanings of artistry in ordinary life. The Artist Alive empowers readers not only to appreciate the Christian significance of everyday art, but to become artists in their own right who can learn new ways of Christian experiencing.

Tom Beaudoin
Professor of Religion, Fordham University

Christopher Pramuk’s The Artist Alive is a multivalent exploration of how the popular arts hold the potential to transform consciousness. It is also a profound investigation for people of all ages into the transformative power of art in its myriad forms. I envy the young people who have the privilege of sitting in Chris’s classes, where theology is taught not as a series of propositions or doctrines, but as the existential basis of all genuine religion that ties us to planet Earth by opening us to mystery, “radical amazement,” and compassion. Pramuk’s book establishes that everyone has access to a common core of creative power from which abundant life, “aliveness,” pours continuously in a living stream despite the sorrows, injustices, suffering and brokenness we all experience. This is a book that takes a hard look at the world of our times yet offers hope. Enter its pages and find yourself recovering “beginner’s mind,” checking out YouTube recordings of your favorite artists, discovering new ones, moving and grooving to a deeper music that enables the mind to slowly descend into the heart and make the world a better place. As Pramuk puts it, “[T]his is one of our most urgent and beautiful tasks today: to teach to the imaginations of young people, to feed their wonder, to dare them to imagine, in spite of it all, a future of peace.”

Susan McCaslin
Poet, Author of Superabundantly Alive: Thomas Merton’s Dance with the Feminine

Christopher Pramuk asks, “Can art be a vehicle of hope, stirring that wondrous if elusive capacity in human beings to imagine a more just, humane, and joyful future?” Pramuk does not take an easy path to answer the question. He probes topics that have been the source of deep questions and divisions: sexuality, race, technology, death, and our search for love and identity.

His approach is contemplative, seeking to listen attentively to a song or gaze deeply into a painting, carefully teasing out how it illuminates human experience or points towards a deeper reality. Yet Pramuk’s approach is simultaneously communal, consistently inviting us to listen to the music, read the story, view the art, and note our own responses prior to reading his. It is an invitation to be fellow pilgrims, to bring our insights and experiences into play with the author’s. He is not offering definitive answers, but opportunities to open our restricted imaginations.

Pramuk crosses the boundaries of time, culture, and genre to explore each topic. One chapter brings into conversation the music of the Indigo Girls, letters and poems of Rilke, and the Song of Songs, to explore sexuality, love, and identity. The uniqueness of Pramuk’s approach, however, goes beyond his method and sources. His carefully crafted prose weaves sources, questions, and insights into a rich tapestry of love and hope, crafting a poetic and imaginative theological vision, a work of art in its own right.

Paul Pynkoski
Member, International Thomas Merton Society

A profound and beautiful book, The Artist Alive: Explorations in Music, Art & Theology allows us entry into the contemplative classroom of a gifted teacher. Drawing skillfully on religious and philosophical insights from a range of diverse traditions and perspectives, Christopher Pramuk allows us to experience musical and visual works of both popular and classic art—the Song of Songs to Pink Floyd—as “texts” or doorways through which the creative and spiritual dynamism inherent in each of us might be awakened. For those who seek such an awakening, The Artist Alive will be a treasured companion.

Wendy M. Wright
Professor Emeritas of Theology, Creighton University

About the Author

Christopher Pramuk

Christopher Pramuk is an associate professor of theology and the University Chair of Ignatian Thought and Imagination at Regis University in Denver. He received his PhD in systematic theology from the University of Notre Dame and is the recipient of several teaching awards, including the Monika K. Hellwig Award for Teaching Excellence, granted by the College Theology Society.

Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction

Seeds of Awareness

1          “I Asked for Wonder”

Rediscovering the Artistic Spirit

2          “Us and Them”

Pink Floyd: Empathy, Alienation and Madness in Post-War Europe

3          “Back to the Garden”

Joni Mitchell and Bruce Cockburn: Poets of the Canadian Counterculture

4          “Life Out of Balance”

Jean Giono and Godfrey Reggio: Earth and the Technological Milieu

5          “Joy Inside My Tears”

Stevie Wonder and John Howard Griffin: Resistance and Celebration Down at Street Level

6          “In the Wind We Hear Their Laughter”

Billie Holiday, Peter Gabriel and U2: Communion with the Dead

7          “Love’s Discovery”

Indigo Girls and the Song of Songs: Friendship, Sexuality, and the Yearning to Belong

8          “Images that Return Our Love”

William Hart McNichols: A Theology in Lines and Colors

9          “A Dream of Life”

Bruce Springsteen: Light at the Edges of Darkness

Conclusion

A New Kind of Humanity

Appendices

A         Discussion Board Posts and “Set the Table”

B          Structuring Classroom Activities

C         An Ignatian Guide to Listening and Journaling

D         Guidelines for Team Presentation

E         Art and Spirituality Paper

Index

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