Kurt Farquhar speaking while other panelists look on
How do music, the entertainment industry, and religious faith intersect? This question was the topic of a panel discussion at the 7th annual Stan Lee’s LA Comic Con. The panel, moderated by Jordan Gorfinkel, featured a variety of faiths, including an atheist, a Jew, and a couple of Christians. Two of the panelists were writers, while two of them were musicians. This panel discussion was the fifth annual iteration on the “heroes and faith” topic, with each year bringing a new angle to the discussion, with 2013 starting the series off, followed by “Villains and Faith” in 2014, “Heroes, Villains, Faith and the Messiah” in 2015, and “Heroes & (Crisis of) Faith” last year.
David Sacks speaking while other panelists look on
With a variety of topics for the discussion, Gorfinkel peppered the panelists with prepared questions. The inspiration for Gorfinkel to incorporate music into this year’s panel discussion in his series was that, on last year’s panel, “there was a musician, so I wanted to explore it more in-depth,” he stated at the outset of the discussion. This year’s panel discussion featured David Sacks, Lisa Klink, Kurt Farquhar, and James Covell. The conversation was intended to intertwine music, creators of fictive works in the entertainment industry, and faith elements.
In starting out to define music, Covell said that “Music is the language of emotion.” “It’s our job to bring the emotions to the top for you,” said Farquhar, adding “in the superhero world, it’s about bringing the drama and the action.” In connecting music with religion, Sacks mentioned that the book of Genesis says that God spoke and the world came into being, adding that Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach liked to say that God sang the entire world into creation and that we’re notes in the creation. When there’s harmony and peace amongst people, he said, we can make beautiful music. Music, he said, is a part of the story in the Hebrew Bible. (The entire clip of him speaking about it is viewable on the left.)
Klink, as a writer, did not write a did not speak about using music in her writing, except she did speak about pacing as rhythm. However, “it’s a much bigger factor in television than novels,” she said, since, “in television, you dictate it.” Inasmuch as she does not incorporate music into her creative output, she said that she always listens to music when she’s writing. On the interplay between writers and music, Covell said that he asks writers what they have been listening to when they come in. Farquhar spoke about dancing around the dialogue with the music and that “there’s a sense of rhythm to what they do, especially the actors.” Sometimes, Farquhar said, “as a point of emphasis, I drop out the music to focus on the dialogue.”
David Sacks speaking while Lisa Klink looks on
In the interplay of how one’s religious observance interacts with one’s creative work, Sacks says his Jewish observance helps him influence his creative work in the entertainment industry by resting on Shabbat once a week, which allows him to refresh his creative energies. There is “a completely different rhythm to the day” with Shabbat and he said that he “started harmonizing with it.” Resting on Shabbat allows him to re-engage with creative work; it helps him get unstuck.
An interesting point came up where Lisa Klink mentioned that every time every time we see an Arabic or Muslim character coming on-screen, we hear what seems to be men chanting Arabic in the background, which sees to be a go-to music cue. Gorfinkel pointed out that Jewish moments get cued by “Hava Nagila”, while Covell pointed out that Christian moments usually feature “Amazing Grace”. Farquhar observed that there are Gregorian chants in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”. (That portion of the discussion is available to be viewed on the left.)
Kurt Farquhar speaking while other panelists look on
With religious music, one could wonder if it’s only for those who are into religion, which is what was posed to Klink, the token atheist on the panel. However, she said that gorgeous religious music such as “Amazing Grace, can evoke human emotion and can transcend a particular religious context. A lot of religious art and music, she noted, even taken out of a specific belief, can be inspiring to people beyond the broader religious context from which it comes. “Affective music is affective music, regardless of how it was written.”
One of the further interesting aspects of the discussion was adding in music to television and movies. “One of the most difficult things as a composer is to resist doing more for the sake of doing more,” said Farquhar. Covell added that “Most things today are over-scored,” he said, because executives are insecure with only a little bit of music.
It was an interesting discussion and a welcome addition to the series. One weakness, I thought, of the discussion was not getting to discuss more about religious music within such genres of creative fiction. While there was the brief segment about religious music, it left me wanting more on the topic. In the end, the discussion turned out to be more about music in the creative process, as well as how do religious practices interact with music in one’s creative processes, but not so much about religious music in creative entertainment. In any event, it was a distinctive discussion to hear at a comic convention!