Genesis (the band as well as the book)

Last night I had the chance to watch Genesis – The Video Show. The first album I ever bought was Duke on cassette, and I decided to learn to play keyboards after seeing the video for “Follow You, Follow Me”. (I even attended Bible college with the drummer in the band that eventually split to become, on the one hand Genesis, and on the other hand…nothing. Presumably the band members have met Kevin Bacon, so…you figure it out). I have tried listening to some contemporary progressive rock bands, but I can’t think of one that really impresses, much less moves, me the way Genesis does.

Is this just nostalgia, or is the old music really better? As I watched the videos, I found I even enjoyed the ones from Calling All Stations (which featured only two of the original members) more than much other music I’ve heard lately. I might also mention that Tony Banks has offered some classical compositions to his fans recently – his album Seven: A Suite for Orchestra was released on the Naxos music label.

I found myself wondering if nostalgia is also the reason why some Biblical authors found they couldn’t let go of earlier imagery of creation, like that of God fighting the sea monster, and why many people today feel they cannot let go of particular Biblical language even when it doesn’t seem to reflect our present experiences or understanding of the world. Like Jesus’ parable about the wineskins, when offered the new, we all have the tendency to say “the old is good”.

For those of us who used to (or still) play Dungeons and Dragons, there is a role playing game set in Biblical times called Testament, published by Green Ronin Press. Taking some Biblical statements such as “there were giants in the land in those days” completely seriously, this game allows adventurers to encounter 30 new monsters in advenstures set in the Biblical era. I wonder how this might be used as a teaching tool. I also wonder how a character who is a Levitical priest might talk his way out of an encounter with one of the Nephilim. I’ve never seen this particular game, much less played it, but I will try to do one if not both of those things in the near future.

Finally, not least in order to make up for failing to include the Higgaion blog in my blogroll, even though it is one I try to visit regularly, let me draw attention to a recent post about a novel that does to the Hebrew Bible what The Da Vinci Code did to the New Testament. Anything, it seems, can be “browned”.

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  • Christopher Heard

    I’ve played Testament, and it’s pretty intriguing, if you can suspend disbelief and accept the premises. I’ve actually written a few brief essays about the game, which you can access through my gaming blog, Icosahedrophilia, if interested.

  • Quixie

    It’s a good corelation. I think that to ask your question is to answer it. I think it is just nostalgia, or, if not nostalgia, then some other word that comes closer to describing that kind of attachment, the need to champion something like it’s a home team or something. Most people are very open to experimentation when they are in high school and in college and soak up lots of music during that time. But soon after they settle into their adult routines, though they may retain their love for music, people seldom stray from the music they came to love during their formative period. This usually guarantees an ever widening gap in esthetic tastes and music seems to get “weirder and weirder (read uglier?)” by the year.And then, you can think about how raucous and caustic the Tubingen guys and Bultmann and Loisy and what-not must’ve seemed to the old fogeys (and I won’t mention any contemporaries), who must’ve been sayin’,”What kind of music is this?!?”——————–And I just decided to do an old Genesis tune for one of my school clinics. After Gabriel left, they got simpler in form and content, but though I think that Gabriel was a superior artist on his own than Genesis ever was, I still think that Genesis’ best work was done after he left. Is that a paradox?hmm . . .peaceÓ

  • James F. McGrath

    Chris, thanks for sharing your gaming blog – it looks like we have more common interests than just Biblical studies! I was just pondering whether playing a game like Testament would persuade its players to treat Biblical books like Genesis as mythical, or make it seem more realistic to them – or either, depending on their background.Quixie, I think it is interesting that a lot of die-hard fans of early (i.e. Peter Gabriel era) Genesis are pretty negative about Phil Collins. Yet if you listen to the most recent music by Genesis and the most recent music by Gabriel, they sound strikingly similar, in spite of their separate paths for a couple of decades. So which song did you play?

  • Quixie

    I was sitting with a guitar on my lap and started sifting through old (middle-period) Genesis tunes in my head when I read your post. I finally decided on “Man On The Corner” in C sharp minor :)I just drew up a quick leadsheet that three musicians will read from cold,wish me luck . . . hehe(if it’s not too bad, I’ll post a link to where you can hear it) – it’ll be a simpler folkier version.Yeah, I think that to be anti-Phil Collins would be silly. When Gabriel left, it freed Gabriel to widen his canvas but it also gave the remaining members the freedom to do their own thing. And their thing turned out to be beautiful in its own right. Simpler. Sweeter.The similarities between the two are not quite parallel, though; Gabriel was usually the pioneer of some new form of sound and form and vision and Genesis would kinda go in that direction too (as everyone else in the field was doing too – not just Genesis doing it). Have you heard the last record Gabriel put out? It’s called “Up”. It is a very dark piece of work. Where Genesis is content to give us anthemic sing-along sweetness, Gabriel is off exploring Jungian shadows. Different musics serve different functions. But Genesis was beautiful too, in their own way, I agree.———Regarding role-games . . .I have never played any kind of roleplaying games. Or video games, either. And I’ve never fancied reading Tokien or C.S Lewis (though I think his Screwtape Letters are marvelous), so . . . no escapist stuff . . .but . . . I remember being stuck in a little South Dakota town once, with nothing to keep my mind occupied but a handheld game of Tetris that belonged to my brother-in-law. I played it for several days in a row. Pretty soon, I started noticing that during the first stage of sleep, my mind would trigger retinal visions of falling shapes a la Tetris. Not only were the shapes almost tangiably visible, but the urge to correct their positions as they fell was like the urge when playing the game. It felt real-like.Luckily, I got the hell out of that town and have never played any other game on any kind of regular basis. But . . . I wonder . . .What about someone who plays a game like “Doom”? I’ve been conducting my own personal survey over the years, and I guess that there IS such a counterpart to the Tetris stage-1-sleep-afterimage thing. This I find a little troubling. N’est çest pas?And now THIS game!! Mamma Mia!! . . . . I wonder what the stage-1-sleep factor will be from a game where one can play the role of a prophet or a nephilim or some such thing. I bet it must be some rush in the nooks and crannies of the mind.Ó

  • James F. McGrath

    Let me respond in reverse order. First, I had the same experience with Tetris – trying to sleep but having my mind flipping blocks! As for the role-playing games that were mentioned, these are the paper and dice variety, although many such games have been converted into computer games. With the traditional role playing games, however, you have a dungeon master rather than a computer, and so your actions are limited only to your imagination…and the dungeon master’s patience!It is interesting that Gabriel became at least somewhat less surreal in his solo career, and yet he seems to have been the driving force behind that component of the lyrics of Genesis up until he left. Tony Banks, on the other hand, has a definite penchant for songs that tell mythical stories, although he can produce pop ballads as well. One of my favorite Genesis albums is Wind and Wuthering, with its futuristic space-age psychadelic acoustic feel. Abacab, the album that included Man On A Corner, also contains the only song by Genesis that I would call a total dud: Who Dunnit. Nowadays I spend more time listening to music by Kurt Atterberg and Erich Wolfgang Korngold…