Oct 8, 2014
When indie-folk found St Antony
Chad Marine is passionate about music. Writing and composing his own songs Chad has been inspired to create music that has been shaped by many musical styles and by his journey towards Orthodoxy.
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I was baptized into the Orthodox Church in 2012 at the age of 29, following several years of intense searching and various detours. I was raised in a more or less “secular Jewish” household, my father being Jewish and my mother coming from a Protestant background. We celebrated Christmas and Easter, Hanukkah and Passover, but all at a generally secular level. During middle and high school, I passed through a period of atheism, and by the end of high school I was becoming heavily steeped in the New Age philosophy of our time, cherry-picking from several traditions (mostly far Eastern) any aspects that were the most undemanding and self-flattering.
I chose Religious Studies as my major in college and continued even deeper into the superficial (if one can go “deeply” into something superficial) Perennialist tendencies that so often pervade the academic world. At the same time, however, and despite the best attempts of my professors to encourage a detached, objective approach to all that we studied, I could not help but to be moved by many of the texts we were reading--especially the writings of the Church Fathers and Christian mystics, both Eastern and Western. St. Athanasius’ Life of St. Antony was one such work (the first Orthodox patristic writing I ever read), as well as the works of Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila and Julian of Norwich.
Not wanting to abandon my New Age beliefs, however, I tried to join them with my newfound love of what I then understood to be “Christianity” at the time, and so I began reading various books about “lost gospels” and gnosticism. This lasted for a year or two until (among other things) I read C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, which began to wake me up to authentic Christianity, although I still had no idea which of the myriad denominations could possibly be the “right” one. As far as I knew, my options were either Roman Catholicism or some form of Protestantism. I attended a handful of Catholic Masses, having read several saints and theologians’ accounts of their mystical beauty, but I always left feeling that something was missing. I never attended a Protestant service because I simply did not know where to begin.
Then, in a class on the history of Christianity, we read a chapter on the Great Schism and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Feeling inexplicably drawn to this “other” Christianity, and having learned that a friend from high school had just converted to Orthodoxy, I placed my attention there. I was able to focus on Orthodox theology in graduate school, during which time the pieces fell quickly into place; and by the time of my graduation (after a field trip to a local skete and with plenty of help from Fyodor Dostoevsky), I was ready to move my faith out of my head and into my life, starting with the local Ukrainian parish. My then-fiancée (now wife) and I moved to Oregon a year later, and another year after that I was finally received into the Church at a Greek parish, where I still attend.
All along the way, music was a constant and essential companion. Throughout my life, I have always – as I imagine most people do – listened to music that reflects my current state and interests, and although my influences and tastes are under constant reevaluation, looking back I can identify some of the artists that left the greatest impressions on me, for better or for worse: The Beatles, Pink Floyd, They Might Be Giants, The Residents, Beck, Radiohead, The Legendary Pink Dots, Current 93, Leonard Cohen; and, in more recent years, Johnny Cash, The Carter Family, Iron and Wine, Grand Salvo, Sufjan Stevens, The Danielson Famile, Steven Delopoulos, Bill Fay, Arvo Pärt; and, of course, early gospel recordings and plenty of Orthodox (mostly Byzantine) chant.
In addition to the music listed above, I have been writing and recording my own since the age of 11. Given the various beliefs and influences that I have passed through over the years, my music has accordingly passed through many genres and themes, acting in many ways as my diary. But, private as a diary may be (and there is plenty of material that I do keep private), I still feel that art is generally meant to be shared. And so, not wanting to waste this accumulation of material, I have decided to release some of it to the public. I especially want to share my two most recent albums, The Honey Flow and Bright Week, which form a sort of “before and after” glimpse into my life during my coming to faith and preparation for Baptism (The Honey Flow) and the first year afterward (Bright Week).
On both albums, I have tried (either consciously or unconsciously) to re-imagine and “baptize” some Western – and particularly American – musical forms into expressions of Orthodox piety, such as setting the old (and interestingly titled) Protestant Sacred Harp hymn “Russia” alongside an ison/drone note, or singing about the martyrdom of St. Catherine over an arrangement that one might expect to hear from an act like The Carter Family. Our American folk/gospel tradition is so rich and varied, and there are countless songs retelling and exploring almost every page of the Holy Scriptures, but how much richer would that tradition be if it included the lives of the Saints and the hymnody of the Orthodox Church? I hope that these two albums help to ask – and maybe begin to answer – such a question. On the other hand, many (even most) of the songs fall under a more modern (though decidedly lo-fi) “indie” folk/singer-songwriter aesthetic, simply because that is what comes out of me most naturally (look again to the influences listed above). All such grandiose considerations aside, in the end this is just the diary of one person, who happens to be an Orthodox Christian, recording his thoughts and experiences along the way.
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The Honey Flow
Check out Chad’s Bandcamp page
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