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Wednesday
Jan232013

Raised with Beauty: The Music of JAC Redford

Growing up, I was taught in word and by example that Truth, Goodness, and Beauty mattered.  They were not mere concepts to discuss, though that we certainly did. These terms became incarnate in our home, weaving in and through our meals and board games, our Christmas caroling and impassioned arguments. I would not trade my upbringing for the proverbial world.

From my mother I learned of discernment, growing in the knowledge of Truth through both the study of God’s Word and the manifestation of His truth in science and history, in relationships and even in the ideas of some “non believers” who my friends’ parents were either too afraid or just too darn conservative to embrace.

My dad taught me to delight in the goodness of a long walk, an unhurried meal (appetizer, entrée and dessert, please), and a laugh…especially over ridiculously obtuse British comedies or puns that might cause others to glance askance.

And from both my parents, I learned to love, crave, and seek Beauty. Ah, Beauty.

My parents shunned expensive (even clean) cars in order to buy original artwork or schlep the four of us—sometimes grumbling—kids to a Brahms or Copland symphony. They paid for classical ballet and piano lessons, gifts I didn’t appreciate for many years. They read aloud to us for hours on end, weeping over visions of The Grey Havens or Aslan’s country. They took us on a twenty-eight day tour of Europe, introducing me to Michelangelo’s Pieta and Brunelleschi’s Florentine duomo. All of this, they taught me, spoke of a deeper magic than what my eyes could take in or my heart could sing. Christ was Beauty and Beauty was Christ.  

The beauty of words. The beauty of architecture and sculpture. The beauty of movement and speech. And in our home, above all, the beauty of music.

My father began his career as a musician composing dramatic theme music for his prehistoric plastic figures and army action figures. To this day, I have not heard of one other person who heard fully-orchestrated, cinematic scores in his head while his dinosaurs and infantry battled on the bedroom floor.  

Fast forward through many of my fathers’ years—and many memorized musical theater scores, nineteenth-century opera librettos, and Beatles counterpoints—to the awakening of a love between my parents in which music was a cornerstone. With a one-year-old and another baby on the way, my mother left her family and friends in Utah to follow my father’s dream of making it as a composer in Los Angeles.

Again, fast forward many of dad’s years—rife with endless phone calls to agents and directors, full-orchestra recording sessions, and “I’ve got to finish this score” all-nighters—to when that former “baby on the way” (a.k.a. me) turned sixteen.  

Back then, the most commonly asked question I fielded was, “Who has your dad met?”  Unfortunately for that teenage me, he didn’t know anyone I could pass off as “cool.”  I did earn street cred, however, when I prattled off all of my dad’s film and television credits. He really was—and is—an amazingly accomplished Hollywood composer. The number of my friends who asked, “Can I see your dad’s studio?” almost equaled those who pressed me for information about his famous connections.  

As I grew older, I discovered an essential truth about my dad’s daily L.A. grind and his passion for Beauty. Film and television scores were both a vehicle to support our family and a means through which he could release the soundtracks churning inside of him. But God had also called—in the truest sense of that word—my father to elevate Beauty in sacred, choral, chamber, and concert music.   

I so vividly recall attending the premier performance of my dad’s symphony, Welcome All Wonders. As the first strains exploded from the instruments and voices, I swelled not only with daughterly pride, but with a visceral connection to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty as well. Everything my parents had taught and modeled took on flesh that night.   

A setting of five Christmas poems, Welcome All Wonders, invites listeners to journey from the cradle to the cross through lyric and orchestration. After music, poetry is the next language of my father’s heart and mind, and his choice of texts for Welcome All Wonders clearly reveals that.  

Indeed, he has an abiding love for the marriage of music and text and has set several dozen poems, particularly relishing the work of poets who created a visceral rhythm with their language. My dad likes the challenge of setting such poems to music that would preserve the natural spoken rhythms of the words and reveal underlying meanings through dramatic shading and color, the tension between consonance and dissonance, counterpoint, and other musical techniques.

My dad does not set only poetry, however. His musical interpretations of Scripture have been recorded on two different CDs. I’m particularly fond of one of his choral pieces, a setting of 1 Corinthians 13. Love Never Fails was written for my wedding, sung by my at-the-time boy soprano brother, and then recorded by the Los Angeles Chamber Singers for Evening Wind, a compilation of my dad’s choral work.  

Included on my father’s CD The Alphabet of Revelation is his orchestral and dramatic narrative work, The Ancient of Days, which chronicles the vision of four beasts unfolded in Daniel 7. This piece employs the technique of “word painting” to color the literary images with specific musical effects intended to bring the image to life between the listeners’ ears.          

Another of my father’s passion, the combination of visual arts and musical accompaniment, finds form on the title piece on the Alphabet of Revelation CD. An abstract musical meditation on four 20th century paintings (by Magritte, Dali, Chirico and Matisse), The Alphabet of Revelation is the story of spiritual transformation, the upheaval of change through a process of questioning one’s cherished certainties.

My spiritual journey, the story of my transformation, is intertwined with the music I heard even in my mother’s womb…the Truth, Goodness and Beauty of my father’s music.  It is my delight to share that with you.      


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