I talk a lot about “redeeming” the world. Even before the fall, God gave humanity a “cultural mandate” to further God’s creation. Then, when humanity rejected God and used culture for its own purposes, God sent Christ to redeem creation through the Church. In essence, it is the Church’s job to fix the mess made by the world. We are to take the brokenness and chaos of sin and wilderness and bring it into beautiful harmony with God’s purposes.
Perhaps the perfect metaphor for this doctrine is music. In music we organize sound — essentially noises — into a meaningful order. That’s why I’m currently interested in musical remixes and mashups. In a remix we take one order of sounds and transform it into a different order thereby giving those sounds a different meaning.
The ultimate remix (indeed, perhaps the ultimate transformation of God’s creation into culture) would be to take the random noises of nature and turn them into music. That’s exactly what sound designer and composer Diego Stocco does.
Stocco thinks of himself as building homemade custom instruments. But from another perspective what he is doing is taking the sounds made by ordinary objects — what is essentially noise — and turning them into music. He is making beauty out of chaos.
Check out this video of him playing a bonsai tree like a musical instrument:
I found this originally at Wired. But you can find more at Stocco’s website and on his Vimeo page. His piece “The Drying Rack” might have been his original breakthrough into what I’m calling the “redemption” of noise. Be sure to also watch “Music from a Tree” and “Music from Sand” for other beautiful examples.
The tree and sand pieces are especially interesting, because they help us see why humans’ God-given “dominion” over the earth need not be destructive. One might object to my characterization of the cultural mandate that what I am calling the “chaos” and “noise” of the natural world is beautiful without human interference. The wind through the trees is not noise; it is nature’s own music.
But here Stocco shows that we can work with, rather than against, nature to make culture. He doesn’t cut down the tree to build a guitar or a violin. Rather he allows the tree to be a tree and helps it release its natural sounds in a beautiful way. Stocco releases a potential the tree never knew it had. This is culture in harmony with nature. And that is truly the Kingdom of God.