The Brilliance Talks About How to Bring Art Back to Worship Music in This Exclusive Interview

the brilliance

The Brilliance is a US-based liturgical band led by David Gungor and John Arndt, and announces a February 17 global release for the group's full-length album, Brother. Known for connecting liturgical tradition and modern worship, The Brilliance previously released four albums - The BrillianceCavetimeAdvent Volume 1and Advent Volume 2, along with two EPs, Lent and For Our Children.

The duo, backed by a variety of musicians including cellists, violinists and rhythm players, have been sharing their music on the road, in churches and "house shows" around the country, including recent Advent and Christmas concerts in California, Texas, Washington, Kansas, Michigan and Washington, D.C. 

Their new album, Brother, will release globally the week Lent begins (Feb 18) as both a physical CD available at Christian retail outlets and as a digital album, available through all major digital service providers.

We are so honored to be able to catch up with the Brilliance for this Hallels' exclusive interview.

Hallels:  When I first read your press release, it says that you bring "the beauty of art back to worship music."  And after hearing your new album, I have to agree.   Do you think that today's worship music is somehow devoid of art? What's the role of art in worship music today?

John: Wow! That's a loaded question. When we talk about "art music," we are often referring to a type of music that is meticulously crafted by a composer and expertly played by musicians that have devoted their lives to mastering their instruments. 

So on one hand when we say "beauty of art," we are talking about music with a level of craftsmanship and musicianship that makes us say, "this is beyond ordinary." In this case, the term "art" is our judgment of the technical quality of the work.

There is another element necessary to call something "art."  Art must have the ability to represent multiple meanings at once. It cannot have one clean answer. Take Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. There are thousands of paintings that are just as lifelike and beautiful as this work of art, so why is this one so renowned? The key element that elevates this painting is our inability to define the piece. Is she happy? Is she sad? Is she longing? Everybody who approaches that painting has a different experience, an experience that includes their unique hopes, desires and fears.

I believe a huge part of the "beauty" of art is its ability to transcend clean, black and white definitions. I also believe that is the beauty of God. Every time we want to grasp the Divine, clamp God down to a simple dogma, God evades our grasp. God represents everything that we cannot possibly understand. That's the story in the scriptures over and over.

When we talk about worship music today, it is often used as a means to define God. What we know about the Creator, God's attributes, what specifically we believe about the Divine. The lyrics become the defining feature of the work. They must say something specific, and the song must serve a specific purpose.

I have always believed that the most beautiful part of music is the part that the lyrics can't hammer down.  The part that leads you to have an experience you cannot simply define with words. 

God is so much bigger than your theology or my theology. God will always transcend whatever words or phrases I want to use to explain the Divine. God represents the beautiful mystery of existence. 

I hope our music doesn't give anyone simple answers or dogmas, but opens their hearts to something more beautiful than they could possibly represent with words.

Hallels:  How can worship leaders interweave art and worship together?

John: One way that we have embraced this is by creating space in a worship service for the congregation to just sit and experience something. Maybe the piece has words, maybe it doesn't.

There is something so beautiful and essential in corporate singing. We would contend that corporate silence and reflection is ALSO beautiful and essential.

Hallels:  Your music has elements of liturgical music in it and it's definitely very different from most worship albums.  How did you come to hone in on your sound? 

David: Well we have been inspired by many great artists and bands that have been huge influences on our sound as a band. Some music that has inspired us includes: J.S. Bach, Philip Glass, Sufjan Stevens, The Beatles, Wilderman, David Bazan, Nick Drake, Paul Simon.

We have also been inspired by many thinkers, philosophers and theologians who are devoted to prayer and meditation. People like the Desert fathers, St. Francis, Mother Theresa, Rilke, Henri Nouwen, Richard Rohr, Phyllis Tickle and many others. We often are inspired by melodies that then can be married with a thought or idea.

We have worked hard to try to write from prayers, meditations, or sayings that inspire us. Much of the music we write is based around the church calendar or prayers used throughout history. 

Hallels:  For our readers who may not be familiar with your music yet, tell us a little about your background. How was The Brilliance formed?  And how long have you been leading worship together?

David: John and I have been playing music together since we were children. I have lead worship since I was in high school and I have worked within the Church as a youth pastor, a worship leader, a creative director and a pastor. 

When we first started The Brilliance, it was not meant to be a band. I was working at a church and it was more of a side project. It was just an album that we had made, with songs written for my church. 

After our first project it evolved into a band...  Now we have played together as a band for 4 years with a focus on making art together based around the Christian narrative. 

Hallels:  You have recently signed with Integrity Music with a new album "Brother" coming out of the imprint.  Why have you entitled it "Brother"? 

John: That is the title of the first song on the record. It comes from the lyric "When I look into the face of my enemy, I see my brother."

When we form any kind of group, whether it's a political group, a basket weaving club, or a denomination, we create ways to define the people in the group as "in" and people outside the group as "out."  The "other" defines the group just as much as the people inside! We hope that our music works to blur the lines that divide us and poke holes in the walls we build to keep "outsiders" out.  

David: Much of the album is based around reconciliation. The song is a representation of the album as a whole. For me personally, it is a song that inspires me to be a person who lives with the tension of forgiveness and reconciliation. 

Hallels:  What do you want listeners to grasp after hearing the entire album?

John: A sense that the divine cannot be fully grasped, but it can be felt! And I hope they grasp the remote and experience it again!

David: I hope people enjoy the album and are able to have moments where they feel the weight of the music. 

Hallels:  If our readers would like to purchase "Brother" or/and find out more about you, where can they go?

 Integrity Music:  The album can be found at your favorite digital and physical retail stores everywhere.  More information on The Brilliance can be found at  



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