This piece by jazz composer Benje Daneman responds to John 15:13 and the theme of "Friend/Community."
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13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Jesus commands love from his followers (John 15:12, 17). He then goes on to tell them best way to go about doing it – sacrificially loving (John 15:13). This is the backbone to the gospel – the GOOD news that God loves us unconditionally, and we as His people, are called to exude that love to this world. Like any good teacher, Christ didn’t tell us something and then not show it himself. In John 15:13, He not only is explaining the gospel, but He is foretelling His own future – His sacrifice to come, and how that in itself will be the greatest love we can receive when He laid His life down for us.
My goal through “To Lay Down One’s Life” was to essentially musically map out the psychological and spiritual path of sacrificial love. The piece starts out with a shell of a chord progression. This specific harmonic movement is prevalent throughout the composition in different forms representing God’s command of “Love” – the driving force behind the sacrificial giving. As the piece progresses into a stoic call and a confident start, it quickly diminishes into a bit more uncontrolled, off-balanced improvisatory section – representing the sting, loss, turmoil and trials that we eventually feel through our sacrifice. Yet, as believers, our eyes should be set on the horizon, our faith in God, during the storm. He is present through the dark and hard moments, even when we don’t feel him (as is the “love” progression throughout the piece. It appears with different tonality and in different meters, but the shell is there mostly throughout). The composition comes to a conclusion as we reach the other side of the valley – a bit beaten and weary from the journey, but wiser, more mature and understanding God and his faithfulness a bit better.
About Benje Daneman
A sought after musician for his personal approach, creative musicality and strong versatility, Daneman got his start professionally in 2007 on a national tour with with Doc Severinsen’s Big Band. Since then he has performed with the world renowned Jose Limon Dance Ensemble, recorded for the Grammy nominated album “Elevation” (HMI Big Band) and has appeared as both a leader and sideman at prestigious venues across the country including The Kennedy Center, Baryshnikov Arts Center, FONT (Festival of New Trumpet) Music Festival and The Iridium. As a composer/arranger, he has received commissions from the United States Air Force Band (in Europe), Dr. Steve Zegree, Spark and Echo Arts and Lutheran Music Missions.
His 2015 Artist in Residence for Spark and Echo Arts, is the catalyst for one of his newest projects called Search Party which approaches faith topics through original music, with a band including some of the top musicians on the jazz scene today, including Ike Sturm, Jon Cowherd, Jaimeo Brown and Ashley Daneman. Another new project of Daneman’s, Life Stories, calls upon his deep interest and history in musical storytelling by musically creating a personal and unique experience for the audience by aurally recreating true stories of people places and events. Daneman’s 2013 EP release Estelle’s Farewell Gift features all original compositions featuring Jeremy Siskind, Ashley Daneman and Andrew Rathbun and has been described as “Simple songs that open doors to complex reactions” (David Sumner, Bird Is The Worm).
A Teaching Artist for the New York Pops, Daneman is a passionate educator and has led clinics and workshops throughout the country at such institutions as McNally Smith College, Western Michigan University, Concordia University and for the Michigan State Band and Orchestra Association. He is also the co-director of the Jazz & Creative Institute (http://www.jcinstitute.org), which has a mission to inspire artistic development and cultivate creative entrepreneurship for all levels of creative musicians. Benje has attended and holds degrees from Western Michigan University, The Henry Mancini Institute (Los Angeles, CA), and Manhattan School of Music (New York, NY).
Benje lives in New York City with his wife, jazz singer-songwriter, Ashley Daneman and daughters, Rivi and Elise.