Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Worship Music

The topic came up over at Maggie's and people there were strongly negative about what is called "worship music" these days. Definitions are elusive, but people pretty much know what you are talking about, especially when defined in the negative. Not classical, not traditional hymnody, not old gospel songs. It might be either acoustic or electric, lean toward country, rock, or folk, but it's definitely new, it is often accompanied by special effects, and a whole lot of people complain about it. I used to complain about it myself, as I am left cold by summer-camp songs and "Jesus is my boyfriend" lyrics. I can use the other styles for the work of worship reasonably well at this point, except perhaps much older liturgical music, such as what the Orthodox or Melkites use. Perhaps you have to either grow up with those or be really determined to make an entire lifestyle change to embrace those. We tend to love the music played when and where we first loved Christ. We can learn to love other styles over time. I am fortunate that because my conversion was sporadic, traditional Protestant hymns, choir music, gospel black or white, Jesus Freak music, Lutheran liturgy from the 50's-80's, prayer meeting choruses, and the 90's contemporary Christian music that my sons listened to all work for me. I'm not even sure that's a complete list. Actually, Christmas carols are a whole separate category, but may be my heart language for worship.

The temptation to settle on one and secretly believe that it is the real deal, in contrast to what other people like, just isn't there for me. Plus, I don't listen to much of any of it at this point.  I sing whatever they put in front of me on Sunday with joy, partly because I like it, but also because I don't have to choose it, rehearse it, and lead it as I used to. Also, I hum to myself a lot.

I have decided I am tired of those articles by Christians disliking modern worship expressions as shallow or repetitive or simplistic or whatever it is that's bothering them.  I've had forty years of complaints, I know what the general outline is, and I know where the comments are going to go after.  Failure to abandon the old and take up the new was one of the reasons my last church collapsed. (I'm still not over it six years later,)  We had lots of people who were musicians, they appreciated and understood older, more complicated music in various styles, they made a strong effort to sing lustily (even though this is New England, and pretty Northern European), and it never quite worked. Perhaps we could not have done otherwise, for it was not in our nature.

My son has moved to a different church in Houston, with mostly modern styles.  He makes videos and directs worship, and also does concert videos of the bands (plus some of their separate professional work.)  This is a good time to send you over to the videos of what he does in Texas.  The video at the top is one of his.. Most of it is original music, which if you haven't done that for worship, you probably don't know how hard that is. I suspect that a lot of this is exactly what some of you are trying to get away from.  But I've learned to like it just fine. If you do like it, he links on to the whole of the concerts, albums, or services that he presents part of.


james said...

I figure that music in worship serves a number of different purposes. One is to guide meditation--and any number of styles work just fine. If the congregation is supposed to be singing along, that restricts the styles/performance somewhat. If the congregation knows the music, and is attuned to the cues of whoever is leading the music, all is well. (Frequent repetition isn't limited to modern praise choruses--I'm thinking of some common black church styles.) But if they don't know it well--I've asked why the band gets monitors but not the congregation. I have endured many songs where I had to drop out because the fortissimo made it impossible to hear myself. When they really get rocking, the angels reach for earplugs. Yet the songs, by themselves, were fine.

I dislike this "roach-killer" style so much that I concluded that God wanted me to help them, and I spent a few years running monitors for the worship teams, until they reorganized the electronics and centralized the feeds. I really liked the people, and I got an appreciation for what they were trying to do, and I still dislike the implementation.

Texan99 said...

I regret the trend toward performance-and-inert-audience music. In principle I should like any music that's simple enough for the congregation to join but complex enough to be interesting. After all these years I still have no real idea why I love some music and can't bear other music. Why is one tune sappy but another simply pretty?

On the subject of music, I had "Walk Away Renee" in my head 24 hours a day for half a week recently. That's on you.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

The brain seeks completion and resolution. If you hear part of a song on the radio and then have to shut it off it is likely to stick in the mind all day. I was once told that singing the whole song out loud fixes that. I have tried it only a few times, but it seemed to work.

Thomas Doubting said...

For me, and of course just my opinion, I think there's a time and place for most kinds of music. I think there should be something like a regular Saturday night hoe-down where we can go to listen to the modern stuff, and get up and dance to it, and hang out and eat together, and have some good fellowship.

Christians just don't party together enough, IMO.

Texan99 said...

I wouldn't mind that at all; it's just that if I were choosing popular music to re-purpose, I'd pick something like "Barbara Ann," not this namby-pamby Xanax oleo-commercial off-Nashville stuff. If we're going to have rhythm, let's get something jungley and compelling going. It's not the modernity that's the problem, it's the saccharine, infantile vibe. Is this worship music, or a lullaby?