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Where are we headed as organists and churchmen? What is our future?

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  • #46
    Pretty fascinating thread here. I'm 31, so some would call me a "millennial", though I don't think I quite fit the bill. Perhaps a bit before them, but certainly not a pre-millennial! Anyway, the biggest issue facing church music today is not the traditional/contemporary rift, but rather the fact that so few kids are learning to make music these days. When my brother was in high school, a big thing they had every year was a "Battle of the Bands" where several rock bands made up of students would compete for a cash prize. We moved after I got in high school, but that school had also had those same type of events in years before, but they had faded out. I remember my band director talking to our "local celebrity" - a guy from the town had become a major league baseball player - lamenting the fact that there were no student rock bands anymore. Only the concert and marching bands, and the two choruses. No one was making music in an informal setting anymore.

    Anyway, the good news for organ lovers is that folks is my generation don't really care about the style of music to be had in church. Now, for my parent's generation, I think it's still a pretty big deal. But rock band style worship music draws the 40-60 crowd, not the 18-35 crowd. Changing your music style is not going to get us! The basic reason for that I think is that folks in my parents' generation viewed church as something all good people do, and they would get suspicious of someone who was not involved in any church at all. Having a fun service could make up for the fact that they didn't really want to be there in the first place, but had been pressured by society to attend somewhere. Another aspect which may be just as important is that my parents saw churches changing to contemporary worship as being "outwardly" oriented, or focused on reaching out beyond their walls, while the traditional churches were seen as "inwardly" oriented, focused only on themselves. Since contemporary styles have been generally accepted for some time now, both types of churches can fall into the camp of being too "inwardly" focused, so it's no longer a solid indicator of how the church is functioning. My generation knows this, so we don't really consider it to be of utmost importance. Plus, the amateur musicians able to play in a little rock band ensemble aren't as readily available like they used to be.

    So, what do these pesky millennials want musically? It's hard to say. My brother and sister go to two different churches of similar size (300-400) in similar suburbs in the same denomination (PCA) that contain a large number folks under 35 and couldn't be any more different musically. My sister's church has a praise band with words on a big screen at the beginning, then after the sermon and during communion, they have a choir come up and sing hymns from the physical books under the chairs. Occasionally they mix things up and have the choir and praise band play together, sometimes throw some orchestra instruments in there to mix things up as well. No organ, but if they had one, it would probably get used at least once every month. My brother's church on the other hand seems to generally dislike congregational music altogether. They sing two hymns with only piano accompaniment, and everybody seems like they'd be happier without them. My sister's church calls them contemporary while my brother's church calls themselves traditional, but I've a feeling most people here would like her service more than his.

    Anyway, the biggest thing I think folks my age look for in a church is not music. Rather, what we are looking for is on one hand something that is reprieve from all of this wishy-washy, "post-modern", toothless philosophy that dominates popular culture, and on the other hand, a place that is doing real work in and around our communities. Teach the Bible, act like you believe in it, and we'll come. If the music is good as well, that's a bonus.

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    • #47
      Originally posted by Admin View Post
      Artists, of all kinds, rebel against the status quo. That's how art evolves and reflects contemporary needs and concerns. Polyphony replaced chant, baroque replaced high renaissance, chordal harmony replaced counterpoint. Classical structures replaced the baroque. Beethoven pushed the classical form into the Romantic era. Wagner pushed the Romantic idiom to its limit making room for the impressionists, like Debussy and Ravel, and so on. (snip)
      Admin, you nailed it and said it much better that I ever could. The author of that post doesn't understand history. (Just that I would have left the typo, it goes better with my feelings towards romantic organ music)

      Originally posted by myorgan View Post
      My sentiments exactly! My standard for use of music (of any style) in the church is: If a person were to walk in the back door of the church, hear that one piece and then walk out, would (s)he know why they were there? The music in church needs to have a message, clearly communicate that message, edify (lift up) the listener, and not obfuscate that message for a potential first-time visitor. Just Sunday, we had a fellow from another town who come into the church at the beginning of the sermon, sat in the back pew, and left after speaking to the pastor. He was just driving around, and thought he'd stop in and see what was going on. He related to the pastor he would probably be back. We'll find out tomorrow. Did the music clearly communicate and/or reinforce the pastor's sermon, or did it contradict what was said? I hope it was the former rather than the latter.
      Very strange idea I must say. I don't think music in church should have any message at all. It isn't there for anything, it is just there because someone has decided that he/she wanted music in the church. Faith is something personal, like so is believing. If you can only believe and have faith in what you believe when you go to a man-invented service in a man-made building, listening to what another man tells you what you should believe in, while listening to some man-invented music on a man-made instrument then -for me- you are not very secure in your own faith. It should be just as strong when being somewhere out in open air in the middle of nowhere with not a soul around and absolute silence.

      Do not take this personal, I just don't see how something as personal as faith and believe need to be public confirmed in order to gain strength. To me this seems very contradictory.

      Originally posted by TSPhillips View Post
      Pretty fascinating thread here. I'm 31, so some would call me a "millennial", though I don't think I quite fit the bill. Perhaps a bit before them, but certainly not a pre-millennial! Anyway, the biggest issue facing church music today is not the traditional/contemporary rift, but rather the fact that so few kids are learning to make music these days.
      Now you hit it hard. This is also what I heard from the organ teacher: almost no new students coming in, except for a few instruments like violin, piano and guitar.
      Last edited by Havoc; 07-30-2017, 02:02 AM.

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      • #48
        Originally posted by Havoc View Post
        Very strange idea I must say. I don't think music in church should have any message at all. It isn't there for anything, it is just there because someone has decided that he/she wanted music in the church. Faith is something personal, like so is believing. If you can only believe and have faith in what you believe when you go to a man-invented service in a man-made building, listening to what another man tells you what you should believe in, while listening to some man-invented music on a man-made instrument then -for me- you are not very secure in your own faith. It should be just as strong when being somewhere out in open air in the middle of nowhere with not a soul around and absolute silence.
        Havoc,

        Nothing personal, but quite a nice straw man theory, but as in nearly all theories, they fall apart when examined closely. What I mean is, you're addressing statements I never made, nor espoused, and discussing the position you espoused.

        Just as a person can experience spirituality/faith while out in open air in the middle of nowhere with not a soul around and absolute silence, similarly, others can experience spirituality/faith via man-made music, and/or on a man-made instrument, and/or in a man-made building, and/or with man-made preaching. It does not mean they are weak or insecure in their faith. Rather, it means that's how they practice, experience, or demonstrate their faith. Who are we to denigrate someone else's spiritual experience--whatever the circumstances? All around today I hear cries for tolerance for one belief or another, but none for the person who chooses to experience their faith, in part, in a public gathering of like-minded people in a traditional manner. Hmmm. The tolerance game appears to go only one direction.

        As for me, I gave up music for a period of years. I experience no joy or pleasure in listening to it, either publicly or privately. It wasn't until a friend of mine sassed me for not sharing with others the gift God has given me. I told him anyone could do it, if they only tried and practiced. You would have thought I had lit a forest fire! He became very irate, but with some patience explained to me how many people would give anything to have the gift God has given me, but they just can't do it no matter how hard they try. It was then I began realizing I had talent and skill not many people have. He also helped me finally understand what a difference it made for people when I use my gifts publicly.

        I don't understand how people enjoy music, I'm mystified by their enjoyment of music (though I remember enjoying music as a teen), but I guess I should do it to potentially edify others. I believe the way I live my life should benefit others--even if I get nothing from it. I prefer not going through life selfishly, serving only my own desires and never for the edification of others. It's not something I generally discuss publicly, though. I only enjoy music when I practice or rehearse, and it becomes an intellectual challenge for me to prepare the music to evoke a feeling via music from others--kinda like John (jbird604) being moved to tears, listening to the music in the English cathedrals recently. I suppose there's some feeling for music while I rehearse, but I can take it or leave it. Meanwhile, I'm not going to denigrate John for the manner, in which he experiences and responds to music. It's personal. If you're mystified or cannot understand my lack of enjoyment from music, congratulations--you know how I feel about those who do enjoy music.

        Whether your enjoyment is spiritual or not--that's up to you. I just play the organ and hope it benefits someone (I'm told frequently it does).
        Originally posted by TSPhillips View Post
        Pretty fascinating thread here. I'm 31, so some would call me a "millennial", though I don't think I quite fit the bill.
        TSPhillips,

        I'm told I'm a baby boomer, but I don't think I fit the bill either!

        Originally posted by TSPhillips View Post
        Anyway, the biggest thing I think folks my age look for in a church is not music. Rather, what we are looking for is on one hand something that is reprieve from all of this wishy-washy, "post-modern", toothless philosophy that dominates popular culture, and on the other hand, a place that is doing real work in and around our communities. Teach the Bible, act like you believe in it, and we'll come. If the music is good as well, that's a bonus.
        Thank you for sharing your observations on the state of church attendance for those your age in today's world. I've been reading various articles others have recommended, and nearly all of them reflect your views--in some cases, verbatim!

        Again, thank you for sharing.

        Michael
        Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
        • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
        • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
        • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

        Comment


        • #49
          I want to thank John for posting the OP. This is obviously a very contemporary issue touched on here and judging by the lively discussions and expressions of all the interesting views, something that is in the mind of most.

          While there appears to be different viewpoints from all sides, each and everyone containing some validity, what stands out starkly to me is the fact that whatever the viewpoint, this topic appears to be important to most people, so close to the surface so as to be needing just a little post like the OP to stimulate lively discussions. This is very encouraging to me as it might lead to further discussions, not only on this Forum but locally where changes and/or adjustments are called for or desired. One must bear in mind that anything that is a threat to the unity of the Church is a Biblical prophesy and must happen. So to those who faithfully and tirelessly work towards a God-pleasing end, keep going, the rewards will certainly far outweigh the obstacles!

          Nico
          "Don't make war, make music!" Hammonds, Lowreys, Yamaha's, Gulbransens, Baldwin, Technics, Johannus. Reed organs. Details on request...

          Comment


          • #50
            This can be a very sensitive issue, and for folks who are directly affected it can be devastating. I had a conversation recently that brought it too close to home for me.

            My church is having a summer celebration day which will include a potluck picnic meal. in order to simplify the schedule, we are having only one service that morning, instead of the normal traditional worship at 9 and contemporary at 11. So we are having just one "blended" service and it's taking place in the Family Life Center on the stage where the praise team is already set up. No organ in there of course, so I'll have to play a keyboard.

            We'll divide the music between contemporary and traditional, with the PT opening and closing the service, and with the choir providing the two more meditative hymns we use in the middle of the service, and singing an anthem. Sounds like a "fair and balanced" solution for a combined service, and I'm ok with doing it this once.

            But someone casually mentioned to me that it would be nice if we could do this more often, if not all the time. After all, we're a small church and the crowds are small in both services. Why not meet all together and have more people? Split up the music, sing both kinds.

            At that moment, I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, just thinking that we might lose our distinctive traditional worship service. That we might have to start meeting in the FLC and using a digital piano instead of the big Allen organ. That the beautiful sanctuary with its lovely old stained glass and massive beams and hundred-year-old carved pews might never be used again except for the occasional funeral. That we might be singing "Open the Eyes of My Heart" every other Sunday and never again singing "Holy, Holy, Holy" or "Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation."

            I really couldn't stand it. It would be the last straw and I'd just have to go ahead and retire from the music ministry and become an Episcopalian. But it would be worse for the 30 or 40 faithful folks who have attended our traditional service most of their lives, who would be completely turned off by any intrusion of a rock band into our weekly worship. Their church would have pulled the rug completely out from under their feet.

            There's no indication from church leadership that this is going to happen any time soon. But just the fact that someone would mention it gives me the shivers. I know how some people have felt when it happened in their own church.
            John
            ----------
            *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

            https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

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            • #51
              All part of the growing trend of dumbing-down the music in the church.
              All part of the growing trend of dumbing down of art, expression, and mystery in the wider culture. Church is but one expression of it. Musical style is a byproduct- there's great and abysmal expressions of every musical style, and all points in between. But I think it's entirely possible to discern a race to the bottom in culture when it comes to this that happens to overflow into the church. You can even compare the lyrics and music of the most popular music in the mid-1970's compared to the same of today and see this clearly. Of course the church should be "countercultural," but often it is in the wrong, self-destructive ways instead of the right ways.

              The above, coupled with our modern culture's narcissistic bent (even more than usual), is a potently devastating formula.

              I also need to play devil's advocate and say that if traditional music is actually "not about the performer," we should all be quite content playing Moller Artistes and 1960's Baldwins.

              The musical style does at some level correlate. But it's far from a universal correlation, and it's also not the ultimate root issue.
              Last edited by michaelhoddy; 07-31-2017, 12:35 PM.

              Comment


              • #52
                Hard to argue just on the merits of one style of music, and yes, sometimes I've felt like even in certain highly traditional churches it was more about the show, more about the glitzy organ and the whiz-bang organist, the wow-inducing choir. No doubt that is sometimes the case.

                I would argue though that in most liturgical churches that is not the case. Even when I attended high-church Anglican worship in England's largest cathedrals back in June, I usually couldn't even see the organist, and never felt that he or she was showing off for the crowd. And the choirs were superb, but they were just doing their part in the service, not concertizing.

                Big contrast to what you see at many a mega-church with their "almost famous" rock band on the stage, basking in the limelight as they are applauded after every song, showing off their trademark jeans and tee shirts with holes in just the right places. But to be fair, there are plenty of church bands that are not acting so conspicuous, just playing their songs and doing their job. So, touche on that...

                I think the HUGE difference, and what we have lost in accepting "seeker-friendly" worship as a new norm, is the value of traditional acts of worship. In a traditional service of most denominations at some point you will speak aloud of your faith, a responsive reading, a creed, the Lord's Prayer. You will hear one or more scripture readings. And in most you will take communion. But you will almost NEVER experience something like that in a seeker-friendly service. It would be considered too intimidating for new-comers, unfamiliar, discomforting, odd. Communion, if even observed at all, is relegated to an evening service three or four times a year.

                We free-churchers, the type I grew up among, Baptist in particular, are somewhat proud of our anti-liturgical stance. That we don't recite creeds or prayers or anything else out of a book. And now, for most of those churches, to even SING out of a book is anathema, a sign of old-fogeyism, the kiss of death to your church. More reasons why I had to get out of that group.

                So yes, it's MUCH more than just the music. But the music is part of it, and the leaving behind of the liturgy seems to go hand in hand with the abandonment of traditional forms of music.
                John
                ----------
                *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

                https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

                Comment


                • #53
                  Here's my thoughts. have enjoyed reading everyone's opinion on this. Great thread! I personally have accepted the way music is going. And honestly, I'm good with it. Only because God clearly establishes the fact that Worship is for HIM and HIM alone. It really doesn't matter what we think about a certain style of music or what instruments are playing. Its about the heart. You wanna rap in church, great. You wanna sing traditional songs with organs, fantastic. You wanna break dance and play the ukalele, who cares. Its about different cultures and generes celebrating God in their own way. And no where in scripture is there a clear edict on what makes proper worship. King David danced in the streets and made a fool of himself to Worship God. I get traditionalists and their viewpoint. But organs in church are foreign to this generation. There's nothing sacred about a pipe organ, or Hammond for that matter (well, maybe the Hammond!!) They are merely tools or instruments to express our worship. I know they use the organ for coloring songs in the background now, and for some that seems like such a waste. But to people now, that is how the organ should be played. To each his own. I personally would not attend a church where there was a pipe organ and a choir. Call me crazy but I don't enjoy that every week in and week out. BUT. play the organ one Sunday, and an acoustic set one Sunday, then just a guitar, or piano, then the whole band....I like variety. Its a cultural thing. I really don't believe God cares one way or another.

                  I was raised in a church where we sang hymns every Sunday with nothing but an organ. It was a great way to be raised and it brings back great memories. But when I think of worship music now, I rarely think of a hymn when I'm asked, what is your favorite worship song? I certainly respect and admire those who have spent lifetimes playing organs in churches. They have such a wonderful gift and I know how much work they put into their craft every Sunday. I do enjoy a good organ piece played skillfully. But I admire the piano player, or electric guitar guy that practices every bit as hard and glorifies God with his or her playing every Sunday. Its all good really. In fact, I heard a guy play an electric guitar solo "Cliffs of Dover" (Eric Johnson) for a prelude one Sunday. Best song I ever witnessed in a church bar none. The guy was off the charts good.

                  I'll end with this. I really appreciate this group and the talents of so many here. I am in favor of seeing as many organs refurbished and saved as possible. I do believe its a dying breed and will decline in the future. It doesn't make me sad. Its just the reality of living in our times. Not good or bad. Just different. The art of worship is in good hands. Our youth will respect it and carry the torch as we did.

                  Cheers! bsquared

                  Now, as far as big screens and camera people capturing the live playing on stage during worship? That's over the top in my opinion. Its more of a performance/look at me thing. I don't like that at all.
                  1964 A-122 / 21H
                  XK1-C / Neo Ventilator

                  Comment


                  • #54
                    I've been travelling on the weekend including the Friday and the Monday and have just come back to this fascinating thread.

                    Thanks everyone for sharing their thoughts - I'm learning a lot here.

                    In my area, having a "band" (keyboard, drums, guitar) isn't as common as it might be in other places. I've had a lot of discussions about this and so far the answer to the question whether attendance might be better if we did more "modern" songs and had a band instead of the organ still hasn't been found. I don't think it ever will.

                    But I will try something new this year. The current group of teenagers who've signed up to have their confirmation next year will get an introduction to the organ from me, and I'm hoping that at least one of them has keyboard/piano skills. I will then try to invite this person to come and play on the organ and maybe even join me during one of the services. This might or might not work, but I'm determined to make the effort and I think if I don't try, I'll never know if they would be interested.
                    I started playing the organ simply because I was asked if I would like to try it. So there was someone who helped me getting started and I think as a young person, you need this.

                    What I'm also doing in my "main" church is that I write down the names of the pieces and composers I play as the prelude and postlude, or if I do an improvisation, I will also write this down, and I make a little poster and hang it where people can see it when they come in. Reactions are mixed - some people are very interested and others told me they don't care. But I think this also helps to promote the wealth of organ music we have.

                    On a side note, in my parish, we have the challenge that only a handful of people come to the Sunday service at all. We're trying to make it more meaningful but of course if people don't come and we can't talk to them about why they don't, we can only try something and see what happens.

                    Comment


                    • #55
                      I will immediately cease and desist the public performance of organ repertoire if I find that I cannot give a more persuasive recital on a III63 than on a II9. Three generations of American organists have taken the call to do more with less to heart and IMO the future of the instrument has not been well served by this mentality. Organs developed into the V205 monsters at edifices like Riverside Church and St. John the Divine to put a kaleidoscopic array of tonal palette under the control of a single (or couple) performer. Finding multiple musically talented individuals in even a large church is not that easy. I may need to get out more, but... how many churches actually have good "Praise Bands"? I know just about every church I've been to lately has tried to start one. As the ranking musician it usually falls to me to recruit/evaluate the musical resources for such a ministry. It is a persistent myth that a person can get up to speed and be playing moderately complex electric bass parts in a couple of months. Erm... no. Most Praise Bands I've heard are worse than awful. It isn't the music that is awful, I kind of like songs like "O Church Arise", or "Lamb of God". But untrained musicians with only hours of time on their instruments.... erm... no. Just no.

                      So its still wide open for a progressive minded, skilled and experienced keyboard musician who will play the church's pipe or digital organ AND their acoustic and electronic pianos, and deliver a composite music ministry biased towards one or the other as s/he feels suits the congregation, or even the Sunday of the month. The Gospel Message has not changed in 2000 years. Mega-churches can and will fail. Some probably have already, but most are new enough that they still have years to go before the cracks show. I mean... the church you attend... it's what 50? 100? More? years old. Still going right? You've lost membership and you think its all gone to Hell and "we should just close and be done with it"... that's on you. There is no way that any one institution can go on forever in the same way without change... unless the organ there has a couple (or few) 32' stops in the specification St. Thomas 5th Avenue still refuses to allow girls (or women) in the choir and it doesn't hurt them one bit because that Aeolian-Skinner... ... so it isn't WHAT the music is, its what the musicians are. And an organist is more dependent on his instrument than most musicians. I sound very much the same on a $300 pawn shop French Horn as on a $5,000 double horn owned by a concert musician. I sound just as average on a ~$50 electric bass as one owned by a professional. Trust me when I tell you that I do not sound the same on a $50K pipe organ as on a $250K instrument. Some day I hope to find out what I can do on one in the $1M range.

                      The clergy team at St. Thomas 5th Ave. will be chosen from the very top talent of clergydom that the English speaking world has to offer, and they will be compensated handsomely to limit their sermonizing to no more than 15 minutes on the outside so the enjoyment of the choir (of men and boys), organ, and organist(s) might be enjoyed (in about that order) with minimal non-music interruption. Works for them. I'm being only a wee bit cynical.

                      Comment


                      • #56
                        Best instrument I've ever played was a II/10. Much better than the IV/81 at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne. It's not the size that matters.

                        Comment


                        • #57
                          Why was it better? Build and operation quality, sound quality, or...?
                          Allen 530A

                          Comment


                          • #58
                            Originally posted by Nutball View Post
                            Why was it better? Build and operation quality, sound quality, or...?
                            All of the above. This thing was built in 1971, mechanical action, and provided the best playing experience I have ever had. The action was smooth, the voicing was perfect for the church, amazing bright sound, about a second of reverb. It felt like the organ was an extension of my fingers, just in the same way as all musical instruments should be. If it ever came up for sale, I would be buying that organ, no matter what.
                            http://ohta.org.au/organs/organs/Mannum.html

                            Comment


                            • #59
                              Originally posted by michaelhoddy View Post
                              All part of the growing trend of dumbing down of art, expression, and mystery in the wider culture. Church is but one expression of it. Musical style is a byproduct- there's great and abysmal expressions of every musical style, and all points in between. But I think it's entirely possible to discern a race to the bottom in culture when it comes to this that happens to overflow into the church. You can even compare the lyrics and music of the most popular music in the mid-1970's compared to the same of today and see this clearly. Of course the church should be "countercultural," but often it is in the wrong, self-destructive ways instead of the right ways.

                              The above, coupled with our modern culture's narcissistic bent (even more than usual), is a potently devastating formula.

                              I also need to play devil's advocate and say that if traditional music is actually "not about the performer," we should all be quite content playing Moller Artistes and 1960's Baldwins.

                              The musical style does at some level correlate. But it's far from a universal correlation, and it's also not the ultimate root issue.
                              Most important post here, with all due respect for everyone else's contributions. You can't separate what's going on in one slice of culture from everything else around it. My insomnia brought me to this thread but it also mercifully prevents me from much further pontification...or not! I'll revisit something I discussed ages ago when this topic was being dissected. Not only are we seeing a vast dumbing down of the culture at large, but interesting "balkanizations" of everything else that isn't being dumbed down. Pertinent to the practice of Christianity, I stumbled upon something interesting on the internet about 10 years, at a small internet "zine" concerning the collegiate community there. There was a small group of people in Boston who call themselves something like "orthodox protestants" though I forget the exact terminology. A few of them were divinity students and scholars of ancient languages, and could read the original (facsimile) texts of the Bible in the various ancient languages like Aramaic. Their womenfolk wear head-coverings. Yep, like Muslims. They have a typical "Bible based" view of social issues, of course, and oppose almost all social liberalism. They also eschew musical instruments in their worship because they considered them non-Biblical. Something that was true of some Protestant sects in American history as recently as the 1850s. Now, this is perhaps the most extreme example I can find, since this was truly a small but completely de novo religious movement, amongst highly educated people. There's nothing "dumbed down" about being about to read the Gospels in both Greek and Aramaic, to better compare them! (This sounds outlandish but it really wasn't made up. One of the members had a profiles at a real university website; in the picture she was wearing a white head-covering. It was not a joke. I think there were only about 25 of them, counting spouses, but they met every Sunday for their version of church.) My point is musical practice in Christian churches has always been a reflection both of the broader culture in a given society as well as whatever interpretation a particular church, denomination or sect had of that influence of outside culture. Whether incipient or long established. So as stupid as praise bands might seem to some of you...and to me...there's really no basis for saying they are 'wrong'. Stuff like

                              "The history of modern music, whether atonal or jazz or rock or pop, is a history of deliberate rebellion and revolt against the great tradition of Western music, against its high art forms, its slowly-developed musical language, its explicitly or implicitly Christian message."

                              is demonstrably untrue and mostly sounds like reactionary hysterics, I'm afraid to say. As admin (IIRC!) pointed out, that's like saying 14th or whatever century polyphony was a "rebellion and revolt" against plainchants! This has always been going on...per wikipedia:

                              European polyphony rose prior to, and during the period of the Western Schism. Avignon, the seat of the antipopes, was a vigorous center of secular music-making, much of which influenced sacred polyphony.[9]

                              It was not merely polyphony that offended the medieval ears, but the notion of secular music merging with the sacred and making its way into the papal court.

                              So is the writer of the prior italicized statement going to suggest that Bach or Tallis's music was "deliberate rebellion" against the "implicitly Christian message" of their time?

                              Comment


                              • #60
                                Circa, I get your point, but I still feel there is a grain of truth in the statement that "The history of modern music, whether atonal or jazz or rock or pop, is a history of deliberate rebellion and revolt against the great tradition of Western music, against its high art forms, its slowly-developed musical language, its explicitly or implicitly Christian message."

                                The writer was stating what we all recognize, explicitly or not -- "the medium is the message," at least in some degree.

                                While it is wrong to paint all rock, pop, jazz, atonal, or otherwise unconventional music with the same broad brush as being "rebellious," or to insist that today's pop-style contemporary Christian music is all cut from the same cloth, it IS reasonable to point out that the roots of this music are/were at odds with certain basic tenets of Christianity, specifically the virtues of sexual purity and faithfulness, family, devotion, responsibility, honesty, and others we could all name.

                                For example, the very term "rock and roll" was itself a slang term for sex before it was the name of a musical genre, and if you were to examine the vast library of "rock and roll" music produced and recorded and concertized since the 1950's you'd find that most of it is indeed about sex, much of it "illicit," if I may use the term, whether overtly or implicitly. And I'm not saying that sex itself is nasty or that it is an unfit subject for music. But since the musical genre itself is clearly associated with sex (and the same could be said for a lot of jazz and other styles), it definitely conveys a certain amount of sensuality and "carnality" that cannot be fully separated from the sounds. The pounding beat and distinctive rhythms, the tempos chosen, the melodic forms -- all these are deliberately designed to bring "sex" to mind.

                                (I know some of you are laughing out loud by now at this crazy old man who apparently has a hangup about sex.)

                                That's why if the words are muffled or obscured you really can't tell the difference between a lot of contemporary Christian music and 1960's rock music from the Beatles or the Stones. Take away the lyrics, and the bones of it are nearly identical. And no doubt there are many people who pay little attention to the words anyway, and just hear the music and think about the sex they had 50 years ago and that is how they "worship."

                                And I already know that some of the hymns or songs we use in "traditional" worship actually use tunes that were once paired with secular words, and sometimes the words were quite bawdy. And a lot of the songs found in many a hymnal are just as weak musically as some P&W songs. Some are downright flimsy and tacky and boring and dumb, and those songs shouldn't be used in worship either.

                                I could probably list a hundred songs I've heard sung in church that fall into that category -- considered "traditional" and even called "hymns" by those who don't know better, but which are in fact thin or downright deceptive in their theology, tawdry in musical form, very close to country honky-tonk songs in style. And those are just as unworthy of use in a serious worship service as any P&W songs.

                                BUT -- the pure and genuine, authentic and time-tested "real" hymns of the faith are of a completely different style, and spring from a period of history and a place in history where the lines were not so blurred between holy and cheap. And almost anybody can tell the difference with just a little bit of thought.

                                Try it yourself. Open up your favorite hymnal and start checking off the distinctively sacred hymns that are undeniably solid in theology, clearly intended to turn one's thoughts to the holy and pure, and paired with tunes that do not partake of the gimmickry of pop, rock, country, or other modern secular styles. Those are the ones to use. Discard the rest.
                                John
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