Thursday, April 26, 2007

I commented earlier today on this blog post. This post is about how Chris Rice (of Christian music fame) is crossing over to the secular world. This is my response, but basically is a critique of modern Christian music. I recommend the book "Body Piercing Saved My Life", by Andrew Beaujon to those of you who are interested in learning more about the Christian music industry - it is a very neat book. You can borrow it from me if you want (just ask!)

A few commenters have hit on the point that Christian music is the only genre of music which is defined by its content rather than how it sounds. The message within Christian music is what relegates these CDs to a dusty corner in the back of the music store in the "Religious/Other" section. If you take away the words, though, for the most part you will get an "adult contemporary" sound. (I am referring to the Nashville-based CCM Christian artists, not to other youth-targeting labels). The problem with this is that when non-Christians hear this, it sounds like everything else they will hear on the radio, except it isn't as good. The music that we use to praise our God sounds (ironically) uninspired. There is a definite stigma surrounding Christian music that says that Christian music is a sub-par imitation of three years ago's popular music. Some of you may be saying "That's not true", but whether or not it is true is irrelevant - this is how Christian music is perceived. When an artist "breaks out" of the Christian music scene, it gives him or her a chance to be recognized as a legitimate artist.
To respond to C., the Church actually has been (in the past) the creator of brilliant, time-honoured music, rather than just following secular trends. For example, J.S. Bach was a church musician by trade. Some of his greatest pieces, for example, his Mass in B Minor, were created for church use. Bach wrote for the glory of God, and his music has stood the test of time.
So why is Church music considered sub-par today? Firstly, we have the imitation of popular styles with disregard to creativity. Secondly, we accept mediocrity within our church musicians. I have the advantage of attending a large church where we have professional musicians for our worship teams. However, I have been in several situations where the person leading worship had bought his or her first guitar several weeks ago, and was asked to lead worship because a: "They have such a heart for worship" or b: "We need someone to lead a few songs next week". Sadly, these situations happen all the time. To add to the problem, some Christian musicians do not want to practice because they feel that either God will provide them with the necessary skill to worship Him if they have enough faith, or that practicing worship songs detracts from the worship aspect. This leads to a lack of basic musical skills in church musicians such as reading music, being able to transpose, or sometimes even being to hold a steady beat!
How, then, do we bring the Church back to its former place in music? Here are some ideas:
Cultivate an atmosphere of musical excellence. This means practicing, taking lessons, and striving for musicality at all times.
Listen! Take the time to listen to other things besides contemporary Christian music. Excellent things to listen to are classical music and jazz, but don't limit yourself.
Try new things. This can mean anything from having the audience listen as someone plays a classical piece,to changing the chords to add life to a much-used song to incorporating new musical styles and instruments into your music.
Don't be afraid to use your talents. God has given each of us a unique set of abilities, and we are glorifying God if we actually use our talents!
If we can change the way we as the Church think about music, then the day will come where people like Chris Rice do not have to leave a Christian label in order to be recognized.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Coming Soon

A new home for Sojourn!
And some new musings to boot.