My friend asked me the other day why I wanted to write about spend my life talking about music and our relation to it rather than more weighty topics like theology or politics (as she knew I had strong opinion on those matters as well). At the time, I had a boring response: that music had always been an important part of my life and that I genuinely knew more about music than anything else. And while that is certainly true, the more I thought about the question later on, the more I realized that there were quite a few things that I believed strongly about music and the “lighter” parts of culture that we create that I hadn’t said.
First off, music is increasingly becoming more and more significant as a means of identity to people (even more than politics or religion for many). Through different movement in pop culture, music has often been one of the defining features of each subculture and movement. And while cynics will often say it is merely a means of making money, that is simply not how popular culture works. Trends in music almost always start out in the underground and independent, where people are feeling real emotions and going through real experiences in life and making music that expresses that in some way. Of course, these trends often move from the bottom up and find themselves eventually making corporation large sums of money, but that should not in any way discount it aesthetically or emotionally.
I always find it interesting when scientists or philosophers say that music is merely math. It turns out that isn’t the most helpful thing in attempting to understand music. It is curious to me that for the huge place that music takes up in our culture, how little we can actually understanding it. In many cases, the will to understand it is simply not there. But I feel as thought I know must of what is out there to know about music theory and how we in the West have come to understand music analytically. While I have that background, I still quite often find myself daily enamored by the simplest of pop songs. Even in the simplest or even what we consider to be the “stupidest” of pop songs, there can be huge amounts of cultural information to be decimated from them.
The other day I read this great verse out of The Message (don’t be hatin’!) that translated Matthew 5:13 in this way: “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?”
So, to return to the original question my friend asked me, I feel like the imperative I’ve been given is to extract all the God-flavors out of music that have gone unnoticed and keep them preserved so that God gets the glory again for things like beauty, art, and truth. So for this week at Music at Mars Hill I suppose it boils down to this: for wherever God has called you or whatever God has called you to, continue to be people that point out God’s glory in the world.