Music at Mars Hill: Why Music?

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.

About Luke Larsen

Luke Larsen is a freelance writer, music lover, and indie game enthusiast hailing from the Great Northwest. His writing has been featured in publications such as Paste, RELEVANT, GameChurch, and Prefix. You can find him tweeting at @lalarsen11.

  • Steven Sukkau

    Thanks for the bringing Matt 5:13 into a new light, reminds me of the idea that we don’t need more christian music, but more christians making fantastic music, or art or kitchen cabinets etc.
    But can you give a very practical example of how to point out God’s glory through art?

  • http://www.davidhoos.com David
  • http://thefeedbackloopmusic.blogspot.com/ Luke Larsen

    @Steven,

    Thanks for the comment. I totally get your question because my immediate answer would be something like as follows: “searching for truth and beauty in art and music because as beings who created by the God of truth and beauty, inherent in us is the desire for these things. That’s part of what it means to carry the image of God in us.”

    However, I understand that things like beauty and truth are really abstract ideas and you’re question in asking for something practical is a good one and is one that I constantly struggle with and attempt to answer each week on this column.

    To me, though, we must understand that at some very basic level, as human beings we all carry the image of God around in us. If we start at the level, seeing certain pieces of music as expressions of the beauty of creation or as depicting a need for redemption (I’m just giving examples) isn’t quite so far-fetched. Where we often use words like “honest” or “beautiful” or “expressive” to talk about music we love, we can also point out God’s presence in those good qualities just as Paul pointed out God as the “unknown god” the people were worshipping at Mars Hill.

  • Steven Sukkau

    It’s not how beautiful a sunset is painted, but maybe a feeling of redemption the painting points to. Paint, canvas and color can be subjectively beautiful, but redemption itself is inherently beautiful to a sinful person.

    And the image of God inside us ensures everyone is searching for redemption (hope, love etc.) in art.

    But the theme of redemption won’t be obvious if the painting was poorly done.

    I guess to get real practical, if i set out to make art, i should do it to the best of my ability, and make it as genuine as possible. Because the closer we get to our core of being, the closer we get to the image of God, and that will also resonate with other people carrying around the image of God.

    Am I on the right track?


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