That form overwhelms content

I have spared you my American Idol reflections up to this point, that show being one of my pop-culture vices, but a recent performance was so emblematic that I cannot help but comment upon it.  Joshua Ledet, arguably the best singer in the contest (who made the top three but, unfortunately, got voted off before this week’s finale), sang as his personal choice John Lennon’s “Imagine.”  Now that has to be one of my least favorite songs, a treacly anthem to atheism.  Joshua, though, has made much of the fact that he’s all about the church, his father being a pastor, and singing gospel songs or non-gospel songs with gospel stylings every chance he gets.  He sang “Imagine”–”Imagine there’s no Heaven;it’s easy if you try/No hell below us; above us only sky”–not to go against type, though, but, according to what he was telling the judges, because of its uplifting and inspirational message!  He obviously didn’t understand what he was singing.  The reason, I would suggest, is because the music sounds uplifting and inspirational–in a peculiarly sappy way–and that overwhelms for most listeners the nihilistic lyrics.

This is the same principle demonstrated by the avant garde East German playwright Bertolt Brecht who wrote with musical collaborator Kurt Weill the song “Mack the Knife” for his play The Threepenny Opera.  You know the song, which has become a “standard” of light jazz and lounge crooners.  It’s got a light swinging tune.   But notice the words, all about how a shark has teeth that are razor sharp and is like Mack, who will kill you with his blade.  The melody is sunshiny and peaceful, but the lyrics are dark and violent.  Brecht was purposefully playing form off against content.  Usually, the two go together, mutually re-enforcing each other.  But Brecht was trying to write a song in which the two go in opposite directions.  In his experiment, he believed that the form would overwhelm the content, that audiences would pick up on the happy melody and consider it a happy song with the disturbing lyrics having no impact!  And he was right, as evidenced every time “Mack the Knife” gets played in an elevator or as Muzak in a shopping mall.

This is important to realize when it comes to contemporary Christian music.   The assumption has been that to make Christianity relevant and to communicate with the culture, all we have to do is take “secular” forms–rock, metal, hip-hop, whatever–and put Christian words to it.   But Brecht’s experiment with “Mack the Knife” and Joshua Ledet’s performance on American Idol prove that it’s not so simple.   Death metal with Christian words will come across as and will have the effect of death metal, with the Christian words hardly registering.  Form is not neutral.  Form will drown out the content.

What we need from contemporary Christian artists (musicians, painters, filmmakers, authors) is not slavish following of other people’s styles, attempting to Christianize them; rather, we need original styles, ones that can carry the Christian message and that other people will imitate (thereby promulgating, even unintentionally, the Christian content).

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    Interesting. Bob Dylan has a great song on his “Love and Theft” album called “Moonlight”. It’s a cheerful, melodic little ditty in which the singer invites the listener to come and “meet him in the moonlight”. But the closer you listen to the words, the more you realize that the singer is Death.

  • Pete

    Interesting. Bob Dylan has a great song on his “Love and Theft” album called “Moonlight”. It’s a cheerful, melodic little ditty in which the singer invites the listener to come and “meet him in the moonlight”. But the closer you listen to the words, the more you realize that the singer is Death.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Yep. You hit the nail on the head, Dr. Veith: the form matters more now to many than the content itself. It is in one sense a complete abandonment of rational thought, and it is reflected in the contemporary music worship services of many churches that are more about having drums and a “hip” sound rather than exalting God and instructing congregations with theologically sound words.

    Unfortunately, I have to report that a local Lutheran church I visited about a month ago has jumped on the contemporary bandwagon. They are, I am sad to say, singing trite, shallow choruses in their “contemporary” service (they have two contemporary services and a traditional one) and while I am not a Lutheran myself, I was extremely saddened and disappointed to see a church in such a solid tradition singing the same music that I could hear in a hyper-charismatic church. But the music “made people feel good,” and it’s “relevant,” so that’s why it’s used.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Yep. You hit the nail on the head, Dr. Veith: the form matters more now to many than the content itself. It is in one sense a complete abandonment of rational thought, and it is reflected in the contemporary music worship services of many churches that are more about having drums and a “hip” sound rather than exalting God and instructing congregations with theologically sound words.

    Unfortunately, I have to report that a local Lutheran church I visited about a month ago has jumped on the contemporary bandwagon. They are, I am sad to say, singing trite, shallow choruses in their “contemporary” service (they have two contemporary services and a traditional one) and while I am not a Lutheran myself, I was extremely saddened and disappointed to see a church in such a solid tradition singing the same music that I could hear in a hyper-charismatic church. But the music “made people feel good,” and it’s “relevant,” so that’s why it’s used.

  • http://twocapstanrow.blogspot.com Weslie Odom

    It’s easy (and correct) to say that form is not neutral. The step from that statement to the final paragraph in the post is a massive one. You seem to be saying, Dr. Vieth, that there is a particular form for Christians to use in the arts? I’m curious how this would play out in the visual arts in particular.

  • http://twocapstanrow.blogspot.com Weslie Odom

    It’s easy (and correct) to say that form is not neutral. The step from that statement to the final paragraph in the post is a massive one. You seem to be saying, Dr. Vieth, that there is a particular form for Christians to use in the arts? I’m curious how this would play out in the visual arts in particular.

  • Michael B.

    I think one reason why you see such a decline in the Christian arts, is because Christians aren’t allowed to specifically criticize Christian media without feeling or being portrayed as jerks. You can make generic statements, but you can’t name names or film titles. You get these C-quality movies and music, and if you criticize them, you basically feel like you’re committing heresy. On the other hand, secular reviews feel free to be downright nasty is their criticism of secular movies. If you do see criticism by Christians of Christian media, it’s done with kid gloves. It’s almost a form of “political correctness” where you can’t call a spade a spade.

    I’ve often wondered what Christian reviewers would write of the movie “Gigli” if it had been produced as a Christian movie: “Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are just so devoted to the Lord, and their contributions to film are so valuable…[after 30 sentences of praise]…I might have found 1 or 2 things that the film could have done better”.

  • Michael B.

    I think one reason why you see such a decline in the Christian arts, is because Christians aren’t allowed to specifically criticize Christian media without feeling or being portrayed as jerks. You can make generic statements, but you can’t name names or film titles. You get these C-quality movies and music, and if you criticize them, you basically feel like you’re committing heresy. On the other hand, secular reviews feel free to be downright nasty is their criticism of secular movies. If you do see criticism by Christians of Christian media, it’s done with kid gloves. It’s almost a form of “political correctness” where you can’t call a spade a spade.

    I’ve often wondered what Christian reviewers would write of the movie “Gigli” if it had been produced as a Christian movie: “Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are just so devoted to the Lord, and their contributions to film are so valuable…[after 30 sentences of praise]…I might have found 1 or 2 things that the film could have done better”.

  • Joe

    Michael B — I agree but I think there is also more at work than just a feeling that the reviewer can’t criticize. I think there is an affirmative pressure for all Christians to support every Christian movie, book or album because of a common goal of taking back the various mediums from the secularists. Whether the movie or song is any good is secondary. Watching/listening to it is now your duty as a good Christian.

    As to the post itself, form is certainly not neutral to the message, especially in music.

  • Joe

    Michael B — I agree but I think there is also more at work than just a feeling that the reviewer can’t criticize. I think there is an affirmative pressure for all Christians to support every Christian movie, book or album because of a common goal of taking back the various mediums from the secularists. Whether the movie or song is any good is secondary. Watching/listening to it is now your duty as a good Christian.

    As to the post itself, form is certainly not neutral to the message, especially in music.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Maybe, I am just weird. I pay attention to the lyrics. So, your comment, Veith, about Death Metal went nowhere with me.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Maybe, I am just weird. I pay attention to the lyrics. So, your comment, Veith, about Death Metal went nowhere with me.

  • WebMonk

    Hey! What’s wrong with some good metal?

    Stryper, Extol, Mortification, Demon Hunter, etc, have some great stuff!

    Definitely, the form has impact in communication (especially musical communication), but if I’m understanding Veith’s post correctly, the idea that “death metal” chords/beats/sounds have some sort of inherently evil form is about as wrong as wrong can get.

    Could it be the name that got applied to the form (“death metal”) partly cause the negative reaction?

  • WebMonk

    Hey! What’s wrong with some good metal?

    Stryper, Extol, Mortification, Demon Hunter, etc, have some great stuff!

    Definitely, the form has impact in communication (especially musical communication), but if I’m understanding Veith’s post correctly, the idea that “death metal” chords/beats/sounds have some sort of inherently evil form is about as wrong as wrong can get.

    Could it be the name that got applied to the form (“death metal”) partly cause the negative reaction?

  • WebMonk

    And it might be my own twisted sense of humor, but I happen to like the lyrics of Mack the Knife. They’re definitely part of charm for me – I like the image they have.

    The big shark had left town for some reason and people had begun to get full of themselves. Grifters, con men, killers – they’re going about life like they’re at the top of the food chain. Then comes the true big shark they had tried to forget, tried to pretend was gone forever.

    Nope. Here the real power is coming back into town. Everybody better get back in line.

  • WebMonk

    And it might be my own twisted sense of humor, but I happen to like the lyrics of Mack the Knife. They’re definitely part of charm for me – I like the image they have.

    The big shark had left town for some reason and people had begun to get full of themselves. Grifters, con men, killers – they’re going about life like they’re at the top of the food chain. Then comes the true big shark they had tried to forget, tried to pretend was gone forever.

    Nope. Here the real power is coming back into town. Everybody better get back in line.

  • formerly just steve

    @ #4:

    “I think one reason why you see such a decline in the Christian arts, is because Christians aren’t allowed to specifically criticize Christian media without feeling or being portrayed as jerks. You can make generic statements, but you can’t name names or film titles. You get these C-quality movies and music, and if you criticize them, you basically feel like you’re committing heresy. On the other hand, secular reviews feel free to be downright nasty is their criticism of secular movies. If you do see criticism by Christians of Christian media, it’s done with kid gloves. It’s almost a form of “political correctness” where you can’t call a spade a spade. ”

    Maybe my experience is not the norm but I have never, ever felt this way. Nor has anyone ever made me feel like I was committing heresy for criticizing so-called Christian artists.

  • formerly just steve

    @ #4:

    “I think one reason why you see such a decline in the Christian arts, is because Christians aren’t allowed to specifically criticize Christian media without feeling or being portrayed as jerks. You can make generic statements, but you can’t name names or film titles. You get these C-quality movies and music, and if you criticize them, you basically feel like you’re committing heresy. On the other hand, secular reviews feel free to be downright nasty is their criticism of secular movies. If you do see criticism by Christians of Christian media, it’s done with kid gloves. It’s almost a form of “political correctness” where you can’t call a spade a spade. ”

    Maybe my experience is not the norm but I have never, ever felt this way. Nor has anyone ever made me feel like I was committing heresy for criticizing so-called Christian artists.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    #9 It happens all the time. It really bugs some of the members of my congregation when I critique christian music/shows/movies and call them crap. Their claim, they are doing a good thing so cut them some slack.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    #9 It happens all the time. It really bugs some of the members of my congregation when I critique christian music/shows/movies and call them crap. Their claim, they are doing a good thing so cut them some slack.

  • WebMonk

    #9, you don’t read the various Christian magazines that offer reviews of Christian movies. It doesn’t matter how horrible the movie is, it still gets at least moderately positive reviews.

    I can’t remember where I read it, but some magazine had a glowing, gushing review of “The Waiting Game”.

    I can’t begin to plumb the depths of how horrible that movie is. The acting, the story, the moral, the message. I realize this is bad critiquing practice, but I can’t think of one single thing about that movie that was deserving of praise. Everyone I know who has seen the movie, every non-Christian-magazine review I’ve seen of it is equally harsh.

    And yet … whichever magazine it was (World/CT/whatever) felt that it had to post a review filled to overflowing with superlatives.

    That is the norm in most Christian review of Christian movies.

  • WebMonk

    #9, you don’t read the various Christian magazines that offer reviews of Christian movies. It doesn’t matter how horrible the movie is, it still gets at least moderately positive reviews.

    I can’t remember where I read it, but some magazine had a glowing, gushing review of “The Waiting Game”.

    I can’t begin to plumb the depths of how horrible that movie is. The acting, the story, the moral, the message. I realize this is bad critiquing practice, but I can’t think of one single thing about that movie that was deserving of praise. Everyone I know who has seen the movie, every non-Christian-magazine review I’ve seen of it is equally harsh.

    And yet … whichever magazine it was (World/CT/whatever) felt that it had to post a review filled to overflowing with superlatives.

    That is the norm in most Christian review of Christian movies.

  • formerly just steve

    #11, admittedly, I don’t read Christian magazines that have movie reviews. But I do have a question: being a “Christian” magazine, do they offer scathing critiques about anything?

  • formerly just steve

    #11, admittedly, I don’t read Christian magazines that have movie reviews. But I do have a question: being a “Christian” magazine, do they offer scathing critiques about anything?

  • WebMonk

    #12, sure – pretty much any “non-Christian” movie/music/band/book that has even the slightest “flaw”. The flaw can be a couple swear words, implied sex between unmarried characters, a “troubling worldview”, anything.

    Any little thing will deserve paragraphs of criticism.

    CT is a bit of an exception. They tend to be pretty easy on most movies from my anecdotal impressions.

  • WebMonk

    #12, sure – pretty much any “non-Christian” movie/music/band/book that has even the slightest “flaw”. The flaw can be a couple swear words, implied sex between unmarried characters, a “troubling worldview”, anything.

    Any little thing will deserve paragraphs of criticism.

    CT is a bit of an exception. They tend to be pretty easy on most movies from my anecdotal impressions.

  • Joe

    “the idea that “death metal” chords/beats/sounds have some sort of inherently evil form is about as wrong as wrong can get.”

    I’m not sure what I think about death metal. I grew up on it (everything from Danzig to Pantera). And, I spent a fair part of my high school years in mosh pits. In those moments, listening to those heavy driving cords, I have never wanted to be more violent. The constant pounding of the music and the people against each other, the random elbows and fists. Looking back I can see that it had a real tangible effect on me and my actions.

    The lyrics were irrelevant, the music drove the masses.

    I can’t say the music made me do it (perhaps I was just using the music as an excuse to engage in deviant behavior) — but it was certainly part and parcel of the entire experience.

  • Joe

    “the idea that “death metal” chords/beats/sounds have some sort of inherently evil form is about as wrong as wrong can get.”

    I’m not sure what I think about death metal. I grew up on it (everything from Danzig to Pantera). And, I spent a fair part of my high school years in mosh pits. In those moments, listening to those heavy driving cords, I have never wanted to be more violent. The constant pounding of the music and the people against each other, the random elbows and fists. Looking back I can see that it had a real tangible effect on me and my actions.

    The lyrics were irrelevant, the music drove the masses.

    I can’t say the music made me do it (perhaps I was just using the music as an excuse to engage in deviant behavior) — but it was certainly part and parcel of the entire experience.

  • Dan Kempin

    I wonder if this is best examined through the dichotomy of “form and content.”

    It strikes me that the deeper movement in the culture, which is having devastating effect on the church, is that “words don’t matter.” That is why form can “overwhelm” content. Words just slide by. They may be true. They may not. It doesn’t matter. I just liked (didn’t like) that (song, commercial, candidate, church).

    Comedians (and sometimes pastors) tell stories that are “real-ish,” and reporters create anecdotes to support a premise. We don’t really like it, but the culture keeps beating the drum that “everybody lies,” so we let it go. Facts are not the issue in political debate. We don’t reason, we polarize. People don’t read contracts anymore, they just sign. Word’s don’t matter.

    In fact, it is interesting that in raising the complaint that “content” gets overwhelmed, even you, Dr. Veith, identify the problem (and the solution) as “style.” I wonder why that is?

    So I don’t think this is really an issue of style altering or interfering with content. I think there is an erosion in the interest in content as a whole. (Perhaps even fed more by the overwhelming deluge of informational content than by style. I don’t know.)

    Good food for thought. Thanks.

  • Dan Kempin

    I wonder if this is best examined through the dichotomy of “form and content.”

    It strikes me that the deeper movement in the culture, which is having devastating effect on the church, is that “words don’t matter.” That is why form can “overwhelm” content. Words just slide by. They may be true. They may not. It doesn’t matter. I just liked (didn’t like) that (song, commercial, candidate, church).

    Comedians (and sometimes pastors) tell stories that are “real-ish,” and reporters create anecdotes to support a premise. We don’t really like it, but the culture keeps beating the drum that “everybody lies,” so we let it go. Facts are not the issue in political debate. We don’t reason, we polarize. People don’t read contracts anymore, they just sign. Word’s don’t matter.

    In fact, it is interesting that in raising the complaint that “content” gets overwhelmed, even you, Dr. Veith, identify the problem (and the solution) as “style.” I wonder why that is?

    So I don’t think this is really an issue of style altering or interfering with content. I think there is an erosion in the interest in content as a whole. (Perhaps even fed more by the overwhelming deluge of informational content than by style. I don’t know.)

    Good food for thought. Thanks.

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk, you claim, without substantiation, that “the idea that “death metal” chords/beats/sounds have some sort of inherently evil form is about as wrong as wrong can get.”

    Perhaps, as you note, moral categories ought not be applied to musical forms. But if musical forms are not neutral to the content of music, and are in fact integral to the content–as I think they are–then you ought to reconsider your claim. Allan Bloom–a homosexual atheist intellectual–noted that the rhythms of rock music, for example, are intentionally constructed to mimic sexual rhythms (incidentally, the way a rock guitar is held by the performer intentionally mimics a phallus!). It is, accordingly, uncoincidental that dance clubs play hip-hop rather than classical, and that rock concerts are generally the site of Dionysian orgies, classically understood (not merely sexual). Music, as Plato recognized, shapes the soul completely apart from its lyrical content. If this is the case, might musical forms then have moral status of some kind?

    I have rather promiscuous tastes in music, so I’m not trying to beat you over the head with an implicit moralization. But your rather bold claim deserves further consideration.

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk, you claim, without substantiation, that “the idea that “death metal” chords/beats/sounds have some sort of inherently evil form is about as wrong as wrong can get.”

    Perhaps, as you note, moral categories ought not be applied to musical forms. But if musical forms are not neutral to the content of music, and are in fact integral to the content–as I think they are–then you ought to reconsider your claim. Allan Bloom–a homosexual atheist intellectual–noted that the rhythms of rock music, for example, are intentionally constructed to mimic sexual rhythms (incidentally, the way a rock guitar is held by the performer intentionally mimics a phallus!). It is, accordingly, uncoincidental that dance clubs play hip-hop rather than classical, and that rock concerts are generally the site of Dionysian orgies, classically understood (not merely sexual). Music, as Plato recognized, shapes the soul completely apart from its lyrical content. If this is the case, might musical forms then have moral status of some kind?

    I have rather promiscuous tastes in music, so I’m not trying to beat you over the head with an implicit moralization. But your rather bold claim deserves further consideration.

  • WebMonk

    Cin, are you an ATI grad or from IBLP or something like that? If not, you fit right in with them.

    “the way a rock guitar is held … intentionally mimics a phallus”
    “rhythms of rock music are intentionally constructed to mimic sexual rhythms”
    “rock concerts are generally the site of Dionysian orgies”

    You’ve swallowed the cool-aid on that and I’m not going to touch that viewpoint with a thousand foot pole other than to mock it. It’s not worthy of anything else. If you want to have a conversation worthy of consideration, try saying something worthy of consideration and don’t mis-use authors.

  • WebMonk

    Cin, are you an ATI grad or from IBLP or something like that? If not, you fit right in with them.

    “the way a rock guitar is held … intentionally mimics a phallus”
    “rhythms of rock music are intentionally constructed to mimic sexual rhythms”
    “rock concerts are generally the site of Dionysian orgies”

    You’ve swallowed the cool-aid on that and I’m not going to touch that viewpoint with a thousand foot pole other than to mock it. It’s not worthy of anything else. If you want to have a conversation worthy of consideration, try saying something worthy of consideration and don’t mis-use authors.

  • David Ernst

    I never understood why the filmmakers ruined an otherwise excellent movie, “The Killing Fields” (1981), by choosing Lennon’s “Imagine” as the closing music. “The Killing Fields” portrays the mass murders in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge, and of course the Khmer Rouge were trying to establish just the kind of ideal society which is described (indeed, very sappily) in “Imagine.”

  • David Ernst

    I never understood why the filmmakers ruined an otherwise excellent movie, “The Killing Fields” (1981), by choosing Lennon’s “Imagine” as the closing music. “The Killing Fields” portrays the mass murders in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge, and of course the Khmer Rouge were trying to establish just the kind of ideal society which is described (indeed, very sappily) in “Imagine.”

  • Jon

    Yes, like the song “Hook” by Blues Traveler. “It doesn’t matter what I sing, as long as I sing with inflection.” Catchy tune based on Pachelbel’s canon, but odd sarcastic lyrics.

  • Jon

    Yes, like the song “Hook” by Blues Traveler. “It doesn’t matter what I sing, as long as I sing with inflection.” Catchy tune based on Pachelbel’s canon, but odd sarcastic lyrics.

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk@17:

    Humbly, I submit that my argument could have been greeted with more respect.

    First, I have no idea what ATI or IBLP are, and I can’t be bothered to look them up. Nor am I an evangelical or fundamentalist Christian. My claims (not objections, mind you), as well as those of Allan Bloom, were rooted in Plato, and they were certainly not a “misuse” of Plato’s arguments.

    Plato wishes to ban the Lydian mode (i.e., a tonal form) from his ideal city because, as a structural form, it engenders “softness,” cowardice, and sloth in the soul. He would rather encourage musical structures (not lyrics!) that imbue martial courage and alertness. Am I advocating musical censorship? Absolutely not, and for reasons more than merely constitutional. Plato’s claim is simply that musical forms, insofar as we can call rhythms and sounds “form” as opposed to “content,” as we typically do today (which may be problematic), shape the soul in a meaningful and inescapable way. Listening to Rachmaninov will put you in a certain mood–a mood that is different than the one engendered by, say, Rammstein. Some studies, moreover, have shown that the moods to which various musical forms predispose their listeners are more or less general, not idiosyncratic (e.g., if Bach makes me happy, he likely makes most other listeners happy as well).

    I’m not yet casting judgment on these moods. Moods may or may not have a moral status–that is, perhaps it is better to listen to music that makes us happy rather than wrathful. But first we need to agree that music does, in a way, constitute the soul’s disposition. The form of music matters, contrary to the facile prejudice among Christians in particular that one can listen to whatever music one wants without any effect upon the mind/soul (whether those effects be adverse or not).

    Can’t we discuss this very serious philosophical claim without resorting to mockery? I’m not being a fundamentalist or a moralist here. After all, I listen to everything under the sun, including death metal.

    On the other hand, if you deny that many rock concerts reenact Dionysian orgies, then you’re deluding yourself, and I have to doubt that you’ve ever actually attended a real concert. And that the manner in which rock guitars are cradled by performers is rooted in an intentional attempt to mimic the phallus (and various sexual postures)? That’s simply factual. I’ll be the one mocking you if you try to deny that again. Again, I’m not moralizing: there’s nothing intrinsically wrong about mimicking a phallus, and perhaps every community needs a Dionysian outlet from time to time. Let’s just establish the cultural and symbolic facts first.

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk@17:

    Humbly, I submit that my argument could have been greeted with more respect.

    First, I have no idea what ATI or IBLP are, and I can’t be bothered to look them up. Nor am I an evangelical or fundamentalist Christian. My claims (not objections, mind you), as well as those of Allan Bloom, were rooted in Plato, and they were certainly not a “misuse” of Plato’s arguments.

    Plato wishes to ban the Lydian mode (i.e., a tonal form) from his ideal city because, as a structural form, it engenders “softness,” cowardice, and sloth in the soul. He would rather encourage musical structures (not lyrics!) that imbue martial courage and alertness. Am I advocating musical censorship? Absolutely not, and for reasons more than merely constitutional. Plato’s claim is simply that musical forms, insofar as we can call rhythms and sounds “form” as opposed to “content,” as we typically do today (which may be problematic), shape the soul in a meaningful and inescapable way. Listening to Rachmaninov will put you in a certain mood–a mood that is different than the one engendered by, say, Rammstein. Some studies, moreover, have shown that the moods to which various musical forms predispose their listeners are more or less general, not idiosyncratic (e.g., if Bach makes me happy, he likely makes most other listeners happy as well).

    I’m not yet casting judgment on these moods. Moods may or may not have a moral status–that is, perhaps it is better to listen to music that makes us happy rather than wrathful. But first we need to agree that music does, in a way, constitute the soul’s disposition. The form of music matters, contrary to the facile prejudice among Christians in particular that one can listen to whatever music one wants without any effect upon the mind/soul (whether those effects be adverse or not).

    Can’t we discuss this very serious philosophical claim without resorting to mockery? I’m not being a fundamentalist or a moralist here. After all, I listen to everything under the sun, including death metal.

    On the other hand, if you deny that many rock concerts reenact Dionysian orgies, then you’re deluding yourself, and I have to doubt that you’ve ever actually attended a real concert. And that the manner in which rock guitars are cradled by performers is rooted in an intentional attempt to mimic the phallus (and various sexual postures)? That’s simply factual. I’ll be the one mocking you if you try to deny that again. Again, I’m not moralizing: there’s nothing intrinsically wrong about mimicking a phallus, and perhaps every community needs a Dionysian outlet from time to time. Let’s just establish the cultural and symbolic facts first.

  • Peter S.

    Re: Cincinnatus – As one formerly subjected to the ATI/IBLP system, I would observe that an adherent of said system would be very unlikely to have read Allan Bloom himself, although he might have heard about him from some approved venue.

  • Peter S.

    Re: Cincinnatus – As one formerly subjected to the ATI/IBLP system, I would observe that an adherent of said system would be very unlikely to have read Allan Bloom himself, although he might have heard about him from some approved venue.

  • rlewer

    Will anyone deny the medical evidence that certain forms of music are more likely to raise the blood pressure and heart rate?

  • rlewer

    Will anyone deny the medical evidence that certain forms of music are more likely to raise the blood pressure and heart rate?

  • WebMonk

    Absolutely, #16 could have been replied to with more respect. It just wasn’t worthy of any.

    The form of music does indeed matter. No question about it. That it can shape your mood – absolutely. Rachmaninoff usually irritates me, Gershwin soothes me, Joplin cheers me, Metallica energizes me, etc. They affect my blood pressure and heart rate. I purposefully listen to them at times for exactly those purposes. Metallica at work. Pop/jazz/country driving. Techno at the gym.

    I’m not arguing that.

    I’m not arguing with the following either, I’m mocking it as stupid nonsense. That rock beats are intended to mimic “sexual rhythms” (whatever those are) is nonsense. That rock musicians are all purposefully holding their guitars to mimic wanking off is nonsense. That rock concerts are generally the sites of Dionysian orgies is nonsense.

    Do SOME rock musicians hold their guitars to pretend their holding their own massive man meat? Sure.
    Do SOME rock concerts have SOME aspects of Dionysian orgies? Sure, depending on definitions.
    Does SOME rock music mimic “sexual rhythms”? …. well, no. That was just pure made-up authentic Cin craziness.

    Most of #20 is a reasonable post. The form of music matters and can affect your mood. I’m not arguing with that at all and never have. Congrats, you win.

  • WebMonk

    Absolutely, #16 could have been replied to with more respect. It just wasn’t worthy of any.

    The form of music does indeed matter. No question about it. That it can shape your mood – absolutely. Rachmaninoff usually irritates me, Gershwin soothes me, Joplin cheers me, Metallica energizes me, etc. They affect my blood pressure and heart rate. I purposefully listen to them at times for exactly those purposes. Metallica at work. Pop/jazz/country driving. Techno at the gym.

    I’m not arguing that.

    I’m not arguing with the following either, I’m mocking it as stupid nonsense. That rock beats are intended to mimic “sexual rhythms” (whatever those are) is nonsense. That rock musicians are all purposefully holding their guitars to mimic wanking off is nonsense. That rock concerts are generally the sites of Dionysian orgies is nonsense.

    Do SOME rock musicians hold their guitars to pretend their holding their own massive man meat? Sure.
    Do SOME rock concerts have SOME aspects of Dionysian orgies? Sure, depending on definitions.
    Does SOME rock music mimic “sexual rhythms”? …. well, no. That was just pure made-up authentic Cin craziness.

    Most of #20 is a reasonable post. The form of music matters and can affect your mood. I’m not arguing with that at all and never have. Congrats, you win.

  • Dust

    couldn’t help but think of 2 Tim 3:5

    not just a type of music can have this problem, but entire belief systems?

    perhaps the ultimate form that overwhelms content and deceives could be Satan?

    cheers!

  • Dust

    couldn’t help but think of 2 Tim 3:5

    not just a type of music can have this problem, but entire belief systems?

    perhaps the ultimate form that overwhelms content and deceives could be Satan?

    cheers!

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk@23:

    It seems we agree on the essentials thus far. Thus, it’s apparent that you’re now nitpicking, but trumping up your nitpicks so that they resemble a bombastic commentary on my mental fitness.

    Let’s dispense with the nitpicks first: Do the rhythms of rock music (at least certain sub-genres, anyway, along with hip-hop, etc.) mimic the rhythms of sexual, erm, conduct? Yes. That’s a fact, and it’s well-documented, if not by science, at least by philosophers and cultural critics (including but not limited to the aforementioned Allan Bloom). Are all rock performers intentionally simulating sexual intercourse? Obviously not. But some are. To appeal to the Athenian sage again, Plato noted that certain forms of music appeal to the appetites rather than, say, our contemplative natures. I think this is obvious. As you say, Metallica “energizes” you. I suspect Metallica does not do for you what Bach does for me, which is usually to incite in my soul what the Greeks named thaumazein.

    As for the comparatively more minor point about phallic guitars? This too is factually true, and I didn’t make it up in a fit of insanity. Early rock artists intentionally cradled their guitars in such a way as to emphasize its phallic qualities–to appeal to youth, particularly female youth. Van Halen, for example, continued this trend, and Prince even today blatantly revels in this performative fact. Do all rock artists recognize this fact? Probably not. Nickelback is too stupid. So are most other pop artists. But if you think other rock artists aren’t attempting to construct a sexualized image of themselves and a sexualized atmosphere at their concerts, then you’re just dull. Seriously, have you been to or seen a recording of a concert by one of rock’s greats? Led Zeppelin? Queen? Or 80′s hair metal bands? Anything? Again, you’re being dull if you deny this fact. Rock music appeals to certain, arguably baser, elements in our natures–and sophisticated performers are absolutely cognizant of this truth.

    Let’s get to the meat of the issue here. My point in thematizing these undeniable qualities of musical forms is precisely to start a serious discussion about the moral status of musical forms. For example, Rammstein just makes me irritated and even angry, even apart from their neo-fascist lyrics. Wrath, you’ll recall, is traditionally regarded as one of the seven deadly sins. Might I be well-advised to consider seriously whether I ought to pump Rammstein into my brain on a regular basis, then? Wagner’s music conjures feelings of arrogance. Is this a problem? To indulge some language deployed by evangelicals, is it “edifying”?

    I’m not saying it is or isn’t, but if folks like Nietzsche and Plato–consummate pagans if such a thing ever existed–could critique the forms of music on these very grounds with straight faces, maybe we should try it as well. There is, after all, scriptural precedent for the notion that what I consume with my mind contributes to the health or decay of my mind. Eating potato chips all day corrupts my body. Perhaps listening to rock music all day can corrupt my soul. Can we have that discussion without writing me off as a lunatic?

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk@23:

    It seems we agree on the essentials thus far. Thus, it’s apparent that you’re now nitpicking, but trumping up your nitpicks so that they resemble a bombastic commentary on my mental fitness.

    Let’s dispense with the nitpicks first: Do the rhythms of rock music (at least certain sub-genres, anyway, along with hip-hop, etc.) mimic the rhythms of sexual, erm, conduct? Yes. That’s a fact, and it’s well-documented, if not by science, at least by philosophers and cultural critics (including but not limited to the aforementioned Allan Bloom). Are all rock performers intentionally simulating sexual intercourse? Obviously not. But some are. To appeal to the Athenian sage again, Plato noted that certain forms of music appeal to the appetites rather than, say, our contemplative natures. I think this is obvious. As you say, Metallica “energizes” you. I suspect Metallica does not do for you what Bach does for me, which is usually to incite in my soul what the Greeks named thaumazein.

    As for the comparatively more minor point about phallic guitars? This too is factually true, and I didn’t make it up in a fit of insanity. Early rock artists intentionally cradled their guitars in such a way as to emphasize its phallic qualities–to appeal to youth, particularly female youth. Van Halen, for example, continued this trend, and Prince even today blatantly revels in this performative fact. Do all rock artists recognize this fact? Probably not. Nickelback is too stupid. So are most other pop artists. But if you think other rock artists aren’t attempting to construct a sexualized image of themselves and a sexualized atmosphere at their concerts, then you’re just dull. Seriously, have you been to or seen a recording of a concert by one of rock’s greats? Led Zeppelin? Queen? Or 80′s hair metal bands? Anything? Again, you’re being dull if you deny this fact. Rock music appeals to certain, arguably baser, elements in our natures–and sophisticated performers are absolutely cognizant of this truth.

    Let’s get to the meat of the issue here. My point in thematizing these undeniable qualities of musical forms is precisely to start a serious discussion about the moral status of musical forms. For example, Rammstein just makes me irritated and even angry, even apart from their neo-fascist lyrics. Wrath, you’ll recall, is traditionally regarded as one of the seven deadly sins. Might I be well-advised to consider seriously whether I ought to pump Rammstein into my brain on a regular basis, then? Wagner’s music conjures feelings of arrogance. Is this a problem? To indulge some language deployed by evangelicals, is it “edifying”?

    I’m not saying it is or isn’t, but if folks like Nietzsche and Plato–consummate pagans if such a thing ever existed–could critique the forms of music on these very grounds with straight faces, maybe we should try it as well. There is, after all, scriptural precedent for the notion that what I consume with my mind contributes to the health or decay of my mind. Eating potato chips all day corrupts my body. Perhaps listening to rock music all day can corrupt my soul. Can we have that discussion without writing me off as a lunatic?

  • Rick Boshoven

    I think what we have here is a, felicitous inconsistency.
    “Form is not neutral” does not translate defacto… “all contemporary forms are evil” (or words to that effect). Besides which, as a lifelong Kurt Weil-o-phile, I reject that was his intention was to ‘experiment with form overwhelming content’ that the horror in this song was intentionally negated by using a jazz setting, first of all because, the Louie Armstrong version (Bobby Daren ripped it off word for word, including the mistake of Substituting “Miss for ‘Lotte Lenya’ for ‘Miss Polly Peachum’”) /Lounge Lizard version of the song is NOT what Weil (not Brecht) wrote. the two versions are hardly recognizable when compared. The tune that Weil used is far more reminiscent of a funeral dirge, and not at all “Happy” so I would love to see the citation for the assertion that Weil wrote this with the intention you assert. I’m going out on a limb here, (in absence of a citation and in opposition to your artistic assumption) but I’m going to posit that “It just ain’t so.”

  • Rick Boshoven

    I think what we have here is a, felicitous inconsistency.
    “Form is not neutral” does not translate defacto… “all contemporary forms are evil” (or words to that effect). Besides which, as a lifelong Kurt Weil-o-phile, I reject that was his intention was to ‘experiment with form overwhelming content’ that the horror in this song was intentionally negated by using a jazz setting, first of all because, the Louie Armstrong version (Bobby Daren ripped it off word for word, including the mistake of Substituting “Miss for ‘Lotte Lenya’ for ‘Miss Polly Peachum’”) /Lounge Lizard version of the song is NOT what Weil (not Brecht) wrote. the two versions are hardly recognizable when compared. The tune that Weil used is far more reminiscent of a funeral dirge, and not at all “Happy” so I would love to see the citation for the assertion that Weil wrote this with the intention you assert. I’m going out on a limb here, (in absence of a citation and in opposition to your artistic assumption) but I’m going to posit that “It just ain’t so.”

  • Rick Boshoven

    “Crack”… is that a limb breaking? ;-)

  • Rick Boshoven

    “Crack”… is that a limb breaking? ;-)

  • Judy

    It is posts like this that make this my favorite blog!

  • Judy

    It is posts like this that make this my favorite blog!

  • Shane A.

    To throw a grenade into the room and then leave… I would submit that our cultural predisposition to divorce “form” from “content” is a sign of cultural gnosticism, as the incarnation of the art itself (the physical rhythms and structures of art, in actual time and space) are neglected or dismissed in favor of the abstract “meanings” (which need have no “co-inherence” with the “form,” the incarnate thing itself). The essence is the meaning.

    Both Christian pop culture and high-brow conceptual art seem to share this common root. “Art” pieces are accompanied by didactic explanations; we are told that such-and-such Christian book or film offers “a good message.” And that is why both are doomed.

  • Shane A.

    To throw a grenade into the room and then leave… I would submit that our cultural predisposition to divorce “form” from “content” is a sign of cultural gnosticism, as the incarnation of the art itself (the physical rhythms and structures of art, in actual time and space) are neglected or dismissed in favor of the abstract “meanings” (which need have no “co-inherence” with the “form,” the incarnate thing itself). The essence is the meaning.

    Both Christian pop culture and high-brow conceptual art seem to share this common root. “Art” pieces are accompanied by didactic explanations; we are told that such-and-such Christian book or film offers “a good message.” And that is why both are doomed.

  • WebMonk

    Cin, you’re bringing some of your claims down to reasonable statements. I still don’t see what they have to do with the price of tea, though. We agree – some artists use their guitars as phallic symbols. Some rock concerts are Dyonisian orgies. So? There have been more than a few that are full-blown sexual orgies too. And that has what to do with the inherent specific sinfulness of chord progressions and beats?

    ( I’d love to hear what you think a “sexual rhythm” is, though. You still haven’t managed to modify that away from Gothard-level crack dream realms, and Gothard knows about as much about music as he does about sex. You’re not an IBLPer, but I know there are a few ex-ATI people here who will get that. )

    I think we even agree that for some people, listening to some songs has negative effects. Terrific. Then don’t listen to those songs. But, again, what does that have to do with anything?

    You thought the idea that particular chord progressions or beats are inherently evil was valid. So you made sweeping claims about how rock performers are using their guitars for great big dongs, about how rock concerts are Dyonisian orgies, and about how the rock beat was intended to mimic the “sexual rhythm”. (again, what the fook is a sexual rhythm in musical terms??)

    You’ve brought those sweeping claims down under nominal control, but none of them have any impact on what I first said – the idea that certain chord progressions, melodies, or beats are inherently sinful is nonsense of the highest order.

    That they affect us there is no question, but that any of them even come close to the concept of being specifically sinful by their very nature is nonsense.

  • WebMonk

    Cin, you’re bringing some of your claims down to reasonable statements. I still don’t see what they have to do with the price of tea, though. We agree – some artists use their guitars as phallic symbols. Some rock concerts are Dyonisian orgies. So? There have been more than a few that are full-blown sexual orgies too. And that has what to do with the inherent specific sinfulness of chord progressions and beats?

    ( I’d love to hear what you think a “sexual rhythm” is, though. You still haven’t managed to modify that away from Gothard-level crack dream realms, and Gothard knows about as much about music as he does about sex. You’re not an IBLPer, but I know there are a few ex-ATI people here who will get that. )

    I think we even agree that for some people, listening to some songs has negative effects. Terrific. Then don’t listen to those songs. But, again, what does that have to do with anything?

    You thought the idea that particular chord progressions or beats are inherently evil was valid. So you made sweeping claims about how rock performers are using their guitars for great big dongs, about how rock concerts are Dyonisian orgies, and about how the rock beat was intended to mimic the “sexual rhythm”. (again, what the fook is a sexual rhythm in musical terms??)

    You’ve brought those sweeping claims down under nominal control, but none of them have any impact on what I first said – the idea that certain chord progressions, melodies, or beats are inherently sinful is nonsense of the highest order.

    That they affect us there is no question, but that any of them even come close to the concept of being specifically sinful by their very nature is nonsense.

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk, I’ve neither altered nor moderated my claims. I’ve barely even clarified them. Apparently you simply agree with me more than you thought when your knee first started jerking.

    Meanwhile, do I really need to clarify a “sexual rhythm”? There are many potential answers. In the contemporary context, perhaps we can start with the intrinsically percussive nature of rock music (among other genres), the tempo of which percussion was, at least in early incarnations, often intended to simulate the natural rhythms of sexual intercourse. Is that clear enough for you? I’m not suggesting an hypothesis here. I’m stating a factual truth. The Beatles wouldn’t have denied it, nor would their manages, and the “old fogies” who harped on about Elvis’s lascivious hips naturally picked up on this fact before their youth, who knew it instinctively. I mean, really WebMonk, the inherently sexual quality of rock music (and other popular genres) in the West has been common knowledge for sixty years. Where have you been? Perhaps it’s a sweeping claim, but it’s no less true for that.

    That said, do you really fail to discern the connection between the orgiastic character of many rock concerts and the sounds that are emanating from the stage? Really? So these young adults would be equally likely to dry-hump one another en masse while smoking massive volumes of weed at a Vivaldi concert? Or that “dance clubs” would be synonymous with sex even if they were piping Sufjan Stevens through the speakers instead of the latest cut from Liljoneminemcentcudi? Really? You’re perfectly willing to countenance the fact that music shapes our moods and afffects–but apparently not our bodily behaviors?

    And if you can’t make that obvious connection, I suppose you’re unwilling to consider the fact that, since some bodily behaviors and moods are noxious, perhaps the music that engenders such behaviors and moods is also noxious. I haven’t claimed that certain “chord progressions, melodies, or beats are inherently sinful,” but given the logical claims I’ve advanced thus far, I’m suggesting that we ought to consider whether in fact that might be true without disparaging the whole idea as “nonsense of the highest order.” Plato agreed (though he didn’t use the category of sin). Nietzsche agreed. If they thought something was worth contemplating, I do too. What are you doing?

  • Cincinnatus

    WebMonk, I’ve neither altered nor moderated my claims. I’ve barely even clarified them. Apparently you simply agree with me more than you thought when your knee first started jerking.

    Meanwhile, do I really need to clarify a “sexual rhythm”? There are many potential answers. In the contemporary context, perhaps we can start with the intrinsically percussive nature of rock music (among other genres), the tempo of which percussion was, at least in early incarnations, often intended to simulate the natural rhythms of sexual intercourse. Is that clear enough for you? I’m not suggesting an hypothesis here. I’m stating a factual truth. The Beatles wouldn’t have denied it, nor would their manages, and the “old fogies” who harped on about Elvis’s lascivious hips naturally picked up on this fact before their youth, who knew it instinctively. I mean, really WebMonk, the inherently sexual quality of rock music (and other popular genres) in the West has been common knowledge for sixty years. Where have you been? Perhaps it’s a sweeping claim, but it’s no less true for that.

    That said, do you really fail to discern the connection between the orgiastic character of many rock concerts and the sounds that are emanating from the stage? Really? So these young adults would be equally likely to dry-hump one another en masse while smoking massive volumes of weed at a Vivaldi concert? Or that “dance clubs” would be synonymous with sex even if they were piping Sufjan Stevens through the speakers instead of the latest cut from Liljoneminemcentcudi? Really? You’re perfectly willing to countenance the fact that music shapes our moods and afffects–but apparently not our bodily behaviors?

    And if you can’t make that obvious connection, I suppose you’re unwilling to consider the fact that, since some bodily behaviors and moods are noxious, perhaps the music that engenders such behaviors and moods is also noxious. I haven’t claimed that certain “chord progressions, melodies, or beats are inherently sinful,” but given the logical claims I’ve advanced thus far, I’m suggesting that we ought to consider whether in fact that might be true without disparaging the whole idea as “nonsense of the highest order.” Plato agreed (though he didn’t use the category of sin). Nietzsche agreed. If they thought something was worth contemplating, I do too. What are you doing?

  • WebMonk

    Just a random FYI, what I’m listening to at the moment: Vivaldi’s Winter by Dark Moor. Rockin it!

    Talking about “natural rhythms of sexual intercourse” in terms of music is like talking about turning left in terms of music or describing blue in terms of saltiness. Total and completely nonsense.

    Blue is elephant units of saltiness with a sand sounds of heavy.

    That made just as much sense as you talking about music mimicking “natural rhythms of sex”. I’m not sure how to communicate just how hard it is to take anything you say seriously when you keep putting that forward.

    Because apparently rock artists like to pretend their guitars are their wangs, and because people grind to techno, those beats must be sinful. And skin-colored ink is also inherently sinful because it is used by Playboy and Penthouse.

    I see your logic there. Like I said, total and complete nonsense.

    If it’s syncopated rhythm then your soul is gonna rot. ;-)

  • WebMonk

    Just a random FYI, what I’m listening to at the moment: Vivaldi’s Winter by Dark Moor. Rockin it!

    Talking about “natural rhythms of sexual intercourse” in terms of music is like talking about turning left in terms of music or describing blue in terms of saltiness. Total and completely nonsense.

    Blue is elephant units of saltiness with a sand sounds of heavy.

    That made just as much sense as you talking about music mimicking “natural rhythms of sex”. I’m not sure how to communicate just how hard it is to take anything you say seriously when you keep putting that forward.

    Because apparently rock artists like to pretend their guitars are their wangs, and because people grind to techno, those beats must be sinful. And skin-colored ink is also inherently sinful because it is used by Playboy and Penthouse.

    I see your logic there. Like I said, total and complete nonsense.

    If it’s syncopated rhythm then your soul is gonna rot. ;-)

  • WebMonk

    Oh, and no. Neither Plato nor Nietzsche claimed certain types of beats and sounds were sinful (or equivalent of sinful). If you think they did, you need to go back to class.

    They said, and I firmly agree that music affects us. The effects can be sinful, harmful, or beneficial. Music can affect our souls deeply.

    But none of them came even close to saying that certain chords/beats/sounds have some sort of inherently evil nature. Such a claim is nonsense.

    It doesn’t stop people from making it (Gothard and his ilk, for example) but just because some people claim it doesn’t mean it’s a sensible idea worthy of prolonged discussion.

    The only reason I’ve kept this up is to keep hearing you talk about how rock beats mimic natural sexual rhythms. I mentioned far above that I have an odd sense of humor – your insistence on that point has been of inestimable delight to me.

  • WebMonk

    Oh, and no. Neither Plato nor Nietzsche claimed certain types of beats and sounds were sinful (or equivalent of sinful). If you think they did, you need to go back to class.

    They said, and I firmly agree that music affects us. The effects can be sinful, harmful, or beneficial. Music can affect our souls deeply.

    But none of them came even close to saying that certain chords/beats/sounds have some sort of inherently evil nature. Such a claim is nonsense.

    It doesn’t stop people from making it (Gothard and his ilk, for example) but just because some people claim it doesn’t mean it’s a sensible idea worthy of prolonged discussion.

    The only reason I’ve kept this up is to keep hearing you talk about how rock beats mimic natural sexual rhythms. I mentioned far above that I have an odd sense of humor – your insistence on that point has been of inestimable delight to me.

  • Dan Kempin

    You know, the more I listen to this get argued out, the more I am persuaded that this is an erroneous premise. What the initial post demonstrates and further posts illustrate is that form does NOT seize and change content. That is not the problem. The problem, whether the song “Imagine” or “Mack the knife,” or “Stairway to Heaven,” is that content is ignored. (That’s what makes “Mack the knife” so deliciously ironic. It is a prank on the listener.)

    I’ll give you an example. We have had lutheran school students submit music for a dance that contained profanity and was clearly inappropriate, yet somehow they did not register the fact and handed it in to a teacher. When informed of the content of the song, they acted genuinely surprised. Was that because the style of music or the beat somehow hypnotized them into something different? I really don’t think so. I think they are accustomed to not really listening.

    Now that in itself is a lesson to the church–if we use a musical style that people are accustomed to hearing in a secular context, we cannot reasonably expect that they are going to suddenly “get” the shift to Christian content.

    On the other hand, the style itself is neither the problem nor the solution. Content, and getting people to engage the content, is the issue.

  • Dan Kempin

    You know, the more I listen to this get argued out, the more I am persuaded that this is an erroneous premise. What the initial post demonstrates and further posts illustrate is that form does NOT seize and change content. That is not the problem. The problem, whether the song “Imagine” or “Mack the knife,” or “Stairway to Heaven,” is that content is ignored. (That’s what makes “Mack the knife” so deliciously ironic. It is a prank on the listener.)

    I’ll give you an example. We have had lutheran school students submit music for a dance that contained profanity and was clearly inappropriate, yet somehow they did not register the fact and handed it in to a teacher. When informed of the content of the song, they acted genuinely surprised. Was that because the style of music or the beat somehow hypnotized them into something different? I really don’t think so. I think they are accustomed to not really listening.

    Now that in itself is a lesson to the church–if we use a musical style that people are accustomed to hearing in a secular context, we cannot reasonably expect that they are going to suddenly “get” the shift to Christian content.

    On the other hand, the style itself is neither the problem nor the solution. Content, and getting people to engage the content, is the issue.

  • formerly just steve

    WebMonk #13, this is as I expected. However, Michael’s original premise was that Christians aren’t allowed to criticize Christian art. I submit that the reason you see Christian magazines being especially easy on Christian movies and other artists and especially hard on non-Christian art forms is mostly a misguided sense of evangelistic duty. That is, let’s promote Christian art because even the worst of it is better than non-Christian art because of the evangelistic message it sends. Of course, it’s hard to generalize such things but this is my take based mostly on my experiences. What do you think?

  • formerly just steve

    WebMonk #13, this is as I expected. However, Michael’s original premise was that Christians aren’t allowed to criticize Christian art. I submit that the reason you see Christian magazines being especially easy on Christian movies and other artists and especially hard on non-Christian art forms is mostly a misguided sense of evangelistic duty. That is, let’s promote Christian art because even the worst of it is better than non-Christian art because of the evangelistic message it sends. Of course, it’s hard to generalize such things but this is my take based mostly on my experiences. What do you think?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    WebMonk, might I suggest that there are other tactics that can be employed in conversation besides cheap, derisive sarcasm? You’ve been beating your one trick pony for some time now, and it’s not looking so well. As it were. What you’ve mostly done here is to repeatedly draw up a straw man that bears a passing resemblance to Cincinnatus’ argument, and then tear it limb from limb, your mouth agape as you sneer, “Nonsense! Golly! Nonsense!”

    That said, even if you seem flabbergasted by the concept of “natural rhythms of sexual intercourse”, might I suggest that legions of fans of, say, Al Green would not be similarly baffled. Frankly, I’m flabbergasted that you can’t even concede this point, if in part.

    If Cincinnatus has overplayed his hand, it is in applying his claims about “sexual rhythms” to the whole of rock music. I would amend his claim, limiting it either to rock’s origins, or, in a modern context, to a subset of rock music. While I’m sure there are some people who can “get it on” to, say, Metallica’s “Battery”, I think most people experience other emotions when hearing that song.

    Still, didn’t you ever stop to wonder why hair metal bands slowed down their tempos when they played their “love ballads”? The same ballads that, when played in concert, were quite likely played to couples whose bodies knew what to do?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    WebMonk, might I suggest that there are other tactics that can be employed in conversation besides cheap, derisive sarcasm? You’ve been beating your one trick pony for some time now, and it’s not looking so well. As it were. What you’ve mostly done here is to repeatedly draw up a straw man that bears a passing resemblance to Cincinnatus’ argument, and then tear it limb from limb, your mouth agape as you sneer, “Nonsense! Golly! Nonsense!”

    That said, even if you seem flabbergasted by the concept of “natural rhythms of sexual intercourse”, might I suggest that legions of fans of, say, Al Green would not be similarly baffled. Frankly, I’m flabbergasted that you can’t even concede this point, if in part.

    If Cincinnatus has overplayed his hand, it is in applying his claims about “sexual rhythms” to the whole of rock music. I would amend his claim, limiting it either to rock’s origins, or, in a modern context, to a subset of rock music. While I’m sure there are some people who can “get it on” to, say, Metallica’s “Battery”, I think most people experience other emotions when hearing that song.

    Still, didn’t you ever stop to wonder why hair metal bands slowed down their tempos when they played their “love ballads”? The same ballads that, when played in concert, were quite likely played to couples whose bodies knew what to do?

  • WebMonk

    I wholly agree with you steve. There’s a strong thread in Christianity (and not just Christianity – any strongly self-identifying group) to view things produced by those outside their circle as lacking/inferior/bad regardless of actual content.

    The reverse is also true about things made by those inside one’s own circle – they are viewed with a much more favorable light.

    Put that together with what you mentioned – the view that regardless of content, Christian ‘stuff’ must be better than similar non-Christian ‘stuff’ because it has a ‘Christian’ message – and the results can be rather extreme.

    Of course there are mitigating factors as well – the desire to stand out, to blend in, etc.

    But, by and large, I think movie reviews by Christians heavily suffers from the view that “Christian” movies are good just because they’re “Christian”.

  • WebMonk

    I wholly agree with you steve. There’s a strong thread in Christianity (and not just Christianity – any strongly self-identifying group) to view things produced by those outside their circle as lacking/inferior/bad regardless of actual content.

    The reverse is also true about things made by those inside one’s own circle – they are viewed with a much more favorable light.

    Put that together with what you mentioned – the view that regardless of content, Christian ‘stuff’ must be better than similar non-Christian ‘stuff’ because it has a ‘Christian’ message – and the results can be rather extreme.

    Of course there are mitigating factors as well – the desire to stand out, to blend in, etc.

    But, by and large, I think movie reviews by Christians heavily suffers from the view that “Christian” movies are good just because they’re “Christian”.

  • Peter S.

    I agree with tODD. Let’s get back to Dr. Veith’s original point…

    J. Dean (comment no. 2) mentions an attitude that I’ve heard in the context of another small, traditional Lutheran church: the idea that a local church needs to “update” its musical style to one approximating the styles of popular music in order to attract members, retain the youth, etc.

    This is a false idea because it makes the terrible mistake of thinking that the purpose of church music is to be a kind of bait or something to connect the church and the outside world. Some music–the music on American Idol, for instance–is for entertainment, and we judge it, quite properly, by how it well it accomplishes that purpose. Church music has a different purpose. Its role is to support and beautify the actions of Christian worship, to unite heart and intellect through beautiful musical settings which illuminate their texts.

    In the best cases, what is added to the text of a hymn–for instance, Gerard Moultrie’s “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” itself an adaptation from the ancient Liturgy of St. James–by its musical setting, in this case the French carol tune Picardy, is an exposition of the feeling proper to the text. Although any individual person might have a response to the tune that is independent of its content–for instance, I might associate it with my wedding, at which it was sung–the tune, especially as our organist plays it, suggests and in fact requires a particular kind of reverential awe, as is appropriate for the text of the hymn: “Christ our God to earth descendeth, Our full homage to demand.”

    Now you don’t need a pipe organ to sing this song well. Fernando Ortega has a more “contemporary” performance of the song with piano, which is also very reverential. Something similar might be done in church (although it’s hard to beat the organ for enabling the congregation to fully participate in singing). But what Ortega’s rendition preserves that much “contemporary” church music utterly vitiates is the unity of the text and its musical setting within their liturgical context, the Eucharistic feast in which Christ descends to us through his gifts.

  • Peter S.

    I agree with tODD. Let’s get back to Dr. Veith’s original point…

    J. Dean (comment no. 2) mentions an attitude that I’ve heard in the context of another small, traditional Lutheran church: the idea that a local church needs to “update” its musical style to one approximating the styles of popular music in order to attract members, retain the youth, etc.

    This is a false idea because it makes the terrible mistake of thinking that the purpose of church music is to be a kind of bait or something to connect the church and the outside world. Some music–the music on American Idol, for instance–is for entertainment, and we judge it, quite properly, by how it well it accomplishes that purpose. Church music has a different purpose. Its role is to support and beautify the actions of Christian worship, to unite heart and intellect through beautiful musical settings which illuminate their texts.

    In the best cases, what is added to the text of a hymn–for instance, Gerard Moultrie’s “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” itself an adaptation from the ancient Liturgy of St. James–by its musical setting, in this case the French carol tune Picardy, is an exposition of the feeling proper to the text. Although any individual person might have a response to the tune that is independent of its content–for instance, I might associate it with my wedding, at which it was sung–the tune, especially as our organist plays it, suggests and in fact requires a particular kind of reverential awe, as is appropriate for the text of the hymn: “Christ our God to earth descendeth, Our full homage to demand.”

    Now you don’t need a pipe organ to sing this song well. Fernando Ortega has a more “contemporary” performance of the song with piano, which is also very reverential. Something similar might be done in church (although it’s hard to beat the organ for enabling the congregation to fully participate in singing). But what Ortega’s rendition preserves that much “contemporary” church music utterly vitiates is the unity of the text and its musical setting within their liturgical context, the Eucharistic feast in which Christ descends to us through his gifts.

  • SKPeterson

    I recall (and I’m paraphrasing here) from Ken Burns’ documentary on Jazz a quote from Wynton Marsalis to the effect that rock music let you know how to seduce a woman, but jazz told you what to do in the aftermath.

    For a purely evocative academic take I offer up this abstract from the journal Popular Music: “Examining rhythmic and metric practices in Led Zeppelin’s musical style” by John Brackett.

    In this essay, I examine how aspects of rhythm and metre play a fundamental role in shaping and defining Led Zeppelin’s musical style. At the same time, I will show how Led Zeppelin was able to modify, manipulate, and develop pre-existing musical models and forms through various rhythmic and metric strategies. Comparative analyses will be used in an effort to show how Led Zeppelin’s flexible conception of rhythm and metre enabled the band to put their own stylistic ‘stamp’ on (i) specific musical genres (‘The Crunge’ and the song’s relation to James Brown-style funk), (ii) their riff constructions (‘Black Dog’ in relation to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’), and (iii) their cover versions (‘Dazed and Confused’). Drawing upon my analytical points, I re-visit the complex issues that persist regarding the possibility that Led Zeppelin even has an ‘original’ or ‘unique’ style given their often overt reliance upon earlier musical models and forms. Therefore, in my conclusion, I argue that the development of any artist or group’s individual style necessarily involves the ability to assimilate and transform pre-existing musical features – features such as rhythm and metre – in novel ways and where issues relating to musical style intersect with influence.

    So, when you hear the D-A-D-G-A-D riff for Kashmir you can do so in appreciation of its academically analyzed awesomeness.

  • SKPeterson

    I recall (and I’m paraphrasing here) from Ken Burns’ documentary on Jazz a quote from Wynton Marsalis to the effect that rock music let you know how to seduce a woman, but jazz told you what to do in the aftermath.

    For a purely evocative academic take I offer up this abstract from the journal Popular Music: “Examining rhythmic and metric practices in Led Zeppelin’s musical style” by John Brackett.

    In this essay, I examine how aspects of rhythm and metre play a fundamental role in shaping and defining Led Zeppelin’s musical style. At the same time, I will show how Led Zeppelin was able to modify, manipulate, and develop pre-existing musical models and forms through various rhythmic and metric strategies. Comparative analyses will be used in an effort to show how Led Zeppelin’s flexible conception of rhythm and metre enabled the band to put their own stylistic ‘stamp’ on (i) specific musical genres (‘The Crunge’ and the song’s relation to James Brown-style funk), (ii) their riff constructions (‘Black Dog’ in relation to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’), and (iii) their cover versions (‘Dazed and Confused’). Drawing upon my analytical points, I re-visit the complex issues that persist regarding the possibility that Led Zeppelin even has an ‘original’ or ‘unique’ style given their often overt reliance upon earlier musical models and forms. Therefore, in my conclusion, I argue that the development of any artist or group’s individual style necessarily involves the ability to assimilate and transform pre-existing musical features – features such as rhythm and metre – in novel ways and where issues relating to musical style intersect with influence.

    So, when you hear the D-A-D-G-A-D riff for Kashmir you can do so in appreciation of its academically analyzed awesomeness.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Only mildly related to this topic, but does anyone else remember those McDonald’s commercials from the 80s featuring a lounge-singer moon-head guy, singing “Mac Tonight” to the tune of “Mack the Knife”? I was too young to really get the cultural references, but … what the heck? Say what you will about Kurt Weill and irony and all, but how did that not freak most people out at the time? “Hey, let’s take a song about a murderer, and change the lyrics to encourage people to eat dinner at our fast-food restaurant!” It’s like they were inviting criticism.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Only mildly related to this topic, but does anyone else remember those McDonald’s commercials from the 80s featuring a lounge-singer moon-head guy, singing “Mac Tonight” to the tune of “Mack the Knife”? I was too young to really get the cultural references, but … what the heck? Say what you will about Kurt Weill and irony and all, but how did that not freak most people out at the time? “Hey, let’s take a song about a murderer, and change the lyrics to encourage people to eat dinner at our fast-food restaurant!” It’s like they were inviting criticism.

  • SKPeterson

    Peter S. @ 38. There is Koine Music @ http://koinemusic.com/ which provides some very faithful modern takes on historic hymns of the church.

    They are a WELS outfit though, so they cannot be fellowshipped into LCMS contemporary worship. That’s why most LCMS churches doing CW use Hillsong.

  • SKPeterson

    Peter S. @ 38. There is Koine Music @ http://koinemusic.com/ which provides some very faithful modern takes on historic hymns of the church.

    They are a WELS outfit though, so they cannot be fellowshipped into LCMS contemporary worship. That’s why most LCMS churches doing CW use Hillsong.

  • Peter S.

    I don’t like the Koine music, even though they sensibly don’t mess with the lyrics. There is a kind of awkward separation between form and content as Shane (no. 29) put it. Also, I doubt your average small Lutheran congregation would have the ability to put a band like this on stage.

  • Peter S.

    I don’t like the Koine music, even though they sensibly don’t mess with the lyrics. There is a kind of awkward separation between form and content as Shane (no. 29) put it. Also, I doubt your average small Lutheran congregation would have the ability to put a band like this on stage.

  • WebMonk

    tODD, thanks for the caution. I promise this will be my last post on it.

    There are lots of people who prefer to get it on to a heavy grindcore with a chest thumping blast beat. There are people who go for rock ballads. Jazz. Classical. Hip hop. Gregorian chants. You name it, there are people who use it in the bedroom, dryer, living room floor, kitchen table, wherever.

    “Natural rhythms of sex” is a nonsensical term when applied to a particular type of beat. Slow and sweet, hard driving, tripping lightly, etc. They can all fit sex. There’s no such thing as a natural rhythm of sex. Vivaldi’s Spring Concerto first movement is awesome “sex music”. Does that mean the natural rhythms of sex are like violins in Ritornello form with lots of trills and scales?

    Such a claim is … well, I am having trouble coming up with another word than nonsense or a direct synonym. Claptrap, hokum, rot, rubbish, poppycock? Take your pick. :-)

    What do you call the sort of logic that says “X can be used as part of a larger final product which may encourage sinful behaviors or desires, so X must be inherently sinful”??

    Rock artists use guitars as phallic symbols, so “rock beats” are sinful.
    People grind at techno concerts, so hard driving, electric beats are sinful.
    “Rock rhythms” match “natural sexual rhythms”, so rock beats are sinful.

    Claims like that are . . . examples of bizarrely twisted and atrocious logic.

    There! I didn’t use the word “nonsense”! :-D

  • WebMonk

    tODD, thanks for the caution. I promise this will be my last post on it.

    There are lots of people who prefer to get it on to a heavy grindcore with a chest thumping blast beat. There are people who go for rock ballads. Jazz. Classical. Hip hop. Gregorian chants. You name it, there are people who use it in the bedroom, dryer, living room floor, kitchen table, wherever.

    “Natural rhythms of sex” is a nonsensical term when applied to a particular type of beat. Slow and sweet, hard driving, tripping lightly, etc. They can all fit sex. There’s no such thing as a natural rhythm of sex. Vivaldi’s Spring Concerto first movement is awesome “sex music”. Does that mean the natural rhythms of sex are like violins in Ritornello form with lots of trills and scales?

    Such a claim is … well, I am having trouble coming up with another word than nonsense or a direct synonym. Claptrap, hokum, rot, rubbish, poppycock? Take your pick. :-)

    What do you call the sort of logic that says “X can be used as part of a larger final product which may encourage sinful behaviors or desires, so X must be inherently sinful”??

    Rock artists use guitars as phallic symbols, so “rock beats” are sinful.
    People grind at techno concerts, so hard driving, electric beats are sinful.
    “Rock rhythms” match “natural sexual rhythms”, so rock beats are sinful.

    Claims like that are . . . examples of bizarrely twisted and atrocious logic.

    There! I didn’t use the word “nonsense”! :-D

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m going to ignore the proferred form/content dichotomy for a moment, in part because of Cincinnatus’ tangential point (somewhere; I think; too lazy) that the music in a song isn’t not the content. (I think he said it more smartly than that, though; criminy, I hope so.)

    And I don’t know if, per Dan (again, somewhere) this focus on music and/or this ignoring of lyrics is a new thing. Myself, I’ve always been that way, while my wife has not. She just knows the lyrics of a song better, while I could tell you all about arrangement trivia (a piano chord here, an overdubbed guitar there). I have to force myself to learn a song’s lyrics, even if it’s a favorite of mine. Otherwise, I’m just content (ha!) to mumble along in harmony.

    This has become something of an issue for me as I begin to expose my children to pop music — mostly, the music I grew up with. It’s one thing (arguably), for me to listen to the collected works of The Police, admiring Stewart Copeland’s drumming while ignoring Sting’s Jungian blather. But when I play a favorite song for my three-year-old, only to find that it says, well, that, I’m having to reconsider things.

    Of course, I’m not so foolish to think that the answer lies in limiting my children’s exposure to Christian music — at least, not the pabulum that largely comprises “contemporary Christian music”. Those lyrics are often every bit as insipid as are the words in popular, secular music.

    But I suppose that, in both cases, the problem is lyrics that are largely unexamined. So elementary-school Me thought that “Every Breath You Take” and “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” were love songs or something, because the few words I picked up on said this or that about love. And the modern CCM consumer assumes that their choice of fodder is wholesome because it also contains references to “God”, or at least a congenial, if unspecified, pronoun that seems to have something to do with love or power.

    In either case, “Good enough,” says the listener, who really enjoys the music. It’s sort of like buying some packaged frozen meal at the grocery store. Sure, it has a frightening list of ingredients a mile long (many of them unrecognizable as food), but more importantly, it has big bold health claims on the front of the package (“More Omega-3s!”, “No trans fats!”), and these help you to ignore what it is you’re actually eating. “It’s good for me, right?”

    Maybe Dan’s right. Maybe, deep down, we know that what we’re consuming is garbage, but we only need the thinnest of justifications, because we kind of like garbage, even if we know we shouldn’t be eating it. “Slap some more Omega-3 claims/mentions of God in there, and call it done!”

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m going to ignore the proferred form/content dichotomy for a moment, in part because of Cincinnatus’ tangential point (somewhere; I think; too lazy) that the music in a song isn’t not the content. (I think he said it more smartly than that, though; criminy, I hope so.)

    And I don’t know if, per Dan (again, somewhere) this focus on music and/or this ignoring of lyrics is a new thing. Myself, I’ve always been that way, while my wife has not. She just knows the lyrics of a song better, while I could tell you all about arrangement trivia (a piano chord here, an overdubbed guitar there). I have to force myself to learn a song’s lyrics, even if it’s a favorite of mine. Otherwise, I’m just content (ha!) to mumble along in harmony.

    This has become something of an issue for me as I begin to expose my children to pop music — mostly, the music I grew up with. It’s one thing (arguably), for me to listen to the collected works of The Police, admiring Stewart Copeland’s drumming while ignoring Sting’s Jungian blather. But when I play a favorite song for my three-year-old, only to find that it says, well, that, I’m having to reconsider things.

    Of course, I’m not so foolish to think that the answer lies in limiting my children’s exposure to Christian music — at least, not the pabulum that largely comprises “contemporary Christian music”. Those lyrics are often every bit as insipid as are the words in popular, secular music.

    But I suppose that, in both cases, the problem is lyrics that are largely unexamined. So elementary-school Me thought that “Every Breath You Take” and “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” were love songs or something, because the few words I picked up on said this or that about love. And the modern CCM consumer assumes that their choice of fodder is wholesome because it also contains references to “God”, or at least a congenial, if unspecified, pronoun that seems to have something to do with love or power.

    In either case, “Good enough,” says the listener, who really enjoys the music. It’s sort of like buying some packaged frozen meal at the grocery store. Sure, it has a frightening list of ingredients a mile long (many of them unrecognizable as food), but more importantly, it has big bold health claims on the front of the package (“More Omega-3s!”, “No trans fats!”), and these help you to ignore what it is you’re actually eating. “It’s good for me, right?”

    Maybe Dan’s right. Maybe, deep down, we know that what we’re consuming is garbage, but we only need the thinnest of justifications, because we kind of like garbage, even if we know we shouldn’t be eating it. “Slap some more Omega-3 claims/mentions of God in there, and call it done!”

  • WebMonk

    What?!? Every Breath You Take isn’t a sappy love song? It’s really a freaky, stalker, deranged nutcase obsessing over someone? Tell me it ain’t so!! :-D

    I had a friend who loved the song, listened to it on repeat for hours, thought it was the greatest love song ever. I read her the lyrics without the music and she has hated me ever since for ruining it for her. *satisfied sigh* :-)

    Would that make the form the content for her? I think it would. For her, the typical ‘content’ of the song never even registered. The form was the content, with the ‘content’ completely ignored.

    Might that suggest the two are not nearly so static in real-life practice? The words are not always the content of a song, and the music is not always the form? It might even vary according to the listener.

    Random:
    Listening at the moment: Suidakra, “Dead Man’s Reel” – metal? check. bagpipes? check. cognitive dissonance at the mixture of the two? check. Love it, though.

  • WebMonk

    What?!? Every Breath You Take isn’t a sappy love song? It’s really a freaky, stalker, deranged nutcase obsessing over someone? Tell me it ain’t so!! :-D

    I had a friend who loved the song, listened to it on repeat for hours, thought it was the greatest love song ever. I read her the lyrics without the music and she has hated me ever since for ruining it for her. *satisfied sigh* :-)

    Would that make the form the content for her? I think it would. For her, the typical ‘content’ of the song never even registered. The form was the content, with the ‘content’ completely ignored.

    Might that suggest the two are not nearly so static in real-life practice? The words are not always the content of a song, and the music is not always the form? It might even vary according to the listener.

    Random:
    Listening at the moment: Suidakra, “Dead Man’s Reel” – metal? check. bagpipes? check. cognitive dissonance at the mixture of the two? check. Love it, though.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    But there is a weird clash here, isn’t there? Let’s assume that most of our society is largely given to ignoring lyrics — including, it would sometimes seem, the writers of said lyrics (thinking of you, Simon LeBon; I’m on an 80s kick). Maybe some artists take advantage of this, getting out perverse or otherwise unpalatable messages by coating them in a sugary pop veneer. But regardless, most people think no further than, “It’s got a good beat, I can dance to it.”

    Then, on the other hand, you’ve got Christians making “contemporary” music. They take the nearly opposite stand, arguing that the lyrics are key, while the music, not so much.

    The problem is that such “contemporary Christian” music is unlikely to be as “relevant” as it is often claimed. After all, if you take songs in which lyrics are key, and play them for a culture that is given to ignoring lyrics, what do you think will happen? Odds are, they’ll ignore the lyrics and listen to the music — which, as it happens, is a somewhat watered-down version of the music some of them listen to. How is that relevant?

    Point being, if not a few people can listen to Sting’s aforementioned stalker/Lolita tunes and come away thinking they’re love songs, what are the odds your music that sounds like inoffensive indie-lite rock is going to get people to really pay attention to its ostensibly Christian lyrics (especially when, as I’ve argued, even the Christians aren’t really paying all that much attention to them)?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    But there is a weird clash here, isn’t there? Let’s assume that most of our society is largely given to ignoring lyrics — including, it would sometimes seem, the writers of said lyrics (thinking of you, Simon LeBon; I’m on an 80s kick). Maybe some artists take advantage of this, getting out perverse or otherwise unpalatable messages by coating them in a sugary pop veneer. But regardless, most people think no further than, “It’s got a good beat, I can dance to it.”

    Then, on the other hand, you’ve got Christians making “contemporary” music. They take the nearly opposite stand, arguing that the lyrics are key, while the music, not so much.

    The problem is that such “contemporary Christian” music is unlikely to be as “relevant” as it is often claimed. After all, if you take songs in which lyrics are key, and play them for a culture that is given to ignoring lyrics, what do you think will happen? Odds are, they’ll ignore the lyrics and listen to the music — which, as it happens, is a somewhat watered-down version of the music some of them listen to. How is that relevant?

    Point being, if not a few people can listen to Sting’s aforementioned stalker/Lolita tunes and come away thinking they’re love songs, what are the odds your music that sounds like inoffensive indie-lite rock is going to get people to really pay attention to its ostensibly Christian lyrics (especially when, as I’ve argued, even the Christians aren’t really paying all that much attention to them)?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I guess I just recapitulated Veith’s point. I blame the coffee. I continue to type, unabated.

    Anyhow, I’m reminded here of something my pastor said last week. He was urging us to share the Gospel with others, which is of course well and good. But to that end, he encouraged us to invite our friends to church. Which struck me as odd. Perhaps that’s another debate entirely — should our worship activities, namely Sunday morning, be geared towards members or visitors?

    Still, it strikes me that those who emphasize “contemporary” worship have at least answered that question for themselves: church services are geared towards visitors. They’re a convenient (or, perhaps, lazy) way to share the Gospel with your neighbor. You don’t have to say anything, just get them in the door and let the pastor do the talking. And, goes the argument, it’s easier to get them in the door if you can sort of trick them, by appealing to them with the form of a rock concert. (Left seemingly unexamined is how many people are used to Sunday-morning rock concerts in which one remains seated the whole time.)

    Still, if the whole point of getting them in the door is to hear a message that’s different than what the world is saying, then why do we try to sell that message in a wrapper that is, at least in part, very much like what the world is saying (or at least playing)? Play an ornate organ turn, and everyone will recognize that it’s likely church music (or at least something serious), whether they like it or not. Strum a guitar and sing earnestly into a microphone, and maybe it’s Christian, maybe it’s not. Who knows? You’d have to listen to the lyrics to find out, and most people apparently don’t bother to do that.

    So the unbeliever may likely come away from these “contemporary” services thinking, “Yeah, the music was okay, I guess, but I’ve heard better rock music, at a more convenient hour, in a better concert space, and without some guy talking for thirty minutes in between sets.” In short, the world does that thing better.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I guess I just recapitulated Veith’s point. I blame the coffee. I continue to type, unabated.

    Anyhow, I’m reminded here of something my pastor said last week. He was urging us to share the Gospel with others, which is of course well and good. But to that end, he encouraged us to invite our friends to church. Which struck me as odd. Perhaps that’s another debate entirely — should our worship activities, namely Sunday morning, be geared towards members or visitors?

    Still, it strikes me that those who emphasize “contemporary” worship have at least answered that question for themselves: church services are geared towards visitors. They’re a convenient (or, perhaps, lazy) way to share the Gospel with your neighbor. You don’t have to say anything, just get them in the door and let the pastor do the talking. And, goes the argument, it’s easier to get them in the door if you can sort of trick them, by appealing to them with the form of a rock concert. (Left seemingly unexamined is how many people are used to Sunday-morning rock concerts in which one remains seated the whole time.)

    Still, if the whole point of getting them in the door is to hear a message that’s different than what the world is saying, then why do we try to sell that message in a wrapper that is, at least in part, very much like what the world is saying (or at least playing)? Play an ornate organ turn, and everyone will recognize that it’s likely church music (or at least something serious), whether they like it or not. Strum a guitar and sing earnestly into a microphone, and maybe it’s Christian, maybe it’s not. Who knows? You’d have to listen to the lyrics to find out, and most people apparently don’t bother to do that.

    So the unbeliever may likely come away from these “contemporary” services thinking, “Yeah, the music was okay, I guess, but I’ve heard better rock music, at a more convenient hour, in a better concert space, and without some guy talking for thirty minutes in between sets.” In short, the world does that thing better.

  • formerly just steve

    tODD, #40, I suspect Bobby, Dean, Frank, and Sammy took the teeth out of that song, so to speak, long before McDonald’s. Actually, this whole conversation kind of reminds me of that guy on YouTube that remade “I’m sexy and I know it” in a folksy acoustic style or Dynamite Hack doing Boyz in Da Hood.

  • formerly just steve

    tODD, #40, I suspect Bobby, Dean, Frank, and Sammy took the teeth out of that song, so to speak, long before McDonald’s. Actually, this whole conversation kind of reminds me of that guy on YouTube that remade “I’m sexy and I know it” in a folksy acoustic style or Dynamite Hack doing Boyz in Da Hood.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SK (@41), in theory I should like Koine — Lutherans (you know, the Right Kind), playing mostly Lutheran hymns, with modern instrumentation.

    In practice, meh. A big meh. Is it just their arrangements? Or is it not possible to play hymns with a backbeat in an interesting fashion? Because I often find myself imagining non-traditional arrangements of hymns, thumping out rhythms that are more rock-inspired than what the organ score suggests. But when I hear Koine do it, I wonder if my unrealized ideas are best left unrealized.

    Tastes will vary, and I know some people enjoyed Koine when their tour passed through our town/church. But I find them so white-bread. Like old wine in new wineskins. Maybe I’d prefer it better if they wrote their own words and music, because shoe-horning older hymns into newer styles feels … well, shoe-horned.

    Sigh.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SK (@41), in theory I should like Koine — Lutherans (you know, the Right Kind), playing mostly Lutheran hymns, with modern instrumentation.

    In practice, meh. A big meh. Is it just their arrangements? Or is it not possible to play hymns with a backbeat in an interesting fashion? Because I often find myself imagining non-traditional arrangements of hymns, thumping out rhythms that are more rock-inspired than what the organ score suggests. But when I hear Koine do it, I wonder if my unrealized ideas are best left unrealized.

    Tastes will vary, and I know some people enjoyed Koine when their tour passed through our town/church. But I find them so white-bread. Like old wine in new wineskins. Maybe I’d prefer it better if they wrote their own words and music, because shoe-horning older hymns into newer styles feels … well, shoe-horned.

    Sigh.

  • SKPeterson

    Todd @ 49 – I merely offered Koine up as an example of a contemporary band singing sound hymnody. I haven’t listened to their oeuvre (had to work that word in), beyond a few snippets here and there (actually on God Whisperers) , but I’ll give them props for effort.

    What I would really like to find would be the liturgical score(s?) that Dave Brubeck wrote ( I think he is Roman Catholic, but still… it’s Brubeck). Here’s a write-up, but I haven’t deep-searched YuoTube to find a performance, yet. http://www.nytimes.com/1990/02/19/arts/reviews-music-a-concert-of-the-sacred-from-dave-brubeck.html

    I would be intrigued at the possibility of doing a Brubeck liturgical piece in either the traditional or contemporary service settings and if it could be done adequately by small choir, organ, piano and minimal instrumentation.

    BTW – Megadeth came through Knoxville a few weeks ago. One of our pastors went to the show (he’s doing the radical leftist church plant now de rigeur in the LCMS Mid-South. I jest. Slightly.) and recorded a video message with Dave Ellefson. I offer it here for one take on this debate (it is only 2:42 so it won’t contribute much):

  • SKPeterson

    Todd @ 49 – I merely offered Koine up as an example of a contemporary band singing sound hymnody. I haven’t listened to their oeuvre (had to work that word in), beyond a few snippets here and there (actually on God Whisperers) , but I’ll give them props for effort.

    What I would really like to find would be the liturgical score(s?) that Dave Brubeck wrote ( I think he is Roman Catholic, but still… it’s Brubeck). Here’s a write-up, but I haven’t deep-searched YuoTube to find a performance, yet. http://www.nytimes.com/1990/02/19/arts/reviews-music-a-concert-of-the-sacred-from-dave-brubeck.html

    I would be intrigued at the possibility of doing a Brubeck liturgical piece in either the traditional or contemporary service settings and if it could be done adequately by small choir, organ, piano and minimal instrumentation.

    BTW – Megadeth came through Knoxville a few weeks ago. One of our pastors went to the show (he’s doing the radical leftist church plant now de rigeur in the LCMS Mid-South. I jest. Slightly.) and recorded a video message with Dave Ellefson. I offer it here for one take on this debate (it is only 2:42 so it won’t contribute much):

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #47,

    I was right with you until we landed here. With a thud. Why does a discussion of music in the church always have to become such a simplistic straw man? (This is a venting of my spleen, not directed to you in particular.)

    You acknowledge that people are struggling to engage content, and you followed my point that changing to a familiar form in no way assures that the content is conveyed.

    But then you say: “Play an ornate organ turn, and everyone will recognize that it’s likely church music (or at least something serious), whether they like it or not.”

    I don’t think that is true at all. Sure, for the Christian who has been mainstreamed into the culture of the church, a different “atmosphere” is conveyed by persisting in the unique sound of an obsolete instrument, but does it really convey, “Hey, that is God music!” to an outsider? There is a very large and growing percentage of people who have never been inside a church for whom it signifies nothing.

    Perhaps more to the point, does the sound of an organ tone in a renaissance style automatically lift the soul in true worship to God? It seems to me that people who are accustomed to let the content of everything from their food ingredients to their cell phone contract, not to mention the lyrics of their music, slide past their conscious mind are just as likely to let the contents of the hymnal liturgy slip past as well.

    If content is the issue, then content must be the issue. Not style.

    Besides, you touched on one of my peeves by sweeping the whole category of “contemporary” worship into the very particular corner of “non-lutheran churches doing rock concerts for people to try to be cool.” Non-lutheran churches who worship traditionally are just as bad. You know, content wise.

    I guess I have a hard time with this framing because I have always been a lyrics guy. If a song has lyrics that I can’t sing along with, I can’t listen to it, and if (as occasionally happens) I come to realize that a song I know has bad content, it ruins the song for me. So I guess I have always framed this as a content issue. A bad song is a bad song, whether it is contemporary or a hymn. Vice versa, a good song is a good song, whether or not I like the style.

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #47,

    I was right with you until we landed here. With a thud. Why does a discussion of music in the church always have to become such a simplistic straw man? (This is a venting of my spleen, not directed to you in particular.)

    You acknowledge that people are struggling to engage content, and you followed my point that changing to a familiar form in no way assures that the content is conveyed.

    But then you say: “Play an ornate organ turn, and everyone will recognize that it’s likely church music (or at least something serious), whether they like it or not.”

    I don’t think that is true at all. Sure, for the Christian who has been mainstreamed into the culture of the church, a different “atmosphere” is conveyed by persisting in the unique sound of an obsolete instrument, but does it really convey, “Hey, that is God music!” to an outsider? There is a very large and growing percentage of people who have never been inside a church for whom it signifies nothing.

    Perhaps more to the point, does the sound of an organ tone in a renaissance style automatically lift the soul in true worship to God? It seems to me that people who are accustomed to let the content of everything from their food ingredients to their cell phone contract, not to mention the lyrics of their music, slide past their conscious mind are just as likely to let the contents of the hymnal liturgy slip past as well.

    If content is the issue, then content must be the issue. Not style.

    Besides, you touched on one of my peeves by sweeping the whole category of “contemporary” worship into the very particular corner of “non-lutheran churches doing rock concerts for people to try to be cool.” Non-lutheran churches who worship traditionally are just as bad. You know, content wise.

    I guess I have a hard time with this framing because I have always been a lyrics guy. If a song has lyrics that I can’t sing along with, I can’t listen to it, and if (as occasionally happens) I come to realize that a song I know has bad content, it ruins the song for me. So I guess I have always framed this as a content issue. A bad song is a bad song, whether it is contemporary or a hymn. Vice versa, a good song is a good song, whether or not I like the style.

  • Joe

    Here is a very good post from another blog that discusses the principles of congregational signing. As you’ll see if you read it. The author posits how the “tools” of contemporary music can be used properly to lead a congregation. that is the point of church music — to lead the congregation in song, song that teaches doctrine. After all teaching doctrine is why Luther wrote his hymns.

    http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=11546

  • Joe

    Here is a very good post from another blog that discusses the principles of congregational signing. As you’ll see if you read it. The author posits how the “tools” of contemporary music can be used properly to lead a congregation. that is the point of church music — to lead the congregation in song, song that teaches doctrine. After all teaching doctrine is why Luther wrote his hymns.

    http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=11546

  • rlewer

    Traditional hymns have rhythms and melodies that make it easier for the words not to be overwhelmed by the music. We have generally taught that the music is there is support the words. That is different from what much of the modern world may be looking for. But then, perhaps the divine service should be different.

  • rlewer

    Traditional hymns have rhythms and melodies that make it easier for the words not to be overwhelmed by the music. We have generally taught that the music is there is support the words. That is different from what much of the modern world may be looking for. But then, perhaps the divine service should be different.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    The Medium is the Message, said Marshall McLuhan.

    A corollary, it seems, in modern Christian music is that The Form is the Content.

    And if you’ve heard the kind of stuff they play on the Calvary Chapel radio station in Albuquerque (KLYT 88.3, “Static Radio”), that should scare you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    The Medium is the Message, said Marshall McLuhan.

    A corollary, it seems, in modern Christian music is that The Form is the Content.

    And if you’ve heard the kind of stuff they play on the Calvary Chapel radio station in Albuquerque (KLYT 88.3, “Static Radio”), that should scare you.

  • Dan Kempin

    Joe, #52,

    A good article. Thanks.

    Mike, #54

    ” . . .it seems, in modern Christian music is that The Form is the Content.”

    Could you explain that more fully, perhaps with a specific example?

  • Dan Kempin

    Joe, #52,

    A good article. Thanks.

    Mike, #54

    ” . . .it seems, in modern Christian music is that The Form is the Content.”

    Could you explain that more fully, perhaps with a specific example?

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    We, a LCMS congregation, have hosted Koine in concert. They do a very good job and we use their arrangements in our contemporary service. It adds some great depth to the service.

    @47 as one who defends contemporary worship, I do not claim it is outreach, because I understand the average joe on the street doesn’t care what kind of music we are playing.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    We, a LCMS congregation, have hosted Koine in concert. They do a very good job and we use their arrangements in our contemporary service. It adds some great depth to the service.

    @47 as one who defends contemporary worship, I do not claim it is outreach, because I understand the average joe on the street doesn’t care what kind of music we are playing.

  • Joe

    Why does it have to be the average Joe …

  • Joe

    Why does it have to be the average Joe …

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @57 How about Joe Cool :D

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @57 How about Joe Cool :D

  • Joe

    I’ll take it.

  • Joe

    I’ll take it.

  • Grace

    Mike,

    You could always hide under the bed, with your teddy, or turn off the radio.

    I thought you were a big boy!

  • Grace

    Mike,

    You could always hide under the bed, with your teddy, or turn off the radio.

    I thought you were a big boy!

  • Freshie

    Rick Boshoven@26 seems to be arriving at the best critique of Dr. Veith’s post. I don’t think the majority of musicians are so intellectually superior to the masses to diabolically intend this separation of Form and Content. I sincerely doubt that John Lennon was thinking, “Muahahahahahaha! Oh yeah, this song will really get those intellectual Christians out there! They’ll be seething!” when he wrote “Imagine.” This doesn’t make the disconnect between Form and Content any better though, and I believe Aristotle would say ignorant malice is even worse. So, yes, we should notice the disconnect and then react appropriately to it, but I don’t think we should demonize modern musicians as villainous intellectual masterminds scheming the downfall of Western Culture through the corruption of Music, which seems to be the assumption that Dr. Veith and others on this comment thread are making.

  • Freshie

    Rick Boshoven@26 seems to be arriving at the best critique of Dr. Veith’s post. I don’t think the majority of musicians are so intellectually superior to the masses to diabolically intend this separation of Form and Content. I sincerely doubt that John Lennon was thinking, “Muahahahahahaha! Oh yeah, this song will really get those intellectual Christians out there! They’ll be seething!” when he wrote “Imagine.” This doesn’t make the disconnect between Form and Content any better though, and I believe Aristotle would say ignorant malice is even worse. So, yes, we should notice the disconnect and then react appropriately to it, but I don’t think we should demonize modern musicians as villainous intellectual masterminds scheming the downfall of Western Culture through the corruption of Music, which seems to be the assumption that Dr. Veith and others on this comment thread are making.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    No one needs to intend it. (Brecht did, but that’s different.) I’m sure most of them don’t. Many of them have the best of intentions. But they are naive when it comes to aesthetics. As are most of their audience. Nevertheless, the effects remain.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    No one needs to intend it. (Brecht did, but that’s different.) I’m sure most of them don’t. Many of them have the best of intentions. But they are naive when it comes to aesthetics. As are most of their audience. Nevertheless, the effects remain.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SK (@50), Pastor Matt is … one of your pastors? Really?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SK (@50), Pastor Matt is … one of your pastors? Really?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dan (@51), I’m not sure I get all of your comment, but from what I got, it seems that, in spite of your complaining about straw men, you’ve made something of one yourself.

    You asked:

    does the sound of an organ tone in a renaissance style automatically lift the soul in true worship to God?

    Which isn’t what I’d claimed. I said that, upon hearing an “ornate organ turn”,

    everyone will recognize that it’s likely church music (or at least something serious)

    Do you see anything there about “true worship”? I’m just pointing out that “classical” (loosely understood) organ music stands out in the modern day, apart from popular music. To a large degree, that’s true of any music from the (pipe) organ, though one will occasionally hear (pipe) organs in rock music. (But consider its use in “Let it Be”, in which it appears to actually be a reference to church music, in mocking contrast to the surrounding rock measures, for what that’s worth.)

    Sure, maybe “a very large and growing percentage of people … have never been inside a church”, but they still consume media, and, based on the little visual media I consume, churches are still associated with a particular type of organ music in the popular media. I’ll admit that worship services are depicted fairly rarely in TV and the movies, but I can’t recall any scenes of churches in which a “contemporary” praise band was playing up front.

    Of course, when churches are depicted, they tend to be of the ornate, lofty Catholic cathedral variety, because that’s a real quick cultural shorthand for “religion/worship/church”. Showing a modern megachurch setting would likely confuse the audience, or at least require more explanation, as it could look like any other large performance space. Same thing with trying to depict a religious leader who wears Ed Hardy shirts. It’s far easier to show a guy wearing a clerical collar than it is to have a guy looking like a Jersey Shore cameo explain his pastoral work with dialog.

    That was kind of my point. When our culture wants to depict Christianity/church/worship, it chooses these things (organ, cathedral, clerical get-up) because they are obviously different, because they work as shorthand to effectively convey these concepts.

    Besides, you touched on one of my peeves by sweeping the whole category of “contemporary” worship into the very particular corner of “non-lutheran churches doing rock concerts for people to try to be cool.”

    Did I? I don’t think I meant to, as such. My comments could just as easily have been confined within Lutheranism, with its “contemporary” vs. “traditional” struggles.

    But maybe there’s something to this just being about the different ways we approach things. You’re a self-avowed “lyrics guy”, I am not. Answers may vary.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dan (@51), I’m not sure I get all of your comment, but from what I got, it seems that, in spite of your complaining about straw men, you’ve made something of one yourself.

    You asked:

    does the sound of an organ tone in a renaissance style automatically lift the soul in true worship to God?

    Which isn’t what I’d claimed. I said that, upon hearing an “ornate organ turn”,

    everyone will recognize that it’s likely church music (or at least something serious)

    Do you see anything there about “true worship”? I’m just pointing out that “classical” (loosely understood) organ music stands out in the modern day, apart from popular music. To a large degree, that’s true of any music from the (pipe) organ, though one will occasionally hear (pipe) organs in rock music. (But consider its use in “Let it Be”, in which it appears to actually be a reference to church music, in mocking contrast to the surrounding rock measures, for what that’s worth.)

    Sure, maybe “a very large and growing percentage of people … have never been inside a church”, but they still consume media, and, based on the little visual media I consume, churches are still associated with a particular type of organ music in the popular media. I’ll admit that worship services are depicted fairly rarely in TV and the movies, but I can’t recall any scenes of churches in which a “contemporary” praise band was playing up front.

    Of course, when churches are depicted, they tend to be of the ornate, lofty Catholic cathedral variety, because that’s a real quick cultural shorthand for “religion/worship/church”. Showing a modern megachurch setting would likely confuse the audience, or at least require more explanation, as it could look like any other large performance space. Same thing with trying to depict a religious leader who wears Ed Hardy shirts. It’s far easier to show a guy wearing a clerical collar than it is to have a guy looking like a Jersey Shore cameo explain his pastoral work with dialog.

    That was kind of my point. When our culture wants to depict Christianity/church/worship, it chooses these things (organ, cathedral, clerical get-up) because they are obviously different, because they work as shorthand to effectively convey these concepts.

    Besides, you touched on one of my peeves by sweeping the whole category of “contemporary” worship into the very particular corner of “non-lutheran churches doing rock concerts for people to try to be cool.”

    Did I? I don’t think I meant to, as such. My comments could just as easily have been confined within Lutheranism, with its “contemporary” vs. “traditional” struggles.

    But maybe there’s something to this just being about the different ways we approach things. You’re a self-avowed “lyrics guy”, I am not. Answers may vary.

  • Grace

    There are all kinds of music, I love hymns, but I also enjoy music that uses many different instruments, more upbeat. Sunday morning Worship doesn’t need to be, nor is it hinted at in Scripture, it should be mournful, or so solemn that one thinks they had come to a funeral.

    King David brought up the Ark of the Covenant with lots of music. The Ark was a token of God’s presence, which is HOLY.

    King David gathers thirty thousand – David brings the Ark of the Covenant with cymbals, harps, timbrels cornets and trumpet, and danced before the LORD. This must have been a glorious sight, full of joy to the LORD, shouting and the trumpet. Nothing quiet about them, and King David dancing before the LORD.

    1 Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.

    2 And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubim.

    3
    And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart.

    4 And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark.

    5 And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.

    6 And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.

    7 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.

    8 And David was displeased, because the LORD had made a breach upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perezuzzah to this day.

    9 And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and said, How shall the ark of the LORD come to me?

    10 So David would not remove the ark of the LORD unto him into the city of David: but David carried it aside into the house of Obededom the Gittite.

    11 And the ark of the LORD continued in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months: and the LORD blessed Obededom, and all his household.

    12 And it was told king David, saying, The LORD hath blessed the house of Obededom, and all that pertaineth unto him, because of the ark of God. So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom into the city of David with gladness.

    13 And it was so, that when they that bare the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings.

    14 And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod.

    15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.
    2 Samuel 6

    I wonder what would happen in some of the ‘starchy churches if anyone did such a thing with joy and praise to the LORD.

  • Grace

    There are all kinds of music, I love hymns, but I also enjoy music that uses many different instruments, more upbeat. Sunday morning Worship doesn’t need to be, nor is it hinted at in Scripture, it should be mournful, or so solemn that one thinks they had come to a funeral.

    King David brought up the Ark of the Covenant with lots of music. The Ark was a token of God’s presence, which is HOLY.

    King David gathers thirty thousand – David brings the Ark of the Covenant with cymbals, harps, timbrels cornets and trumpet, and danced before the LORD. This must have been a glorious sight, full of joy to the LORD, shouting and the trumpet. Nothing quiet about them, and King David dancing before the LORD.

    1 Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.

    2 And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubim.

    3
    And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart.

    4 And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark.

    5 And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.

    6 And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.

    7 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.

    8 And David was displeased, because the LORD had made a breach upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perezuzzah to this day.

    9 And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and said, How shall the ark of the LORD come to me?

    10 So David would not remove the ark of the LORD unto him into the city of David: but David carried it aside into the house of Obededom the Gittite.

    11 And the ark of the LORD continued in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months: and the LORD blessed Obededom, and all his household.

    12 And it was told king David, saying, The LORD hath blessed the house of Obededom, and all that pertaineth unto him, because of the ark of God. So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom into the city of David with gladness.

    13 And it was so, that when they that bare the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings.

    14 And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod.

    15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.
    2 Samuel 6

    I wonder what would happen in some of the ‘starchy churches if anyone did such a thing with joy and praise to the LORD.

  • Grace

    It’s true that some churches have become wild with music, repeated over and over again, often referred to as 7/11 – meaning; seven verses, sung 11 times.

    The Bible speaks of holding up ones hands, in blessing to the LORD.

    1 Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD.

    2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD.

    3 The LORD that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.
    Psalms 134

  • Grace

    It’s true that some churches have become wild with music, repeated over and over again, often referred to as 7/11 – meaning; seven verses, sung 11 times.

    The Bible speaks of holding up ones hands, in blessing to the LORD.

    1 Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD.

    2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD.

    3 The LORD that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.
    Psalms 134

  • Grace

    Is church service just for congregants? Perhaps some churches might wish to put a “NOT INVITED” sign upon the door to those who are not members. Add to that; don’t try and teach new people about Jesus Christ, they can learn that somewhere else. I can see why some churches have few visitors, who in their right mind would feel comfortable in such a church.

    I’ve often been told that people don’t feel welcome in ‘some churches, it’s no wonder, they aren’t welcome. I’ve been to such churches, never to darken the door again.

    As for “rock concerts” on Sunday morning, I’ve never been to one, nor have I attended a church who did such things. I have no interest in night club type music, or “rock concerts” –

    Do any of you tell others about Christ? Do you spread the Gospel to others? Christ and HIS Apostles told anyone who would listen about Salvation, through believing in HIM as Savior.

    Did Jesus tell us to keep our candle hidden?

  • Grace

    Is church service just for congregants? Perhaps some churches might wish to put a “NOT INVITED” sign upon the door to those who are not members. Add to that; don’t try and teach new people about Jesus Christ, they can learn that somewhere else. I can see why some churches have few visitors, who in their right mind would feel comfortable in such a church.

    I’ve often been told that people don’t feel welcome in ‘some churches, it’s no wonder, they aren’t welcome. I’ve been to such churches, never to darken the door again.

    As for “rock concerts” on Sunday morning, I’ve never been to one, nor have I attended a church who did such things. I have no interest in night club type music, or “rock concerts” –

    Do any of you tell others about Christ? Do you spread the Gospel to others? Christ and HIS Apostles told anyone who would listen about Salvation, through believing in HIM as Savior.

    Did Jesus tell us to keep our candle hidden?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace (@65), if 2 Samuel 6 is to inform our aesthetic worship choices, then surely we would also do well to have half-naked dancing in our churches as well?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace (@65), if 2 Samuel 6 is to inform our aesthetic worship choices, then surely we would also do well to have half-naked dancing in our churches as well?

  • Grace

    Yes tODD, I understand – it’s OK :roll:

  • Grace

    Yes tODD, I understand – it’s OK :roll:

  • SKPeterson

    Todd @ 63 – Pr. Matt is not technically my pastor, but we support his mission, he relies on us for logistical support to some extent, and he occasionally preaches at our Wednesday night services. It is sort of like the mother congregation to daughter relationship where Matt has the daughter under his care. The funny thing is, Matt can absolutely nail the historic liturgy and he usually has very good sermons. And he’s a really nice guy which makes it hard for me to dog him too hard.

  • SKPeterson

    Todd @ 63 – Pr. Matt is not technically my pastor, but we support his mission, he relies on us for logistical support to some extent, and he occasionally preaches at our Wednesday night services. It is sort of like the mother congregation to daughter relationship where Matt has the daughter under his care. The funny thing is, Matt can absolutely nail the historic liturgy and he usually has very good sermons. And he’s a really nice guy which makes it hard for me to dog him too hard.

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #64,

    The point of my hperbolic comment on the organ was not to put the statement that “the sound of an organ tone in a renaissance style automatically lift[s] the soul in true worship to God” into your mouth, but to illustrate that you seemed to attach content to the form. Everybody knows that churches are different, sure. But that is about all they know from the sound of different music. Just as the culture uses a glimpse of a gothic church and a clerical collar to summarize the church, they also use those same images to dismiss it.

    Anyway, it’s not important.

    And for the record, my lament about the straw man was not really directed to you, but at the rather dismissive tone that usually develops when this issue is discussed. If you must know, it was sort of an “et tu,” since I rely on you for fair thinking and critical thought. You are the last person I would say that to with a straight face, so I suppose I should apologize for even throwing it out there.

    There are very legitimate concerns and criticisms regarding musical style in the church, but I do think that “style” has become a very convenient scapegoat for all the ills of the church.

    Oh, and to all and sundry: Is there any better example of the divorce between style and content than Elton John? Back me up? Anyone?

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #64,

    The point of my hperbolic comment on the organ was not to put the statement that “the sound of an organ tone in a renaissance style automatically lift[s] the soul in true worship to God” into your mouth, but to illustrate that you seemed to attach content to the form. Everybody knows that churches are different, sure. But that is about all they know from the sound of different music. Just as the culture uses a glimpse of a gothic church and a clerical collar to summarize the church, they also use those same images to dismiss it.

    Anyway, it’s not important.

    And for the record, my lament about the straw man was not really directed to you, but at the rather dismissive tone that usually develops when this issue is discussed. If you must know, it was sort of an “et tu,” since I rely on you for fair thinking and critical thought. You are the last person I would say that to with a straight face, so I suppose I should apologize for even throwing it out there.

    There are very legitimate concerns and criticisms regarding musical style in the church, but I do think that “style” has become a very convenient scapegoat for all the ills of the church.

    Oh, and to all and sundry: Is there any better example of the divorce between style and content than Elton John? Back me up? Anyone?

  • Grace

    Dan @ 71

    “Elton John” ? –

    I remember being very surprised when he sang, and accompanied himself on the piano at Princess Diana’s funeral at Westminster Abbey, song and all – I probably shouldn’t have been, but I was.

  • Grace

    Dan @ 71

    “Elton John” ? –

    I remember being very surprised when he sang, and accompanied himself on the piano at Princess Diana’s funeral at Westminster Abbey, song and all – I probably shouldn’t have been, but I was.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Joe @ 52, that is an EXCELLENT read, and it really captures my thoughts on why I have an overall negative attitude about contemporary worship: i.e.-it turns into something more associated with entertainment than worship. It becomes about the music as performance rather than supporting the lyrics being sung. It’s one of the reasons that I and my family (who are currently church-shopping) bristle whenever we see any contemporary instrumentation at the front of a sanctuary. It was one of the reasons I balked at the Lutheran service I attended a month ago, during which one of the “worship leaders” was (and I do not exaggerate here) whooping and hollering “Hallelujah!” and “Glory! Shout and sing!”

    I can’t go through that again. Surely there has to be something better in the Michigan area than this.

    R.C. Sproul said it well: there is a place for Christian entertainment, but not on Sunday morning.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Joe @ 52, that is an EXCELLENT read, and it really captures my thoughts on why I have an overall negative attitude about contemporary worship: i.e.-it turns into something more associated with entertainment than worship. It becomes about the music as performance rather than supporting the lyrics being sung. It’s one of the reasons that I and my family (who are currently church-shopping) bristle whenever we see any contemporary instrumentation at the front of a sanctuary. It was one of the reasons I balked at the Lutheran service I attended a month ago, during which one of the “worship leaders” was (and I do not exaggerate here) whooping and hollering “Hallelujah!” and “Glory! Shout and sing!”

    I can’t go through that again. Surely there has to be something better in the Michigan area than this.

    R.C. Sproul said it well: there is a place for Christian entertainment, but not on Sunday morning.

  • Dan Kempin

    Grace, #72,

    I suppose I would give an exception to “Candle in the wind” and “Empty garden,” but he can write and sing songs that are so powerfully evocative–they just seem to drip deeper meaning. But if you listen to the lyrics, they are ridiculous.

  • Dan Kempin

    Grace, #72,

    I suppose I would give an exception to “Candle in the wind” and “Empty garden,” but he can write and sing songs that are so powerfully evocative–they just seem to drip deeper meaning. But if you listen to the lyrics, they are ridiculous.

  • Dan Kempin

    J Dean, #73,

    I can’t speak for the church you visited, but I have been privileged to worship with lutheran brothers and sisters from Liberia. They “whooped and hollered” quite a lot, and danced and clapped as well. It was very different for me to get used to, and it was wonderful. I can assure you that it was not about entertainment.

  • Dan Kempin

    J Dean, #73,

    I can’t speak for the church you visited, but I have been privileged to worship with lutheran brothers and sisters from Liberia. They “whooped and hollered” quite a lot, and danced and clapped as well. It was very different for me to get used to, and it was wonderful. I can assure you that it was not about entertainment.

  • Grace

    Dan

    The music Elton John writes is memorable, but the lyrics are not.

    Your comments in @ 75 are much the same as Messianic Jews. They are so joyful, as they Worship the risen Christ our Savior.

  • Grace

    Dan

    The music Elton John writes is memorable, but the lyrics are not.

    Your comments in @ 75 are much the same as Messianic Jews. They are so joyful, as they Worship the risen Christ our Savior.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    NB (cf. @71): Elton John didn’t write most of his own lyrics. Bernie Taupin did. Cue obligatory Wikipedia quote:

    Taupin’s lyrics include such tunes as “Rocket Man”, “Levon”, “Crocodile Rock”, “Honky Cat”, “Tiny Dancer”, “Candle in the Wind”, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”, “Bennie and the Jets”, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, “The Bitch is Back”, “Daniel”, and 1970′s “Your Song”, their first hit. Hits in the 1980s include “I’m Still Standing”, “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues”, “Sad Songs (Say So Much)”, and “Nikita.” In the 1990s, Taupin and John had more hits, including “The One”, “Simple Life”, “The Last Song” and “Believe.” In September 1997, Taupin rewrote the lyrics of “Candle in the Wind” for “Candle in the Wind 1997″, a tribute to the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    NB (cf. @71): Elton John didn’t write most of his own lyrics. Bernie Taupin did. Cue obligatory Wikipedia quote:

    Taupin’s lyrics include such tunes as “Rocket Man”, “Levon”, “Crocodile Rock”, “Honky Cat”, “Tiny Dancer”, “Candle in the Wind”, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”, “Bennie and the Jets”, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, “The Bitch is Back”, “Daniel”, and 1970′s “Your Song”, their first hit. Hits in the 1980s include “I’m Still Standing”, “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues”, “Sad Songs (Say So Much)”, and “Nikita.” In the 1990s, Taupin and John had more hits, including “The One”, “Simple Life”, “The Last Song” and “Believe.” In September 1997, Taupin rewrote the lyrics of “Candle in the Wind” for “Candle in the Wind 1997″, a tribute to the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Also, if you can’t see the deep, deep — did I mention deep? — symbolism imbued in lines like:

    Back to the howling old owl in the woods
    Hunting the horny back toad

    …then I’m afraid I can’t help you. That’s, like, Shakespeare-level literarinessity. Maybe even Double Shakespeare.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Also, if you can’t see the deep, deep — did I mention deep? — symbolism imbued in lines like:

    Back to the howling old owl in the woods
    Hunting the horny back toad

    …then I’m afraid I can’t help you. That’s, like, Shakespeare-level literarinessity. Maybe even Double Shakespeare.

  • Grace

    LOL -

    Who would have ever compared Elton John to _______.

    Oh that’s “deep” – but it depends ON, “deep” into _____! :lol:

  • Grace

    LOL -

    Who would have ever compared Elton John to _______.

    Oh that’s “deep” – but it depends ON, “deep” into _____! :lol:

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #77,

    I did not know that.

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #77,

    I did not know that.

  • Dan Kempin

    Great. Now I have an Elton John song in my head. And the little twist of lime that make me share that on this thread? I literally don’t know the words. I know a phrase, or most of a phrase, but that’s all. Yet the song is still in my head. As a lyrics guy, that is very frustrating. Arrgh! I am being brainwashed by the overwhelming power of form!

  • Dan Kempin

    Great. Now I have an Elton John song in my head. And the little twist of lime that make me share that on this thread? I literally don’t know the words. I know a phrase, or most of a phrase, but that’s all. Yet the song is still in my head. As a lyrics guy, that is very frustrating. Arrgh! I am being brainwashed by the overwhelming power of form!

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Dan,

    I’m not disputing that your experience in Liberia was a very sincere one. Theirs is a very different culture, and one that is accustomed to a more extroverted and rhythmic expression of faith-and in and of itself that’s not a bad thing. I’ll bet, however, that the songs you guys were singing had real doctrinal substance to them.

    I’ll also bet that the congregation was not doing what they did to take attention off God. Rhythm and clapping and polyphonic harmony and the like are in themselves certainly not sinful. But what I’ve run into here in the States with regard to contemporary worship is the error that this entire thread addresses: that the form can and does affect the content, and not always in a positive way.

    When you have a worship leader blurting out shouts in the middle of an already theologically weak song (and I mean “weak” in the sense that you could have arranged and played a couple of these songs on a secular radio station), that’s not worship: that’s a concert sing-along. Worship engages the mind first and foremost; the emotions are secondary, and are supplemental and peripheral, not central, to our adoration of God.

    Again, to be clear, this does not mean a worship service should be emotionless. On the contrary, I have been moved and stirred deeply when contemplating the meaning of hymns like “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” or “When I survey the wonderous cross.” Maturity in the faith has done much to make me realize how precious and beautiful sound doctrine is, especially concerning the gospel, and such thoughts in the mind of a regenerate person should rightly arouse our affections.

    But I am careful not to make that affection a distraction to other people in worship. I do not have the right to take my emotional response to such a degree as to make myself the point of attention in a service, such as I have seen in the past by people running down aisles or standing up and acting in a way that takes the minds of others off God and causes them to focus upon my extrovertion. If I’m doing that, then I’m doing a disservice to the other congregants, and am sinning against God. There is a reason why Paul orders the Corinthian church to do things decently and in order; a worship service is done to the glory of God, not the glory of man.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Dan,

    I’m not disputing that your experience in Liberia was a very sincere one. Theirs is a very different culture, and one that is accustomed to a more extroverted and rhythmic expression of faith-and in and of itself that’s not a bad thing. I’ll bet, however, that the songs you guys were singing had real doctrinal substance to them.

    I’ll also bet that the congregation was not doing what they did to take attention off God. Rhythm and clapping and polyphonic harmony and the like are in themselves certainly not sinful. But what I’ve run into here in the States with regard to contemporary worship is the error that this entire thread addresses: that the form can and does affect the content, and not always in a positive way.

    When you have a worship leader blurting out shouts in the middle of an already theologically weak song (and I mean “weak” in the sense that you could have arranged and played a couple of these songs on a secular radio station), that’s not worship: that’s a concert sing-along. Worship engages the mind first and foremost; the emotions are secondary, and are supplemental and peripheral, not central, to our adoration of God.

    Again, to be clear, this does not mean a worship service should be emotionless. On the contrary, I have been moved and stirred deeply when contemplating the meaning of hymns like “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” or “When I survey the wonderous cross.” Maturity in the faith has done much to make me realize how precious and beautiful sound doctrine is, especially concerning the gospel, and such thoughts in the mind of a regenerate person should rightly arouse our affections.

    But I am careful not to make that affection a distraction to other people in worship. I do not have the right to take my emotional response to such a degree as to make myself the point of attention in a service, such as I have seen in the past by people running down aisles or standing up and acting in a way that takes the minds of others off God and causes them to focus upon my extrovertion. If I’m doing that, then I’m doing a disservice to the other congregants, and am sinning against God. There is a reason why Paul orders the Corinthian church to do things decently and in order; a worship service is done to the glory of God, not the glory of man.

  • WebMonk

    I don’t know about Dan’s experience, but no, I doubt they had any more “real doctrinal substance” than many praise choruses. In India, anyway, the songs are roughly equivalent to “As The Deer”, “His Name Is Wonderful”, “Our God Is An Awesome God”, or even “I Love You Lord”. (and that’s from GFA-planted churches, not ones planted by a particular US denomination that might tend to spread their own songs)

    From what I’ve heard from missionaries to Africa, the same is true there. One description I particularly remember was “For twenty minutes we sang _____” and while I don’t remember the exact phrase, it was a two-line song. Twenty minutes. Makes five minutes of singing “I Love You Lord” sound downright complicated! (the missionary supports missionaries from lots of different denoms)

  • WebMonk

    I don’t know about Dan’s experience, but no, I doubt they had any more “real doctrinal substance” than many praise choruses. In India, anyway, the songs are roughly equivalent to “As The Deer”, “His Name Is Wonderful”, “Our God Is An Awesome God”, or even “I Love You Lord”. (and that’s from GFA-planted churches, not ones planted by a particular US denomination that might tend to spread their own songs)

    From what I’ve heard from missionaries to Africa, the same is true there. One description I particularly remember was “For twenty minutes we sang _____” and while I don’t remember the exact phrase, it was a two-line song. Twenty minutes. Makes five minutes of singing “I Love You Lord” sound downright complicated! (the missionary supports missionaries from lots of different denoms)

  • Dan Kempin

    J Dean, #82,

    First of all, I wasn’t in Liberia. They were here in America. I’d love to go some day, though.

    “I’ll bet, however, that the songs you guys were singing had real doctrinal substance to them.”

    So it’s about content, then.

    “Rhythm and clapping and polyphonic harmony and the like are in themselves certainly not sinful . . . But . . . the form can and does affect the content.”

    So again, it’s about content.

    “Worship engages the mind . . . ”

    Content.

    ” . . . how precious and beautiful sound doctrine is . . . and such thoughts . . . should rightly arouse our affections.”

    Content leads response.

    So in summary: Content, content, content, and content.

    I agree.

  • Dan Kempin

    J Dean, #82,

    First of all, I wasn’t in Liberia. They were here in America. I’d love to go some day, though.

    “I’ll bet, however, that the songs you guys were singing had real doctrinal substance to them.”

    So it’s about content, then.

    “Rhythm and clapping and polyphonic harmony and the like are in themselves certainly not sinful . . . But . . . the form can and does affect the content.”

    So again, it’s about content.

    “Worship engages the mind . . . ”

    Content.

    ” . . . how precious and beautiful sound doctrine is . . . and such thoughts . . . should rightly arouse our affections.”

    Content leads response.

    So in summary: Content, content, content, and content.

    I agree.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    WebMonk (@83) said:

    I don’t know about Dan’s experience, but no, I doubt they had any more “real doctrinal substance” than many praise choruses.

    Hmm. It’s curious that your guess from ignorance as to the doctrinal substance of Liberian Lutheran worship songs is informed by whatever it is that you know about the doctrinal substance of Indian Baptist/Bible-church worship songs.

    I think you’re missing the key difference there.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    WebMonk (@83) said:

    I don’t know about Dan’s experience, but no, I doubt they had any more “real doctrinal substance” than many praise choruses.

    Hmm. It’s curious that your guess from ignorance as to the doctrinal substance of Liberian Lutheran worship songs is informed by whatever it is that you know about the doctrinal substance of Indian Baptist/Bible-church worship songs.

    I think you’re missing the key difference there.

  • WebMonk

    Maybe I wasn’t clear tODD. It’s not quite a guess from ignorance, but rather an estimate from admittedly anecdotal evidence.

    It’s from my own experience of the singing in churches in India, and from the particular statement of a missionary who supported missionaries from many different denominations. Those also mesh with the general descriptions I’ve gotten talking with missionaries to South America, the Philippines, and with students who have gone on missions trips to several different countries in Africa. My experiences in Chinese or Korean churches are all here in the States, but they seem to have as much variety as other US denominations. I can’t read Chinese or Korean, so I have no clue about the vocal content of their music.

    GFA is strongly native driven. The “twenty minute” account didn’t mention to which denomination that church belongs, though most of his pictures had leaders in the front with clerical collars – not something I typically associate with Baptist or Charismatic churches. :-)

    It’s certainly not a statement based on a rigorous investigation of native church practices in Africa, but it’s not quite merely a guess from ignorance.

    (I thought Dan was talking about a church in Africa, though. I haven’t the foggiest clue what the musical norms in a Liberian Lutheran church in America are. Dan, I’m curious – did they use traditional Lutheran hymns?)

  • WebMonk

    Maybe I wasn’t clear tODD. It’s not quite a guess from ignorance, but rather an estimate from admittedly anecdotal evidence.

    It’s from my own experience of the singing in churches in India, and from the particular statement of a missionary who supported missionaries from many different denominations. Those also mesh with the general descriptions I’ve gotten talking with missionaries to South America, the Philippines, and with students who have gone on missions trips to several different countries in Africa. My experiences in Chinese or Korean churches are all here in the States, but they seem to have as much variety as other US denominations. I can’t read Chinese or Korean, so I have no clue about the vocal content of their music.

    GFA is strongly native driven. The “twenty minute” account didn’t mention to which denomination that church belongs, though most of his pictures had leaders in the front with clerical collars – not something I typically associate with Baptist or Charismatic churches. :-)

    It’s certainly not a statement based on a rigorous investigation of native church practices in Africa, but it’s not quite merely a guess from ignorance.

    (I thought Dan was talking about a church in Africa, though. I haven’t the foggiest clue what the musical norms in a Liberian Lutheran church in America are. Dan, I’m curious – did they use traditional Lutheran hymns?)

  • SKPeterson

    Hmmm. This is what I think of when I think if African worship services. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-0umIJ6onAM#!

  • SKPeterson

    Hmmm. This is what I think of when I think if African worship services. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-0umIJ6onAM#!

  • Joanne

    I have ears that at certain types of noises and how loud they are, cannot hear the spoken word in the human voice. I can hear a conversation in the kitchen perfectly well until someone turns on the water faucet. Then I can hear voice sounds, but not words. It’s very annoying. I remember at a younger age being able to hear words through noise, so I sharply resent what I consider a deterioration in my hearing.

    I mention this to say that drums, steel guitars, and loud sharp metallic noices block out words for me. I hear the singing, but I have no idea what the words beging sung are. Most rock music is a word block for my ears, except the slow-dancing music. I guess the last time I could hear rock lyrics was the cute little songs the Beatles sang.

    Now, I do listen to a lot of music, and Renaissance is one of my favorites, but it is most definitely an acquired taste. Listen to a Johan Walther passion (did he write passion music?) and then listen to Bach’s passion music, like say the St. Matthew Passion, and there is no comparison. Early music is very hard to perform in a manner that modern people will find lovely, but just hum 3 bars of JS Bach and several people within earshot will start to tap their toes. Late-baroque music is very accesable to us, just think of Haendel’s Hallilujah Chorus. Easy to like, easy to hear the words, easy to feel adoration for our Messiah.

    T

  • Joanne

    I have ears that at certain types of noises and how loud they are, cannot hear the spoken word in the human voice. I can hear a conversation in the kitchen perfectly well until someone turns on the water faucet. Then I can hear voice sounds, but not words. It’s very annoying. I remember at a younger age being able to hear words through noise, so I sharply resent what I consider a deterioration in my hearing.

    I mention this to say that drums, steel guitars, and loud sharp metallic noices block out words for me. I hear the singing, but I have no idea what the words beging sung are. Most rock music is a word block for my ears, except the slow-dancing music. I guess the last time I could hear rock lyrics was the cute little songs the Beatles sang.

    Now, I do listen to a lot of music, and Renaissance is one of my favorites, but it is most definitely an acquired taste. Listen to a Johan Walther passion (did he write passion music?) and then listen to Bach’s passion music, like say the St. Matthew Passion, and there is no comparison. Early music is very hard to perform in a manner that modern people will find lovely, but just hum 3 bars of JS Bach and several people within earshot will start to tap their toes. Late-baroque music is very accesable to us, just think of Haendel’s Hallilujah Chorus. Easy to like, easy to hear the words, easy to feel adoration for our Messiah.

    T

  • Grace

    SKPeterson @ 87

    I have heard many such services from Africa since I was a child. I’ve known many, many missionaries. They are dedicated to giving out the Gospel and healing the sick.

    Are you offended by the way they sing?

  • Grace

    SKPeterson @ 87

    I have heard many such services from Africa since I was a child. I’ve known many, many missionaries. They are dedicated to giving out the Gospel and healing the sick.

    Are you offended by the way they sing?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace (@89), you don’t know what that song is, do you? Or else I doubt you would’ve asked SK that.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Grace (@89), you don’t know what that song is, do you? Or else I doubt you would’ve asked SK that.

  • Joanne

    Three things I didn’t know:

    1) In Germany in Evangelical churches, the service begins with the ringing of the bells at the stated start time, so at 10:30 the bells of St. Mary’s at Wittenberg peel for about 5 minutes and the preacher processes into the sanctuary from the west door. Then while the whole assymbly is seated quitely in their pew seat, the professional organist plays the prelude to absolute silence and no movement. The pastor announces the invocation and we sing the first hymn, usually the one that the prelude was based upon.

    Now, did you get that? The prelude is considered a part of the service and has a message that we must sit quitely through in aural attention. Music by theology is not background sound meant to hush the bumping and thumping of the attendees entering and leaving the church. There is no sound at all until the invocation; we enter silently and leave silently (gotta sit there and listen to the message of the postlude too).

    Now, unless I hear the melodie of a hymn in a pre/postlude, I don’t get a message from organ music. Contrary to what we all think, much of Bach’s and all of his larger organ compositions (e.g. Passacaglia & Fugue in ?) were not written for performance during the church service, but for concert music. I know this and I listen to a lot of organ music, so for me, just the sound of an organ does not mean God to me nor Christian worship.

  • Joanne

    Three things I didn’t know:

    1) In Germany in Evangelical churches, the service begins with the ringing of the bells at the stated start time, so at 10:30 the bells of St. Mary’s at Wittenberg peel for about 5 minutes and the preacher processes into the sanctuary from the west door. Then while the whole assymbly is seated quitely in their pew seat, the professional organist plays the prelude to absolute silence and no movement. The pastor announces the invocation and we sing the first hymn, usually the one that the prelude was based upon.

    Now, did you get that? The prelude is considered a part of the service and has a message that we must sit quitely through in aural attention. Music by theology is not background sound meant to hush the bumping and thumping of the attendees entering and leaving the church. There is no sound at all until the invocation; we enter silently and leave silently (gotta sit there and listen to the message of the postlude too).

    Now, unless I hear the melodie of a hymn in a pre/postlude, I don’t get a message from organ music. Contrary to what we all think, much of Bach’s and all of his larger organ compositions (e.g. Passacaglia & Fugue in ?) were not written for performance during the church service, but for concert music. I know this and I listen to a lot of organ music, so for me, just the sound of an organ does not mean God to me nor Christian worship.

  • Grace

    tODD @90

    MY COMMENT @89 “Are you offended by the way they sing?”

    The “way” NOT “what the song is” –
    :roll:

  • Grace

    tODD @90

    MY COMMENT @89 “Are you offended by the way they sing?”

    The “way” NOT “what the song is” –
    :roll:

  • Dan Kempin

    Joanne, #88

    “I mention this to say that drums, steel guitars, and loud sharp metallic noices block out words for me. I hear the singing, but I have no idea what the words beging sung are. Most rock music is a word block for my ears,”

    Now there is a good example of form inhibiting content. Often contemporary instrumentation and amplification are too bright or muddy or fuzzy to clearly hear the words. Why would I want to do that if content is my goal?

    Webmonk, #86,

    My brothers and sisters in Christ are refugees from Liberia who became members of my (former) lutheran church in Minnesota. They worshipped on Sunday morning and sang the hymns and liturgy with everyone else. On Saturday nights we had a smaller service of the Word that was done “Liberian style.” Many of the songs they had brought with them. Some they had written in the refugee camp. Some of them I knew and some of them I learned. The best description I could give for the style would be uninhibited. (And involving truly difficult syncopation and dancing.) They were not afraid to sing and dance very energetically, and they exhorted and encouraged one another with sincerity and emotion. But since they were just as sincere and uninhibited every other day of the week, it did not once strike me as contrived or manipulative. I learned a lot from them, actually.

  • Dan Kempin

    Joanne, #88

    “I mention this to say that drums, steel guitars, and loud sharp metallic noices block out words for me. I hear the singing, but I have no idea what the words beging sung are. Most rock music is a word block for my ears,”

    Now there is a good example of form inhibiting content. Often contemporary instrumentation and amplification are too bright or muddy or fuzzy to clearly hear the words. Why would I want to do that if content is my goal?

    Webmonk, #86,

    My brothers and sisters in Christ are refugees from Liberia who became members of my (former) lutheran church in Minnesota. They worshipped on Sunday morning and sang the hymns and liturgy with everyone else. On Saturday nights we had a smaller service of the Word that was done “Liberian style.” Many of the songs they had brought with them. Some they had written in the refugee camp. Some of them I knew and some of them I learned. The best description I could give for the style would be uninhibited. (And involving truly difficult syncopation and dancing.) They were not afraid to sing and dance very energetically, and they exhorted and encouraged one another with sincerity and emotion. But since they were just as sincere and uninhibited every other day of the week, it did not once strike me as contrived or manipulative. I learned a lot from them, actually.

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #90,

    I don’t know that song, either. I don’t speak French.

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #90,

    I don’t know that song, either. I don’t speak French.

  • Joanne

    2) At Bach’s time in Leipzig (1723-1750) it had long been the practice that after the organist played the prelude to a hymn, the organist stopped playing and special “strong” singers lead the assymbly in singing the hymn without accompaniment.

    I was gobsmacked when I read that and had to read it over and over to be sure. There in the loft is the huge organ, there is Johann Sebastian Bach sitting on the organ bench and the congregation is singing only with the help of lead singers to keep them on pitch, in key, and on tempo. Yeah, try that down at “Rack of Lamb” Lutheran church next Sunday.

    I think the choirboys sang along so that would have been helpful as well.

    Is this another theologically bound non-use of music because the words of the hymn were so important that we couldn’t take any chance that they won’t be clearly heard? No chance that the organ might over-power the sound of the hymn words?

  • Joanne

    2) At Bach’s time in Leipzig (1723-1750) it had long been the practice that after the organist played the prelude to a hymn, the organist stopped playing and special “strong” singers lead the assymbly in singing the hymn without accompaniment.

    I was gobsmacked when I read that and had to read it over and over to be sure. There in the loft is the huge organ, there is Johann Sebastian Bach sitting on the organ bench and the congregation is singing only with the help of lead singers to keep them on pitch, in key, and on tempo. Yeah, try that down at “Rack of Lamb” Lutheran church next Sunday.

    I think the choirboys sang along so that would have been helpful as well.

    Is this another theologically bound non-use of music because the words of the hymn were so important that we couldn’t take any chance that they won’t be clearly heard? No chance that the organ might over-power the sound of the hymn words?

  • Dan Kempin

    SK, #87,

    A bit more like this:

  • Dan Kempin

    SK, #87,

    A bit more like this:

  • Grace

    Dan @93

    Your rich memories of friends and family from Liberia, dancing, and singing are most interesting.

  • Grace

    Dan @93

    Your rich memories of friends and family from Liberia, dancing, and singing are most interesting.

  • Joanne

    3) We’ve all been sitting through, observing, a Latin Roman Mass when suddenly the phone rings. Happens at every mass right when the words of consecration are said.

    Well, did you know that the Lutherans at Bach’s time in Leipzig also got a phone ring at that same time in their

  • Joanne

    3) We’ve all been sitting through, observing, a Latin Roman Mass when suddenly the phone rings. Happens at every mass right when the words of consecration are said.

    Well, did you know that the Lutherans at Bach’s time in Leipzig also got a phone ring at that same time in their

  • SKPeterson

    Grace @ 92. As Todd alluded. Absolutely not. I think it is a very, very good version of “A Might Fortress Is Our God.” In French! From Africa! THAT is awesome. I also like this one, which is a Congolese take on Psalm 23. Apparently a well-known local favorite as they aren’t using the hymnals.

    Here, I would say that form does not overwhelm content, but provides a fantastic complement.

  • SKPeterson

    Grace @ 92. As Todd alluded. Absolutely not. I think it is a very, very good version of “A Might Fortress Is Our God.” In French! From Africa! THAT is awesome. I also like this one, which is a Congolese take on Psalm 23. Apparently a well-known local favorite as they aren’t using the hymnals.

    Here, I would say that form does not overwhelm content, but provides a fantastic complement.

  • Dan Kempin

    Thank you, Grace. This conversation has made me nostalgic. I miss them.

  • Dan Kempin

    Thank you, Grace. This conversation has made me nostalgic. I miss them.

  • Joanne

    3) We’ve all been sitting through, observing, a Latin Roman Mass when suddenly the phone rings. Happens at every mass right when the words of consecration are said.

    Well, did you know that the Lutherans at Bach’s time in Leipzig also got a phone ring at that same time in their Divine Liturgy when the words of consecration were read out over the elephants, er elements? The sacristan/sexton would approach the side of the altar, kneel, and ring a hand bell loudly when the consecration took place. This practice continued in Leipzig through the 18th century.

    Is ringing a handbell music? Can be.

    So, that’s 3 things I didn’t know about Lutheran worship and the use of sound at Bach’s time and later.

  • Joanne

    3) We’ve all been sitting through, observing, a Latin Roman Mass when suddenly the phone rings. Happens at every mass right when the words of consecration are said.

    Well, did you know that the Lutherans at Bach’s time in Leipzig also got a phone ring at that same time in their Divine Liturgy when the words of consecration were read out over the elephants, er elements? The sacristan/sexton would approach the side of the altar, kneel, and ring a hand bell loudly when the consecration took place. This practice continued in Leipzig through the 18th century.

    Is ringing a handbell music? Can be.

    So, that’s 3 things I didn’t know about Lutheran worship and the use of sound at Bach’s time and later.

  • Grace

    SKPeterson @ 99

    Such a treat – BEAUTIFUL!

    While listening and watching, I thought of “The Marriage Feast” when we will all sit together, understanding one another.

    God bless all Believers around the world – one day we will all come together to Worship the LORD our God.

    Thank you SKP

  • Grace

    SKPeterson @ 99

    Such a treat – BEAUTIFUL!

    While listening and watching, I thought of “The Marriage Feast” when we will all sit together, understanding one another.

    God bless all Believers around the world – one day we will all come together to Worship the LORD our God.

    Thank you SKP

  • Grace

    Dan @ 100 :)

    This interchange has been very uplifting. Thanks to everyone participating.

    Blessings to you Dan

  • Grace

    Dan @ 100 :)

    This interchange has been very uplifting. Thanks to everyone participating.

    Blessings to you Dan

  • Dan Kempin

    Grace, #102,

    “God bless all Believers around the world – one day we will all come together to Worship the LORD our God.”

    Amen to that! Come, Lord Jesus!

  • Dan Kempin

    Grace, #102,

    “God bless all Believers around the world – one day we will all come together to Worship the LORD our God.”

    Amen to that! Come, Lord Jesus!

  • SKPeterson

    Dan – I like the Liberians too. :)

  • SKPeterson

    Dan – I like the Liberians too. :)

  • Joanne

    Does anyone remember the movie “10″ (1979, Dudley Moore and Bo Derek)?

    Do you rememger that the sex music (used as a sound gag) was Maurice Ravel’s 1928 “Bolero?”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bol%C3%A9ro

    Now this is the type of sex music we should play in church, or not?

    We are what we feel. One man’s comical sex music is another’s ballet. If the Monk doesn’t feel music in his pelvis, then no music will ever be sex music for him.

    And, we don’t know what we don’t feel except when others tell us that there are these other feelings out there that many people do feel. We still don’t know what we don’t feel, but at least we know of the feeling.

    I honestly do tap my toes to Bach. Happy and secure are feelings I get from much of Bach’s music. He really gets the theology and the faith just right as our most recent evidence (Calov Bible) indicates along with the title listing of his library at his death.

    The words lead the music, as when in the St. Matthew Passion the cock crows and so does the music. But you might be surprised that many think that Bach is too modern and flashy for the Lutheran divine service. Take a quick listen to Heinrich Schuetz’s St. Matthew Passion if you want to hear the huge difference to what the Lutherans were expecting that Good Friday afternoon when Bach blew them out of their seats.

    And, it’s not easy to sing as Bach is, and if not performed by the best can sound very clunky when etherial was the composer’s aim. While listening to Renaissance or early Baroque, I’m always anxiously trying to help the singers. I’m exhausted after a Schuetz piece. (But do you notice the primacy of chanting the passion story from the Bible in this Schuetz passion. There is very little else.)

    The Lutheran composers used the musical styles that were available to them. I would expect that a lovely and insightful anthem could be made of the Beatles song, “Yesterday.” It could very obviously form the basis of an aria in a modern styled passion, using a Christian message of course.

    And yet, enough of us respond to music with such similar feelings that musicians and philosophers still want to talk objectively about the mood making of music. And there must be something to it since we regularly see huge crowds of people moving and jiving to concert music in cow pastures at high volume. Because, when the booming stops, so does the behavior of the crowd. Music must have an objective and a subject reality.

    In religion we train the ear to the objective by tieing the music to the Word and the activity, or not?

  • Joanne

    Does anyone remember the movie “10″ (1979, Dudley Moore and Bo Derek)?

    Do you rememger that the sex music (used as a sound gag) was Maurice Ravel’s 1928 “Bolero?”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bol%C3%A9ro

    Now this is the type of sex music we should play in church, or not?

    We are what we feel. One man’s comical sex music is another’s ballet. If the Monk doesn’t feel music in his pelvis, then no music will ever be sex music for him.

    And, we don’t know what we don’t feel except when others tell us that there are these other feelings out there that many people do feel. We still don’t know what we don’t feel, but at least we know of the feeling.

    I honestly do tap my toes to Bach. Happy and secure are feelings I get from much of Bach’s music. He really gets the theology and the faith just right as our most recent evidence (Calov Bible) indicates along with the title listing of his library at his death.

    The words lead the music, as when in the St. Matthew Passion the cock crows and so does the music. But you might be surprised that many think that Bach is too modern and flashy for the Lutheran divine service. Take a quick listen to Heinrich Schuetz’s St. Matthew Passion if you want to hear the huge difference to what the Lutherans were expecting that Good Friday afternoon when Bach blew them out of their seats.

    And, it’s not easy to sing as Bach is, and if not performed by the best can sound very clunky when etherial was the composer’s aim. While listening to Renaissance or early Baroque, I’m always anxiously trying to help the singers. I’m exhausted after a Schuetz piece. (But do you notice the primacy of chanting the passion story from the Bible in this Schuetz passion. There is very little else.)

    The Lutheran composers used the musical styles that were available to them. I would expect that a lovely and insightful anthem could be made of the Beatles song, “Yesterday.” It could very obviously form the basis of an aria in a modern styled passion, using a Christian message of course.

    And yet, enough of us respond to music with such similar feelings that musicians and philosophers still want to talk objectively about the mood making of music. And there must be something to it since we regularly see huge crowds of people moving and jiving to concert music in cow pastures at high volume. Because, when the booming stops, so does the behavior of the crowd. Music must have an objective and a subject reality.

    In religion we train the ear to the objective by tieing the music to the Word and the activity, or not?

  • WebMonk

    Dan 93, I was interested in the lyrics. I 100% agree that the music involved in a lot of native African rhythm is extremely complex with many, many layers to it. The same is true of Indian music – some of their music has three or four full harmonies going on simultaneously with the melody often switching between them.

    From my individual exposure and anecdotal accounts, the Indian and African lyrics are “simple” compared to the intricate theological statements in songs like “A Mighty Fortress”. (to avoid misunderstanding, simple != bad or deficient.)

    Does that match what you got of the lyrics in the Liberian service?

  • WebMonk

    Dan 93, I was interested in the lyrics. I 100% agree that the music involved in a lot of native African rhythm is extremely complex with many, many layers to it. The same is true of Indian music – some of their music has three or four full harmonies going on simultaneously with the melody often switching between them.

    From my individual exposure and anecdotal accounts, the Indian and African lyrics are “simple” compared to the intricate theological statements in songs like “A Mighty Fortress”. (to avoid misunderstanding, simple != bad or deficient.)

    Does that match what you got of the lyrics in the Liberian service?

  • Dan Kempin

    Webmonk,

    I’m not really sure what you are driving at, but yes, most of the songs were “simpler” songs, written to be remembered rather than read from a hymnal. I would say that the “form” of their corporate expression was influenced by the years they spent without hymnals, instruments, or building. It was rather ingenious, I thought, the beauty and depth of the expression that they were able to achieve with what we would call “nothing.” Just their minds, memories, hands and feet. (It makes me wonder what our hymnody would look like if we were deprived of these things and had to worship from memory for a few years. Seriously.)

    This evolution of form undoubtedly influenced the content, and I would say the songs and hymns they used in the camp (and retained) had a theological focus that emphasized very prominently the here and now. God’s daily providence, the gift of life given each day, and just plain gratitude to God for every blessing–often enumerated in great detail–these were habituated very tone of worship. I found it a very salutary emphasis, actually, and one that is often absent in our churches, due to the security of wealth.

    Or are you looking for specific examples of song lyrics?

  • Dan Kempin

    Webmonk,

    I’m not really sure what you are driving at, but yes, most of the songs were “simpler” songs, written to be remembered rather than read from a hymnal. I would say that the “form” of their corporate expression was influenced by the years they spent without hymnals, instruments, or building. It was rather ingenious, I thought, the beauty and depth of the expression that they were able to achieve with what we would call “nothing.” Just their minds, memories, hands and feet. (It makes me wonder what our hymnody would look like if we were deprived of these things and had to worship from memory for a few years. Seriously.)

    This evolution of form undoubtedly influenced the content, and I would say the songs and hymns they used in the camp (and retained) had a theological focus that emphasized very prominently the here and now. God’s daily providence, the gift of life given each day, and just plain gratitude to God for every blessing–often enumerated in great detail–these were habituated very tone of worship. I found it a very salutary emphasis, actually, and one that is often absent in our churches, due to the security of wealth.

    Or are you looking for specific examples of song lyrics?

  • WebMonk

    Not looking for specific lyrics. My “point” if there was one beyond my curiosity, was just a response to JDean’s statement that native Liberian songs must have had “real doctrinal substance” and the song must “engage the mind first and foremost”, in contrast to things like praise choruses.

    That hasn’t been my experience nor does it match with the reports I’ve heard from missionaries to native churches. They tend to be highly rhythmic, simple and repetitive melodic content, and as you said “simple” lyrics. That’s not a bad thing at all, it’s a good thing!

  • WebMonk

    Not looking for specific lyrics. My “point” if there was one beyond my curiosity, was just a response to JDean’s statement that native Liberian songs must have had “real doctrinal substance” and the song must “engage the mind first and foremost”, in contrast to things like praise choruses.

    That hasn’t been my experience nor does it match with the reports I’ve heard from missionaries to native churches. They tend to be highly rhythmic, simple and repetitive melodic content, and as you said “simple” lyrics. That’s not a bad thing at all, it’s a good thing!

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