Monday, November 28, 2005

The Jason Silver Dialogues

After everything I've said to provoke contemporary Christian musicians, Jason Silver is still willing to talk to me. Thanks for reading, Jason. I've been trying to track you down on your various blogs and media sites. The conversation just got more interesting, in fact it just became a diversified conversation. The rest of us are liturgical musicians who cherish historic music. A contemporary church musician who is willing to engage our determined traditionalism has to be an exceptional human being. Instead of trying to catch the discussion in comments scattered around the tailings of previous posts, let's organize it here.


Michael Dodaro said...

Moving these comments for starters:

Jason Silver said...
Some good points.

Obviously, classical music has a quality and intensity that soars above a lot of contemporary drivel. We should never forget classical music, we should continue to study it, to learn from the masters.

As a sidenote, let us not forget that during classical music's era, there were other strains of 'popular' music that are now lost. Folk music or wandering bard music was loved by common people. If I understand correctly, it was mainly the rich who enjoyed lush excess of classical orchestral pieces.

In our own century, even when popular music is no longer mainstream, there are still minorities who cling to it. The seventies had its share of schmuck, but there were still great works created by great artists. My parents fondly remember the good ol' days when music was silly in the 50's and 60's. But they also gave us the Beatles.

Who can argue with the amazing complexity and vitality of 40's Big Band? Even the sad dirgful "Spare a Dime" music in the dirty-thirties is worth remembering. A piano rag or some unusual metre or chordal jazz piece from the 20's will never be forgotten. They're as important to music history as Mozart or Bach.

You're obviously a well educated person. Your understanding of ancient Greek philosophers and current political issues gives your thought and logic prowess, no?
Wouldn't you agree the same is true for music? Being able to play in all of these music styles makes me that much better as a musician. I can't say any style is better than another, but I certainly appreciate each of them for their own unique qualities.

If I neglected to learn Bach, I would be missing important lessons in harmony. But Bach can't teach me everything I need to know, can he? **chuckle** Actually, now that I think about it-- maybe he could...


9:34 PM, November 26, 2005

Ray said...
Jason, below you made this comment, "If not, then perhaps there is no place for me in the church and I need to go back to the bars?"

I don't want to assume anything, but that statement implies you came out of the bar scene. Whether or not you actually did is beside the point, but you imply the bar scene and church are diametrically opposed to each other. If true, why would you want to use music that historically has been associated with worldly pleasures in a worship setting? Shouldn't our worship music transcend the mere commmonplace? That does not mean we can only use 300 year old music and that we musicians cannot be creative, but we should be careful that our musical language is one that is God honoring.

9:29 AM, November 28, 2005

Jason Silver said...
Hi Ray,

No, not out of the bar scene. Just trying to make a point of contrast.

When I teach music, I tell my students that music is a language of communication. Like any other language, it has syntax, idiom, etc.

You make a good point regarding the elevated sense of music for God. I want to give God the very best I have to offer, tainted though it is. He is a God deserving glory and honour, above all others. The music should certainly have a worshipful, glory-focused nature to it.

However, pushing a particular 'language' of music on a generation seems akin to preferring Latin in worship. There are many who prefer the lofty words but it also excludes a large group from entering into worship in a language that is their mother tongue.

What a great conversation you've got going here. Lovin' it. Thanks for the challenges!


10:26 AM, November 28, 2005

Ray said...
Jason, time constraints do not allow me to go into much depth, so I can just throw out little tidbits at this point. I agree completely with your thoughts on music being a language.

I enjoy Bach and many other classicists. My kids consider me old, but I'm not 300 years old. I grew up in the 60s, remember seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. I learned to enjoy and appreciate Classical music and early hymnody through education. I have been pleasantly surprised to hear that there are many in my generation and from the X and Y generations that appreciate Classical music. And even listen to it along with other idioms.

When I read some of the lyrics being used by so-called Christian rap artists - overt profanity - I become further entrenched in my opinions. Some language may not be suitable for worship.

10:53 AM, November 28, 2005

Jason Silver said...

I recently went through the fall apples in our cold room. I was saddened to see that many of them were bruised and rotting already! A few others were good for apple pie, but too soft to crunch. I separated them all so as to preserve the good ones. (I do love my wife's apple pie!)

Yep. There are some who are in it for the money. There are some who are in it for the prestige. There are others who are in it to glorify God.

I seem to remember something about Handel's Messiah being written for the money too. Is that right?

In any case, we should always use filters of common sense, good judgement, and spiritual insight when determining the appropriateness of any type of media for use in worship.

Just because there are some bad apples in the basket doesn't mean I can't find one in there worth munching on.

Thanks for a really energizing conversation!


Ray said...

Jason, it has been a good conversation. I think I see at least part of the problem... I prefer cherry pie. Who knows, maybe Mike prefers cake - he is an opera fanatic afterall.

Unfortunately, music can be very divisive in the church - it has been the cause of splits. Your statement above of using filters to determine appropriateness is the key. I would suggest that you use different filters than what Mike and I use - but then again, Mike and I are not identical either. I am not a fan of opera, I lean toward the symphonic side of classical music being an instrumentalist.

Years ago when I was a music theory major in college I commented to my theory professor that I enjoyed listening to a Erik Satie recording. Of course he challenged me questioning why I liked it. His response has stuck with me ever since. He said, all composers write from a philosophical base. Using terms from earlier in our conversation, they use a specific language to convey their philosophy, or using the contemporary term, world view. Using an extreme, John Cage used a musical language to portray randomness and the idea that there are no absolutes. Whatever happens is a result of chance.

And I agree, Handel's Messiah was a commercial work. Even artists have to pay the rent and buy the groceries.

I can't speak for Mike, but I don't believe all new music is bad - afterall, I have done some composing myself and I don't write like Bach. And likewise, not all old music is good. A lot of older hymns have been lost because they could not stand the test of time either musically or textually.

Michael Dodaro said...

It's ironic, Jason, that you are taking the time to justify contemporary music in church for the few people who read this obscure blog. In North American churches CCM has become the engine of growth that few question anymore. Since you have been persistent enough to read many of the essays posted here, you must find it interesting that some people cling to music and liturgical idioms that are hundreds of years old. Why would we be so anachronistic in an age of electronic music and televised church? I am willing to concede that the ancient church would find the masses of Mozart, in some ways, incomprehensible. But, to borrow your metaphor, history has a way of eliminating many bad apples. The church has now been using Mozart’s music for more than two hundred years. The musical idioms Mozart used were created over many centuries from a tradition of liturgical music and monastic chanting. His music has the timeless quality and transcendence of enduring art that can affirm the enduring truths of our faith. I think you would be moved by it, as most people with your musical sensibilities are. And I don’t think any of us would suggest you repudiate your own music. The trouble is for us that many churches have told us to do just that!

Michael Dodaro said...

Here's an interesting title:
Stones Instead of Bread: Reflections on 'Contemporary' Hymns.
I haven't read it, but just discovered it on the New Liturgical Movement web site. I haven't read much in the New Liturgical Movement site either, so please don't blame me for any excessive rhetoric found there. The publication on church music is available for free though, and might be interesting reading:

Jason Silver said...

Wow, great points. Thanks guys!

I think of music as an ammoral issue, neither good nor bad. The point is to encourage worshippers to acknowledge God, but we all have different taste in pie. :)

Anyway, while all the world argues about music in worship, we forget that worship is something you DO.

These people, says God, honor me with their words, but their heart is really far away from me. It is no use for them to worship me, because they teach man-made rules as though they were my laws! (Mt. 15: 8,9)

You shall love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, all your soul, and with all your might. (Deut 6:5)

Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to His service and pleasing to Him. This is the true worship that you should offer. (Rom 12:1)

You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5

We must have both a life of worship and acts of worship.

Since you brought it up, I thought I'd address your monk comment. :) The origin of our 12 note scale has roots, as I'm sure you know, in the ancient pentatonic scale.

You probably also know that monks started singing two and three note variations on chants which became pentatonic gradually over time with the introduction of leading tones etc. This evolved into what is today a western 12 note scale.

But isn't it interesting that jazz, blues, and rock scales are closer to the original pentatonic than they are to the 12 note system? Add a sharp four to a pentatonic scale and you've got blues.

CCM is so often marketing drivel, that I can hardly stand it. Most Christian bookstores bear goods which shamelessly copy the world's marketing, only less effectively. There are lots of exceptions, of course, but I'd usually rather sing along with culture initators like the Christian, Bono, of U2, than to copy-cat "hot babes" wearing crosses.

And I love it that our church sings music which our congregation is writing. Yes, we use songs other people have written, but as much as possible, we write and record our own CDs, and use them in our worship. We try to engage with artists and use the gifts and talents God has put in our congregation.

Why am I engaging in this conversation? Maybe the same reason that I attend a catechism class at the local Catholic church along with my neighbour across the street. Maybe for the same reason that I engage with automatons at the local evangelical church who refuse to submit themselves to their leaders.

What is that reason?

We need to be unified. Jesus said that others will know we are his disciples because we-- like the same music? No. :) Because we agree on every point? No. :)

Because we love one another.

So I like to look for opportunities to try to understand, show love to, and reconcile with those who think differently than me.

My experience at the Catholic church has been amazing. I think bridges are being built. (Imagine the priests suprise that a protestant minister is attending his classes!) Whee! What fun! And I so enjoy greeting him with love when I see him, calling him brother, even inviting him to our home for a meal!!

But I've strayed a little off topic. Sorry!

Sorry too, if this seems preachy. I'm not asking you guys to change your minds. I guess I am hoping that our conversations will wear the edges down for all of us.

Tag, you're it! :)


Michael Dodaro said...

As I recall we're invited to worship God "in spirit and in truth." Our worship should be sincere but also orthodox in the musical/textual language we employ. Too much of the music being used in church is subjective. It is centered on how the singer feels rather than on the objective truths about God and the nature of His church. I know the psalms are full of emotional expression, but historic hymns tend to be more objectively based. The doctrines are there and still trustworthy even when I don't feel good. On the musical language, I'm not convinced there is not meaning in music regardless of the text. If the music sounds like Mick Jagger, even if it's U2's text, I still hear the pop philosophy of the Rolling Stones. Does the Stars Spangled Banner mean the same thing when sung by, say, the Spice Girls backed by a rhythm section as when a choir of cadets at the Air Force Academy sings it with a military band? Brass has a different meaning than breathy soprano to my musical sense. I don’t know about you, Jason, but I’ve endured too many sexy renditions of Amazing Grace and other songs. Did you happen to read my review of "All Shook Up: Music, Passion, and Politics"?

Anonymous said...

There are a few contemporary Christian songs that I have liked (such as, Our God is an Awesome God), but somehow I would never think to have this sung in my church as part of the worship. Something about it doesn't fit with a Eucharistic liturgy, but I wouldn't mind a Sunday School class of kids learning it.

I hate the "Christian" rap music such as done by DC Talk. Rap music just SOUNDS thuggish and hateful. If I were a slum-dweller who's sick of slum life, I would not seek God and his Heaven through music that sounds like a slum rumble.

An old Appalachian Protestant hymn I especially like is "What Wonderous Love is This". That is simple, reverent and classically American in feel.

Something about rock is contradictory with Church - it seems to excite the passions, get the blood boiling and roiling when what is necessary is for the worshippers to overcome their physical "beat" in order to hear God's music in their hearts.

I'm from the Russian Orthodox tradition and our approach to music is indeed traditional and very ancient. Read the essay "One Voice" on this blogsite to see how we approach music and how our church is formed by it.


Jason Silver said...

This is quite amusing to me: hymns were once just as cutting edge, and as threatening to Christians as modern day music is now-a-days. In fact, many of our holy hymns are reclaimed bar tunes! People weren't too happy about that! Imagine bringing beer-drinking songs into a CHURCH! Even the piano, now considered especially appropriate for a church service, was a source of tension for Christians in eras past. Pianos were found in saloons, not in churches.

Music is ammoral. Instruments are ammoral. God does not care about window dressing, he cares about our hearts, and he wants us to go beyond simple words and thoughts in worship. We worship in spirit and in truth when we reach out to 'the least of these.'

Besides, the noisier the better! We all know the scripture: praise him with a clashing cymbol, praise him with stringed instruments. Maybe a joyful NOISE unto the Lord. :)

It's a tricky line to walk between subjective and objective worship. God is to be glorified regardless of how we feel. And his attributes and characteristics are true whether we feel them at the time or not.

But just like any relationship here on earth, we must be mature enough to enter into the relationship regardless of how we feel.

I don't just care for my wife when I'm feeling attracted to her. When I'm out of sorts, I still have a responsibility to express love to her. But if my love were only a cold appraisal of her positive characteristics, it would be meaningless to her. She needs to know how I feel, and I need to be mature enough to understand that love is more than feelings.

Our marriage counsellor advised us before we were married: emotions are the caboose that follows the train of action. Begin to love, and you'll start to feel love.

The same is true for worship. We certainly should feel love as we worship God, since God is love. But emotions never start the process, they are the benefit of it.

You guys are great! I love chatting about this with you.


Michael Dodaro said...

Ok, Jason Silver, you have really provoked me now! Louder is not better, but, I have to admit, loud can be good. Verdi is thunderously loud. Try the first two frames of the "Opera and Civilization" link on the right side of this page.

Anonymous said...

Hymns were former bawdy saloon songs? Well, maybe that's true for a certain free-wheeling, traditionless sector of Protestantism, but the chants and hymns of the ancient church weren't taken from the barrooms and brothels. Gregorian and Byzantine chant, for instance, has Jewish temple and synagogue and roots. These chants are still sung in the Catholic and Orthodox churches. In the early church and in the traditional Orthodox churches today, musical instruments like pianos or organs are not found and not used in worship. The human voice alone carries on the dialogue with God during the liturgy, not a mechanical instrument.

I do not believe music is amoral. Music is a language just like the language of words, and it conveys a composer's or performer's attitudes, feelings and character just as a person's words do. As one singer describe it, "Singing is long talking and talking is short singing." In ancient times and in many religious cultures today including Christianity, chanting is used to signify to the listener that to enter into the holy places, one must speak in otherworldly cadences.

Do you remember the Frank Sinatra song "I Did It My Way"? Sinatra sang it in a romantically benign fashion with a few voice dynamics in it. The words, though, have a selfish, self-pitying color to them which could lend themselves to another rendition, such as the one done by Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols.

Sid Vicious rendition was the most demonic rendition of ANY song I've ever heard. He started it with a barely subdued but very edgy, hair-raising feel (like someone taunting and stalking you in a dark alley), then his voice steadily transformed into a growl/scream that by the end of the song became the most horrendously gutteral howl, a sound that came from the bowels of Hell itself. So when he howled out the last "I DID IT MY WAY", you really felt his horrible destructive nihilism and the words only magnified the overall demonic effect.

You can't tell me that music is amoral or something morally inert like a piece of machinery. Music is part of man's language. Because man is a moral being, his creations must reflect man's character in some way. Music is a creation of mankind that especially reflects man's aspirations, loves and hopes or it can convey his sinfulness, his lies, aggression or despair. Music can do this and have more visceal influence upon man and his morality more than any other artistic creation. The great philosophers of the past were right to call Music and poetry the highest and most important of man's arts, because it is most reflective of his soul. Music does not and cannot exist morally outside of man its creator or man its audience.


Ray said...

Another take on bar music.... I have heard that accusation for many years, but recently heard a different explanation. Chant music was orginally without meter and did not use bar lines. As hymns became more popular regular meters were used, such as 4/4 or 3/4, and the music incorporated bar lines. Hence, bar music.

And to add to Scribe's discussion of the morality of music, I too agree that music is not amoral. Music is a language as we have already agreed on. That means it is a method of communication. The speaker (composer/musician) has a specific message they are conveying and the listener interprets that message. We speak English and are able to understand each other. Our written messages make sense, they are able to be interpreted and understood. If language is amoral why are certain 4-letter words banned from the public airwaves? Would you use any and every word found in the dictionary? Personally, I do not use such language, the message those words convey goes against what I believe is proper for a Christian. I am selective in my speech and likewise I am selective in my musical language. Music derivitive of the 60s rock scene is associated with the counterculture, illegal drugs, free sex, etc. That, in my mind, is not God honoring language appropriate to a worship setting.

Michael Dodaro said...

Well, believe it or not, I'm going to say something conciliatory about pop music in church. Somebody should tell them at the First Presbyterian in Seattle where I was fired and kicked out of the choir for complaining about the autocratic imposition of electric guitars and rhythm in worship. My excommunication aside, I can remember singing in a gospel choir with drums and guitars and being spiritually transported by the singing of Gerutha Nickleberry, Richard Probosco, and others in a black gospel choir. They let a few token whiteys like me in for a salt and pepper effect. I can't completely dissent on the rhythm section and Hammond organ because I sang "Oh Happy Day" with a lot of kids who would otherwise have burned out early on drugs and sex. If it's the best you have, run with it. But I found out about music I didn't know existed, in indisputable experience. For my part, I don't want to take away what you have, Jason, but only to insist there is a lot more that will take you to another dimension. Handel was an opera composer who wrote the Messiah when his career was diminishing due to waning interest in Italian Opera in Britain. He was commissioned to write something for a charity benefit and started the Messiah a few weeks before his deadline. He selected the greatest texts of the Bible, and in about three weeks composed music that elicited visions of God in him. He said he was on fire. When I first heard the Messiah in college it was the beginning of my own Renaissance. If you don't get anything else out of this conversation, Jason, take away an awareness that great things are built on tradition. It's not the only way to create, but it is a proven way. The Renaissance began when artists looked to the past for the greatest works of art that had ever existed and built on the experience of many generations. Humility in the presence of art that transcends time and place does not diminish anyone.

Anonymous said...

I remember when "O Happy Day" (written by Edwin Hawkins) made the top of top 40 charts back in 1970. That was the first time I heard black gospel, which at that time (under the influence of the Hawkins family) was beginning to merge rock with black gospel. (Back in the 1920-1940s Tommy Dorsey merged the saloon/brothel tunes with black spirituals to produce black gospel, much to the objections to many black parishoners who saw black gospel as blasphemous.) To a young white person in 1970, "O Happy Day" was very exuberant and joyful to hear, in contrast to the rock music that was sounding more depressing with its drug culture and overly political. After "O Happy Day" and for most of the 70's I listened mostly to black gospel radio.

Since 1970, I had visited numerous black churches and saw how their music became more and more "rock" in orientation. However, the original exurberant quality typified by "O Happy Day" seem to decline, because many of the black gospel superstars began to perform like the bump-and-grind secular rock stars. The black choirs got too much into voice tricks and some rather ridiculous choral renditions that seemed composed solely for special effects. The choirs generally began "performing" at church as if they were at a concert, instead of worshipping.

The last time I visited a black church, though, I got a glimpse into their musical past, which showed me that black Christian music once had something much deeper in it. Before the service, various Sunday Schools were going on in pews scattered throughout the sanctuary. When Sunday Schools ended, the teachers (all old men) began singing a cappella in a soaringly beautiful, almost liturgical, chant that seem to fly one to the throne of heaven. It was dignified and reverent. I immediately sat up on hearing this and wanted to hear much more, but alas, it ended too soon. The choir then went immediately into their happy clappy, thumpy-jumpy rock 'n roll which left me cold and wondering why the congregation was settling for so much less when they had some real musical gold.


Michael Dodaro said...

Yes, this is the lamentalble other side of the story, and it shows that tradition is important even in folk music. I have a friend who sings black spirituals, but the days when you could find an audience for this music are gone. Harry Burleigh who adapted many slave songs was Dvorak's pupil, so even the black spiritual is in some ways indebted to European classical tradition.

Anonymous said...


You said Burleigh adapted the spiritual. Is he black? I would think that while Burleigh himself may have been composing in European forms, the spiritual form itself is African.

I have heard some real African Christian music. Basic African-style singing arrangement, which is "line-singing", has a call and a response. It also has a deeply communal sound to it. African Christian vocal music is very lovely, interesting and is more worshipful than anything produced by the saloon/rock inspired black gospel today. It draws a great deal upon the dignity of its traditions, whereas black gospel seems cut off from a tradition and only going with the fads.


Michael Dodaro said...

I think Burleigh is black, but I'll check it out with my friend. She knows really knows the repertoire.

Ray said...

I bet Jason is getting his pen warmed up. A couple of observations, but no conclusions. Rock and jazz music had their roots in black gospel music. If we hold up black gospel music as acceptable, don't we by extension have to assign a certain degree of legitimacy to CCM as a grandchild? I tend to think of black gospel music being acceptable in the proper context, but isn't that what Jason is arguing for? Black gospel music is legitimate based on culture, he will argue that contemporary Christian music is legitimate because it is a part of the youth culture - in fact he has already stated that.

Anonymous said...

I didn't say that black gospel is acceptable as church music. I will never say that - at best, it's some kind of concert music. I had mentioned that as a young person I had enjoyed some of it (but not for spiritual reasons, but as an exotic substitute for other secular rock music.)

When black gospel first came out in the 1920's it wasn't accepted by many black churches because they saw that the root of black gospel was saloon/brothel music (ragtime, blues, and jazz). It's accepted today, but I think that's because the older forms have been been largely forgotten and black gospel (in whatever form it has morph to today) is all anyone knows about.

The black spiritual, which is much older than black gospel, is a completely different kind of music from black gospel and its roots are African/southern Christian shape-note singing. In form, much of it could fit in a liturgical setting with its call and response style. But no one listens to this music now - it's probably not PC.

I wonder if people realize how ubiquitous rock music is these days - there's almost no place one can escape it as it is piped in at you from nearly everywhere. It's the only form of children's music now, which I think is terribly inappropriate with all its adult bumping and grinding. Once this was not so. Now one has no choice but to hear rock, and it doesn't matter whether it's good rock or bad. The form is all the same -invasive, and then to have it pitched at you day and night. I think Rock has become a musical dictatorship. It is so pervasive and smothering that I must wonder how someone growing up in the last 30 years would ever discover that some other music actually exists.

Ray said...

Scribe, I was really tweaking Mike. In his post above at 10:09 he is conciliatory toward pop music in the church then goes on to discuss Black Gospel. I couldn't let that pass without comment.

It is interesting you say that black gospel was not accepted at first in the Black churches because of the saloon/brothel association. That is consistent with our arguments against CCM in the church.

And I agree with you completely concerning the ubiquitousness of rock music in our society. Listen to TV Land, especially when they play commercials from the 60s and compare to commercials of today. Significant difference in musical style. On my way home from Ohio this past Saturday, my wife and I stopped at a Wendy's for lunch. They were loudly piping in a local radio station that was playing rock versions of Christmas music - music that could best be described as Bubblegum Rock out off the 70s (as in 1910 Fruitgum Company). Nauseating. As a church choir director I find it very disheartening when I hear most if not all music sold today for children's choirs is contemporary in flavor. It makes my job that much more difficult when they reach the adult choir as I try to instill a love for good, decent, appropriate music.

Anonymous said...

There's a documentary about black gospel music that you could probably find on video or even DVD that's worth seeing. "Say Amen Somebody" was filmed here in my town (St. Louis) and covers many of the important founders of black gospel. I think this is the documentary that also includes the founder, Tommy Dorsey, who talks about its beginnings in Chicago and the opposition he came up against from the black churches of that time.

The performers in it also talk about how they make the distinction of performing in church and performing the same music in a concert, but I think the distinction is very thin.

I have to wonder why rock music took over so completely as it did. I remember some of the old teen movies of the 50's and 60's that usually showed a high school rock band that came up against the oppostion to their music from the old fuddie-duddies. By the end of the movie, the oldsters saw the light and got converted to rock. Looking back on this, you have to wonder if this wasn't a marketing ploy to subvert anything that smack of tradition. I remember seeing a 1930's Little Rascals episode where an arrogant Alfafa, in a nightmare, is forced by a wicked maestro to sing opera at a kid musical production. Of course, he gets tomatoed singing "figaro, figaro" off-key, and then he wakes up from the nightmare. That night, at the real production, he makes sure he changes his tune to something contemporary, some inappropriate romantic nonsense he croons like Bing Crosby to Darla.

So something has been working to denigrate older forms of music for some time. These scenes stuck in my young head at the time, and made for some confusion, but I had some exposure anyway to older music - mainly through the church. A saving grace, something that the youngsters these days don't often get, if at all.


Michael Dodaro said...

Now you have me reminiscing and in a sentimental way. I just posted the story of Sara Wells-Jones and the Seattle Religious Arts Society. Nearly everybody knows Sara's notable son the arranger and producer. I didn't meet him until Sara's funeral. The notable Q was gracious, but his mother is unforgettable.

GB said...

What an intriguing and intelligent discussion!

One picture came to mind when you were discussing how music cannot be ammoral and how the sound and texture and rhythm convey meaning, even without words: I pictured a roller coaster. The non-verbal aspects of music (ie. the instrumental choices, voicings, the style, the rhythm, harmonies, etc.) are the roller coaster track. You can sure tell what kind of ride it is by looking at the track, even without anyone riding it! In the same way, certain genres of music have unmistakable meaning in the sonic memory of the hearer, (and in the producer/composer) even without words being necessary.

That seems to be the argument made in some places here.

To continue with the roller coaster metaphor, the words of the song compare to the car and the riders. This is where the roller coaster experience becomes real. A wild and crazy track should produce a wild and crazy roller coaster ride.

I agree with Jason that the meaning of the song is driven by the purpose of the performer and composer, and the way in which they cast all the musical elements of the song, including the lyrics, as well as the manner in which it is performed for God's people.

Jason Silver said...

This was a great conversation... I just reread it, and this stuff should be published. I think we all make some good points!

Michael Dodaro said...

The way things are going, it may be after Christmas before I can re-read this thread, but, Jason, I have sent an invitation to the email address from your profile to become a posting member of the blog. As soon as you reply, you will have permission to post lead articles.