Monday, September 24, 2007

Does beautiful music distract from God?

The New York Times has an interesting article about religious music, particularly Christian worship music. The author raises the question of weather simple music leads to simple faith, or if overly complex music actually distracts from God.

Author Bernard Holland brings up a couple of good points, particularly about the decline in Christian music being related to the decline in the Church as a patron of the arts and the shift of economics in general away from the Church. He also relates a telling personal anecdote of reciting a beautiful and deep liturgy that took so much concentration and was so stunning that he didn't think about God once during the song.

I'm on the fence about Christian music in general and worship music specifically. I really like some classics, like "Amazing Grace," but I'm hard pressed to think of recent ones that I like. "Awesome God" was great when I was 14, but I can't stand how repetitive it is now, and it's a great example of a good idea being killed by the conventions of worship music at the time(namely endless repetition). "God of Wonders" by Mac Powell (*cough Steve Hindalong - Don) is good, and I like Todd Agnew's "My Jesus" but it's not much of a worship song since it disses your church. The only recent song I can think of that I think is really great is "Blessed be Your Name," by Matt Redman. I can't get enough of that song.

My co-contributor Don read the book that gives this post it's title, Body Piercing Saved My Life by Andrew Beaujon, and he shared with me the author's description of worship music. I think it is funny, insightful, and evocative(everything most modern worship is not):

"[describing a Time-Life Songs 4 Worship video collection]...a bunch of dorky concert goers freaking out like Beatles fans at Shea Stadium in 1964 as some of the worst music you'll ever hear blasts out of the arena's speakers. The songs are a blend of folk-rock, country, and singer/songwriter blahness spiced up with the odd sampled beat. The first time I saw it I wondered if the audience had been paid."

(NYT Article "Does Simple Music Form Simple Faith?")

(Matt Redman's Myspace, where you can hear Blessed by Your Name, if you haven't)

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