Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Interesting message, interesting tune

I've been thinking a lot lately about melody, or more accurately the need for melodic craft in songs and hymns for congregational singing. Big arena, lots of potential for disaster in it, and always the risk of pitting "my opinion" against yours.

I think when it concerns me most is when I hear song after song in student settings, with good words, interesting and apt rhythms (maybe), but directionless melodies. Non-tunes, really; often repetitive phrases with no developmental structure. And hey, I'm not exactly a music theory geek; certainly not a form & structure expert.

In a conversation yesterday with a student headed off to his freshman year of collegiate music studies, I was struck with his observation that so much more could be done in youth group music, to attract students to Christ and the Church. He was talking about preparation, and he was talking about craft. One observation that came out - why do we take such an interesting message and set it to such uninteresting tunes?

This student does not plan to study "classical" music, but "commercial." He isn't, in other words, some nerdy 18-year-old Baroque fanatic (yes, I've known those), more a "show choir band" dude. But he's thinking about the same things I'd want him to consider if he were contemplating a vocation in church music.

I am (theoretically, or at least perceived) "too old" to have an impact on the youth culture in my church or the church at large. But I hope I can still get to those who think, plan, and lead young "worship musicians" and help them see that the music really does matter. If we really have something to sing about, let's make sure it's sung in a way that is worth hearing and listening to. Let's write melodies that live up to the great words we use. Let's plant songs in our students' hearts that will stand up to the challenges of their minds, hearts, and experiences. Let's out-melody the chaos around us!


Jonathan said...

Case in point: RUF settings of old texts to new "tunes." Some of them aren't so bad, but some of them are wretched melodies.

Of course, that may just be my opinion.

Jim Lowery said...

Amen, Brother!

Let's develop musicians (performers, composers, lyricists) - and their teachers - who have a 'fear of God before their eyes' and who recognize that, since He is The Master Musician, and we are made in His image, we have a responsibility to serve Him not other 'gods', creatively, excellently, sacrificially. As He served/s us.

As to the issue of age, a healthy dose of "the fear of God" is needed here as well. (1) God is God of the living, not the dead; and (2) last time I looked, the Fifth Commandment was still engraved in stone, and interpreted in the Bible (NT especially) as referring to "the elders" as well as simply parents.

Jim Lowery

Chuck King said...

Oh yeah, let's go to that can of worms, shall we? Yes, "just your opinion" . . . that is, just the "opinion" of someone with musical training, taste, experience, and ministry chops; a music teacher with a degree in theology.