Monday, April 11, 2005

Music and Worship

OK, here is an opinion that leaves a lot of room for people to disagree. My opinion on this could very well be on the bottom of the opinion food chain. It is a subjective topic, and I am not basing my opinion on history, science, or expert opinions but only on my personal feelings and experience.

Here it is: My opinion of the best style of music for worship is music that contains harmonics that resonate with the soul (I'd like to see a study of this; I think there is such a thing!), strings of phrases that cresendo with the spirit of the lyric, dynamics that are not jarring and irritating, but express unity, wholeness, and reverence, loudness and dissonance used sparingly for emotional effect, and instrumentation that is not harsh and grating, but blend and modulate together in a manner that elicits closure, peace, hopefulness and reverence. A pleasing and uplifting melody, using intervals of thirds doesn't hurt, either. (Think of the last movement of Beethoven's 5th - not a hymn, but certainly uplifting.)

This I would contrast with much of the "praise" music used in modern "worship", where the church experience is more of a rock concert experience than a worship service. The scream of the overdriven electric guitars, the heavy percussion beat, and the irreverent effect of the overly amplified vocal have to have God grabbing for his earplugs. A number of years ago I had a debate with a near 20's teenager about this kind of music used in worship. He considered it a cultural and generational preference. His opinion was as long as the lyrics are worshipful, it doesn't matter what the rest of the music sounds like. I respectfully disagreed. I believe the lyrics, and the melody, and the harmonies, and the instrumentation, and the phrasing and dynamics are all an essential part of the whole. They all work together to bring a worshipful praise experience.

I believe it is being dishonest and irreverent to use irreverent music to lure the rock-concert-goers into a church service. It is like using people dressed as hookers to give the sermon. Sure, Jesus taught to meet the people where they are. Yes, we should meet people where they are in our day to day lives to attract people to Christ and to our churches. But we shouldn't dip down into the morass of dissonance and disunity to worhip our God who is by His nature a being of harmony and unity. The instrumentation and style of music is the vessel to carry the words of praise and worship. Worshipful words delivered by an irreverent vessel are irreverent in a worhip service, or in any setting.

1 comment:

Michael Dodaro said...

Form and Meaning in Liturgical Art: