My Expert Opinion...
At one time or another you might have used the phrase “too much information.” I tend to use it in the context of medical conversations, because, as my friends know, I don’t do medical conversations very well. First time I was aware I had a real problem was in summer school one year when I was trying to take a high school “science” class to avoid taking biology. Subject got around to the body’s circulatory system, and I found myself on the floor wondering why everybody was looking down at me (even as I type this I experienced a bit of the weak knee…).
In any event, I think that we are in an age of too much information…and it is not just because news about the latest celebrity failure, or surgery, or compromising picture is higher on society’s personal internal google than the arcanity of reasons why hedge funds got us into this economic mess and AIG is the linchpin around which our long-term financial security rotates…
Let’s talk about church music, can we? I can see, from my desk, a pile of choral anthems waiting to be reviewed that, conservatively speaking, is several feet high (not at the moment, because that’s not my filing system…but I’m sure I’ll get to that in another post). A lot of that music is good. Some of it is dreck. But there is no way to know which without someone I trust taking a long, hard look at each and every single tune, and making a decision. Do you see the irony here? There is no way we can keep up. It is no longer humanly possible for one person to have a life, and look at all this music at any level of detail.
So we (you) depend upon “experts” (like me) to look at this stuff and decide what is good and what is bad–in Bob Seger’s terms “what to leave in and what to leave out.” That makes me, with my reviewer hat on, in essence, a lobbyist, and isn’t that what got us into trouble in the first place (economically speaking)?
I hate to sound like the recurring scene of Carrie Bradshaw typing, but at what point do we take responsibility for our own repertoire choices? Do church musicians read music any more?
The combination of work overload, family responsibilities (even if that “family” consists of a single tabby), and…can we talk here?…paperwork, have made the “learn by recording” a seductive road more taken. Can I get a show of hands to see how many church musicians really (really!) sit with a piece of music and hear it in their head?
This isn’t altogether new, you know…in essence that’s what Mozart did as a child…show off his tunes by presenting them in public. Once other musicians heard them, his (in a manner of speaking) ASCAP royalties went way up. But really, now…is a car the most ideal place to make a decision about music to lead people into a worship relationship with the God of the universe?
I’m just thinking out loud here…
The struggle between new and old music in the church has raged since at least the Ars Nova of medieval times. And I’m beginning to wonder if the kernal of that struggle has (continually) been intellectual curiosity, or the lack thereof. I know I have been guilty, from time to time, of “I don’t want to learn or teach anything new the next few months.” But I’ve also been a long-practicing excitable boy around “you’ve/we’ve got to do this new piece,” and that has gotten me into trouble too.
So, publishers, don't send me more music, send me better music. Then everybody wins.