Dé Máirt, Feabhra 20, 2007

The Philosophy of Music...Beginnings

I think it was three years ago, some time around my Junior year at the wu, that I first started asking a question that has become one of the central defining factors in my music, and my worship leading. I had been taking Dr. Bences' class on later church history, and became very troubled with how music was used during the revival era, late 19th and early 20th century. It was around the same time that I was taking Music History with Dr. Kindley and relearning the introduction of pathos and ethos into music. The question became very troubling to me and for a time made me consider a different direction for music. The question came from first acknowloging two basic absolute facts:

1) Music, regardless of whether or not it was purposefully created to do so, evockes an emotional responce from the listener.
2) Humans are emotional beings and, regardless of ablility to set aside those emotions for any period of time, are primarily guided by those emotions.

The enivitable question manifested it's self very quickly:
Q: Is modern musical worship, or musical worship in a historic sence, pre-revival era, in the simplest sense manipulation, and as such is it morally responsible for the christian community to to eliminate music from the service?

This is a topic that I can't seem to get away from, and honestly I'm glad of it. This single question has kept me honest in my worship leading, helped seek out good songs with substance, and kept me warry of my own short comings as a musician. On the adverse side it has also pertetuated a certain amount of distrust and cynisim toward worshipleaders who I've not personally worked with, or at least gotten to know. Honestly it made the the last three years of chaple at the WU almost unbearable. I won't name names, and it would be remiss of me to think that similar thoughts weren't directed toward myself as well, but I know I was not alone in my feeling when certain personalities where seen mounting the stage, guitar in hand. It was the question along with these simple feelings of distrust, and in certain cases having it revealed that the distrust was desearved, that lead me to understand that worship leading is a relationship between the leader and the congregation that must be cultivated over time. It cannot, like any good relationship romantice or otherwise, be rushed into fruition. Any worship leader who has faces their congregation for the first time can tell you that there are many more blank looks staring back at you than open mouths and closed eyes. It's disconcerting at first, and if it doesn't directly kill your dream of a large congragation worhiping along with you, following every subtle move, completly in tune with what your going, and not caring what that the powerpoint guy just messed up another slide...it definatly beats it within an inch of it's life.

This relationship is a sacred thing to me. It dictates many of the things I do, and in many respects determines the life I have a head of me. We all have reputations that we strive to live up to, even if it's simply not living up the reputation of not having a reputation. I've tried to look good in the eyes of those I lead, all the while trying to stay true to who I know I am. While I was living in Connecticute a possition ended up falling into my lap. Tim, the music director and my boss, was regularly asked to lead a song at the begining of the commity meetings. Everyone meet together for a short devotional before splitting up into the individual groups. I hate meetings, hate meetings, but unfortunatly so does Tim. Being the boss and having abundantly more excusses to get out of them, it evenutally became part of my job discription to lead the song at the begining of the meetings. For the most part I presented myself respectully, but never changed my clothes from what I had been wearing all day. As a result this lead to one day leading the song in jeans and a tee shirt. Everything was clean and my appearance was other wise more than appropriate, but the Senior Pastor felt the need to calmly correct my appearance after the meeting was over. I took the "advice" as he called it with an obvious grain of salt. This was the first and only time I wore a tee shirt to a function like that, and honestly had the people that were there been offened like he assumed they would be, they would have come directly to Tim or myself, not to the senior pastor. One of the things he said to me has really stuck though. He said that he understood that I was a musician, and as such thought of myself as an artist, but he would appreitate it if I dressed a little nicer so that I didn't alienate the folks who just got off the train from New York to be at the meetings. My immediate, but unspoken, responces was: if you understood the mind of an musician/artist we wouldn't be having this conversation. I never said anything of the sort, but Tim and I did discusse it later on, after the Pastor went to Tim as well. I was basically told to ignore the comments.

My immediate internal responce probably common given who I am socially, and then my subsiquent external responce was right on par with who I am personally. I never showed up like that again, at least not to those meetings. Honestly the intial comment never bothered me, but after thinking about it, the second part of what he said, his reason behind why he said what he said really started to bother me. You see I liked Sam, the pastor. I liked what he preached on and how he presented it. He was a good speaker and delivered the messages well, but after thinking about what he said, I started wondering why he avoided some topics. We all avoid certain topics, and we all have our reason for doing so. I avoid talking about things that I consider personal because I don't want you to know about them. I'm not going to come out and say that I know why he avoided certain topics that others would readly go after, and I'm most certainly not condeming him in any way for it. It was his reasons why he wanted me to look "nice." We don't want to alienate the people at the meeting. Some of whom are fresh off the train from the financial district of NYC. They come in there nice, expecive suits, and there I am in jeans and a tee shirt. My only thought on that is this: who am I singing to and for?

There's been a lot of personal experience that has lead me to where I am, and there are many more that await me. I titled this The Phliosophy of Music, and I'm getting to it, but I had to get through some personal things before I could break it down. This is by no means the end of the personal experiances, they'll creap up in the writing from time to time as they always do, but I intend to focus the true philosophy of the music and not just my personal opinion. What is to follow is a treatise. An essay on worship and the power of music. Yes Liz...this is going to be very long.

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