Friday, July 13, 2012

Praise and Worship Songs, Then and Now

Whoever created this picture, brings up an interesting point about contemporary Christian praise and worship songs.

I bookmarked an article from Touchstone Magazine back in 2009 which I think gives an excellent perspective. Comparing ancient classical hymns to present, Donald Williams wrote, "a great deal of today’s music is very poor. Well, that shouldn't be too surprising; some of the music of the past was, too. The difference is that, with the past, the weeding-out process... has already taken place. Therefore, we cannot find, encourage, and preserve the best contemporary music without knowing those marks of excellence that made the best of the past stand out and survive so long. What are those marks? (1) biblical truth; (2) theological profundity; (3) poetic richness; (4) musical beauty; and (5) the fitting of music to text in ways that enhance, rather than obscure or distort, its meaning."
Do you agree? He also added. "though some very beautiful pieces have come out of contemporary music... too many of the more recent praise choruses seem to ignore all the rules of good composition, giving us not well-shaped melodies but just one note after another." Lastly, he noted,"musical beauty and fitness of words are not matters of style or personal preference, but are the marks of excellence for worship music in any age."

What's inside the heart and personal preference are common arguments to defend contemporary praise and worship music. Personally, I am torn. As I mature in faith, my taste in worship music have evolved to yearn more songs with deeper and profound lyrics than mushy and repetitive choruses. But I also appreciate the simplicity and relevance of contemporary worship tunes.

Whether its heart that counts, personal preference, or marks of artistic excellence, the debate over genre and quality of Christian music will go on for a long time.  Scriptures has no specific guidance in how to listen to music. What's clear, Christians in the Bible sang on all sorts of occasions- in times of wholeness and in despair. Music in the Bible is for active participation and "not the spectator sport" we modern churches have made it to be.

Repeating a blog article I wrote on this topic, how do we determine musical excellence, especially in the eyes and ears of God? Because when everything else has been taken into consideration, we all want to sing and play beautiful music to God.

It reminds me of the final act of The Music Man, where despite the poor quality of the River City Boys' Band's rendition of Beethoven's Minuet in G, the parents were, nonetheless, enthralled by the sight of their little boys playing music... is this how God hears our music, too? 

Related articles: 
Durable Hymns, by Donald Williams, Touchstone Magazine
Music Wars by Anne Morse
Whatever Happened to Singing? by T.M. Moore
#85 Leading worship barefoot, Stuff Christian Culture Likes

PS. My daughter recommends, Psalty's Kids Praise CDs for your family's listening and worship pleasure. It's a good CD to introduce children to Christian music and Biblical virtues. It's a classic!

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