Getting Beyond the Pop
I read with great interest the many articles on songwriting for worship in Worship Leader Magazine, and one aspect about all of them struck me forcibly: there was no discussion about the actual composition of the music itself.
Although I’m very aware that the main difference between a sacred and secular song is the lyrical content and purpose, it seemed that each contributor to the songwriting topic was taking for granted that contemporary Christian music was just fine without any attention to whether we are utilizing all the musical resources available to us in this age to support new and theologically stimulating lyrics that express the eternal truths of God.
When my pastor brings me a new, high-profile worship song to arrange for our praise bands to perform, 90% of the time it is another exponent of the pop/ rock/folk aesthetic that has remained virtually unchanged in the last 40 years.
I am constantly bewildered why we aren’t taking advantage of all the musical riches we have in this century. If we are going to write new, thought and spirit provoking songs, shouldn’t we think about new marriages of lyrics to music?
For example, I wonder how it would sound to describe the mysteries of God with a whole tone melody, or the majesty of the Creator in quartal harmony? How would an admission of our sinfulness be affected by a setting with minor 6/9 chords, or an expression of indefinable joy in 5/4 time?
I realize that Worship Leader is not a music techniques forum, but I suspect most of your readers are musicians, to at least some degree. And so I ask this question: are we content with the music status quo at the same time that we want to raise the bar on the quality of lyrical content? Are we afraid that our congregations won’t accept it or won’t be able to sing it? Are we afraid that our volunteer musicians won’t be able to play it? How will we ever know if we don’t give them the opportunity?
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Over the last 30 years, Worship Leader Magazine has been blessed to have many different contributors on the editorial team - this is their archive.