Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Loud music and a classical quietness

Fr Dwight Longenecker [here] on the awfulness of so much "Christian music"
"...Why is it that so often Christian music is so awful? I think there are a couple of reasons. The first is that the musicians and their audience mistake a worthy message for talent. Then they get a martyr complex if they’re criticized. “You’re obviously not very spiritual if you can’t enjoy my music!  The second problem is that the audience are often either totally uncritical or they haven’t the ability to criticize intelligently. Too often the audience actually like the crap that is being dished up. The third factor is that market forces are usually not in play. Market forces often have a surprisingly sharp and salutary critical effect. Market forces weed out the junk, but in the Christian market they’re doing it for love, not money, so no one is telling them to get off the stage ’cause it won’t sell.These are all the practical problems. There is, however, a deeper problem. Christian popular music is almost always pretty bad, but  the problem with most “Christian” music is that it is secular music with Christian words. In any decent art style and substance are supposed to match up. The meaning and the media are supposed to harmonize. Most “Christian” music is taken from the secular world. Whether it is the music of Broadway musicals, Country Western, Las Vegas ballad crooners or light rock or heavy rock and roll it’s secular not sacred. When you then add sacred words to the secular music there is a natural disconnect. That’s why so much Christian music (even when it is well written and well performed) doesn’t really work. Oh sure, people might like it. They might even have nice feelings about Jesus by listening to it, but the secular music was designed to produce certain types of feelings, and why should those warm sentimental feelings or hard emotional feelings be linked with worship? We might like listening to Christian country Western or a sweet Broadway type ballad about Jeezus or we might get all hyped up listening to Christian rock, but is it worship? Is it really inspiring us to draw closer to God? Is it really deepening our spiritual life or is it just music we like which makes us feel good and it makes us feel even better because it talks about Jeezus too? Forgive me for being cynical, but think about it..."
I can't help thinking that the awfulness has something, too, to do with 'ghetto-isation' - unlike, say, Palestrina or Schubert, it's no longer in the mainstream  - and the fact that most modern Christian genre music is yesterday's popular music but sanitised and transplanted into what is really an alien soil. As Fr Longenecker himself hints at, the whole point of rock music is adolescent revolt and sexualisation. The fact that this is now standard adult listening - even among the better educated - points to a sad cultural regression on the part of the children of the sixties and beyond; if we've not exactly been infantilised, it encourages us to remain perpetual teenagers - we see the results all around us. 

The quietness of Pope Benedict -  and why he (even where sometimes his Church does not - for all kinds of reasons, some complex and historical, some not)  appeals to a certain kind of British Anglican (that's me speaking now, of course):

"Some people think the pope is a very complicated man, but really, he is very easy to get, because he is very open. He is not a politician; he is not a diplomat; he is simply a man who is humbly all-for-God, who lives his faith so completely that there are no shadows. His words are words of Be-ing, primarily.Do-ing, comes farther down the line.Even before he was Benedict, back when he was Joseph Ratzinger, I loved his humility; he has always struck me as the shy old uncle who — once drawn out — keeps you enthralled with the openness, depth and breadth of his intellect, which is never pedantic, and always accessible.That has its drawbacks, of course, particularly in terms of perception. Benedict is an introvert, content with solitude; he allows himself to be subsumed by his servant’s office in a way that is so paradoxical that some do not understand it. Russell Shaw is right when he says Benedict is “still something of an enigma”.In truth, The Reality of Pope Benedict has always been quite different from the narratives, whether they come from media or “insiders....”

From The Anchoress [here]

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