January 8, 2010

A New Song

Today a committee of five of my colleagues gathered to judge the student entries in a Song Contest. The goal had been to elicit a song to be sung by the congregation of thousands that gather annually at our institution's winter conference.

We judged each song on these four criteria:
1. Support of the Conference theme
2. Strength of the lyrics
3. Integrity of the music
4. Singability for a general audience

The judges were unaware of author and composer's names.

What came out of our deliberations were the following shocking and realistic truths about the drought of creative lyric and melodic artistic expression in the current generation of young people. The following are short descriptions of factors we discovered in the pieces as we judged them:

wrong theme and focus
inappropriate thoughts and language for congregational singing
incomplete thoughts
text phrases that were nonsense
pointless lyrics
lyrics not elevated nor elevating
archaic and awkward language: "fervor," "fathom," "bosom," "inaugurated," "status," "traitor's stead," "allured," "whet my appetite," "burn the snake out from its hole," "sin the feces, I the fly."
lack of rhyme
incorrect word accents
unrememberable melody
pitch paucity (not enough variety of notes)
harmonic clashes / melodic cross relationships
obviously poor harmonic movement
musical illiteracy
notational incorrectness
lack of logical form (unity, variety, balance)
love song mentality
melodic range issues (too low / too high)
theological issues
lyric and melodic doodling for a bar-stool crooner

To say that young people today are unaware of the wealth of high language and melodic art is to put it lightly. I am always devastated to get no positive response from a group to an acquaintance with a standard hymn.

I sense no antagonism to the awesome body of hymnic resources. It's just that our congregations are choosing to go in another direction to the great distraction of those whose desire is to worship in the spirit of holiness.

Finely crafted and divinely inspired songwriting is a gift to the Church. Pray for artisans who will lead the Church out of its mindless music, faithless fashionistas, and sissy singing.