Monday, September 26, 2005

Some Notes on Music

Guest Comment

Hadleyblogger Bobby sent along the following very interesting comments on music which we'd like to share with you. He makes some fine points on the state of modern worship music - I'm particularly fond of his comment that the "beat surpasses the message, and the beauty of both the voice and message is replaced by the beat." And Judie, having been a musician herself, has an appreciation for the relationship between the musician and the music.

One final note: Bobby's father is currently battling cancer, and would appreciate your prayers for his recovery.


There is no reason for a singer who has a contract with a pianist to be singing to recorded music. Now I can see where a singer who has such a contract will use the pianist for practice when performing with an orchestra or for an opera, but there is no logic in going to the lowest level of pop music in the form of pre-recorded soundtracks to create a “karaok√©,” or empty orchestra, feel (such is the translation of the Japanese term) when a classically trained vocalist understands their personal work with their own pianist matters and there is an extremely crucial discussion between the two parties.

As I learned in the Henry Blackaby study Experiencing God (a Bible study book produced by the Southern Baptist Convention's LifeWay division), all pieces must fit together, and as I’ve sung with Marion Sprott (played piano for students at the 2003 and 2004 recitals) and Jami Rhodes, who played for me at my December 2004 recital at my teacher's home, our pieces continue to mold into the perfect team – and the situation is not just music, but everywhere. Things which go together will connect successfully, and things which do not connect well will result in failure. Evidence of such appeared in the American League Championship Series where Jason Varitek was guilty of three passed balls because of his unfamiliarity with relief pitcher Tim Wakefield, who has Doug Mirabelli behind the plate for his starts.

The major reason for going to the pre-recorded pop is the beat, which in many musical cultures has now surpassed message in song. The choral member in question who challenged me on defending church musicians said it is better to be convenient and carry the beat of a tape instead of working alongside a respectable accompanist. But when I sit on a piano bench next to Allison Hilbish and watch a choral group sing, and observe both singer and accompanist, there is no substitute working alongside the accompanist once I saw what happened between singers and pianist.

Furthermore, the music being used in our church’s choral Christmas musical is heavily based from the “modern worship” rock movement. As a classically trained singer, I discover the beat overlaps the message, and technique is sacrificed for the beat, and many times, it means violating principles of singing. A classical singer cannot succeed in a modern worship rock movement, because the beat surpasses the message, and the beauty of both the voice and message is replaced by the beat.

In that Christmas musical, the worship leader had his back facing the audience, and the focus seemed to shine on his back, and his hip-shaking, and not on the choir. A member's mother-in-law was outraged and was crying, and he became the third member of the choir to leave in a few months. Later, at the worship leader's wedding, vocalists sung the last number, a rock worship song, to the same compact disc accompaniment, which had me wondering what had happened. This came just a year after the same leader tossed the choir out of the dedication ceremony of the new building, and replaced the choir with teen pop dancers dancing to a meaningless teen pop song because it had more appeal to youth.

One final byproduct of the switch to tapes has been music leaders switching emphasis from vocalists to teen pop dancers and rock groups, and today's children are like the pied piper, many of who would rather dance to the latest secular pop song than to sing sacred music at church. They don't want the next Christin Owens, Jami Rhodes, Jaeyoon Kim, or Marc Rattray. They want the next generic teen pop dancer who can dance to the latest tune on the radio or to MTV, and the attitude against classical music, a byproduct of the counterculture, has come now where they don't want classical singers singing in church choirs, they would rather have rockers with no technique.

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