Thursday, 6 September 2012

My (big) problem with music in church


Rant alert...

There are many problems with music in church and at many levels.

The problem arises because I am a pretty 'musical' person by nature; which is to say discriminating about music: I simply cannot help it. I am never neutral about music - if not positive my response will be negative; if I do not like music I find it uncomfortable, painful, sometimes almost unbearable. At any rate I cannot ignore it, much as I often wish to. 

Problems with church music:

1. The music is bad. This is the norm.

2. The music is arbitrary - such as Gregorian chant and the like. i.e. the tune does not fit the words, indeed there is no discernible tune.

3. The music is 'good', but I don't like it (e.g. many old hymns are just depressing).

4. The music is good but the performance is unsatisfactory (for example, listening to a church organ is not really a very pleasant experience; choirs may be bad in bad ways - I'm not so worried about competence and polish, but there are bad ways of being bad like warbling).

5. The music is good, and well played, but showing-off. Egotistical. Un-Christian - this is common in the expert choirs of cathedrals and the like.

6. The music is good, but does not fit the words - in the sense that the feel of the music and the feel of the words clash - like the 'sacred' music of most great classical composers.

7. The music is good but anachronistic to the words. 16th century language and 19th century music especially...

So what are we left with?

Not much.

Book of Common Prayer (essentially 16th century) words sung to 16th century English music by a sincere and competent choir without an organ...

Pretentious? Moi?