Tuesday, March 02, 2010

How do you experience this song?

The psychology of hymns, songs, and worship intrigues me. I know it is my childhood that makes singing/listening to a song like "Open My Eyes" rich and meaningful to me. Do others find the same richness in contemporary worship choruses? If you don't know the hymn, I'd be interested in how you experience it when you hear it for the first time. Does it have any pathos to you? Is worship and music, for that matter, mostly cultural?


John Mark said...

I couldn't get it to play. But I will comment anyway, ignorance has never stopped me in the past:).
I would suggest that today's worship music can be pretty one dimensional, though there are some exceptions, of course. I like a lot of it, for the record.
The music of any given era is always an indicator of where we are as a church in trying to articulate our faith, and in my mind, as bad as things seem to be today, it has probably been worse in the past-at times, anyway.
Remember, too, that the hymns we sing are the "best of" which survived. John Newton wrote/co-wrote a whole hymnal but beyond Amazing Grace I can't call another one of his compositions to mind.
So I presume that at some point trends will change; that some of the music of the last couple of decades will be considered worthy of inclusion into the canon.
For better or worse we will survive. Hopefully we can challenge songwriters to tap into the deep wells of theology when writing songs. This is difficult because most current stuff (again, not all) is written primarily from experience. And maybe with the thought that if my song becomes a 'hit' I can make a lot of money.
Still, I don't denigrate the creative impulse we have, I encourage it, and hope we strive for excellence.

Logan Hoffman said...

My response in brief, as a member of a younger generation:

1) I listened to the song you posted (that's you singing , if I'm not mistaken, bravo!). Like most "older" hymns, I experience the richness mostly in the words. The carefully crafted lyrics bely a deep theological grounding, which I happen to appreciate. Emotionally, however, most hymns, for me, are flat. There's just not a connection between the two. We might as well read the words together as a congregation, for the effect is basically the same. The words speak to me, the music does not.

2) Modern worship is the exact opposite much of the time. The music speaks to me (the good ones), but the words do not. Or they at least don't speak to me with much nuance or depth. The music is (I think) intended to do the heavy-lifting as far as directing the hearers to worship of God. It's meant to be more visceral, less intellectual.

3) There are clearly exceptions on both sides. I tear up every time we sing "It is Well", since I know a little of the story behind it. Likewise, certain modern worship songs reflect more than a passing acquaintance with theology. But the basic categories I described ring true for me on the whole.

It would be interesting to discuss how reflective the categories are of the different generations (I see some obvious implications), but I'll leave that to more qualified minds. That's my 2 cents!

Ken Schenck said...

JM, great thogght on the "best of" and later canon.

Logan, very interesting. I imagine these old hymns are imprinted on my subconscience like "It is Well" is for you. If I ever end up with Alzheimer's, I imagine I will sing these hymns with no clue what I am saying. I feel repentant at the first line of "Just as I Am." Very interesting!