Friday, April 8, 2022

Can We Please Have More Variety in Our Church Music?

As a musician, one of the things that disturbs me the most about modern worship music is its lack of variety. Musical styles are changing constantly. Rock was once called pop music, and what we call pop music is now called electronic dance. Classical music, by definition, isn't strictly a musical genre. It's an umbrella term for multiple sub-genres such as medieval, renaissance, baroque, romantic, impressionist, 20th century, etc. Rock metal and punk are separate genres. 

When I was in high school, I played the trumpet in a small band that played both soul music and Tijuana Brass music in the various officers' clubs on Oahu (both genres required trumpets). Then in college, for 4 years I played the electric base in a group that played contemporary worship music. We called ourselves "Joyous Creed," and all of our music was original (we were led by a very talented composer and singer). Of course, I also played the trumpet in band from the 5th grade through the 12th grade, and there we played all sorts of music, from classical (Holst's "The Planets") to popular (the theme from "Hawaii 5-0").  Other musical genres include:

  • Country gospel
  • Folk
  • Jazz
  • Disco
  • Funk
  • New age
  • Hip-hop
  • Reggae
  • March
  • Blues

With all of this diversity, I have to wonder why worship music today is so bland and repetitive. The expression "cookie cutter" comes to mind. It is incredibly annoying to me. Don't worship leaders realize how robotic their music is week after week? How about occasionally some simple piano, or organ, or acapella singing? Or a youth and/or children's choir? A worshipful trumpet solo? (In Hawaii, I would play "The Lord's Prayer" at Easter Sunrise services every year.) 

Boredom. Apathy. Monotony. That's often what I feel. The church's playlist hasn't changed in years. We're stuck in time and afraid to explore new genres. I'm 69 years old and thrive on finding new music to enjoy. I will happily give it a go with almost any genre of music. There's so much out there undiscovered both old and new so why keep doing the same thing over and over again? I do have my favorites -- especially organ music and classic rock ("All Right Now," "Hotel California," "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Sweet Dreams," "Total Eclipse of the Heart," "Beginnings," etc.) -- but I haven't stopped listening to new music. Finding music that you don't know about yet but that you will like is an excellent pastime. The internet is an infinite mine of musical gems. You can keep digging and digging and never run out. It is an absolutely thrilling time to be a musical aficionado. Worship leader, check out the Maranatha Singers for example. What a lovely genre of Christian music. Yet one never hears it in church anymore. Why not? Isn't this beautiful?

Right now I'm listening to Gregorian chants. The Latin words fascinate me as the lyrics are almost always pure Scripture. I'm not a worship leader (thankfully!), but if I were I would probably disband the worship team or at least have them sing from the side of the platform so that the music is less emotionally manipulative and the musicians less "performers." I'd also move away from the "Jesus is my boyfriend" trope. But at least -- at least! -- I would want the music to be far less boring and repetitive. 

Listening to different types of music is like visiting new countries or exploring new worlds. In many cases, you'll be pleasantly surprised. In other cases, you'll find "it's not for you." But at least you can say you experienced a little taste of the vast musical variety that God created.