Music was a primary reason that we became Anglican. Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on music for a series by Humane Pursuits. In this series, we’re addressing the ways that music shapes the soul and community and teaches us about the order of the world, as well as giving practical ways to build musical culture in the home, church, and wider community.
Most of my thoughts on musical culture spring out of the influence of Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio. My husband and I were his interns in the summer of 2012 and we are always aware of the debt of gratitude we owe to him. He is a major reason that we became Anglican (and don’t dread church every week).
The first two posts have been just published.
Imagining a Musical Culture
In Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder remembers her Pa playing his fiddle as she waited to fall asleep. She “was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.” This mingling of music and memory in time is key to a musical culture; and it’s the kind of experience we would all want for our children. But we often don’t realize what we have lost.
Once upon a time, people would gather around the piano in an evening to sing together. House concerts were common. Small towns would gather for the biggest social event of the season — Singing School. Amateurs would play chamber music, just for joy and friendship, sight-reading their way along new music together. While we can dismiss these examples as quaint or nostalgic, when we allowed our shared musical culture to slip away, we lost a rich heritage, along with the ties that music once formed within our communities. In the age of Spotify, we don’t even know what a musical culture would look like. How would we even begin to re-create such a thing? Read more…
And this is the second post reflecting on what we learned from Ken Myers:
Learning to Hear, Learning to Sing from Ken Myers
For years, my husband and I hated Sunday church. Though we were dedicated to the Church — seminarians and worship band musicians — we found weekly excuses to be nursery volunteers and avoid the service, especially the music. We felt constant guilt over our angst. Were we being elitist or unspiritual? Was it sinful to be uncomfortable with the way churches used pop culture forms? We were desperate to learn how to love church, but we were at a loss.
In 2011, we providentially attended a lecture called “Music and Discipleship” from a cultural journalist named Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio. This evening made history for us, beginning a relationship that changed our lives. In the lecture, Ken insisted that music itself (the form) has meaning, apart from the words (the content). And, he said, we become musical relativists when we insist that any genre or form is acceptable for worship, ignoring ancient wisdom on music’s possibilities. The early church agonized about whether to include the organ in worship, because of the theological richness they saw in voices singing together in unison (and then, later, in parts). We only agonize about content, forgetting that, as Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message.” Read More…
Upcoming posts include “In Praise of Nursery Songs” and “Resources for Family Singing.”