contemporary music is contemporary
Friday, June 22, 2007
This is a no brainer, but understanding where contemporary music has come from and why we do it may help us in being more intentional about the songs we choose and sing. Contemporary music comes from two different movements in history that converged in the 1970s. The first of these was the movement among churches in the last century to move from Hymns in corporate worship to 'gospel songs'. To start with these new 'gospel songs' were quite good. They had simple riffs and taglines that people could remember and they were gospel focused. This wasn't always the case. As the secular world developed it's 20th Century individualism and humanist thinking, church music followed a similar trend. The popular gospel songs stopped being about the gospel and started being pithy moralist dittys that said a lot about nothing. Look at songs written in the 50s and sixties and sadly, this is the trend that you will see.
At the same time another movement was becoming a catalyst for change. That was the Hippie movement. Many hippies in America and elsewhere became disillusiond with their 'free' lifestyle and through the work of university groups and others, many young people started turning to Jesus. This is what has been called 'the Jesus movement'.
New converts that were part of the Jesus movement found themselves excluded from traditional churches through a disapproving undertone that churchgoers gave to these new christians. The music didn't suit them, the clothes and 'starchy formalism' didn't suit them and so they formed their own communities. They created their own music based on the pop folk tunes that were big in the sixties and seventies. These new songs were stronger lyrically and soon churches began to sing them instead of the older gospel songs.
Contemporary music is designed to be culturally contemporary. It should be moving with culture. It should be relevant. Contemporary musicians should be to a certain degree listening to contemporary music in order to stay contemporary and engaging. This was the way contemporary christian music was designed anyway.
In Australia, things were a bit different to this and so there are different implications. Australia is culturally behind America. That means that for many of our curches we embraced this contemporary music but we didn't go through the process of working out why to do it. The Jesus movement didn't occur here to the same extent so the imediate need for contemporizing didn't exist. What this has meant is that we have contemporary music with a hymn attitude. We treat contemporay songs the same way as we treated hymns. Are there ways that you can see that still happening - even now?
Posted byDan at 12:06 PM