Excellence & Creativity in Worship

February 20, 2008

Given how many ‘secular’ (I don’t actually BELIEVE in a Christian/Secular distinction, but I sometimes use it for the sake of simplicity) artists I talk about here, you may wonder why I mention them so often on a ‘Worship Blog’. Two words:

1. EXCELLENCE

2. CREATIVITY

God is great. He deserves our best – the ‘first fruit’. That is worship: giving God our best. Worship music – and all music made by Christians, which should be an act of bringing glory to God – should be original, inspiring, and – at least in some sense – cutting edge. This is one of the reasons I have been so convicted as of late to write new songs for worship, and to develop my craft as a writer: God deserves it.

God is also the creator, which is to say, He is the most creative being in the universe. We’re created in His image. Jesus is restoring us to that perfect image of God – our creator God: the creative God. Though there has been great headway made in this are the past few years, it should be the NORM, not the exception, that Christian be leading the pack in making music that is both excellent & creative, rather than creating more mediocre rip-offs of musical genres that are long passe to the culture at large.

Believe it or not, I listen to about 90% music that would be considered ‘Christian’ (as in, the artists either profess faith, and/or are on a ‘Christian label’ – whatever that means, and/or sing songs with messages primarily about Christian things – don’t fool yourself into thinking that all 3 of those must be in place in order for an artist to be labeled ‘Christian’ for marketing purposes, though), most of which is what would be called ‘worship music.’ Artists like Matt Redman, Eoghan Heaslip, Steve Jones, Jeremy Riddle, & the Sovereign Grace team encourage and inspire me: their songs are fresh, Biblical, challenging, and frankly I NEED that – I need to drink from that well. But they have their influences, and I only receive those musical influences distilled – watered-down – when I step into the stream at it’s end. I find it FAR more helpful, and far more challenging for me as a musician and a writer, to wander up-stream to it’s sources.

For instance, if you want to be the next Delirious stop sitting in your room trying to play “My Glorious”, and don’t even bother thinking you’re cutting edge by learning a U2 song – pick up My Bloody Valentine‘s LOVELESS (yes, those are GUITARS). Learn “Only Shallow” or “Loomer”, which inspired U2 to make their classic “Achtung Baby”, which then inspired 1,000s of clones in both Christian and Secular markets, even many ‘worship artists’. Besides, if you can work your effects and manipulate your guitar to sound like My Bloody Valentine, you will have no problems pulling off tunes that could tie Delirious in knots if you worked at it.

Similarly, if you want to explore the dreamier side of Brit-pop as a songwriter or musician, you may want to pick up “Serene Velocity” – an anthology by Stereolab, even though you’ll understand less than half the words (much of it is in France), and what little you’ll understand will primarily be political pro-socialism garbage. Yes, ahh – the music: a blend of Hip-Hop, Funk, Jazz, Chamber Pop, 50’s Lounge, Vintage Electronica, and ‘Krautrock’ – I THINK it fits somewhere in the ‘Rock’ category, but that’s debatable. I personally discovered a few of their early EPs as I was discovering the whole 4AD & Shoegazer music scenes in the 90s, and they had a long-term influence on my use of counter-melody and syncopation in many of my own songs. Here’s a good, balanced compilation of their tunes from the beginning until now. It might not be your cup of tea, but if you’re looking to expand your palette, here’s a good place to start.

And please, let’s not be derivative – good music should open our mind to the almost endless possibilities we have as songwriters and musicians…push yourselves. Remember: He deserves our BEST.

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3 Responses to “Excellence & Creativity in Worship”

  1. Deering said

    Good stuff, Shannon!

  2. […] Musical Flashbacks So, I was eating with my family at Outback this past weekend, when I suddenly noticed a powerfully catching riff quickly above me coming from the speakers – I quickly excused myself from the table and moved around the room until I could better hear it. I was not wrong! It was “It’s a shame about Ray” by the Lemonheads – a song I used to have in regular rotation on one of my 3 different college radio shows back in the early 90s! As soon as we got home I went on an iTunes surfing fest from my early college days, and was engulfed by so many original, and fabulous melodies that I just had to share them, especially in light of my recent blog on Excellence & Creativity in Worship. […]

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