Lately, I have been indulging in a series of rants on my e-mail groups, on the state of worship music today, especially that targeted at youth. I began by saying that "when I hear the typical, contemporary, folk-rock so-called worship music, with meandering melody, unnatural chord progressions, difficult-to-follow rhythms, and choppy, disjointed lyrics, which have the collective effect of slowly cranking a screw into the base of the skull, I think to myself, lame, repetitive, boring, and in the case of those who write and perform their own songs, self-serving."
Then I lamented that the Church has "failed the latest generations of young people in not exposing them to better music and teaching them sound music principles, instead surrendering the whole industry to semi-talented guys with guitars who know a handful of chords, but no theory, and no taste."
Someone else mentioned the old Broadway musicals, like Oklahoma, as an example of tasteful, enjoyable music, prompting a reminiscence, and possibly my last word on the subject:
"When I was a kid, before we had things like cassette tapes or 8-tracks, we had a stack of records, many of them 45-rpm's that my parents had collected. There was quite a mix, from children's music (Disney, mostly) to pop music like Julius LaRosa, Doris Day, the Hilltoppers, and the Sandpipers. I remember getting the 33-rpm sound track albums from Mary Poppins and the Sound of Music, which we literally wore out. We knew the Do Re Mi song by heart.
"Also included were the sound tracks, in 45-rpm, to the musicals South Pacific, Oklahoma, and the Desert Song. These were the Broadway casts, not the movie sound tracks. We would put on a stack of records and listen to them over and over. This was long before I found out, while watching Northern Exposure, that listening to show tunes was supposed to be a "gay" thing. Luckily, in my innocence, it did not affect me that way.
"In high school, I played in the orchestra for 3 musicals: Brigadoon, Oliver, and Carnival. While attending Bible college in Waxahachie, a friend talked me into trying out for the community theatre production of South Pacific. She then dropped out when she did not get a lead role, but I was recruited to play not one but 4 small parts, with chorus singing and a handful of lines.
"I could also go on to describe how I was introduced to Gilbert & Sullivan, classical music, and jazz.
"My point is that I was introduced to a lot of quality, fun, and rewarding music from an early age, which no doubt has shaped both my musical taste and my opinion of contemporary worship and youth music, as I recently expressed. The true magic of the "old" music is encapsulated in one word, MELODY, plus lyrics sculpted to suit it.
"Sad to say, few young people today are exposed to any music other than their own. Without a frame of reference, how can they begin to judge what is good? They are like people born stranded on a desert island, who make up their own language, and when finally exposed to civilization, simply cannot relate.
"My solution, as before, is to have a variety of music styles in church, rather than just one, not only to appeal to a broader cross-section of the community, but to expose narrowly-experienced people to new and perhaps better influences."