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A Song to Sing, A Life to Lead

November 17, 2006

Finished reading ‘A Song to Sing, A Life to Live’ by Don Saliers and Emily Saliers (of Indigo Girls fame). It’s an interesting idea, pairing father and daughter, church musician and folk/protest singer, Christian and someone who values her faith background but can’t fully embrace all it means at this point in her life. The book has some highlights but over all I think it is more seduced by the concept than the content.

That said, there were times it hit the nail on the head.

The act of singing praise, lament, thanksgiving, or prayer to God goes beyond the surface of the words and beyond the passing sound of the voices. Singing and hearing music that expresses human life before the divine confers a special dignity on the singers and the hearers. If the words and the musical forms are adequate to the mystery of being human – to suffering and joy – then the sound itself becomes a medium of formation and transformation. Music is not simply an ornament of something already understood in words. Rather, ordered sound mediates the world to our senses and animates – literally, ensouls – those who enter it deeply…music is basic to any spiritual perception of the world, opening up the world and the rhythms of our lives whether we are making music or listening to it. Be attentive, and you will know that all people are far more than mere consumers of music and song.’ (pp36,37).

I love the idea of words and musical forms that are ‘adequate to the mystery of being human’. It is this adequacy to mystery that makes our experience of music more than simply a transitory thrill.

Later they write,

This is what the two of us look for and long for: music that offers something to grow into, that isn’t soon exhausted, and that does not replicate in simple cliches whatever is popular at the moment. (p163).

Oooh for contemporary worship music that offers more than the simple cliche. That gives me something which will linger with me through the various stages of my life, and can be heard afresh through every newly appeared gray hair, or emotional scar or deepened wrinkle. For that though we need poets to craft our lyrics and musicians to shape the music, not the newest hippest haircut with a guitar and a barrel load of self-confidence.

And we need to let our songs mature and mellow with age acquiring a patina of history and experience, rather than dumping them in favour of what’s hot.

Tell me it’s not too much to ask.

From → Worship

One Comment
  1. Barry permalink

    …. which is why I love Brian Houston’s music so much (secular or, of more relevance here, faith-based). Consider the power and poignancy of the middle 8 from “Everybody Needs A Healer”, rehearsed in the “where’s me breakfast” blog.

    ’nuff said.

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