21st Century Sacred Music Mixing

Who would have thought that mixing would actually be considered an art form worthy of analysis. Curtis Bahn certainly thought the popular method of splicing various clips of sound together in interesting ways to be worthy of serious analysis. Bahn’s dissertation, which emphasized mixing, was completed at Princeton. His thesis was entitled Composition, Improvisation, and Meta-composition. Of course, the idea of mixing clips of sounds did not originate with rap artists. In a typical music history review, musique concrete is referenced as the first example of juxtaposing clips of recorded sound.

I came across Bahn’s heady analysis of mixing while working on my dissertation, and I must admit that I have been fascinated by the idea of mixing in creative ways since that time. One type of mixing that is particularly interesting to me is through sections of choral pieces. Typically when a choral piece is revisited with a creative motive, the result is an arrangement or a new edition of a historic piece that is based on careful research. However, another manner of creatively using choral pieces is through taking a section of a particular piece and placing it seamlessly next to a section of another piece.

An experimentation of this nature will occur at a concert that will be presented this Thursday evening, April 26, in Leavell Chapel at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The concert entitled The Story of Worship will open with a section from Mendelssohn’s “All Men All Things.” We will transition about halfway through this movement to the chorus of “To God Be the Glory,” remaining in the key of Bb. Hopefully this will allow the congregation to feel a bit more connected to this rarely performed piece by Mendelssohn. Our next mixing example Thursday is even more of a stretch. Singing Latin for an evangelical audience is admittedly a hard sell. We will sing the “Resurexit” section of Haydn’s Theresamesse in Bb. We will then transition to a closely related key, Eb, and sing “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.” I especially enjoy sharing this powerful resurrection music with our students at NOBTS. I am most pleased to see some powerful new songs being written on the theme of the resurrection, but I also want our students to hear some of the most powerful resurrection themed music ever written.

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