Archive for the ‘worship’ Category

Bending Time

On the philosophic side of art I am fascinated with attempts by artists who wrestle with the subject of time through lyrics, images, plots, and sounds. A most recent example is Inception, starring Leonardo Dicaprio. In this film time-benders enter the subconscious of a victim to bend future events. The film wreaks of Huxley with drug-induced states being the modus operandi for accessing subconscious networks (note Dicaprio’s latest adventure literally with a Huxley text) .

Among musical examples, two of the most artistic/philosophic offerings are Windmills of the Mind by Michael Legrand and Time by Pink Floyd.

In Windmills of the Mind time is described as a series of never ending circles. As the lyrics become more personal toward the end of the song, referencing specific relational experiences, the theme returns to the overwhelming wheels of time that swallow the details. The song certainly embodies  melancholy longing, a salient example of the end-game for secular materialists. Interesting, but a gnawing soulish hunger accompanies the lyrics–no doubt, a bleak eternity even without Dante’s Infirno.

Pink Floyd both bends time in Time and deals with time philosophically. The writers remind us that living through time more than anything proves the timelessness of time. I would say between the two examples, Pink Floyd is perhaps a little closer to the truth, though not much closer when actually measured against Truth.

These explorations with time do little more than the much older artistic experiments with time in Indian Raga. With the Raga, the sitar player places the listener in a dreamy trance like state, only to be followed by the conqueror of time, the tabla player. Tabla players are the real mathematicians of the world, dividing time with sound in complex macro and micro phrases.

But what is one left with in these various versions of the Eastern art of allure. What one is left with is the desire to dive into the art, like the feeling you get when looking at the multitude of colors in a tropical aquarium.

I fear that some of our worship attendees are doing little more than the rock listener who dives into  Pink Floyd. Let me be the first to say as a worship leader that we must explain in a very sober manner the meaning of rich poetry. Rich art needs constant commentary and explanation. When the art becomes too rich with no one to rescue the culture the philosophers will enter the room in one way or another. In Greece clarifiers of complexity entered as philosophers as the Greek tragedy was spinning out of control.

I would suggest C. S. Lewis (quote from Weight of Glory below under comment) as a guide for understanding time. In the great divorce Lewis explores time and concludes that eternity is firmly planted in the heart of man, and humans feel a strange comfort with a sense of eternity. This strange comfort is a pointer toward the state of being for which humans were originally intended. But the point of the longing is for one to recognize the need for Christ. In receiving Him, in fellowshipping with Him, the sense of timelessness reaches its fulfillment.

What is incarnational worship?

Welcome to my new blog: (i)ncarnation of worship. In this blog I will review the current landscape of worship leadership and encourage dialogue and creative sharing in relationship to the topic of worship leadership. The title of this blog represents the greatest challenge of the 21st century church in relationship to worship: How do we reconcile a desire to connect with culture with a desire for pure worship before the Throne Room of God. I have the great privilege of discussing this issue frequently with my students at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Most often, students of various calling and worship leaders in particular are more passionate about one of these two extremes. Our churches need a balanced perspective on worship for maximum health, and it is the responsibility of worship leaders to provide that balanced perspective. In future posts, I will seek to describe how this proper balance can be achieved through the framework of incarnational worship. Rest assured that future conversation-starters will include practical aspects of worship leadership; although, my students would probably warn you that I tend to drift back to philosophical inquires.

Original Song by Phillip Townsend (Atl student at New Orleans Baptist Seminary)

Here is a song I wrote and recorded a few years back. It may or may not suit your palette:

http://www.youtube.com/philliptowns#p/c/4285132B09028F8B/0/HB3c6ygwY5g

Song Review by Phillip Townsend

Posted originally by Phillip Townsend on August 5, 2010 at 12:16 am  

Song: Lord of All
Artist: Kristian Stanfill

I guess I’ll kick things off if there aren’t any objections? Hearing none, I will proceed I’d like to review a song called Lord of All by Kristian Stanfill. Kristian is an emerging artist from North Point Church in Alpharetta, GA under Pastor Andy Stanley. He is one of my favorite leaders due to his passion, humility, and solid song-writing. Lord of All was first released in 2007 and many churches now sing it. However, I wanted to review the song for those who might be less familiar with Stanfill. I believe this song is an example of top notch song writing and sound biblical theology.

YouTube link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7ii8WTXilw

MUSICALITY
I realize this is a highly subjective category. But in my opinion, this song is a great example of straightforward song writing that stands out for its simple and memorable melody. The chord progression and song order are very predictable. But I think this draws more attention to the power of the melody. Unexpected changes might seem forced and/or “gimmicky”.

The interplay of the lead guitar and piano in the introduction gives the song an epic feel. This is important for accentuating the subject matter which will be covered below.

The pre-chorus and bridge sections add in a minor 2nd chord. This provides just enough chord variation to keep things interesting without being distracting.

In this recording, you’ll notice there aren’t distinguishable vocal harmonies. And truthfully, it doesn’t need any. I think one sign of a well-written melody is that it can stand alone. It doesn’t need backing harmonies to sound powerful.

There is a loop used until the 1st pre-chorus. This simple percussive beat drives the song until the drums come in. The drums remain tasteful throughout – very dynamic but never showy.

The extremely simple and punchy piano part during the chorus gives the whole section an epic feel.

I love the dynamic contrast between the bridge and final chorus. Over the course of 60 seconds, we are taken from the most delicate moments of the song to the most dynamically intense.

The simple chord progression, simple lead guitar riffs, simple piano parts, and simple loop…..combined with a medium tempo….make this song accessible to even the most elementary musicians (like me!).

THEOLOGY
I think Lord of All hits a home run in terms of theology. The lyrics communicate an awestruck wonder that comes from considering the sovereignty, holiness, and absoluteness of God.

Verse 1
Wonder and awe surround You, Lord (Job 5:9)
Glory and fire light Your way (Isaiah 4:5)
Day after day the heavens proclaim
The beauty of the holy One (Revelation 4:8)

Prechorus
We will respond with joy in our song
Your enemies rise
Your enemies fall
Your fire consumes them all (Isaiah 26:11)

Chorus
There is none so high and holy (1 Samuel 2:2)
King of kings the one and only (Revelation 19:16)
You are adored, You are the Lord of all

Verse 2
Mysteries unknown are known to You (Job 11:7)
All wisdom is Yours to reveal (James 1:5)
You hold in Your hand the days of all men
All life and breath is Yours to give (Acts 17:25-26)

Bridge
We adore You, we adore You
Lord of all the earth (Joshua 3:11)
Lord we love You, Lord we love You
Let our hearts be pure (Psalm 51:10)

As you can see, every concept in this song has blatant biblical support. What I particularly love is that…in addition to proclaiming God as the holy and sovereign One…the song includes an element of personal reflection. Phrases such as “We will respond”, “We adore You”, and “Lord, we love You” make the song more than simply descriptive. They allow the worshipper to respond to God with love, adoration, and purity. In other words, we are acknowledging the absolute holiness of God and declaring our desire to be holy like Him (Leviticus 19:2).

CONCLUSION
Lord of All is a modern, well-written, accessible, and biblically sound song that makes a fantastic addition to any church’s song repertoire.

Original Song by Truett-McConnell grad (Tim Johnson)

Check out Tim Johnson’s post for song contest in Atlanta. Posted with his permission

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSNTx0lMkVI&sns=tw

Original Song by Heather Palmer (student at Truett-McConnell, GA)

Heather entered this song in a contest sponsored by the The Fish in Atlanta–posted with Heather’s permission.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJSsNHxDMzI

Revitalizing Worship Songs

In recent years there is a great deal of interest in revitalizing hymns (i.e., adding new instrumentation to standard hymns). I am a big fan of this procedure, particularly because it increases the chances that our young worshipers will be singing the hymns for many years to come. But another approach has been occurring for some time in the rock world. PBS recently interviewed Sting regarding his revitalization of standard rock tunes with orchestral accompaniment. Sting addresses his desire to keep his songs viable over the course of decades, but I can’t help but think that Sting felt compelled to add another layer of sophistication to these songs. Particularly, if one considers the projects he’s been involved in over the past decade (e.g., lute songs by Byrd). Young worship leaderships, I hesitantly include myself in this group as I approach 40, have a tendency to relegate all orchestrated worship songs to the category of Lawrence Welk Worship, but is Sting providing a path for adding a real aesthetic value to songs conceived originally as rock pieces?

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/art/blog/2010/07/friday-on-the-newshour-sting-gets-strings-for-new-orchestral-album.html