Tag: Contemporary Music

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. How Lame Is Our Awesome God?

 

“When He rolls up His sleeves / He ain’t just puttin’ on the Ritz” must be one of the least promising ways to begin a worship song ever. Nobody rolling up their sleeves is “puttin’ on the Ritz.” The rolled-up sleeve-position used for manual labor is the opposite of the sleeve-position used for an old-fashioned fancy night out. And yet, that’s how Richard Mullins’s best-known song, Awesome God opens. Mullins himself considered Awesome God something of a failure, remarking, “the thing I like about Awesome God is that it’s one of the worst-written songs that I ever wrote; it’s just poorly crafted.” And yet it’s a song many of us remember fondly. Why?

To be fair, the lyrics get better from there: “There is THUNder in His footsteps / And lightnin’ in His fists.” Although not by much. Awesome God alternates patter in the verses with an expansive chorus, and the patter is hardly scintillating prose, much less verse. (“Eden” rhymes with “be believin’” — really?) The patter does, though, address themes often left out of “Jesus is my boyfriend”-style worship songs. God as Judge. Sin and its wages. God as God not just of happy, shiny, fluffy things, but also of the storm. And, when the song is sung at proper tempo (no slower than Mullins himself performed it), the rapid-fire, syncopated sixteenth-note patter creates an effect that surpasses its individual words. Especially when the worship leader delivers the patter in a half-snarled, half-whispered mutter, as if he’s letting you in on the secret of something dangerous — which he is: Aslan’s not safe, after all, just good. Notice I called the worship leader he. That’s important. Awesome God is made for a masculine musical delivery, and the difference between liking the song and hating it can simply be the difference between having learned it as masculine and driven, or crooning and wimpy.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Cloudburst — only a paper cloud?

 

“Tell me, burnt earth: Is there no water? Is there only dust? Is there only the blood of bare-footed footsteps on the thorns?” “The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.”

Eric Whitacre is a conductor and composer with matinee-idol good looks, personal magnetism, a slick marketing strategy, and arguably common sense, too: he recommends young composers not waste time acquiring training in academic theory beyond what they need to write music that sounds good. Whitacre is beloved in the choral world, but also, sometimes, disdained — for being overrated (he is, although overrated can still be good), for being gimmicky (also true, though his gimmicks often land), and for writing music “suffused with a sense of easy spiritual uplift… Everything [is] maximally radiant and beautiful, and beautifully sung. And that [is] the problem.”

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We all know it’s tough to be a conservative these days, especially on university campuses and workplaces like Google in Silicon Valley. I think everyone stuck in situations like that could use some spirit-lifting inspiration, and what better way is there to raise spirits than with song. It was my luck to come down with […]

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As a seasonal treat I invited my family to attend a concert this weekend by The Tallis Scholars, a group renowned for its interpretations of music of the Renaissance. Rather than the program I expected, one full of works by Thomas Tallis and other greats of the era, The Tallis Scholars inflicted on its audience […]

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