My dream for many years has been to begin using culturally relevant music but still allowing what may now traditionally be known as "charasmatic" "Spirit-led" style contributions and gifts of the Spirit within the worship time.
Previous attempts at using electronic beats and programming within worship that I have been aware of, seem to either be so prescriptive and programmed that there was little flexibility to change the arrangement etc 'off the cuff' so to speak. When I lead a band with my electric/acoustic guitar/keys I can go any which direction I want as long as the band is confident enough to follow me. This has facillated the style of spontaneous driven worship leading I have used over the years. But the sound is more often limited and the sad fact that many of the popular worship albums and therefore songs all sound roughly the same has made this ever more challenging to be truly creative.
The other problem I have percieved with electronic based worship is that the content and doctrine has often appeared wooley, vague and more about the emotions than declaring the glory of The Father, giving glory to His Son in the Power of His Spirit.
Anyway, I have 3 young daughters. Matilda is my eldest and she will be 9 in 2 months time. She started listening to our local dance music station capitol radio. At first I was shocked at my reaction and how old I sounded ie that it all seemed to sound the same and that the words were horrifically sexual. But I decided to try and understand the genre better and actually started to find I really like about 10% and that I was able to steer my daughters towards the more wholesome and genuinely good creative songs. I downloaded the ibiza annual for 2012 (was only around £8 for 40 new dance anthems) worked out what I thought was good and ditched the rest.
This got me thinking again about using music that is relevent to the city I live in. I live in Birmingham uk which actually is more of a 'clubbing' dance music orientated city even though it was part of the birth of metal and hard rock music in the 60s and 70s. I had recently bought a synth (microKorg) and decided it was time to incorporate this in our church worship times. I started with a new Matt Redman song that lends itself well to the synth sound (we are the free) from his great album 10,000 reasons.
Initially people laughed as the sounds I was using were so different to what they expect at church, but this only lasted momentarliy. We went on the have areally great time singing in The Father's presence. I had also done a new arrangement of the classic I love You Lord and I lift my voice, this led into prolonged spontaneous singing and prophecies and scripture readings. It felt like maybe my dream could become reality!
I then bought a new audio interface for my computer to record with. Included with it was a really cool bit of software called Ableton Live 8 (lite) I discovered this was brilliant for creating beats and putting samples together and adding live synth and vocal. It also is amazing at allowing you change the order and loop sections at the drop of a hat - YES - just what I had been wanting. Just like any new instrument it is taking me time to learn how to use it well but I have recorded my new arrangement of I love You Lord
Here it is, let me know what you think of both my thoughts and the song
Is the goal to be able to do it all as one person? I know it can be tough to find other players and you may have to solo it.
I worked with a worship leader who did a similar thing, he midi tracked every instrument except the keys he was playing on Sunday and it was successful at the time. So I can imagine that there are some congregations who would like that idea. My personal preference is for live and real instruments, especially the percussion.
But changing up songs from their original metre and melody is a great idea.
There's a couple of issues I could see -
Spontaneity, the issue of doing it live, changing things as you went along but maintaining the flow, then stopping in a way that fitted. There's a danger of the whole thing becoming performance and producing 'pieces', especially if programmed, which I think was part of your criticism of this form already.
Culturally, with some of us struggling to see a place for 'electronic music' in a Spirit-led environment, rather than a night club. This is certainly a personal perspective, though many felt the same way about guitars in church 35 years ago.
I'll listen when I get home. And you're only about an hour up the road from me.
Thanks for your thoughts.
Yes, the big question for me has always been how to use programming in a way that can be spontaneous, or at least that leaves plenty of room for both reflection and contributions from the congregation which is out church is a high priority within our worship times taking on board Corinthian 13 guidance on worship times and spiritual gifts.
I am so encouraged that there appears to be software coming through that enables this.
I believed strongly that the music and arts within a particular church both reflects something of the current congregation and also the culture of the people that church is looking to impact. This is mostly why I am pursuing this avenue. There is also an element of inclusivity in dance culture. With rock gigs (which is what a lot of current worship music most resembles) you have a stage with the band, everyone faces that band and the band perform for the audience. With clubbing culture you have the dj but the dance floor has everyone pretty much facing each other and connecting with each other and the music in a very different way
Now... I am by no means suggesting Church services should be a night club, but I also do not think Church services should be a rock gig. There are lessons to be learnt from both cultural arts and how the timeless truths of scripture can be expressed through both a cultural lens and truly innovative and creative ways from that particular church. We are both to commend good and wholesome arts within the world, and be part of creating good and wholesome arts from withing the church
I agree with you that introduction of the guitar to worship servies 30 - 40 years was truly radical. And I suggest that it is too easy to allow the guitar to become the new church organ
One of the things that has increasingly seemed essential is that worship is a collective participation, rather than an exclusive event. So the people should be involved in where the worship is going, praying out, bringing words and prophesy, each one contributing. It's hard to do that in a rock gig environment where everything is focussed on the stage and what happens there. However that format is highly effective commercially and easy to control. FWIW I really like (or used to) being on stage, but no longer believe that's how worship *should* be done. Obviously this has implications for larger gatherings in terms of manageability and good order.
I've been on an interesting (and highly uncomfy - somewhat connects to your other thread) worship journey the last 4 years, and have become aware that 'charismatic' Christians can have as many sacred cows as those in older traditions.
I wish you well. I can't really help you as I don't know much about how to creat the types of sounds you are talking about, and I am too old to have had much experience of electro music in clubs (bring back disco I say!) but I do wish we could move away from the standard piano/electric piano/soft pads/strings that we all tend to use for everything. It would be good if we could encourage our keyboard players to actually find out what sounds they could generate from their keys.
That's another cultural divide to cross. I used a Roland GR33 to play flute, sax, horns etc as well as the usial synthy sounds using guitar as the interface, and even after several month people would keep coming over, not really believing what they were hearing. A lot of people feel comfy with instruments 'acting out' of their norm and a lot of musicians don't find it easy to play like something else.
I admire your creativity and willingness to embrace new sounds and technology.
I would prefer to steer away from synthetic versions of acoustic instruments. What I like about a good synth is the ability to create distinct textures and sounds that are unique to the synth sound. Current chart type dance music has got back into the classic synth sound in a really big way. And I find it uplifting and epic.
The synth sounds are really there to bring colour and some freshness to the traditional organ guitar based worship.