Christian praise and worship music
Christian praise and worship music is actually a growing phenomenon. Right from its roots back in medieval times when we first had praise and worship music written down, it was a crucial part of society. In fact the tradition of religious music of course goes far earlier but the first systematic recorded notation is traced to the monks of the 13th and 14th centuries. This is not a historic blog, but the point of referring to that era is to to understand how music often emanated from and was developed in religious institutions. Sometimes its repetitive and formulaic, and justifiably open to the criticism that it is unoriginal.
However it is worth understanding that in a congregation context, effective christian praise music will flow and be easy for people to sing along with. The idea is actually to transport the believer into a mental and emotional “safe space” where they can commune with their God. Is this brain washing? Possibly… but whose brain doesn’t need a good washing from time to time! Like all music, the goal is to take one away from the hustle and bustle of life. It is a way of transporting ones mind and heart to a safer place. As the Psalmist wrote many thousands of years ago: “I long to dwell in the shelter of the Most High”.
The current state of things
So where is christian praise and worship music at these days? There are many producers and large churches pumping out the praise hits all around the world. How do they walk in to a Sydney Recording studio and know what to create that will sell. One of the biggest sellers is actually right here in Sydney. The Hillsong Church/music corporation continually strikes a chord with people all over the world. Year after year they seem to top American charts, despite the thousands of amazing musicians in that country. So what is the magic formula that keeps their music fresh and circulating throughout churches around the globe?
An insight into the way a group like Hillsong would think:
Music is a language which can cross cultural boundaries in a heartbeat. It unites people around all walks of life. From sport to social gatherings and worship services it brings people together and has the power to unify.
Why does it have this power? What is unique about music that it can bring people into unity of purpose?
Music comes from Cultural roots.
The music that we grow up with and traditionally listen to has a far more powerful effect on us than other types of music. As a wedding musician I am often confronted with a Greek or Lebanese audience who – while certainly enjoying the pop classics – go to a whole other level when traditional music is played. Its a mesmerising force and evokes memories, cultural connection and heritage. Is it any wonder the Scotts used to march to war with the deafening sound of Bag Pipes in tow? The British were often steeled in wartime by the powerful brass bands. Many of these great traditional bands step into a Sydney music studio to put down the magic on wax.
Music is also a social phenomenon
It brings us together and we find our selves arm in arm singing our favourite lyrics. A shared experience is always a heightened experience. Not to mention the very social aspect of the musicians and singers themselves. Many bands of all types and especially worship bands testify to this fact. It is well know that if a band is well connected socially and enjoy each others company away from the music, they will inevitably play more effectively and cohesively as a band. Any decent voice over artist walking into a Sydney Voice over studio will understand this concept.
Music engages the emotions
This doesn’t necessarily indicate that music has to be about emotions, but it certainly expresses and connects to the emotional side of humans. Psychologists and neuroscientists would agree. Recents studies have showed that creating music an listening engage the emotional centres of the brain. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that that what ever the emotion being expressed by the songwriter is felt by the listener. If this were the case, who would ever listen to the blues or to any sad love songs? But it certainly does induce a heightened emotional state of being and humans tend to like that. This also can come from good drama, poetry, nature or art. Music however seems to be a short cut to the emotions. Every good producer in a Sydney recording studio will understand this connection.
Music is physical
Its also important to understand that music is a physical thing. From the rhythms and movements that it evokes to the deep bass waves that penetrate our body. It encourages us to move. Movement and connection with moving music is very, very healthy.
Often in hospices and retirement homes, men and women who are quite crippled with age will spontaneously begin dancing and moving around like teenagers when played music. Music tends to store itself in the recesses of our brain and can be awakened many years after a special moment or circumstance. In fact when people go into a Sydney Voice over studio or a Sydney recording studio they often find moving around while performing gets a better take!
Music in worship
This all adds up to help us understand why music is such a great vehicle for worship. It involves all of us, the body and mind and therefore is a great way to engage spiritually on a deep level. Good preaching and story telling can get you in the mood after 30 or 40 minutes. Where as music can get you to a deep place of experience and connection in a matter of seconds. Even in a Sydney voice over studio, a worshipful experience is possible. Because of the complete engagement of oneself in the activity it is a very satisfying way to meditate on our God and enjoy His Presence.