Once there was a prog rock keyboardist and vocalist named Neal Morse. He played with Spock's Beard and Transatlantic, and he had a solo career. He had a somewhat gratingly poppy voice, but the music he played was usually very cool. Then one day he met someone new: Jesus. He was, as the kid's say, Born Again. And then he decided writing interesting prog rock is not his scene. He'd rather play aggressively bland adult contemporary about how Jesus loves you come to Jesus Jesus is the one true way O Lord.
Actually, truth told, most of his Post-Jesus stuff is still pretty decent, if less interesting than his previous works, but he put out one song, "Children of the Chosen," that is so very bad, and so very typical of modern Jesusmusic (and played so very often on the prog rock station I listen to), as to prove my point entirely.
My point is: what the hell is it about modern American Protestantism that invites such very shitty music? It's not exactly as if religious devotion never yielded impressive musical works, just ask Bach or Mozart or Ravi Shankar (or King Diamond for that matter).
My belief on the matter is it is a change among religious thinkers as to what the function of music should be in religion. If one looks at a society like Europe in ages past, where membership in a Christian institution (Protestant or Catholic) was assumed, one sees music that was written for purely liturgical purposes; the sole goal was praising God in musical form. The music is a form of prayer, and one cannot glorify God with shitty music*. Thus, we got things like "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring."
Now, however, we live in 21st Century America, and there is a war on. The God Fearing Christians, in particular the Born Again variety, think of music in a different way. It is a recruitment tool in the culture war against the godless heathens.
Of course, this begs the question, if they are using music as a recruiting tool, then why aren't they writing good music? The most likely answer to this seems to me to be that rather than taking the tack of writing Top 40 style pop music, which grabs many ears but can still be very polarizing, they have preferred the strategy of writing bland music, so as to captivate few but offend even fewer. Christianity thus becomes a path of no resistance, so that those who think the least and are the easiest to offend will be the most likely candidates to drift in.
Still doesn't understand how a vibrant prog rocker got suckered in though.
*This is to say nothing of modern Catholic music, for which there can be no earthly explanation, and over which I would imagine God feels extremely smiteful.
Labels: music, religion