Is music the food of agape love?
We swapped cars with our daughter temporarily the other week, so I found myself idly playing the CD that happened to be in her player. And was blown away by a new musical experience (of which more later).
Why is music so special?
- We are hard-wired for music.
- It is hugely important to most of us.
- It is the background to much of our lives – how many hours a day do you have music playing?
- It sets a mood more quickly than almost anything else – which is why music film soundtracks are so important.
- It express things in ways that words cannot, at emotional and spiritual levels.
- It enables us to easily learn sung words which, as narrative poems, would be almost impossible to memorize.
- In an oral cultures particularly, music carries a special significance in teaching truths and cultural values.
- At most times and places in church history, music has been integral to worship, teaching/memorizing truths, and often evangelism. If you want to know how OT music worship likely sounded, listen here. The echoes of 3000 years of Jewish history become audible in seconds.
Music and evangelism
This post is not about using music in outreach events. Though I do wish that we’d use supposedly secular music much more as starting points in these programs. Songs such as Yesterday, which already freight so much emotional meaning for outsiders, are surely a helpful and appropriate introduction to referencing emotional pain or loss. And the need for culturally-appropriate music in other cultures, rather than importing western styles, is vital for worship and evangelism. This is a field in which missionary ethno-musicology has much to teach us.
If we genuinely like a certain music genre or performer, we immediately have a close common-ground connection with friends and colleagues who share this enthusiasm. Of course, the enthusiasm had better be genuine, not like the principal character in this TV ad ▶
And so, back to my CD discovery. Our daughter’s face lit up with pleasure when she found we liked music that meant much to her, and which she had seen performed live.
Our daughter’s CD was a band called The Destroyers. (No connection to another band of that name who accompany George Thorogood. And no idea what the name signifies. Probably an antagonism to bland formulaic music.)
They are a unique musical experience – folk music of a sort. Some is ‘Balkan Brass’ – very East European, gypsy or Ashkenazi in feel. And the lead song-writer and performer is a Birmingham (UK) beat poet, whose vocals sound rather wonderfully like a pirate. But the lyrics are definitely not at a pirate’s intellectual level – these are serious poetical and narrative excursions into very deep themes, often serious historical events such as the death of suffragette Emily Davison. And the instrumentalists are exceedingly crisp virtuosos, as befits the classically-trained Birmingham Conservatoire players that they mostly really are. Compositions are varied, memorable, complex.
…and your point is?
My concern is not that you should like this particular band, though why not listen to them on the clip below (the title track Hole in the Universe from their second album). Other tracks are also available on YouTube, and all their music is on Spotify (if that is available in your country).
It is that music such as this is greatly enjoyed by thinking youngish people – students, and other 20- to 40-somethings who want music to be rather more demanding than formulaic pop or rock. It has serious lyrics which merit genuine analysis, and can form an ideal subject for discussion, offline or online. For example, the concept of a ‘hole in the universe’, reflecting the puzzle of what is wrong with our world, is a great conversation starter. This opportunity applies equally to other songs on this album.
Music offers other online opportunities too.
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