Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Brief Thought About CCM

Contemporary Christian Music continues to dominate the religious airwaves and even filters into the secular mainstream. I will readily admit that I don't care too much for CCM. There are only a handful of CCM artists (Michael Card and Steve Taylor being among my favorites) that I have ever cared to listen to, and frankly it doesn't seem like I've missed out on much.

Jeffrey Tucker, editorial vice president of Mises.org, wrote about CCM in an essay entitled "Suffering, Thy Name Is FM Radio":
    How can I describe this stuff? It's like bad rock, bad pop, bad country, bad everything all rolled into one. The voices are all bad. They have this cheesy little vibrato that seems designed to sooth but only annoys. The instrumentation is all canned. All songs begin softly with whispered nothings about some personal problem you don't care about. They grow and grow with choruses featuring long notes. Cymbals and trumpet flourishes arrive at the high points. They end with some victorious flourish. A dated rock beat backs it all. The words are completely vacuous. The sentiment is cheap. The melodies are childish. If religion were this thin, it's a wonder anyone goes along with it at all! This is truly bad music in every way.

    Give me the cultural authenticity of rap. I'll take the phony philosophy of the college station blues. I'll tap my toe to the Village People. Put on a Sting re-tread. I'll take another 688 bars of saxophone improvisation. I'll even suffer through an old-time country crooner. But please please, can't somebody do something about Christian contemporary music? I know what I was thinking and feeling: This stuff is the bane of the entire radio dial.
Hyperbole aside, is Mr. Tucker being unfair?

I recall what a fellow student told me back in college: "We don't need more Christian rock musicians; we need more rock musicians who are Christians." His point was that good music and Godly music aren't necessarily synonymous. We don't have to settle for bad music just because the lyrics happen to be about God. Why can't we have both? Wouldn't a more God-glorifying combination be intelligent, edifying lyrics sung to an equally intelligent and edifying tune?

7 comments:

Kevin said...

Good post - I agree. As Alan Bloom points out in "The Closing of the American Mind", the rhythms -- especially the droning bass "beat" -- of rock music are designed to inflame the sexual passions. Christian rock music then must overcome the sexual presence of the music with powerful words. Unfortunately, there are very few musicians who write lyrics so powerfully.

Michael Card's music, for example, features complex lyrics and does not feature a driving rock beat.

The beauty of old hymns was not their music. The music was usually second-rate, but did not get in the way of the words. In particular, the words of the old hymns are wonderful, thoughtful, and (in stark contrast to rock lyrics) polysyllabic.

Rock is just another four letter word.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen Steve Camp's call for reformation in CCM?

I think you'll like it!

-TimR

Lee Shelton said...

I saw that a few years ago. I'll have to go back and read it again. Thanks for the link!

Avery said...

I know it is now over a year later, but I just came across this article about CCM today. I heartily agree with Mr. Shelton's comments!. I am a Calvinist, a preacher, and a musician. God has increasingly burdened my heart over the past few years with a desire to do something that returns Christian music powerfully back to the truth. I have written biblical lyrics to several songs from very strong passages of Scripture. After much prayer I am waiting upon God to direct me to other Calvinist musicians who may share the same burden I have. I am wondering if The Contemporary Calvinist might be able to point me in the direction of other Calvinist musicians so contact can be made and some new work can begin. Any help will be appreciated.

Lee Shelton IV said...

Sorry, Avery. I'm afraid I can't be much help. However, I have seen Sovereign Grace Music mentioned on many Calvinist sites. I'm not too familiar with them, but that might be a good place to start.

Rachel R. said...

Avery, my husband is a Calvinist and a musician (and a preacher, too, when he can get a church ;) ). He hasn't done any actual recording yet, but that's due more to financial restraints than anything else. He writes lyrics, arranges music, and writes a variety of music - from jazz to "classical" to rock to worship choruses, etc. You can email me through my Blogger profile and I'll forward you on to him. (I don't want to post his email address online, so he won't get spammed. ;) )

Paul said...

I never cease to be amazed that the christians who insist on hymns only on Sunday have there own genre of secular music they listen to the rest of the week.If they are honest with themselves they would admit to listening to; bluegrass, country, classic rock, 50,s , 60's, etc., while at the sametime condemning a style of music that at least is bible centered and is listened to seven days a week. It must break the heart of God to see his people wasting so much time attacking one another. You can go online and find "christians" attacking other christian artist such as Chris Tomlin. Remember whose company we keep when we are "accusers of the brethren".

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