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Following this Sunday’s service full of music, I got to thinking about the role music plays in our lives in general. If you are on social media you most likely have seen people playing an April “choose the song that fits this prompt” challenge. The categories are things like “favorite duet” or “song with a color in its title” but watching people’s song choices and reading their reasons for those choices points to the depth in which music touches us.
Music is made up of so many things; storytelling, mood, melody, rhythm among them. Yet, as important as all of the things the creator of the music used, the most important thing that makes up music is our own reactions, connections, and interpretations. As I was talking with Rachel about this past week’s service we tried to pick out music which would be familiar and connecting for people, yet there still were people who didn’t know but a single song or two out of our selections. Our views on music are as diverse as we are, but while we may not agree on what song fits when, we certainly have songs that fit certain spaces and times.
Music shadows so much of our lives, we find it in our TV programs, films, commercials, public spaces, private moments, and many of us drive to it, dance to it, get dressed to it every day. Songs get us through tough times, make us contemplative, support our moods and in doing so we attach meaning to the songs beyond any intent of the creators. And these meanings are again, as diverse as we are.
One of the oddest moments I have ever had was talking with a pastor while interviewing for a music team leader position. The pastor and the position description talked about using popular music as part of worship and I was asked for one song that I had used in the past. The first song that popped into my head was Third Eye Blind’s Semi-Charmed Life. This shocked the pastor who found the lyrics and meaning to be all about sex and drugs, but for me it was a song about the incompleteness of being only present in the physical world. The difference in meaning showed a ton about our views of life and theologies, but also spoke to how I had assigned a spiritual meaning to a song because of where I was in life when I first heard the song. I was in college, trying to figure out what I wanted out of life and seeing a world that was out of control and wanting to feel that there was a greater purpose than just living day by day for my life.
It is also worth noting how we consume music also affects the connection between ourselves and the meanings of music. Many of the youth of this church know my distain for the song “My Lighthouse,” I find it bad scientifically, theologically, and practically. Yet, for them it is a song connected to their spiritual touchpoints, to places and times when they felt God active and filling them as they sang along with hundreds of thousands of others. There is no way to disconnect the song from the experience, nor does there need to be. It will always be a touchpoint to those highs for every one of them. Likewise, I know when I’ve been by myself for long periods and start to feel down, I tend to move towards harder music in my collection because the driving bass and memorable hooks renew my drive and push me to get going again (current selection: Judas by Fozzy). Also, when I listen to songs from Broadway musicals I tend to think about the people I attended those musicals with or those who share my love of specific musicals.
I point to these examples as they help us understand how music entails significant emotional engagement, more than just enjoying the moment. Music influences all aspects of our life, none more so that our understandings of our bodies, spirits, and communities. Our theologies are defined or identified, at least in part, by how music converses with ideas about God, humanity, sin, and salvation. It is not the actual content of the music (though that can play a part, and for some a rather large part) that makes this connection, but how we connect it to our lives and use those connections to interpret the music and the life in envelops.
I leave this more as a thought piece than one that aims to tell us anything about how to act or what we need to do now. With that in mind I want to return to one of the things that inspired this article, the social media music challenge. Let’s do our own quick version here:
Song that makes you think about God:
Song that reminds you of what it means to be human:
Song that connects you to your faith (or the church):
Song that brings you joy:
Song you play when sad or struggling:
Song you wish more people knew:
And yes it’s only fair I share mine:
God – Rest/Yes Indeed by Bobby McFerrin
Human – I Believe by Cowboy Mouth (My Train Version)
Faith – Hope by David Lamotte
Joy – You Need to Calm Down by Taylor Swift
Sad – You Gotta Be by Des’ree
Know – Stardust by MIKA and Karen Mok
What is on your list?
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