Thursday, November 21, 2002

Righteous Songs

I was reading an article the other day, that gave me lots of things to think about. I wish, in fact, that I could link you to it, because it’s a very profound article. But, unfortunately, I can’t.

It’s a transcription of a speech given by Gordon Bowen to the BYU College of Fine Arts and Communications in November of 1994. It’s all about the viability of the arts in modern society, especially in modern LDS society.

There are some seriously way cool points in the article, but the one I want to talk about is:

“I believe it was Cole Porter who asked, ‘If a song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, why does Satan have all the best tunes?’”

When I read that I had to chuckle. This is something that I’ve been on about for a long, long time.

Why is it that LDS music has to be so fluffy? Why does it have to be so watered-down? Do we need to have so much of the emotion drained out of it in order for it to be considered to be spiritual?

I recently got a copy of the newest CD by Jericho Road. When I first heard them, I was very excited by the possibilities of the band, but I felt like their first CD was very “held back”. It sounded great. They were very tight, vocally, and the songs were well written. But when I played it side-by-side against its mainstream competition (like N’Sync or Backstreet), the beats were very reserved, and the energy level was much lower. It had been tamed.

It almost felt to me, like they had wanted to bust out, but didn’t quite know if they could get away with it.

Well, after touring to packed houses all over the valley and other parts of Mormondom, it was clear that they were being received well. I saw them myself, and I was sold. They were much more intense live than they were on CD. The beats were strong and their moves and performance was polished. And, I liked the way they kept the Spirit there in their performances.

So, I was anticipating their second CD with excitement. But again, the beats were quite tame, the production reserved.

What are we afraid of? Are we afraid to compete with the world? Are we scared that we can’t make art that’s as good or as intense? Are we afraid that if we do, we’ll somehow lose the Spirit?

Bowen also says, “…We need to create with the same passion of our pioneer ancestors, who penned these words, ‘The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning.’ Well, let’s start burning—inside out. Let’s create art that melts Jello.”

Mark Hansen

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