First of all, before you read this, to make any sense of it at all, go read this posting over at A Motley Vision. I could summarize it, but, frankly, not that well, and it would be just as long as the original, so just go read it. I’ll wait until you get back.
Done? Ok, then…
He mentions that he’s not sure how the analogy he makes all works in something as small as the LDS market. In fact, it does. I have seen all three schools of thought that he mentions in my own interactions with other LDS musicians. Heck, I’ve seen them all in myself, but I’ll mention that later.
A while ago, at an LDS musicians group conference (hosted by the FCMA), I heard a speaker lay out a different analogy that covers similar concepts. This analogy helped me to grasp the different approaches. It’s not directly comparable to William’s, but it has similarities:
There's a circle, and all of us, as LDS musicians/artists, are standing in it. Some face inward, singing to the church. Their goal is to strengthen and to uplift those that are already members. These make no attempt to cross over to the larger markets. The best of these artists are both thought-provoking and inspiring. The worst come across as Sunday-school lessons set to music.
Others face outward, to singing to the outside world. These artists rarely carry religious messages, but rather sing about being generally good and living a good life. They are more analogous to the “integrationals”. Many of them view their musical work as being more missionary-ish.
As a subgroup here, there are some of these within the LDS market which will produce music that is very religious, but is more generically Christ-centered. It will avoid overt references to anything specifically Mormon, in an effort to approach the broader Christian market. These artists often find themselves alienated, since they’re often not “Mormon enough” to capture the LDS market, and are outright rejected by the mainstream Christian world.
The last group in the circle just sing where they are, and tend to not pay attention to which way they’re facing. They’re comparable to the “Transformationals”. They just create, and let the art fall where it may. This tends to make some of the most artistically satisfying music. However, the artists often have a very hard time marketing themselves, as there’s not a clear direction or focus for their art.
Because of my tendency to sit on fences and not take strong stands, my own music has at times fallen in each of the three categories. I definitely consider myself primarily a clean entertainer, but I also write songs that are purely “transformational”. I also feel very strongly that I am providing an alternative, and I often mimic mainstream styles, directed at an LDS market.
As I have tried to figure out where I stand, I’ve realized that I feel mostly “called” to face the inner circle. My goal is to take the musical sounds that I love (hard classic rock), and use it to strengthen those members of the church that also enjoy it. Because that segment of our membership is underserved by traditional LDS music. That’s the music I make, that’s the music I like to listen to, and so that’s what I share.
One thing I’ve noticed among LDS musicians is that there is a higher degree of tolerance among the different artists. Those that have chosen to face inward in the circle tend to not cast aspersions on those that choose to face the world, and vice versa. My general experience has been that we all want to help make good music and if that uplifts a particular audience so be it. In my limited experience, for example, in the world of LDS film, I’ve seen a lot of bitter intolerance, as if each creator had some sort of direct connection to “the right way to be”, and everyone else was off “ruining it for everyone”. That was very sad for me to see.