Sunday, May 16, 2004

Modern Music

So in worship we're likely to hear classic hymns (LBW), hymns in a newer idiom (WOV), worldwide hymnody (WOV, Renewing Worship), and praise music (Worship & Praise), not to mention full ELCA hymnbooks devoted to particular "minority" cultures and languages.

But I wonder, where is the modernist and post-modernist musical idiom in our church music? Is there someone out there doing Philip Glass as church music? Or Ornette Coleman? Andrew Hill? Radiohead? The closest I have come was at a vespers service in Hamburg, where the organist did a very atonal improv while a local poet read poetry of a semi-religious nature. But is anyone trying to write a setting of the liturgy in the musical idioms of the early or late 20th centuries? Rothko did chapels, and Kandinsky did icons? So where's the music of abstract expressionism in our churches?

1 comment:

  1. I'm an Episcopalian, and I've wondered about this a lot myself.

    I've read a lot of condemnations of atonal music and other types of 20th Century music by various figures in the church music world. And certain types of music seem to also be attacked by pastors and others in spiritual authority.

    People also don't "get" atonal music very much - it's not that accessible to the average person sitting in the pew without a lot of background first.

    So, there are a lot of answers to your question. None of them particularly good, I don't think.