Here is the second part of the seminar I did on being creative Christians in music. In this half we looked at some Christian and secular music videos (and obviously listened to them as well!), and asked a series of questions.
For the three secular songs I chose ‘Every Teardrop is a Waterfall’ by Coldplay, ‘The A-Team’ by Ed Sheeran, and ‘open arms’ by Elbow. All three are great tunes, and deliberately chosen as fairly recent releases. We asked the following questions of all three:
What strikes you in this song?
What do you like / dislike about it?
What emotions does the song provoke?
What are the messages of the song?
Summarise these messages into a few sentences, i.e. the song’s Worldview
How would a Christian worldview respond?
The first three are really interesting to talk about, but not so much when it’s just me telling you what I like, so for the purposes of this blog entry, I’ll just put a summary of what we discussed for the last three points.
We said that this song is heart wrenching, particularly with the video, and that here we see a song which cries out at the injustice of the world, and how hopelessly someone can be entrapped, enslaved by drugs. The song is tragic, but the girl’s death at the end (and start) becomes a kind of release once you’ve seen her suffering life. We pointed out that a Christian worldview offers release through Christ, who came to set the captives free, to break the yoke of slavery. This doesn’t make the situation any less tragic, but actually more so, because of the freedom offered in Christ which the girl doesn’t get to have. Very interesting is that Sheeran replaces the ‘We’re just’ with ‘We’re all’ seeming to suggest and emphasise that the entrapment is more widespread than, well, I’m not too sure what. I might be reading too much into that…
It took us a little while to work out what this song was about, but with a bit of discussion, we decided it was saying something about numbing the pain and difficulty of life with loosing yourself in music, and shutting everything else out. I’m not too sure about the latter half of the song, and whether the ‘emerge blinking’ is a reference to coming out of that world of numbness, to where things do hurt, but that’s my hunch. Either way, the Christian message would be ‘yes, the world is hard, but no, the response shouldn’t be to cut ourselves off from hardship. We must grapple with the issues of the world, and that, ultimately, Christ offers an explanation, a strength to endure, and a coming restoration. A challenging thought from Coldplay as to how we deal with the hardship of the world, plus a great riff…
Our discussion of this was slightly different, in that it was noted that this song is a real mirror of the Prodigal Son parable, but without the father figure. Obviously a Christian worldview would say that we return not to ‘everyone’, but to the father to find comfort, healing and restoration. An interesting thought about Elbow was raised by my friend Chris, at another event, that Elbow seem to find ‘the holiness of the everyday’, which is a great way of saying that, in this song, the joy, power and to some extent, spirituality, of a fairly normal episode – a party, is celebrated. Fascinating to see the combination of part of a biblical parable and truth, manipulated, but joined to the mundane…
We then looked at a couple of Christian artist, more to get the creative inspirations firing as to what is possible in creating Christian (non-worship) music. We could have looked at loads, Sufjan Stevens, Owl City, Rosie Thomas, but I chose just two:
Josh Garrels tends to sing more overtly Christian songs, which is interesting. I’d be intrigued to know whether people who aren’t Christians would listen to him. I’d hope they would, as I think he has a great style and is very flexible as a vocalist. Here we see clearly not only a Christian Worldview, but also obvious truths about the gospel sung.
Conversely, if you didn’t know Athlete were Christians, the meaning of this song would not be obviously Christological. I wonder whether the embedded nature of their faith is what has led to them being more popular? I’d guess not considering how big Sufjan Stevens is, and how blatant his faith was in his earlier stuff. What this Athlete song does so beautifully, is give the emotive joy and sorrow of needing to be rescued (and being sure it is coming), without distracting people with overtly Christian language which might stop people from engaging with their hearts, and limit to arguing against the lyrics in their heads.
Ultimately we decided that a lot of different forms of engagement in all ranges of music is a very good, even a vital thing. As Christians, our faith should influence how we listen to, and are affected by music. If we make music, whether it be for communal, sung worship or for others to listen to, whether the gospel truths be obvious, or the music simply tells something of our hearts as Christian musicians, we are bound to be influenced in what we write by our faith, and that is a good thing to be embraced, not something to be avoided.
In a related note, I’m hoping to get some stuff recorded and edited this week, which will be aimed at sharing some of my life as a Christian in the muck of the world. Watch this space (i.e. do follow this blog…)