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Hymns…And Other Muses

December 17, 2008

This is also going to be a little off from my usual subject matter, but i feel a need to write about it, anyway.

So up until yesterday, I had an electric organ in my bedroom. It was really cool, too…two keyboards, lots of fun buttons and foot peddles…It was a lot of fun to play with, but I was just never home to do it and never practiced enough to master it. And finally, my parents decided the thing needed to go, so they’re packing it up and taking it to my grandmother in Salisbury. Go figure—as soon as that thing leaves, I have a strong urge to play it.

Instead, I had to “settle” for the old out of tune piano (we have more instruments in this house than any one needs to know about), so I sat down and played through my mom’s hymnbook this morning, then I stole some chords from Phantom of the Opera and made up a new song, which is pretty impressive considering I’m a terrible pianist. It has been such a long time since I’ve sat down and played just to play…not to practice, not for a recital, not to teach someone else…just to play for the love of music. It  was really refreshing.

Anyway, the hymns. I was playing “Be Thou My Vision” and it really struck me how amazing these old hymns are, and yet I take them so for granted because I’ve been hearing them for oh, 21 years now.  They have truly beautiful melodies and the lyrics are almost always perfect…I always imagine the writers actually standing and looking at God as they write…how else would they come up with imagery so lovely? I only wish I could see what they see…

It also struck me that a Christian hymn is the direct antithesis to a rock song. maybe that is a wierd thing to say since i love both, but it is kind of true.

Rock music is a selfish business…although I suppose the same can be said for many other kinds of music, as well. Its about me living for the moment, me doing what I want to do, being young, taking everything in…Its about taking risks and being daring. Its about testing boundaries. Human relationships…having a person who makes you happy and who fulfills you (and writing about how you feel). Or even writing about who you hate.  its about making your opinions matter. Being the person you want to be and throwing yourself into that lifestyle headfirst. etc etc etc etc…

Hymns are all about forsaking yourself and letting God guide you. “Be Thou My Vision”?? “Be Thou my Wisdom”?? What a huge statement to make. In this song alone, I’m proclaiming God as the Lord of my heart, my inheritance, my best thought, my great father, my light, my treasure.

When I look at this, it kind of makes sense to me why some Christians shun rock songs. I still think it is stupid to categorize every song and throw them all out just because of their genre, but I understand how the attitude and the lifestyle of Rock N Roll might seem dangerous and offensive to them. Like they say, you are shaped by the company you keep. I’d say that has been true for me…I know that the things I let close to me (such as music) definitely shape me. They affect my judgments, my opinions, the way I dress, the way I live my whole life.

That is why I’m so careful about what I listen to…It may not appear to be so sometimes, but I’m fairly picky. Even my favorite bands, like Motley Crue…I don’t listen to all the stuff they put out. I pick through and isolate my favorite songs, make a playlist, and thats my dose of Motley Crue. I don’t have to take the trash, too. I read the lyrics to every CD I buy before I buy it.  A bit of sleaziness doesn’t bother me much, occasional profanity doesn’t usually bother me (unless it is every other word, that is ridiculous and unnecessary).  But I can’t deal with angry lyrics. I don’t like violence. I don’t music that dwells in hate. I don’t like music that flirts with mysticism and withcraft or things like that. My brother listens to bands like Disturbed and Metallica, and I cannot understand why. I mean, they’re not really my cup of tea so I don’t know a whole lot about them, but what I have heard  just seems so devoid of hope and happiness! I like glam because most of it is just silly and fun and nothing serious. I really can’t let myself rest in despair, and I don’t want my music to encourage that kind of thinking. For the musicians who make it…I hope they find the answers they’re looking for, and I hope they’re not really as miserable as they come across in their songs.

This has been a kind of long, rambling post…I think I’ve lost sight of where I was going with this. I just had to get some thoughts out.

Rock on, guys…I love you!

And song of the day…Meant to Live by Switchfoot, because I love this song, it is somewhat appropriate to the post, and i haven’t heard it in forever.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. dan permalink
    December 17, 2008 10:30 pm

    great post today, never lose sight of that

  2. holepuncher permalink
    December 18, 2008 10:00 am

    You know, musically (not lyrically) I bet you could find a lot of influence from hymns in early rock n’ roll. If you’ve seen the movies Ray or Walk the Line you sort of see how Ray Charles and Johnny Cash took gospel music and turned it into something else. It’s not that large of a leap. One melody can always lead to a next.

    I’m curious, you say you don’t like angry lyrics – are you a fan of Appetite for Destruction then? Axl’s never shied away from venting his anger in song – which is one of the things I love about him, though sometimes it comes off as a little silly. Just curious on your take for that specific example.

    And also, what about the fact that so much of glam music (at least from the 80s) lyrically is about sex and often pretty demeaning to women? Does that ever cause any internal conflicts?

    Just picking your brain! It’s an interesting read.

  3. December 18, 2008 5:45 pm

    I’m sure there is a lot of influence, musically…I was thinking more along the lines of the motive for writing the song…It is just a very different attitude and outlook on life.

    No I don’t like anger, but there are a couple exceptions and holes in my argument. The thing about Appetite though, is while I agree that Axl does seem to have a bad attitude and anger…like you said, they come off a little silly. They were still a party band and I treat them as such. There are songs I skip on Appetite (Out Ta Get Me is one that comes to mind) but even with those included the general atmosphere of the album couldn’t be described as “dark.” They really just seem to be trying to put on a carefree persona, to live the life and have the girls…and while they’ve got their demons (certainly evidenced in a song or two) It isn’t something they sit around dwelling on. Mr. Brownstone is here for a song, the next song…they’re back to Paradise City, which even though it shows Axl’s disillusionment, isn’t really the focus of the song. I think the image they wanted to get across in that song wasn’t so much about how Axl is treated like a criminal and a charity case…it still makes LA seem like some sort of challenge rockstars overcome to “make it”, and i think it still seems to glamorize the great things that supposedly come with the lifestyle…the “paradise” he sees in his mind’s eye, that he just hasn’t reached yet. That is my interpretation anyway. You don’t come out of that song feeling depressed, or angry. At least, I don’t.

    Bands like Megadeth, Metallica (which i mentioned before) etc etc are not about having fun, at least they never seemed so to me. It always seemed that they very much mean to be taken seriously and they’re outlook on life isn’t pretty or glamorized. I mean, take the album …and Justice for All. Read the lyrics to the title track. Lady Justice has been raped? Nothing can save us? Going on to the next song: “do you hear what I hear- doors are slamming shut? do you feel what I feel- bittering distress?” Ok, so I understand that real life isn’t pretty, but to dwell on it and rub it in song after song after song…I just don’t take any pleasure in that. Maybe it doesn’t bother some people, i just want to have fun and be happy and I already have a slight tendency toward depression, so listening to music that lets me wallow around and think about how much life sucks and thinks are bad does me no good whatsoever.

    like I said, sleaziness doesn’t bother me, at least not as much as it probably should. Sex in songs is one of those things I’ve just come to terms with, for better or for worse. This might be weird to admit, but to be honest I suppose there might be a little fantasizing on my part that makes the songs more appealing. It has never seemed all that harmful to me, for whatever reason. Maybe because I usually work off the assumption that the advances sung about are taken with the consent of both the man and the woman…it doesn’t usually occur to me that the man is crossing boundaries that the woman doesn’t want to take, or saying things she doesn’t want to hear…his groupie is just as sleazy as he is. If the song is about rape or taking advantage of women or hurting them, that is different. Most of the songs, though, they just seem harmless to me, they’re not hostile or anything.

    maybe one day I should sit down and make a list of exactly what i approve of and what I think is crossing the line…but it is on such a case-by-case/song-by-song basis it is hard to judge. It really depends more on the attitude behind the song and the intentions of the person writing it, and what it is trying to make me think/feel.

    If I had to choose, I would still rather have fun with questionable morals than sulking and mad at the world. There is nothing worse to me than feeling hopeless.

  4. December 18, 2008 5:47 pm

    longest comment ever.

  5. holepuncher permalink
    December 19, 2008 3:48 pm

    Nice response. I would vote against ever defining any sort of approval list. Seems like this would just be setting you up to contradict yourself at some point.

    I think it’s critical to separate the art from the artist. I mean, just because Axl says he used to love her but had to kill her does not in fact mean he’s going to murder anyone (well, let’s hope not anyway for Slash’s sake). Same applies to our tastes in art as well. Your morals aren’t defined by what you listen to or the movies you watch or the books you read. I’m not hot for any teacher just because I like that song, you know?

    It sounds simple, but it’s unfortunately not. If you’ve never seen the documentary Paradise Lost, I recommend it as a pretty harrowing example of how our tastes in music can be used against us as circumstantial evidence in a court of law. It’s shameful but it happens.

    Which is where I come in to defend Metallica! Ha. Bet you saw this one coming. …And Justice is a dark album, no doubt, but where you see hopelessness I see illumination to problems in society that should and can be corrected with some work and creative thinking. They don’t offer a lot of solutions on that album, true, but then they had enough on their plate just trying to be heavy and to make people think – both of which they succeed at greatly on that one!

    Come on, admit it – I know you bang your head to Danzig when no one’s looking…Ha.

  6. December 19, 2008 4:27 pm

    yea, I’m not defined by my music, but I do think it influences me…

    really? music tastes can be used as cirumstantial evidence? I’m going to go check that out…

    I probably shouldn’t pick on bands people would want to defend…hah. I don’t doubt that you’re right on that, though. I have to give them at least a little respect for what they do, even if I wish they’d add a couple flowers and rainbows into the mix…I think it is good that they are thoughtful and looking at the problems in the world…I understand a need for that type of music. It can’t all be silly and rediculous. But I do wish they had offered a little solution, a little optimism…They just kind of leave you hanging…what? that is it? everything sucks and the world is going to hell and that is all you have to say about it? whatever, I guess…

    Danzig? never! haha.

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