Doe ray me

My post on the Mark Trammell Trio got “John Doe” really worked up.

No…you do not know me … but still … this new email address should tell you how I fell about you and your web-site …

Your story about MTT and Smith

You are a man making face-value comments about which [you have] NO IN DEPTH clue concerning the nature of a MINISTRY (hence the site name in today’s time. Yes, singing is a ‘performance’ of sorts, but a MINISTRY is what Jesus had on the earth…he didn’t have sold-out concerts and venues for the sake of just sold-out seats…he had a MINISTRY preaching about His FATHER…which is Mark’s goal that YOU nor your so called “emails from others” can seem to realize.

Shame on you for saying, either by voice or by binary ones and zeros, what you have said about MTT and Smith. It is now very clear to me as to the intent of your heart. The Bible says that we will know a tree by the fruit it bears, and your tree has just been sadly identified.

A disappointed reader of

I was thinking when I read this how common this kind of complaint is in gospel music (and maybe present but less common in other Christian genres). Namely, the assumption that a criticism of an artist at work is a criticism of the human being, the goodness or worth of the person (and in gospel music, of their Christianity or faith). I think it’s worth saying though this is a debatable and probably faulty assumption to make in most cases. It certainly is in this case and all my comments about music and artists, unless I explicitly say otherwise. If you go back and read what I wrote about MTT and Joseph Smith, you’ll be hard pressed to find evidence of any presumption on my part (because I never would presume) to pass judgment on someone’s “heart,” as they say. By the same token, I do not assume that just because something has the word “ministry” associated with it, that all bets are, that it’s necessarily exempted from the artistic, creative, and professional standards of excellence that were central to, say, all the groups in which Mark Trammell has worked prior to forming MTT. To suggest that criticizing MTT is somehow an indictment of the group as human beings or an insult to MTT’s sincerity is not only preposterously wrongheaded, but obviously counterintuitive to the evidence. MT has throughout his career chosen to associate himself only with groups that strive for excellence … not just or even always primarily ministerially, but also creatively, artistically, and musically. To expect the caliber of performance from MTT that MT has been known for all his career is not just justifiable; it’s reasonable and natural.

I should also say, while we’re laying all the cards on the table here, that it’s not the disagreement I mind. In fact, I enjoy that. The problem is the immediate assumption that criticism in gospel music is always personal if it’s not praise. With entertainers and musical “ministers” who are performing artists, there has to be (because there is) a distinction between the person and performer. Performers know this or they learn it pretty quickly on the road, even or especially the most sincere ones. This is a not a form of fraud or dissembling, and it doesn’t make their performance any less good or “real” for being performative. What it does do is keep people sane (in a few cases - Vestal Goodman’s for instance - performers do seem to end up trying to play in real life the role they created for themselves on stage, but this almost never goes well for anyone involved). Granted, most artists rely on most if not all their fans’ treating the performer as indistinguishable from the person (and this is good bidness, not to mention the essence of showmanship). But one has only to remember that George Younce and Glen Payne were business partners first and friends second to understand that good performers create roles that they inhabit on stage. Performing that role (singing, and yes, acting) may be a big part of what a performer is and does and may be an essential element of the performer’s identity off stage as well as on, but that role on stage does not and cannot fully comprehend who they are. And comments about their work in that role does not necessarily constitute an remark, attack, critique, or judgment upon their character.

When I explained this to my friend John Doe, he wrote back and said, in part, “Your voice on the net is a strange one to the world of SG. “The nerve”, I can almost hear people say.” I think this is probably right (though I don’t think the strangeness is, as John Doe thinks, evidence that I ought to fall into line and praise all joyful noises as uplifting). And that strangeness, it seems to me, been both a large part of this website’s appeal and a primary source of the anger of so many of its critics and detractors (John Doe’s email address is “abadveryfineline,” btw … inelegant, but to the point). The fact that a voice like mine ought to be strange at all in gospel music takes the measure, I think, of the critical-thinking vacuum in sg. It’s not that there are no good thinkers and smart people; it’s that not much of that thinking gets done publicly enough, not enough of those smart people speak up loud enough for others to hear. Instead, we largely have an echo chamber of “make a joyful noisers” of the sort John Doe speaks for - well intentioned but hopelessly blinded by the narrow pieties of “ministry-mindedness.”

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