Wherein I judge a book by its cover
I stumbled onto this gem of a book at a local Goodwill the other day.
Maybe this is old hat to most of you, but it was new and oh so kitschtastic to me (it’s going on the shelf next to my Singing in Tongues LP). I mean, color coordination between the accents on the cover and the author’s v-neck? Cha-cha. And though I guess I could lie and tell you that I read it cover to cover and was surprised at how insightful and intelligent it was, all anyone really needs to know about this book is conveyed by the cover: high-gloss chintzy cheap but meant to look expensive and glamorous. And honestly, isn’t that a decent description of so much of Christian music?
The book was published in 1986, so we can’t blame it for all the bad music ever produced. But it nicely illustrates the way Christian entertainment can often merge piety and the profit motive in a corrupting fusion of outwardly good intentions, inwardly hoarded self-interest, serial hypocrisy, and purposeful misrepresentation. Witness: “It is … imperative that Christians be supportive of an artist whatever musical style that artist feel he’s supposed to use. We don’t have to like the style, but we must carefully avoid judging the music or the artist performing it.” Joyful noise, pink party of one? This, from a songwriter-producer-record executive who has made a career out of judging which songs to write, reject, cut, produce, and single to radio. Honestly.
And that’s just after reading the first chapter. Actually, a lot of the book is a decent primer for anyone who wants to know about the nuts and bolts of the Christian music bidness 20-odd years ago (to be fair someone who owned this before me found it very useful … or at least the ocassion to highlight a lot of passages, though not, alas, in pink). Sure, it’s written in the prose equivalent of that loud, slow, condescending, monosyllabic, overly enunciated manner in which some people speak to the aged, the infirm, or the very young: “Modern composers such as Ralph Carmichael and Bill Gaither have updated some of these hymns and set the stage for “inspirational” or “middle of the road” (MOR) artists like Sandi Patti.” Did you get that, kids? “MOR” stands for “middle of the road.” This is not so much writing as typing, to borrow Capote’s quip.
But truthfully, the writing isn’t really the problem here. Or maybe it’s just a symptom of the larger truth that presses in on one after just a few pages: that the first step to getting started in Christian Music is - and long has been - to give yourself an aesthetic lobotomy, and then color coordinate everything.Email this Post