Muzak, anyone?

I wonder if the ubiquitousness of Muzak has had a negative impact on how we respond to music in a more formal setting…concert hall or church.

I know people tend to roll their eyes when they hear or read “When I was a child…” but I’m going to say it anyway. When I was a child, I remember that there was a difference between the music we heard on the radio and the music we heard in the concert hall and church…and there was a difference in the way we reacted to it. Radio music was (at least sometimes) background music–music we talked over, unless there was a song you really wanted to listen to (like “Big Bad John”). When we went to a concert or church, though, we made a special effort to go someplace out of our ordinary activities–and we treated the music differently as well. It was something special to listen to.

And then came Muzak.

It was everywhere! While initially it was in elevators, soon you couldn’t go anywhere without some sort of music playing…restaurants, stores, elevators…

And music was no longer something “special.” Instead, sometimes it became annoying, because it disrupted our conversations–and sometimes we had to speak louder to be heard over it.

I think we’re seeing the unfortunate results of that today.

In concert halls, there are times when you can hear individuals talk during a piece. Not just whisper something quietly to their neighbor about what they’re hearing–but carrying on complete conversations with a friend on their cell phone! Do they stop to think about how they’re disrupting the concert experience for others? or the disrespect they’re showing towards the composer and the performers?

And church… The prelude, rather than providng a means for the congregation to enter into the spirit of the service, unfortunately has often become church Muzak–music to visit by. And if the poor musician has happened to select a piece that builds to a climax, so does the volume of the congregational visiting. What about the postlude? Again, rather than seeing it (along with the prelude) as the “bookends” for the worshiping experience…the “stuff” that holds the service together…it’s seen as music to leave by, visiting about lunch, whatever seasonal game is on…

 Is it time to do away with Muzak? I’d like to–but unfortunately it’s taken such a hold in our society that I don’t think it’s possible to dig it out.

Perhaps it’s up to those of us for whom music is soul-nourishing, whether it’s in concert or church, to set the example…to educate by word and deed…to reclaim music as something to respect and honor.

7 thoughts on “Muzak, anyone?

  1. Piped-in music (and music broadcast via satellite) will not go away. We will just have to accept this.

    What we’re concerned with, is the enormous pervasiveness and wide-ranging influence of pop, hip-hop, and rap music. We recommend reading Dr. William Kilpatrick’s Chapter 10 of “Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong.” It is available on the Internet. Regarding rock, hip-hop, and rap, it is probably the definitive essay of our time.

    As for worship music, we’ve read many debates over the past several years. It seems there will continue to be disagreement on worship music in the Church. Unfortunately, we don’t know of any quick solutions to resolve the debates. You might find it interesting to note that Saddleback Church in California “made a strategic decision” to go with modern, contemporary worship music. Now, they accommodate traditional worship music into their services. In other words, they apparently have a special building in which part of the congregation can sing to more traditional worship music.

    Todd at The Daily Decibel

    • Rap, Rock, Hip-Hop influencing? Was that influencing music in worship?

      Why wouldnt those styles of music be appropriate for worship?

      Know that I am saying that as someone who has rapped in worship and who played a video of a minister rapping in my sermon last Sunday.

  2. Bookends? I don’t like the imagery of book ends. Seems too rigid. Too beginning and end. I do not view services like that. Worships should bring the community together and send them forth but that sense of the Spirit should always be present throughout the week.

    Therefore, I feel the same way about preludes / postludes. I like busyness of a congregation just before and after a service. The visiting / catching up. We want the members of our congregation to visit up until the worship starts. They’re sharing in Community.

    • I didn’t mean the imagery of book ends to be rigid… If you look at my bookshelves, you’ll see lots of books in lots of different positions–but the bookends hold them together…in community, if you will.

      I do agree that the sense of community is important–and if there is a conscious choice to make that part of the worship, that’s okay. But if the musician is asked to prepare a prelude and postlude–and offers it as part of their ministry–then it should be respected just as the other service elements are.

  3. So we’re dealing with a focus on a specific person? Isn’t ministry about serving God and not praise / attention for the one giving ministry?

    Not trying to be snippy here but asking questions that go further at the heart of this discussion. 🙂

  4. No, I don’t think we’re dealing with a specific person.

    Do we talk during the sermon? That’s a specific person giving ministry–and our acceptance of that ministry.

    It’s the same principle for the one providing music ministry–at least as I see it.

  5. Regarding hip-hop styles in Christian Worship, I can think of a possible issue. Psalms 33:3 says, “play skillfully”. Number one, do the chords and rhythms resolve themselves. Not that they always must, but if they do not, what can result is what I’ll call a “disjointedness” or a “disunification”. Also, I’d like to point out that when a rhythm section incorporates “rap” timbres instead of “tap” timbres, the result can be unpleasing to some (or many). Let’s take the argument to its fullest: if we’re talking about unpleasant timbre, why not just scrawl our fingers loudly across a chalkboard? Would that be acceptable? Some might say, “Anything’s acceptable as long it’s in the true spirit of true worship of the Almighty God.” To that, I would caution: why don’t worship leaders just scream at the top of their lungs and bang the drums in “disjointed” fashion? Psalms 33:3 says, “play skillfully”.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s