Saturday, September 22, 2007

Unexpected Blog

I was planning a post today about cooking, but that got diverted. I was reading a friends blog and read this

".....T-Man challenges the concept of whether there really is such a thing as "Cheesy" Christian music. His point was directed at the notion that, if a person, wandering the Prodigal's Path, hears some old tune on KSBJ and it quickens his heart toward fellowship with the Father, and if all forms of music have that appeal to someone out there, then is it right to call that music "cheesy"?
I responded: "Is Barry Manilow's music 'cheesy'?"
Case closed.
His point being that all Christian music has value.
My point being, yes, even cheesy Christian music.
So the point now being, what is "cheesy", if it is not some subjective construct-- and the counterpoint being exactly that... it IS a subjective matter.
So now, reader, we enter dialog.
What is "cheesy" Christian music to you? What are some examples?"

And here is my response:

"Hmmm what is 'Cheesy Christian music'? That is a tough one. I could spend a long time just debating what is 'christian music' long before I start on the cheese question.

In my mind there is only good art and bad art - and of course that depends on what criteria you judge by.

Personally I think every act of human creation (song writing, cooking, storytelling etc) is made up of two components. 'Art' and 'Craft'. Painters have to learn color and perspective, cooks have to learn to beat egg whites and make pastry, song writers have to learn how to use rhyme and meter etc....

There are 'rights and wrongs' for the way any craft is handled. Yes people can make deliberate choice to break the rules, but they should learn the rules first so that the breaking is a concsious artistic choice.

That's my struggle with much 'Christian Music' and much other 'Christian Art' to be honest. In my experience because the creator somehow ties in 'Jesus' to his/her art it some how excuses them from working at their craft. And as an art consumer I don't do much better. I excuse (and have even purchased badly crafted art) because 'They are doing it for the Lord'.

Does God use broken art - of course He does, He uses broken people too. Does this excuse us from working at our 'craft' so we can give the best to him? Of course not.

So I guess what I'm saying is that for me Cheesy Christian music is usually a) Badly Crafted (I hesitate to give an example incase I offend someone's favorite song) or b) A song that was written in a specific time and culture that is now removed from that culture. Take for instance 'It only Takes a Spark'......this song was powerful in the 70s but now it seems cheesy.

Well that's my two pence for what it's worth."

When I reflect back on music I've written I see that my 'cheese factor' increases when I'm using trite and hackneyed expressions and also writing from a people pleasing place instead of a place of authenticity and honesty.

But...I must confess, there are times when I crave a nice piece of cheese BLUSH

1 comment:

Jerry said...

I generally consider Carman's music to be an exemplar of cheese. I can't claim to know his entire body of work, but the 'nuggets' I've been exposed to seem to confirm this perspective.

"Satan Bite the Dust" (video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fof58DTd-Ng ) is, in my opinion, one of the worst religious songs ever recorded. The 'Western' motif is undeniably artificial (an Italian guy from New Jersey as a cowboy?!). The arrangement's synths don't blend well with the (sampled?) orchestration. The spoken-word delivery is completely over-the-top, and two Yiddish words would be appropriate: 'kitsch' and 'schlock'.

All of this cheese is juxtaposed against a disturbing lyrical context; Carman apparently thinks of the world in very black-and-white terms. He blames Satan/demons for a variety of ills, and then threatens to 'blow them clean away.' Subtlety and nuance- two ingredients of strong spiritual art- are completely lacking from the song.

I'm not a religious music expert, but I can recommend a few songs that never venture close to cheese: "Strong Hand of Love" by Mark Heard and "Eileen's Song" by Burlap to Cashmere. :)