November 28, 2012

What Is “Contemporary”?

Category: Music,Theology - Liturgical :: Permalink

I was thinking recently about what is often called “contemporary” worship music and I began to wonder what exactly is meant by “contemporary”?  The obvious answer might be “Contemporary worship music is worship music that has been written/produced in recent years.”  So a song that was written in the 1800s would not be “contemporary,” while a song written last year — or maybe as long ago as the 1990s? 2000s? — would be.  “Contemporary” is new, “non-contemporary” is old, and the only question is what date marks the boundary line.

But two questions immediately come to my mind:

First, why should we call something “contemporary” based on the date it was written?  What about its usage?  Imagine that there’s a song that’s suddenly on the radio a lot, people are singing along to it, people are requesting it, and so on.  You’d say that that song was popular.  It’s popular at the time it’s being played.  Now that song may have been written many years before it became so popular, but that doesn’t matter.  It’s popular right now.  In fact, not only is it popular; it’s also contemporary — an old song, sure, but one that is part of contemporary culture because people are singing, requesting, and playing it.

Apply that now to the church’s music.  Some of the music that people view as “non-contemporary” or even as “traditional” is still being sung — and sung vigorously — by other people today.  It’s a staple of their church’s music.  It’s a song they sing several times a year.  More than that, it’s a song that many people, including children in the church, love.   Given the opportunity to pick a song, they request that one.   Sure, the song wasn’t written in the last decade and may have been written a couple hundred years ago, but isn’t it still contemporary, not based on its date of composition but based on its being sung by congregations today?

Second, though, does “contemporary” in these discussions refer only to the date of the song’s composition or does it refer really to the style of music, and specifically to whether the song sounds like today’s pop/country/folk-rock/whatever hits on the radio?  Take two songwriters.  One is producing a worship song that sounds a lot like a hit by Coldplay.  The other is, let’s say, working in a conservative Lutheran tradition and produces a song with a square melody that’s recognizably in the tradition of church hymnody.  Both songs are completed on the same day, so in that sense they’re both “contemporary.”  But that doesn’t really matter, does it?  Only the first would really get called “contemporary.”  The latter wouldn’t.  In which case, “contemporary” isn’t really the best word to describe this sort of music, is it?

[ sildenafil oral jelly | buy cheapest cialis | pfizer female viagra | 50mg generic viagra | where to buy viagra | viagra seizures | cialis discount | viagra price germany | cialis medication | internet viagra pharmacy | viagra online without a prescription | online viagra | viagra effects on women | viagra faq | viagra how it works | generic cialis sale | cialis sales | viagra cost | viagra en gel | cialis brand name | viagra online pharmacy | buy viagra on the internet | real viagra | viagra for women | discount cialis levitra viagra | which is better viagra or cialis | viagra cheap prescription | pharmacie canadian viagra | discount viagra | cialis india | is viagra safe for women | viagra side effects | cialis usa | viagra online stores | buy viagra pill | professional cialis online | generic viagra online | history of viagra | cheapest viagra in uk | viagra for sale | cialis brand name | viagra alternative levitra | viagra brand | cialis quick shipment | america viagra | viagra | buy cialis without a prescription | viagra from canada | herbal alternative to cialis | online pharmacy cialis | generic viagra blue pill 25mg | viagra stories | cialis soft tabs 100 mg | viagra overnite ]

Posted by John Barach @ 2:07 pm | Discuss (0)

Leave a Reply