Tuesday, April 5, 2011
I have been involved in writing music now for over 30 years. It started when I was a kid, before I had even learned an instrument. I would use two cassette decks and sing my song ideas onto them. I’d sing a melody line on one, then play it back while recording on the other and add parts as I went along, back and forth, trying to piece things together.
For many of us who are caught up in this behavior of song writing, it is somewhat pathological. When a song starts humming in the mind, you either get it out or you get a little crazy. It’s hard to concentrate on other things. It’s like having a radio playing loudly in one ear while someone tries to talk to you in the other. It really is a compulsion, and it can be a good one if properly managed.
I’ve lost track of how many songs I’ve written over the years. People ask me sometimes, and I honestly have no idea. It’s in the hundreds. I’ve recorded a few things along the way, but I’ve never been very happy with the results. Some friends are helping me do some things now with new gear that has finally become financially accessible. But it’s still very, VERY challenging to produce anything even half way decent. My talent has some pretty severe limits.
Over the past fifteen years I’ve primarily written songs for use in churches. For those of you who don’t go to church, this might seem a little odd. I know when I was a kid, I thought all those songs we sang in church had always just sort of been there. Didn’t God write those songs? But the fact is that song writing for Church use is a long and honorable tradition. Artists have done it all throughout history, people like Bach and Handel, John Newton, Charles Wesley and W.C. Handy. And Hank Williams Sr.
Hank saw the light, at least for a little while, and he wrote about it. It’s what he did.
And there are moderns still writing for the Church. Contemporary artists like Phil Wickham, Chris Tomlin, the Fee brothers, Darlene Zschech and many others who are doing the best they can to tap into melodies and song structure that clicks with the contemporary heart and mind, while still communicating eternal truth. Other artists are trying to express their hearts in relationship to God, people like John Mark McMillan and Jon Foreman and David Crowder, who are great artists and very gifted musicians.
I’ve been drawn into this tradition, and I enjoy it. Especially the music for churches. There’s a great sense of accomplishment when you write something, like a prayer set to music, and you lead people with it and they learn it and take it to heart. You become a kind of Cyrano de Bergerac between people and God. It’s very different in some ways than a performance oriented approach to music, but I love it.
It’s an honor.
Peace to you.
© LW Publishing 2011