Category Archive: Art

A Manifesto of Sorts

I have very strong feelings about the arts in the Church.  I want to see great art come out of our local churches and the Church as a whole.

So, I wrote my ideas down in a “manifesto” of sorts.  The things I see that we, as Church artists, should be thinking about.  What we should strive for.  They are now on the Church Art Manifesto page.

Please stop by and read it, comment on it.  Add your thoughts.  Or comment here with resources or comments relating to Church art.  I’d love to have a place where artists could come to find some resources.

Keyboards in Worship: What Do I Play?

This was the biggest question I had when I started playing, and I still ask this question.  What in the world to I play?!  I mean, I could play pads on everything, but that’d be boring!  And I can’t play cool lead synth lines on everything.  Somehow that’s not going to work for the response song.

The answer is play whatever fits best.

I can hear you now, “Well thanks for nothing!”, but that’s the answer.  Think about it.  For every song you play, you need to find something that fits.  For We Unite by Elevation Worship, the lead synth sounds good, because it suits the style of the song.  Playing The Stand by Hillsong you’re probably better off playing a pad.  For other songs, a straight up piano sounds great.

Now, as always, you can change it up for effect.  Elevation Church did this with their Remix stuff.  But again, the parts fit with the style of the song they wanted to play.

Ok, so now I’ve got a sound, but what do I play with that part?  Wait for it…  Play what fits.  For a song busy with guitars and drums, you really shouldn’t be soloing the whole way.  You could add a bit of dirt with a biting synth pad and let the guitars go to town.  If it’s a slower song where the drums are down and the guitars are playing swells, break out a pad or pay some piano lines.

The moral is that you don’t want to step on any of the other players parts.  If someone has a soloistic part, don’t play a solo over top of them.  Sometimes it’s great just to hang out on the chords and make the band sound better.  Add your cool riffs between lyrical lines.  Add an instrumental break if you need some musical relief!  (With your band leader’s permission first!)  If you want some inspiration, listen to other bands.  Listen to some good jazz music.  Listen to good pop music even.  The more you listen, the more ideas you’ll have, and the more you’ll hear what other good keyboardists are doing.

So what do you play in your band?  Lots of pads?  Synths?  Melodic?  Rhythmic?

[ Photo by orange grove media ]

Music Like Poetry

I wish more music was like poetry.

I’ve been trying to expand my musical library recently.  One thing I’ve found is that the best music (for me anyway) is the music that feels like poetry.  Music that isn’t so cookie-cutter or systematic.  Music that is soulful, authentic, and emotional.  Music that forces me to think a bit about what I am hearing.

Call me a Romantic, but that is what moves me.

And isn’t that what we want music to be?  Something that moves us to another place, and hopefully moves us toward a better place.

That is the goal I strive for when I make music.

What do you want your music to be?

[ Image by MaltaGirl ]

Open or Closed, Part II: License and Free(dom)


I found another portion of the open or closed question.  What about open and closed software licenses?

Here’s a quick rundown of the license categories (check here for more details):

  1. GNU GPL type licenses.  Very open.
  2. Liberal Licenses (i.e. Creative Commons type, Mozilla Public License). Mostly open.
  3. Closed source (i.e. proprietary license).  Closed.

The more open your license, the more innovation you generally have.  WordPress is licensed as GPL.  Anyone can see and edit the WordPress code, and thus, a very diverse, dynamic, and versatile platform has emerged.

The problem with the GPL type licenses, that I see, is the return.  I can’t really reap the rewards for my work when anyone else can make a tweak and give it away.  Also, if you were to combine a GPL licensed work and any non-GPL work, according to the license you’d need to release the whole larger work as GPL.  Effectively, you’d have to release your closed source code to abide by the license.  It doesn’t sound very “free” to me.

The liberal licenses form the middle, allowing open source innovations but with the option to combine works or the option to redistribute with different licenses.  They tend to play nice with GPL (as in the work can be licensed under GPL without breaking the other license), and might allow greater return.

In recent times, closed source hasn’t had the best run.  Just take a look at the state of the music business to see what happens when you overuse the “closed” idea.  But yet, closed source still generates the revenue.

I’m not an expert with these licenses, nor am I a lawyer.  But this I do know: forcing people to use a particular license is not freedom.  That part of the GPL rubs me the wrong way.  I do understand the desire to not be ripped off, as in the case of a closed source project essentially stealing open source code.  That isn’t right either.

So, where do you stand?  I don’t know at the moment for myself.  As a content creator, I want return on my investment (or at least control of it).  As a content user, I want to be able to use and improve what is there.  Is there an answer?  Let me know what you think.

[ Image by acme ]

Consuming vs Producing

pathHere’s a quickie for the start of the week.

I’ve taken a little break from tweeting and blogging for the last week.  Part was for vacation.  Dusty and I went to Pigeon Forge, TN for a few days.  We had a great time!  No computers, no Twitter, just us.  Wonderful.

But it did cause me to think about producing and consuming.

Lately I have been producing a lot.  I’ve been blogging, WordPressing, and Tweeting so much, I drained myself.  I’ve blogged before on the value of silence before.  I think I relearned that this week.

So, to keep it short: sometimes you need to just sit back and consume life.  By that, I mean to enjoy time with family and friends, to go out and relax in the woods, to experience at art as opposed to creating art.  When we overproduce, we empty ourselves.  And when we are empty, nothing overflows.  Our art, our work, our passions come from that overflow.  Remember this next time you push yourself too hard.  Take an hour, a day, a week to refill yourself.  It’ll do you good.

So, what recharges you?  What drains you?  When do you need a break most?

Turning the Internal Analyze Switch Off


Ok.  You’re going about your usual day.  You see something related to your work, and all of a sudden, you’re analyzing the heck out of something and you jump into work mode.  Ahh!

This happens to me with music all of the time!  I’m listening to my iPod, just enjoying the tune, when I hear a certain chord progression and my music theory brain kicks in and I’m analyzing the song.  Which chords should come next, how could I change that and use it, what chord is that?  By the time I realize it, the song is over and I missed it!

I’ve had to learn how to turn my “Music Theory” switch on and off.  Otherwise my music experience is shot.

I had to almost practice this daily when I took music theory classes in college.  The switch had to be flipped every time I left the classroom.  But eventually, I was able to use the switch to my advantage.  Now I can listen to a song in a few different ways depending on what I want to do.  It broadens my listening experience.

I think this “switching” happens no matter what you are involved in.  Engineers start thinking about the structure of a building and miss the beauty.  Writers start thinking about what words fit better and miss the poetry.

So, what “switches” do you have to turn off to enjoy things?

[Image from Dusty Wagner]

Looking for Meaning in Music, Part II

In my previous post, I said that music is essentially a vehicle of meaning.  Music communicates emotions, but can only communicate so many before something else is added.

Adding Layers

Adding words to a song makes it more specific.  The sounds of music are like broad strokes on the canvas.  Lyrics are the details.  They bring the fuzziness of emotions into focus, or increase the effect.

When you add somber lyrics to a somber tune, it intensifies the effect.  When you add worshipful words to a glorious melody, it makes you want to worship.  You can also add irony and tension.  If you mix the two (happy tune, sad lyrics) you can add shades of meaning, ranging from comical to satire.

This is why music says it better.  If you say “I love you” to your spouse, that says a lot.  If you sing it to your spouse, that adds the extra emotions.  (Valentine’s Day hint…)

Creating a Response

We write music to convey something.  The human who creates the music shapes the meaning.  And this applies, I think, to individual performances as well.  One band can mean one thing with a song, but another band plays it and it conveys something else.

We also have our own response.  Art is about expressing Truth beautifully.  As such, the same music can have different meanings to different people.  Rock music is a good example.  To some people, it means to express freely.  To others, it is connected with rebellion.  Always remember the context!  And when you use context well, it empowers the song you write.

Remember, oh you writers of music, the power you wield.

Posted via web from On Life, Stories, and Music

The Place of Art in the Church Part II

The purpose of all art in the Church is to glorify God.

When the Church creates art, it is expressing what the soul wants to say to God.  It is our expression of what God has revealed to us to be Truth (as in absolute Truth).  This can be in a worship song of adoration, a novel based on a biblical story, or a painting of a sunset.

So how is it that we glorify God with our art?

From my standpoint, I see three big ways art from the Church glorifies God.

Building Up

When art builds up the community of God – His Church – then the art brings glory to God.  Some examples include worship music and books dealing with our relationship with God.  When a local church sings praises to God, the people get closer to God.  When we read a book that shows us how to pray, then we are encouraged and given knowledge.  These things build the community.  As the community is strengthened in God, He is given the honor for it.

Reaching Out

When art reaches people outside of the Church – as in leading people to Christ – then the art brings glory to God as well.  When the Church grows, the fame of God increases.  He receives the credit.  Examples here include movies or plays that intentionally reach out to people.  If someone goes to a church Christmas production and realize that a relationship with God is what they need, then God receives glory.

Personal Expression

Art leads the soul to some Truth, and there God is given glory too.  This category is quite broad, and it also gets into some gray areas.  What I mean here are the works of art that point to God.  Much of Christian music can fall into this category.  Hawk Nelson doesn’t make music that is designed for worship.  They play music from a biblical standpoint, pointing out spiritual truths, or looking at life through the lens of their faith.  Much of literature (novels, poetry, stories, etc.) could fall in here.  Thomas Kinkade paints a beautiful picture, but he doesn’t paint (I don’t think) to reach out.  He paints because that is how he expresses beauty.  And that beauty, in some way, reflects the beauty of God.  When we see that, we thank God for beauty, and that glorifies Him.

This is most certainly an incomplete list.  And many of the examples could fit into more than one category.  Think of the Psalms.  Most of them could fit into the first and third categories easily.

The point is this: each category has a place in the realm of art from the Church.  Just because your music isn’t sung on Sunday mornings doesn’t mean it isn’t Church music!  Isn’t it wonderful that we have so many ways to glorify God?

So go, create!

Read Part I

Posted via web from On Life, Stories, and Music

The Place of Art in the Church

A question for the Church: What role does art serve?

I’ve been thinking about the “hows” of the above question. How do we use art to glorify and worship God? Do we only use certain things for a worship service? Does it matter what styles we use in a worship service? Can art be inherently good or bad? (Read my last post for some thoughts on that) How can a single church use different styles of art and should they?

I think I’ll be posting a few times on these subjects, but for now, I’ll touch on the first question.

God is The Creator. His Creation is full of variety, color, and beauty. I live in the mountains of North Carolina, and most days I can see a sunset over the mountains on my way home from work. It’s wonderful, it reminds me that God is Creator, and it tells me God is an artist.

Therefore, if God created us (humans) in His own image, then we have a creative drive in us. If God created us with a creative drive and He commands us to love Him with our whole heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37), then it follows that we should use our creativity to love and glorify God.

So, art from the Church (i.e. God’s people, not the building or service) should glorify God in some way. This is not to say that all of our art should be directly about God, but I think it should be in light of God. And it should not be all the same thing. No two sunsets are the same, why should two paintings be (or why should they both be paintings)?

Put it this way. Just because we are Christians does not mean we should be preaching in the streets 24/7. We need rest, we need enjoyment, we need fellowship, the list goes on. I can play the Wii with my wife or read a book just for fun. But these things must all be submitted to God. Same with art.

Art should be expressions of our experiences. What we feel, what we see, what we know, what we believe. The specific medium by which we show our art is less important. Since God created us all different, we will show our creativity in different ways. None is better than the other, and all can be used.

The principle idea here is that if the art is ultimately God-centered, then it glorifies God. That is the answer to the question. How do we glorify God with art? By honoring Him – His nature, His name, His Son, His Spirit – in our art.

So for all of us creative types: remember who gave us creativity in the first place, and honor Him in what we create, whether that be worship music, novels, paintings, movies, or anything else.

Posted via web from On Life, Stories, and Music

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