Be an artist

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Over the past few months, I have been going back and forth with Steve Mauldin on orchestration plans for my new project.  As you probably know, it is easy to play an orchestration from Finale using MIDI instruments so I have a pretty good idea for how things are going to sound.  

For some time now, I have been listening to one particular segment of one the songs over and over, tweaking it again and again and in general, driving my wife crazy.  I am not going to name the song here or give you the clip because I want to hold on to some surprises.  If you watch the live stream from the studio in a few weeks, you will get a sense of what I am talking about.

The reason I am agonizing over that segment is because for various reasons, it is a big risk (probably not in the way you are thinking).  

So why take risks when so much is at stake?  This is by far the biggest project I have worked on.  For example, from a financial perspective, it is three times the budget of any other recording I have done.

But I still feel compelled to take risks.  In fact, let me say something that I want all of you recording musicians to remember.  Taking risks is not really optional.  If you are not willing to take risks, don’t record music.  Save your money and time because there are thousands of other musicians who can and do make music that has no risk in it.  We don’t need more safe music that all sounds the same.  We need musicians who are willing to challenge paradigms for the sake of making music better.  

In other words, we need musicians who are willing to be artists.

I know that rubs some of you the wrong way and I know exactly why.  I grew up in an environment with and still sometimes rub shoulders with people who don’t even like musicians to refer to themselves as artists.  Some of them write comments on this blog from time to time.  They put the word “artist” in quotes to make it sound derogatory.

Those people have a problem with musician artists because they can’t control them by forcing them into some narrow box that is far more musically restrictive than God’s boundaries.  

Those people have a problem with musician artists because they don’t believe in diversity in opinions/style in Christianity.  They want clones and robots.

Those people have a problem with musician artists because they don’t value art.  They would be happy if all music sounded the same.  They see no need for music to improve.  In fact, they refuse to see any change in church music as anything but a change for the worse.

Like I said, I know that culture well and I know that many of you have been uncomfortably close to it at times in your life.  I know how hard it can be adjust your thinking in this area after you have been conditioned differently for many years.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe that anything goes in Christian music.  We can all debate boundaries as much as we want but nevertheless, some boundaries exist.  If you want, think of it as a box where everything inside the box is acceptable and everything outside the box is not.

That being said, a lot of people and organizations have designed their own musical boxes and boundaries and they will try to impose their belief system on your music.  Resist that pressure.  The only box that matters is God’s.

And within God’s box, we need artists.  We need musicians who will take risks to make Christian music better.

Be a musician like that.