Saturday, July 12, 2008

Trapped in Hymnland

This is my story. This is my song.

I just wish it were not my song in the middle of the night.

A classmate came into class today
screeching one of my favorite hymns. Someone else asked what the song was, as she did not recognize it, so I sang a few bars so she would know it.

Since then a medley of classic hymns has filled my mind. More than just filled, as tune flowed from tune, my mind began to process the connections between the old hymns that they could pour out in such a constant manner without pause. That consideration put me on a search of tune composers to see how many of the hymns in my growing medley the same person composed. And that led me to my iTunes library to listen to some compositions a contemporary musician has created from phrases of hymns by some of the most prolific composers of the last century.

Meanwhile, I am listening to the latest cd from
Moby. So far, the very contemporary alternative music has done nothing to move my humming away from 18th and 19th century church anthems.

That actually makes a tremendous amount of sense to me personally. The same hymns I am singing now are the ones that I grew up with in childhood and that I often turn to in times of stress. Whenever my back starts to spasm from tension, I sing hymns.

To be fair to the world, most of the time I sing them inside my own head. When I am certain I am alone I sing aloud: I sing a lot; I sing loudly; I just don’t sing well. As a result, I have tried to protect the world from my singing.

Whether sung aloud or silently, though, the old hymns bring a greater sense of comfort than the more modern melodies. So many of the modern praise tunes do more to create a mesmerized cultish atmosphere than to create an internalized sense of worship as the classically inspired songs of old do. As a non-musician, I cannot pinpoint the term, but I know the older songs contain a level of richness and depth not found in the contemporary worship songs.

The older songs call my soul to a place the newer songs have never let me reach.

The greatest complaint I have with the new songs is that they preach to me and never make me find the meaning; they tell me exactly what it is they want me to know. The old hymns bring one to a point of spirituality that opens one for a revelatory experience. The state of openness offers the chance for one to discover one’s own message rather than be hammered over the head with someone else’s message.

Now with all the hymns circling through my head, I am just thankful that “there is a song I love to hear” until “it is well with my soul.”
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