I’ve been listening to a lot of Florence & the Machine lately. Like a lot. Lottttt. Cannot really listen to anything else right now. Did it help that my husband gave me 32 shiny gigs of brand new iPod this Christmas? No. Am I loving it? You cannot imagine how much.
You see music is the language I would speak if people wouldn’t think I was ‘that lady on the bus you avoid’ but in snazzier clothes (I also speak clothes). Music gets me. I get it. I would swim in a music pool, and sleep in a music bed and have music and bacon for breakfast (because let’s face it-nothing is bacon but bacon). I find that music calms me, energizes me, enables me to go those last brutal 30 seconds on a treadmill program. The right song tells me HELL NO, you don’t look fat in that dress! Music assures me “Trust me, your baby belly is toootally melting away. Bruno Mars agrees!” Music lets me know that although I’m way better than the way my work treats me, maybe I shouldn’t blow up the office. There is no moment in my emotional or physical life that doesn’t have a soundtrack. Say a word and I got a song for you. Some of my friends have experienced this. To them I apologize, while promising it will continue to happen and there’s nothing they can do about it.
I was born to a dad whose obsession with classical music led him to the nickname Tchaikovsky –shortened to “Kov”- so ingrained in his persona that most people don’t even know that’s not his real name. I’ve been trained as a classical singer, and as a jazz singer. I grew up in the land of reggae and dancehall. I’ve lived in France and I’ve visited every other country through their music and there are few types I haven’t found some reason to respect if not obsess over.
Music is like my family, my kingdom, my escape, my encouragement, my hope for mankind. So when someone tries to tell me that some music, just the gorgeous arrangement of sounds even before lyrics come on, aren’t “Christian” and therefore unedifying horrors I should run from, something personal boils up inside me like whoa!
The Bible has a lot to say about music, and it doesn’t appear to be throwing down any Kirk Franklin vs Mozart gauntlets. Should our lives really revolve around Hymns and Hillsongs? Are we to say goodbye to lullabies and operas? No more soothing string orchestras and blood pumping exercise tracks? Simply because they’re just music or songs with no active reference to God?
Allow me to postulate a minute on how I feel about this way some have of choosing to elevate hard and MODERN interpretations of what ‘edifying music’ means and sounds like, over the ability to have conversations with God over our soundtracks. I absolutely refuse to engage in the endless arguments of Christian dancehall vs Secular dancehall. For some, it’s religious because the words glorify God. For others it remains sinful because ‘the heathens got to those bass lines first”. Some think it’s the singer who makes or breaks the spirit of a song, and again that’s a slippery slope, isn’t it? Not just because some R&B artistes tackle Gospel, and some Christians sing jazz, but more because I think that’s tantamount to putting ourselves in judgment over whether or not a singer is ‘holy’ enough to sanctify a song, or ‘heathen enough’ to condemn it. This will only create even more unnecessary polarizations within the Church and between the Church and the people she needs to be reaching.
Even within the Bible (oh yes child, please believe I went a-hunting), the references to music aren’t always within the context of directly worshipping God. Yes there were several of those, and who hasn’t had an epic conversation with God through music? Of course that’s a real and relevant and necessary use of music! But not an exclusive one. The Bible mentions music in reference to wars and boosting bravery and creating battle cries; horns were used to communicate military codes, the appointment of new royals, victory and defeat; music was used in feasts and also in funerals.
I have heard many arguments surrounding music, some going as deep as thinking that we should outlaw instrumentals during praise since we were commanded to ‘sing praise’ (true story). And these arguments are not mine to support, but nor is it my place or interest to mock or belittle them. I’m simply here to defend my stance, which is: my passion for music is God given, and as long as it remains God-guided, I feel no guilt, nor any further compunction to defend my delicious downloads (all 100% paid for and legal, promise!). I make my joyful noises alongside hymns, arias, some love songs, many pop songs, some ‘I dare you to categorize me’ songs and with every single note I sing I’m saying “Thank you God for music!” (and bacon).
So I hereby reclaim all my musics (yes, plural) as not harmful and as edifying,as God continues to speak to me through so many channels. As I actively try to hear His voice (PS God sings, ok? You cannot imagine the amazing things He has said to my heart through music), I will let Him tell me which songs to put down and back away from, which sounds I personally do not need to engage with and what I should absorb into my own musical endeavours and expressions. I can’t wait to look at my iPod at the end of 2012 and see the journey my playlists reveal. Rest assured, it will not be a solid lump of Gospel & hymns (though I like both). Nor will it be a bunch of rebellious noise either (anymore, anyways). It will be a mind-blowing set of playlists that will need their own museum- if I wasn’t going to be buried with it. Me and God can continue talking that one out I guess.
In short: I’m a just let Jesus be my DJ.
(As I dance my way out this blog, allow me to leave you with one of the (many, many) Florence &the Machine songs I’m loving. It’s about shaking off the things that have held you down- lyrics version so you can follow along. It felt like a personal Freedom Chant/Love Song from God to lil ole me. Dig it here)