Wednesday, September 29, 2004

And Now, a Word From Our Next-Door DJ

Four blondes, I imagine them to be. No telling about that. But that one or more of their harmonies is tilted just far enough south to draw an uncomfortable look even from Shortwave, the radio station's tailess cat (that, or she's recalling the House 'Afire Horseradish and Beer Mustard I administered the last time she came nosing around me for food) requires no more imagination than a low-lying chair to the shin. Yowzers!

"The reason we sing / the reason we lift our voice . . ."

It's a pretty well-known song. Feels that way to me at least, tucked away among other vaguely recognized bits and bobs in an impossibly crowded file in my memory labeled "Yep." How could I have failed to notice until now how painfully off it is?

I seem to recall my dear sweet mother--God rest her (it's 2:15 am, you see, and if she isn't sleeping then she really ought to be)--singing along to it over the packing of lunch boxes back in our Nebraska days, when KROA out of Grand Island was on in our kitchen whether there was anything worth listening to or not. Often there was; Focus on the Family was a 7 am staple, its closing theme music announcing last call to get our little kiesters out the door and loping off toward school if we didn't want to arrive late (which of course we wouldn't have minded). And Saturday mornings I am forever doomed to associated less with cartoons and more with radio fare like Childrens Bible Hour (barely tolerable once I was past about age 8) and Adventures in Odyssey (which I still think is cool).

And then, there was the music. Ray Boltz. Sandy Patty. Larnelle Harris. Scott Wesley Brown. Carolyn Arends. Amy Grant (this before she showed herself a brazen hussy to the whole Evangelical community and got Sharpied off a lot of CCM station playlists by running off with Vince Gill). Occasionally some of Michael W. Smith's mellower fare would make it through the censors, but by the early 90s he had gotten a little wild and crazier with his "Go West Young Man" album than KROA seemed to think its listeners (and--ahem--supporters) would be comfortable with.

Such was the stuff of my musical heritage. Oh, not all of it, of course. Thanks to a "Lives of the Composers" tape set ordered from some homeschooling catalog or another, the sounds and stories of great European music masters became to known to me early on. In fact, my father selected Hayden for the delivery room when I was born (thank God--it could just as easily have been the Gaithers; imagine being slapped into bawling life in time to "He Touched Me"), but where the radio was concerned we dieted on music that sounded like it had been put through a baby food strainer and then boiled to remove any leftover flavor.

I'm told that at age two and some change I brought a Steve&Annie Chapman LP to a screechy halt and announced to my horrified mother, "I don't wanna listen to YOUR kind of music; I wanna listen to ROCK and ROLL!" We lived in Rose City, MN, population 23, and my TV viewing hadn't yet extended past Mr. Rogers and Andy Griffith, which is to say that I could have had no conception of what Satan's own music consisted of. And obviously I didn't have to, needed only to know that there simply MUST be something out there besides the attrocious treacle playing in our living room, and I was by Springsteen gonna' find it!

And now just look how far I've come. All the way . . . to here, a little Christian rock station snuggled up in the same building with the only slightly less small CCM station that gave it birth.
I sit in a little padded cell, offering such garnishing insights as I can between exceptionally uncouth- sounding songs performed by people with interesting, shiny things projecting from their faces, so that they bear a passing resemblance to bulletin boards.
And when I go out in the lobby to get a drink of water, or sneak a snack past the kitty, I can hear what's playing on the mother station:

" . . . is to praise the One, who gave the Son . . ."

So who did such a harmonically unfortunate job of "The Reason We Sing"? I could go check, I suppose. Wander out of the production studio and over into main control for a look at the play log. But it's nearly a quarter to three in the morning, I feel as if I've gone some distance toward paying my blog debt for the month, and even if I were to go over for an informative peek, odds are it would put me no closer to answering the question--what makes most CCM, an industry I truly believe to have been (if not, perhaps, be) populated by folks with earnest souls and bright eyes, the full backing of their home church choirs and genuinely good intentions so
. . . so not good?


Blogger Myles said...

the purpose of any music is to make it good, because it is a gift given of God to be directed back towards God if it is to make any sense at all. thus, when i say that CCM sux, it's because they can't find an original idea to save their lives. the lyrics may be good, but if their intention is to make a buck by promoting garbage, be honest. if their goal is to promote worship, create only worship albums to be played in the context of worship and leave the MUSICALITY to those that, may not yet know the Son, but know music.

September 30, 2004 at 6:36 AM  
Blogger JEB said...

i also listened to that music growing up, but we turned out okay, don't you think?? if nothing else, i think it gave us the ability to truly appreciate good music now that we get to choose what our ears hear.

October 1, 2004 at 7:16 AM  
Blogger Viator said...

Could Jem be Ms. McClain?

The story of "the boy who cried 'wolf'" is a warning about what happens when we teach people not to take us seriously. At the risk of being that boy, I should probably take half a step backward and confess my tongue to have been nestled comfortably in my cheek for at least part of my little rant. And at the risk--nay, the cost--of being a script kiddie, may I simply say "ditto Myles."

If we haven't turned out okay, we are perhaps in the process of doing so. Lord haste the day of our okay-ness, and if Carmen can have a hand in our sanctification, Thy will be done.

October 1, 2004 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger M. Lumpkin said...

but if this cup may pass from me...


October 2, 2004 at 5:40 PM  
Blogger JEB said...

yep, it's me. :)

October 4, 2004 at 12:22 PM  
Blogger joy mccarnan | said...

very provocative post, well-put.

~ another jem.

October 5, 2004 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Stacey said...

Well put.

Carman... ha ha. I remember going to one of his concerts. I think I was twelve. I was definitely not quite old enough to know better.

The best white elephant gift I ever received, other than my kung-fu hamster, was a Carman tape. I will take great pride in passing it along this year. The tape. Not the hamster.

SATAN! Bite the dust. heh heh heh.

October 10, 2004 at 10:44 AM  

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