T. David Gordon says a lot of really good things in his book Why Jonny Can’t Sing Hymns, though I disagree with him on several points. But that’s a subject for another blog post. I would love to follow this one up with more thoughts that Gordon’s book has sparked. But for now, here are a couple of very astute observations about Western “popular culture,” and it’s potentially negative effects on human community. This stuff is definitely worth thinking through, mainly related to what kinds of art (music especially) we appreciate. This also has some important implications for what kinds of music we sing in our churches, which is the main point of Gordon’s book.
“In almost every way possible, the sensibilities of pop culture differ from those of classical and folk. It is immanent in the sense that it celebrates the present moment and situation, divorced from past and future, and lives viscerally in that moment. It surrounds itself with guitars, for instance, because the guitar has become the musical “voice” of a particular place in a particular time. Pop culture is self-consciously and intentionally monogenerational; it intends to sound novel, and views itself as artistically pioneering.
“The sensibilities of pop culture are also individualistic, rather than communal. Rarely does more than one artist perform a given piece of music, because each individual artist puts his or her own individual self into the performance […] Thus, pop culture celebrates individual self expression and experience at the expense of community expression and experience.”
Stay tuned for some follow-up posts on the topic of music and pop culture.