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I believe that all the music we create and play comes from God, not just when we choose to write about God directly. God's thoughts are in all music: in fiddle tunes, waltzes, old murder ballads, pop love songs, and of course in drumming!

So I reject the notion that only music that talks about God directly can be sacred music. The idea that there is one kind or genre of music we should single out in this way as "God music" is as funny to me as the idea of having a separate genre called "women's music." (Well, now I've probably insulted both sides of the fence with one hapless sentence! Certainly no offence intended...)

I've found myself writing a lot of songs which I consider spiritual yet not outwardly religious; I like to call these "non-sectarian gospel." My own religious and spiritual background is rather shall we say variegated?—to say the least so I like to write songs that are wholly believable given who I am. Simply omitting explicit names for the Divine is one way to leave all sorts of listeners their own private doorway into the song.

Conversely, not all music that talks explicitly about God feels like sacred music to me. Some music I hear that mentions God in the lyrics feels to me like it chains the idea of God down into the very profane things we would supposedly be intending to rise above—God as our romantic partner, God as our addiction, God as our therapist, God as our parent. This is especially true of some modern "pop gospel" music. Sometimes it sounds like a standard romantic love song where they've simply inserted the word "God" at the right point.

Of course I've done the same thing so perhaps this is "pot calling kettle black." I've written a number of songs where I couldn't exactly say if I am singing to a lover, to some half-hidden part of myself, or to the Creator. Perhaps, in the most lucid moments songs can bring us as gifts, we reach a point of understanding that these things are not really very different.

Spiritual Intent

I believe all the music we create and play has some spiritual intent behind it, not always for good. This intent cannot be determined from the subject matter. Seemingly cheerful and uplifting subjects can be treated in a song in a way that feels manipulative to me. Or, one can write about the darkest of subjects and still approach it with the intent of shedding light.

Seen in this light, an entire world of subjects to be sung of, and people to be sung to, is revealed. Our obsession with songs about romantic love (or lust, as is more often the case) is as narrow as the idea that pure music can only deal with the subject of our relationship to the Creative Spirit. It is not only what we sing about but the intent and inner gesture we bring to our subject that makes for "spiritual" music. Such as: respect and compassion for the people whose story we are telling (even when that is us). Respect for the listener and their freedom to take in our words to do with as they will. And respect for the music itself, not just as a carrier of some message, but as the direct incarnation of Spirit in bowscrape, string rattle, bellow wheeze, shoe scuffling and joyful howl together.

 

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