Busman – On Praise and Worship Music: An Essay to its Cultured Despisers

I’m working on creating a “reader” for the common Worship Leader that provides anintroduction to the world of CWM as described and analyzed by (ethno)musicologists. Working back through some old notes and noticed that Joshua Busman linked Jamie Smith’s old blog post in his article below so thought I would come back around to it. “An Open Letter to Praise Bands


Three articles from Josh Busman with a musicologists analysis of the meteoric rise of ‘CWM’ and its impact both on the church and the wider culture.

Part One: “On Praise and Worship Music: An Essay to its Cultured Despisers.”
Part Two: “Exercising Your Second Commandment Rights: Luther and Calvin on Music.”
Part Three: “The Spiritual Children of Sigur Ros.

Also check out…

Ingalls, Monique. “Singing Heaven Down to Earth: Spiritual Journeys, Eschatological Sounds, and Community Formation in Evangelical Conference Worship.” Ethnomusicology No. 55, Vol. 2: 255-79.

Worship Leader as Chief Curator?

Title: Worship Leader, Chief Musician, President Curator

Joshua Busman, a PhD student in musicology at UNC posted an article he wrote last week called “God’s Great Dance Floor,” Or, Why You Don’t Need Ecstasy to Have an Ecstatic Good Time.”  One of the remarks he makes in the article (and there is a LOT here – cf. Zac Hicks on thoughts about Worship Music and EDM culture) is about how worship leaders function more as curators than performers in modern worship.

“In settings like Passion—as well as the recorded sounds which result from them—worship leaders, like EDM deejays, are entrusted with the experiences of a gathered community and while technical proficiency is obviously important, the standard of quality is ultimately curatorial rather than performative. Like the deejay, worship leaders are judged on their ability to enact a meaningful encounter for the gathered community rather than their ability to correctly realize a pre-determined musical product. This curatorial focus in “praise and worship” music means that what is most often being appropriated from mainstream musical culture is not a particular style or genre, but rather an embodied and culturally situated set of experiences. On “God’s Great Dance Floor,” it would seem, the embodied exhilaration of EDM and the ecstatic devotion of Christian worship are not only one and the same, they are mutually co-dependent.”

This is a reflection informed by how DJ’s often function in rave/EDM events.  It’s an important insight. Josh’s description of CWM and EDM could be applied to any context in terms of how music functions to “shape the ways that believers come to know themselves as religious subjects in worship.”

This kind of music has its most thick participants in teens and twentysomethings.  A population longing for a strong embodied element in their faith…in a culture where opportunities for positive ‘embodied’ activities are getting thinner and thinner.  I’m actually excited to see how this musical movement will impact the broader church.  I spent the summer diving into Ableton live so we can explore it in Hope worship gatherings!

Check out some artists we commissioned on our latest compilation to mashup some old hymn texts with electronic styles.


Use of the term Cardiphonia in literature

Here are a few quotes I rounded up recently of the use of the term Cardiphonia in theological literature.

from Hymns of the Church universal [selected by J. and E.A. Rylands]. 

The Book of Psalms has well been called the Cardiphonia of the Church. In it the people of God through all time have recognised the voice of their own hearts, in joy and sorrow, conflict and victory, prayer and praise.  It can never be superseded for its inspiration is Divine; it can never be obsolete, for its varied tones express all that is best and profoundest in our humanity.

The Psalms belong to the home and to the sanctuary; they breathe the emotions of the solitary soul; they utter the gladsomeness of assembled multitudes. Their Miserere is for every sinner in his penitence; their Hallelujahs echo through all generations.

Other hymns have their day; fashions in psalmody, as in all else, are mutable. Some strains that charmed us in childhood are already becoming flat and unprofitable to our successors: the time may even come when “Rock of Ages” will be thought inadequate to the aspirations of the soul, and “Jerusalem the Golden” shall cease to charm the weary heart.  But the Psalms can never die; and while in themselves they are the best expressions of faith and piety, they will always be the highest model for all our hymnody. The nearer to this high standard, the more truly will every Christian lyrist speak to the heart of the universal Church.

Our English Bible: Its Translations and Translators, by John Stoughton,

“The Psalms formed so important a part of the church service, and so powerfully touched the hearts of men, that we do not wonder more attention was paid to them by our forefathers than to any other portion of Holy Writ.  It is very remarkable that the Psalms have in all ages drawn towards them the affections of devout minds, and have been a true cardiphonia to mankind in general; so that in this fact we have a satisfactory answer to objections brought against them in modern times.”

The Catholic Presbyterian,  By PROFESSOR W. G. BLAIKIE, D.D

“But heaven help the presbyterian congregation whose officiating ministry is other than he ought to be; for no earthly remedy is theirs.  They have no time-honored form to fall back upon.  The prayers of Ambrose and Augustine, Athanasius and Chrysostom, are lost chords in their cardiphonia.  The minister must pray in his own poor shambling speech, choose his psalms and chapters in whatever eccentric way he pleases, pour forth his own ill-digested thoughts in ill-compacted paragraphs. The ordering of the whole service is left to his sole discretion.  There may be better readers than he in the congregation, but he must read; better framers of prayer, but he must pray; better orators, but he must preach.  Then again, if he has entrusted his thoughts to manuscript, it will be all the better, in the view of the average congregation, that he should make a second entrustment of them to his memory, and give forth, as impromptus and inspirations, what are, after all, but laborious recollections.”




Support Emerald Hymns and Jess Alldredge on Indiegogo

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Jess Alldredge and the terrific crew from Grace Church Seattle are working on raising money through INDIEGOGO to produce their first CD of music for the church. There are some awesome perks and with Bobby Krier (Castle Island Hymns) producing this is going to be stellar work.

Give Big and love on some fantastic artists.


[reviews] Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

{Here is a collection of reviews I wrote up recently for a magazine that didn’t end up getting published. A few of my favorite albums playfully engaging with the biblical categories of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.}


[Psalms] – Prayerbook 2 by Brian Moss

Brian Moss is a presbyterian minister (Maple Valley Presbyterian) and accomplished musician working and living near Seattle, WA.  Brian was an early member of the Indelible Grace Retuned Hymns project and a touring pianist with Michael Card.

Among the many initiatives Brian has undertaken (check out his www.byfor.org project) he’s been engaged in the discipline of writing songs inspired by the Psalter.  While this undertaking may go the way of Sufjan Stevens *50 States* project, we are still very grateful for what we’ve received thus far!

Earlier this year Brian released his second CD covering psalms 16-30.  The sound is a mix of adult contemporary, folk, and meditative.  The lyrics and music are all original and true to Brian’s love for the church, available for free to the church. Listening to Brian’s lyrics you hear a heavy dose of Eugene Peterson – the psalms speaking out in clear modern english with a strong awareness of the internal logic of the ancient language. The tunes are highly sensitive to the tones of the text and sound like a generous blend of Andrew Peterson and Fernando Ortega.

Check out his version of Psalm 28 with a wonderful call and response with singer Ahna Philips, and his pastoral, lilting arrangement of Psalm 23 with the appalachian loveliness of Katy Bowser-Hutson at the vocal helm. If you could pull it off Psalm 22 would be an epic arrangement for a Good Friday service.

You can stream the entire album for free at Brian’s soundcloud site. soundcloud.com/brianmossmusic


[Hymns] –
Hymns & Friends by Wendell Kimbrough

Wendell Kimbrough is the former worship leader at Church of the Advent, an anglican church plant meeting in the heart of our nations capital.

Wendell has a passion for singing traditional hymns with an updated musical feel.  Thankfully for us Wendell is also gifted in recording and production and is sharing these arrangements with us.  The album includes ten traditional hymns (O Worship the King, And Can It Be That I Should Gain, When I Survey The Wondrous Cross, How Firm A Foundation, What A Friend We Have in Jesus, For The Beauty Of The Earth, Jesus What A Friend For Sinners, My Shepherd Will Supply My Need, Hallelujah Praise Jehovah (Psalm 146), and All Praise To Thee My God This Night) performed in a folk vein (voice, guitar, piano, strings, sparse percussion).

This is a seminal album if you are at a church that is committed to traditional hymnody but would like to explore a more contemporary approach. Sadly there are so few albums that provide an aural picture of this when so many churches are looking for this kind of resource.

You can listen/stream the entire album at bandcamp and purchase either a digital or physical cd of the album for $10. The album download includes a songbook of leadsheets. www.wendellk.bandcamp.com

[Spiritual Songs] 
- Parker’s Mercy Brigade by Kristen Gilles

Kristen Gilles is a songwriter and worship leader from Louisville, KY.  She songwrites and leads worship within the network of Sojourn churches there.  Along with her husband Bobby they curate a fantastic worship blog www.mysonginthenight.com.

“Parker’s Mercy Brigade” is Kristen’s first full length album after an e.p. she released in 2012 titled “The Whole Big Story.”  This newest album is written in the shadow of a personal tragedy. In 2013 Kristen suffered a stillbirth of her son Parker.  On her website she says, “From this experience comes Parker’s Mercy Brigade, a collection of new worship songs to the Lord who gives and takes, and who works the giving and the taking for the good of those who love him.

The album is a collection of 10 songs that speak to an incredible variety of topics in a pop/rock vein.  Kristen leads from both piano and guitar and the album has a nice mix of both as lead instruments.  The songs cover a wide range of themes from the first tracks impressive meditation on the work of the Holy Spirit in the particulars of the world,

“You sweep into a brothel, and snuff the fire of lust;
You lift the fallen woman, with kindness she can trust.”

to “Praise the Sending God” the final tracks powerful benediction call to be sent into the world riffing on John 3:16 and Romans 8:37.

There is a strong Trinitarian backbone to all of the songwriting, a wonderful use of corporate language (we, us, our) and a broadly liturgical arc of the album covering Creation, Fall, Redemption, and sending.

The most powerful track on the record is #3 “Chase Away My Unbelief” where Kristen battles the deep and personal struggles of faith.

In the face of deepest loss,
Blinded by my bitter tears,
Broken by what might have been,
A slave to things as they appear,
Then whisper peace into my soul
In midst of pain and piercing grief.
My own perspective’s incomplete.
Chase away my unbelief.

In psalmic lament form it moves from statements of doubt and fear to reminders of promises and presence. This song conspicuously lacks a chorus and this lends a weighty quality to the lament as a whole. Read Psalm 13 for a classic model of a song of lament.

This album offers a number of strong songs for corporate worship (Awesome is Your Power, You Will Raise Us Up), but I would recommend it even more as an album to delve into for offering or special music.  I’ve not heard many better songs dealing with issues of doubt and faith as are presented here.

You can read more and purchase the album at www.kristengilles.com.  Half of the proceeds of the album go to supporting Nadus Films (nadusfilms.com), documenting social justice issues around the world and partnering with local organizations to provide humanitarian relief and Christian witness.

Seven Reasons to Sing the Psalms – Douglas Bond

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I’ve been reading through Forgotten Songs: Reclaiming the Psalms for Christian Worship this summer.  It is a collection of far ranging essays from a conference held at Union University a few years back.  Definitely worth picking up.

Douglas Bond in his chapter “Biblical Poetry in a Postbiblical, Postpoetry World” finishes with 7 reasons we need the psalms today.  I commend them to you (in paraphrase) below:

1. The Psalms are the fountain of lives of prayer. We pray poorly and infrequently in large part because we are so unfamiliar with the content and eloquence of the psalms.

2. The Psalms keep in perfect harmony both joy and fear in worship. For example the first stanza of psalm 100 calls us to “make a joyful noise to the Lord,” then goes on to regulate and inform that joy with high, sobering truths about God’s power. It is in relishing both sides of this tension that keeps our worship from many of the follies of either stoic traditionalism or unreflective contemporaneity.

3. The Psalms free us from our slavery to the here and now. Spending time in the psalms, whether in private or public devotions, helps keep us from the folly of the moment, the tyranny of the latest thing, the exhausting work of chasing the newest worship hit. The psalms nurtured the faith and worship of Jesus and we would do good to worship them too.

4. The Psalms marshall our imagination in the service of God. The Psalms are the language of prayer and praise yet most of our days are full of tweets, sound bites, and news clips.  We need a consistent place to go to have our language formed in the concerns of God…so that we can enter into his courts full of the posture and awe due his name. The psalms are this.

5. The Psalms give us theological discernment. The Psalms help us measure what is worthy and what is not. “Psalm poetry is the God-ordained means of keeping every generation enthralled with the surpassing splendor of biblical truth.”

6. Recovering the Psalms in our worship and life will raise the bar for all new worship poetry in every age. Amen. The psalms are an encyclopedia of poetic forms and devices in the service of God.

7. Singing the Psalms unites us with the vast throng of worshippers throughout the ages. The psalms are God-given sung praise that transcends all barriers. Psalm poetry is for all time, the ultimate multicultural poetry for “all people that on earth do dwell.”

Here are a few links from around Cardiphonia for exploring the psalms.

Contemporary Psalms for Worship – some of our favorite retuned and modern psalm versions.

Psalms for All Seasons – excellent new psalter with tons of varieties of sung psalmody

Hallel Psalms

Hallel Psalms cover art

Summer 2014 Noteworthy

Here are a few ALBUMS to support with your hard earned cash.

Stephen Miller – Journey Church – New album through KICKSTARTER

Ascend ep cover art
Miranda Dodson (Austin City Life) – Ascend

Amanda Noel – Songbird at Midnight
(the Legacy of Fanny Crosby (Vol.1)

Summer Reading – here are a few things I’m reading this summer.

Wendell Berry – This Day – Collected and New Sabbath Hymns

Christian Smith – Lost in Transition

ACTS Commentary – NT Wright (prepping for next years series at Hope)

Doug Bond – The poetic wonder of Isaac Watts (i got this as a free ebook…a good overall introduction to his life and work)

Douglas O’Donnell – Psalms – A 12 week study (ESV)

Monique Ingalls (DISS) – “Awesome in this place: Sound, space, and identity in contemporary North American evangelical worship”

John Stott – Baptism and Fullness – The Work of the Holy Spirit Today


Here is a host of more academically oriented PAPERS related to worship presented for the biblical worship section of ETS.