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.


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