Catacomb Resident Blog

When the Music Stops

06 January 2023

Don't follow me; find your own path.

Audiophiles will die inside when the next significant solar disaster strikes. Quite separate from the major catastrophes associated with a micro-nova, we are expecting a substantial CME that will, temporarily at least, disable the power grid. The existence of audiophiles in the first place rests entirely on the availability of the means to make and replay recorded music. It's not that the world didn't have music appreciation prior to the advent of electricity, but the whole class of audiophiles could not have developed without a very high level of exposure to music that is not possible without electronic replay.

Still, the underlying capabilities of audiophiles exist from birth. They are born, not made. I could never be one of them. If nothing else, my tinnitus from military service would prevent the clarity of hearing required. But I'm also not that kind of person. Yes, I love certain types of recorded music, but it's not the music itself so much as what the music is supposed to do. If I had to choose, I'd keep only worship music, regardless how good or bad it is musically.

My highest preference is congregational worship singing. I love it when a group of people are singing their hearts to the Lord. Nothing compares, and I'm quite willing to lead that kind of singing to make it happen. I've been told by a great many people over the years that I have a certain charisma about me when I'm so engaged, that I somehow provoke large groups to get involved and genuinely worship. Thus, I've gotten paid to do church music, and it's not because of my limited musical abilities.

I don't think of myself as a musician. I've toyed with playing a few instruments, but never felt driven to persist. I know where the notes are on a piano and can plunk the keys on printed sheet music, but not fast enough to actually play according to the indicated rhythm. I took only one course of the most basic music theory my college offered, and have forgotten most of that. But I've been involved in church music since childhood, though most often as simply a choir member. I'm a bass-baritone with something like a three-octave range. I cannot sustain the higher part of my range for very long. The lower end of my range requires amplification to be heard when singing with others.

So it's not my vocal talent that was ever at issue, except for the fact that I could hear the right pitch in my mind and hit it reliably. Thus, I'm decent at singing a cappella, though with nothing like perfect pitch. But I need to have heard the song enough times to be sure of myself. This was good enough that churches with real musicians on staff had no trouble hiring me to select the songs and lead them during worship. God used me to build a worship atmosphere in how I acted when leading the singing.

I'd much rather be in the middle of a live performance, regardless how poorly talented the players or how ratty the playing may be. I greatly prefer acoustical instruments. It's not that I no appreciation for excellent musical execution, but my preference is for hearing the common folks singing together to whatever accompaniment is available. I don't celebrate music itself, but the God who inspires music in the first place.

Only in the last few decades has recorded music existed. For most of human history, live performance has been the only source. Very soon, we will lose the means to replay anything we've recorded. The only music you'll have is what you can produce yourself, or what you can persuade others to produce. When I really need time alone with God, I frankly prefer to sing it for myself than to hear someone else producing it. Thus, those best healing moments were with the sounds of nature itself, or what I felt led in the moment to sing a capella. These habits have gotten stronger recently.

If music matters to you, think about how you'll face a very changed world. I believe I'm well prepared.

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