Thursday, June 23, 2011

New LDS Musicians Blog

So, a group of us young LDS musicians are starting a new blog for that topic at 
I've already contributed the second article, which in case you don't care to follow that blog, I'll re-post here:

To what extent are 'Latter-day Saint composers' responsible to the LDS people at large?
This becomes an interesting question since much of the music we compose is not meant for sacrament meeting or really any kind of church use. In fact, there are probably a good many church members who would probably, uh, have rather negative reactions upon hearing our music. I had an interesting conversation the other day with a piano salesman friend who basically said, "you're not giving the people what they want." So where does the university educated, professional composer (who is LDS) fit in, if he isn't composing for the whole church?
Here are three possible answers that I have found for myself:
1. I do write some music that is appropriate for church use, including some hymns and musical arrangements. They probably push the 'sacrament meeting appropriate' boundary just a little bit, but they are definitely appropriate for at least some kind of church setting, both musically and doctrinally.
2. Someday I will write one of those big Mormon works. You know, the oratorio of destiny that rivals even Handel's Messiah. Someday. But in all honesty, and with due respect to those composers who have gone before in this tradition, this is already sort of 'niche' market. This kind of thing is likely to be enjoyed mostly by LDS classical musicians and their patrons, and though you may find "The Restoration" at Deseret Book, it isn't likely to be the Sunday-morning-music the average LDS family turns to. Even a work like Wilberg's recent "Requiem" recorded by the Tabernacle Choir is seen as something of an odd-duck in the output of that respected institution. So, in composing this sort of 'church art music', a composer is only reaching out to a certain (narrow) part of the general church populace. Should I feel guilty about that? I don't think so! And I don't think it is naive to think that an increasing amount of members will find this kind of music uplifting and edifying.
3.  I am Latter-day Saint. I am a composer. Not everything I write has an LDS 'spin' to it, or is meant for church use, or proclaims the doctrines of the restoration with the voice of a trump. BUT: I am still LDS, and everything I write fits into that lifestyle, and does not contradict, hide, or deny my heritage. By striving towards righteous success as a composer in the secular academic field, I will never compromise my ideals or shy away from those of my works that do have an obvious LDS aspect to them. In that way, pursuing a career as a composer (and being LDS) will be like any other career pursued by an LDS person. We do our best at it, and we try to let our light shine wherever we end up. By excelling in our discipline (and being good Latter-day Saints) we help give the church a good name in our corner of the (musical and academic) world.
Of course this is a whole snake nest of issues, but those answers at least give me at least a measure of peace.

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