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My son Asher is almost nine months old. He really likes music. I know that all children have that ‘musical gene‘ or whatever it is that is programmed into them that makes them gravitate toward organized sounds. Asher is no exception.

Usually, when I carry him into the living room where our stereo is, he looks right at it and sometimes even grunts a little. All I have to do is carry him in the direction of the speakers (which are not yet on) and he begins to get excited – kicking his feet, shaking his legs, and a moving his arms all around. Once I select some music and hit ‘play’ he smiles and wants to ‘fly’ in the air, his body members in quivering vibration.

Today, I chose to putĀ  a music video on the TV instead of just playing a CD. We haven’t yet exposed him to many movies or video, but I have noticed that with the choice between a children’s TV show and a musical performance video he seems to prefer the latter. I realized this when he was in his bouncer a couple months ago and I had the live performance called From the Basement by Radiohead playing on my iPod. Though he was at least five feet away, he was mesmerized by the tiny 2.5 inch (diagonal) screen and all of the musical action taking place on it.

This morning I put on Sting’s “The Brand New Day Tour” video from 2000. Asher sat in my lap for about five minutes straight watching the musicians play. A dynamic feat for one his age (his attention span is only about 2 minutes shorter than mine).

I hadn’t watched this performance for a while and I noticed something that really bothered me. Sting had three ‘back-up’ vocalists on that tour. Apparently, they also existed as their own music group called Scream (though, I can’t find a link anywhere to this group). The producer of this program – not sure who that is – had these three women dressed identically in extremely tight-fitting, brown-sequined, mini-skirt dresses. They danced (maybe this is the wrong verb) in perfect mechanical unison, swaying their hips sensually from side to side in an almost figure-eight motion. They did not deviate from this action for as long as they were on camera – for numerous songs in a row.

The performance of these ladies was reminiscent of a Robert Palmer video, about a decade and a half previous. (Incidentally, I’ve always thought Palmer looks like he’s trying to stifle a belch in between each phrase on this video… “When I took… (look away, belch)…/You out… (look away, belch)…, etc.”

My point is, the women – who are at least real musicians in the Sting video – have been reduced to mere automatons. This is boring. It is boring and it bothers me. I don’t like it because this choreographed reduction of personality limits the contribution by these ladies to the larger whole. It not only makes them appear nearly useless as musicians, but depreciates Sting’s overall performance, as well. Ironically, Sting may have been the very one who pushed the Palmer-esque dance routine idea for his 2000 tour.

I realize that Sting (one of my very fav musicians by the way) is a different generation from me. He was “Born in the 50’s” as The Police song says. I am part of the “Unplugged” generation. My idea of an interesting music performance to watch includes musicians in a stripped-down (at least theatrically) environment where each performer is free to emote – both physically and musically, and above all – naturally.

This does not necessarily mean each performer in this kind of environment would act rhapsodically. But, I would expect at least some variation in facial expression from person to person and minimized pre-sychronization of movement.

I realize, those who are fans of dance might argue that synchronized movement is just as artful as synchronized music performance. However, in the context of a concert, this kind of action communicates uniformity rather than creativity as it involves the contribution of the individual performer.

All of this may just be preferential musing at this point. But, when one considers how this kind of choreographed music presentation has influenced contemporary church music, I think we can arrive at a critical conclusion.

While authenticity in artistic expression may not be a preferred quality that spans generational gaps, authenticity in musical worship – it can be argued – must necessarily be presented with utmost genuineness. This is because the kind of performance undertaken in worship leading is not the kind meant to impress with synchronized hip swaying (not to mention the potential sexual insinuations contained in these actions) nor is it meant to ‘wow’ the ‘audience’ with the latest costumes and greatest light show.

The most impressive thing that musical worshipers can put forth involves a real presentation of music that originates in the depths of their spirit and is expelled through truthful (read: authentic) action and sound.

I haven’t asked him yet, but I’m pretty sure Asher feels the same way. Or maybe his generation will have an altogether different idea of legitimate musical stage presence, inside and outside the church.



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