Head’s up: we’re starting a record label, and we’re gunning to take over Christian radio.
This one's not too big a surprise. I admit, compared to renting the city of Ephesus I find this more understandable and less problematic a venture of two possibilities. Renting a city for a day to do some "epic" filming is something I'd find objectionable for any church. A label? It's not like CCM hasn't existed before. Mars Hill's just gearing up to give us CCM Mars Hill style. Perhaps the church has gotten big enough and famous enough now that they can market their particular sound and be assured enough people buying the product to at least break even.
Bottom line, whatever you think has defined “Christian music” up til now, you can forget it:
The scare quotes may be telling.
Now maybe Mars Hill "could" shake up what we may broadly identify as CCM (contemporary Christian music). I doubt it but I also doubt the necessity of doing anything to even try making people forget what has defined Christian music or "Christian music".
For instance, "Christian music" could be taken as a pejorative term regardless of what working definition we might bring to the discussion. It might be old-time Gospel music. That music doesn't need to be forgotten, far from it. There's no reason to forget Hank Williams Sr's "I Saw the Light" if you grew up in the United States. there's no reason to not know about it if you take even "Christian music" seriously. You may not really like John Rutter all that much (and I admit I'm not a big fan) but you do at least need to know who he is and some of his work to understand that he understands his market. As far as I'm concerned there will not be a time from here on out where anyone with any appreciation for Christian music shouldn't know about, if not love, the music of Mahalia Jackson. Ditto Blind Willie Johnson.
More near to the "official" type of "Christian music" I think Keith Green, Rich Mullins, and Michael Card have done work that still merits attention. Yeah, even despite the fact that I have blogged about Messiaen and other composers like that I don't have some beef against Keith Green or Christian singer-songerwriters as such. Sometimes things get a bit cheesy but sometimes things get a bit cheesy, right? There's the soft friendly ersatz and there's emo/indie/goth ersatz and one is not necessarily musically or conceptually superior to the other.
There may be some fun and listenable music to come out of the label but I doubt that many of us are going to forget what has been defined as "Christian music". there's no way Mars Hill is going to come up with something farther out than Messiaen's organ works for Pentecost; Penderecki's Luke Passion, or maybe even Frank Martin's Mass for double choir (which is very conservative compared to the previous entries). I don't doubt it's exciting for folks on the inside who might hope to have bands signed on to the Mars Hill label. Working on new music is exciting, there's just no two ways about it. It's one of the things that keeps inspiring me to compose and tackle playing new music myself. But surely after every convulsive stylistic and conceptual change in music at a global level in the 20th century we don't have to kid ourselves about the possibility of coming up with something that redefines music in a genre as we know it in the 21st century.
Then again, Driscoll's not a musician and by his own account no one would want to hear him sing so he may understandably just be at a disadvantage here on the musicology side of things. I don't doubt they still have some very capable and wonderful musicians over there. I met a few of them so I know I would know. Just, please, don't mess with the golden oldies like "Wondrous Love" or "Be Thou My Vision" because you can't change those tunes in any way that will ever improve them. Just leave them as the classics they are, okay? :-)