Why Hymns?

The projects I create all tell a story, HIStory. They are based in the New Testament and either tell a story from part of Jesus’s life and death (e.g. Christmas and Easter) or something HE taught us (e.g. Loving Each Other). I wrap the scriptures and hymns together to tell the story.

The first part of a project is always prayer for leading from the Holy Spirit and searching the scriptures. I read them, I read different translations, I make sure any scriptures I use are in the correct context and sometimes, I have my phone read them to me. My outline is always based on THE WORD – The Truth.

Christian hymns have been written for centuries. There is a great depth of theology contained within these songs on many topics. Absolutely the essential feature that draws me to the hymns is the theological eloquence of the lyrics.

By God’s grace, people’s faith and dedication, and modern technology (also a gift from God) there are several excellent on-line resources available containing hundreds and even thousands of hymns.  Once I have the story outlined and scriptures selected, I can find hymns, in some cases several, that fit the subject. To-date, I have not gone wanting.

Overall there are five things that draw me to the hymns:

1. Theological richness and eloquence: I covered that above. I just don’t get that from Contemporary Christian Music since the 80s, much of which I like or even love. However, all recent material is copyrighted imposing a large administrative burden if I choose to work on one of those songs legally.

2. Sing-able & memorable melodies: I’ve played “new to the body” hymns many times and people seem able to sing them the second time through. They were written to be sung by congregations! As I’m taking music theory I’m learning that there were certain “rules” the writers followed so that the melody would indeed be easy to sing.

3. Largely easy chord progressions:  That is part of what makes the songs memorable. I’ve learned it’s called “tonal memory”.  Yes, some hymns change chords every word but many of those are “passing chords” and can be ignored if needed or wanted. They’re not the ones that “stick” in our ears.

4. Tradition: The great “songs of the faith” and the African American Gospel songs that have survived (many did not) address common Christian concerns and aspects of THE WORD in a way that have stood the test of time over generations. For some people, they are familiar tunes and songs, wherever they are played, in any church, in any setting. In that sense they unite the body across geographical, denominational, cultural, and to a lesser extent, generational boundaries.

5. Legality: Many hymns are public domain giving “creatives” like me liberties with recording, changing lyrics, melodies or whatever the “creative” may believe is required. Since I write backing tracks in Ableton Live, this frees me from certain copyright laws and requirements. As soon as I enter a song into Ableton it is a digital recording and thus, unless I have permission, I have violated what is called a “master right”.  In fact, any “new content” of the versions I create are copyrighted under what is called a derivative copyright and I own the associated master rights.