Sunday, May 09, 2004

Downloading Songs Releasing Time Praising God. I am an amateur singer, and help with the music ministry of our church. That ministry is in the midst of a radical transformation from traditional to contemporary. The church recently hired a new “music minister”, Steve, a keyboardist, composer, and music transcriber by profession. He is from the secular side of the music aisle, and is little acquainted with “church music”. Furthermore, as a Roman Catholic, Steve is not very familiar with “the Reformed Tradition”.

But Steve knows contemporary music, he knows what sounds “right” to younger folks in the pew, he can play anything on his computerized keyboard, and he brings a point of view that I would say, at the risk of sounding a little heretical, gives new life to the music side of our worship. He is a great complement to our new minister, Van, who has brought new life to the preaching of the Word at our church. Van does not consider himself a musician, but he is interested in music, he knows what he likes, what he likes is often what people in the pew like, and he has an ear for songs that go with themes in his text and in his sermon. So Van will mention a song to Steve. Steve will get the music somewhere, and then Steve will look at his amateur musicians and see whether someone might be able to do the song. Steve does not have a lot to work with in our church, but he and the layman who heads our worship committee, Rick, are doing very well in teasing out talent from our community.

So last Wednesday night Steve gave me a song he wanted me to sing today at church. It was a song that Van had asked him to do, “O Lord, You’re Beautiful” by Keith Green, a song that has been in the “praise song” library for many years. I knew the song a little bit and Steve had a copy of the original music that Keith Green had sung. The original music was a little different from
the praise song I knew, however. For one thing, it had a strange bridge that was hard to get just reading the music. So I decided that Saturday I would have to go to the Christian book store in
Hialeah, look through the CD collection there, and see if I could find the song. If successful, I would buy the CD, bring it home, and then just listen to it again and again, which is how I learn
new songs.

Saturday was very busy. Early in the day I was able to go by the book store, because I had another errand in the neighborhood. But it was before 10AM and the store had not yet opened. I had to run other errands, mainly downtown, and found myself back home in mid-afternoon and prepared to go back to the book store. But then I remembered that now one can buy and download songs from the internet. I called Walter and he pointed me to the Apple site,, and the Wal-Mart site, The Apple site required Windows 2000, which I do not have, but Wal-Mart would take Windows 98. And there on the Wal-Mart site was the original Keith Green recording. For 88 cents I downloaded it!

After downloading, it took some time for me to play it. I discovered that my Windows Player was obsolete, and I had to download from the Microsoft webpage the latest version. That took a while. But by the end of the afternoon, I was playing the song, singing along with it, and getting it firmly planted in my head. This morning at the worship service I sang it, with Steve on the keyboard. It turned out OK.

The point of all of this is to describe what was, for me, a revolutionary way to locate and acquire a song. I know. I know. This is old stuff to the generation below me. And even I knew that this was out there. But to experience this distribution system is astonishing. My routine of going to the bookstore, finding the right CD (if the right CD happens to be there), buying it and bringing it home, takes a great deal of time that I have little of to spare. The cost of the CD that has the song I want is often 15 dollars, on the order of more than 15 times what Wal-Mart charges for that song. But this is the least of the costs that the old way of find the song requires.

A few weeks ago I was able to download not the recording but the sheet music of a song I heard that I thought might do at church: “You Raise Me Up”, which is a cross-over from the secular to the Christian music world. I was able to buy the sheet music off the internet and print it out on my printer. I have the file in my computer (just as I have the file from the Keith Green song) and I can print out the music anytime I want to print it out. There was no way I would have been able to locate that sheet music at the book store in Hialeah, because it had just crossed over. But there it was, right on the internet.

Oh, Brave New World!

No comments: