Saturday, February 09, 2008

dub and Christian worship (again)

one of my christmas presents was tickets to Salmonella Dub and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and we went on friday night. a very rich night.

i was struck by the mix of crowd. definitely not a normal dub crowd i thought, as i noted the grey hair and more conservative dress style. but it worked. as i sat and listened to violins mixed with bass beats, traditional Maori instruments mixed with electonica, i thought of Opawa on Sunday morning. why can’t we mix classical music with dub?

back in 2006 I wrote a post, bemoaning the lack of dub music in Christian worship. that heart ache remains. dub is my natural voice. i long to love God “in my own language” (to use the words from Acts 2, the crowds experience of Pentecost).

Posted by steve at 11:17 PM


  1. Hi Steve,

    I replied to your original post back in 2006, and I’m still here and still thinking/dreaming about this whole issue.

    Your post highlights for me the fundamental problem with using music in communal worship – whose ‘natural voice’ predominates? If you were to put together a band of musicians who can play dub, and asked them to facilitate communal worship at Opawa, my guess is that a significant proportion of people at Opawa would find it distinctly UN-natural and therefore unhelpful as a catalyst for worship. My ‘natural voice’ is glitchy electronica and experimental music, but even some of my closest friends find my taste in musical style unpalatable… sigh… what’s a unique child of the infinitely imaginative Creator God to do? 🙂

    Actually, I think the question is this: How do you create a space for communal worship where everyone has room to participate using their own, unique, ‘natural voice’?

    Comment by Evan Williams — February 12, 2008 @ 9:44 am

  2. yeah evan, i remember you. welcome back.

    your last question for me is what i like about dub – it invites participation because it works (for me), more like a backdrop soundscape. the vocal repetition are easy to pick up,without demanding you have to sing. add the visual and the dance and you have multiple ways to participate:

    so i can see the dub “band” at the back of the church, not the front; and at the front is the visuals – and there are stations all around the church which allows response – and the dub provide the core soundscape around categories of praise; confession; worship; communion – within which people dance; chant; visit the stations.

    at opawa we have a multicongregational approach, and we start new congregations not by forcing dub unnaturally on existing people, but by trying to form a nuclues around new forms.

    i’m also wonder about paradigms. most people look for patterns. so they see a pattern of worship in church = 5 songs; and so they seek to reproduce that pattern. it’s called tradition and applies to hymns as well as hillsong.

    so this post is dreamy, but also i’m going fishing. i’m wondering if there are people for whom it is natural, and what a next step could be.


    Comment by steve — February 12, 2008 @ 10:53 am

  3. Thanks Steve!

    I really like what you are describing. It’s similar to something I’ve been thinking of for quite a while now, where the normal ‘worship band’ is replaced by a small co-op of people who are creating a space for worship by generating electronic soundscapes and visuals. I always imagined them being at the back, behind (or among) the congregation, and participating in the worship rather than directing it – modifying and adapting things as the worship unfolds.

    In my imagined scenario the music/soundscape could have dub elements, but there are other styles too that have a similar, meditative vibe which I would also use. I guess I’m imagining a fairly generic style of ‘meditative electronica’, rather than anything too specific. If it was always in one style it might get a bit monotonous… However, like dub there could be a mixture of electronic and organic instruments. Perhaps live percussion, or strings or bass guitar. Much of it would be improvised (which would require skilled musicians – a drawback). Creativity would be a core value. Sometimes, there would be no appreciable groove at all – just sonic textures that create a certain feel or evoke an emotion.

    I like the idea of it being fairly spontaneous and moving intentionally away from set song structures and from the 5 song patterns you referred to, into more of a seamless journey.

    As far as a next step goes… I’d be keen to be involved except that I live in Wellington. We could collaborate on a one-off event, but that might be a bit pointless, because I expect it would take time and experimentation for something like this to find it’s feet.

    I don’t know… I’ve been sitting on this dream for a while now. Perhaps I need to more actively look for opportunities to try it here in Wellington?

    Comment by Evan Williams — February 13, 2008 @ 4:03 pm

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