41 – Not What My Hands Have Done: Understanding Excellence in the Craft of Lyrics and Music
- We really enjoyed our Summer Interview Series with Kyle Thompson, Philip Moyer, Renee Emerson, Cody Curtis, and Henry Haffner. Unfortunately, Jesse Roberts could not make it onto this episode due to Covid, which oddly enough is why Justin couldn’t make it onto this episode either! So please keep the Rea and Roberts families in your prayers for a swift and full recovery, especially knowing there are little ones and very little ones in those households.
- We have really enjoyed having Justin on for season 3, and we have no plans to boot him off any time soon. He really is only out this week due to Covid, so don’t let any nasty rumors start!
- This episode, we will wrap up Season 3 as we tackle the conversation on Craft, but I also wanted to point out that we just wrapped up reading Book 1 of the Psalter. It took a decent amount of last minute finagling to get those two events to sync up, despite the fact that Covid tried its hardest to prevent it.
- We have officially launched our Instagram account by posting actual episode relevant content! Actually, my wife took over the account, because we were doing a bang up job of letting it die.
- We uploaded our full backlog into the Not The Bee social site, so if you have an account with them, you can listen to our podcast through their app and website. We have already gained a few followers that way including a public endorsement and invitation from the owner Dan Dillon, so thank you again for that!
- We got our first hate mail! We are not discouraged by it, but rather encouraged, because we know now that our reach has increased past our core and Target listeners. We are happy that Balm in Gilead has been a cause for some critical thinking and hope that you all will write in with what’s good and what’s not. Thank you for your feedback! Also, please rate and review us in your podcast player of choice and bonus points if you do so in Apple Podcasts as that really helps get the word out and build up the listener community.
- Lutheran Satire on the song Hallelujah.
- Switchfoot’s new album interrobang.
- Alisa Childer’s podcast episode on deconstruction.
- Poor Bishop Hooper’s album Foreign Made.
So far this season, we have been talking about Excellence in Beauty and Excellence in Craft. We have focused deeply on a Biblical argument for the pursuit of Excellence, and we have had the opportunity to talk to many experts and practitioners about elements of Beauty within music and poetry one small piece at a time. Today, we are going to tackle the entire conversation on Craft. Bryan and Jesse Roberts of Poor Bishop Hooper discussed this at length over email, which informs this episode.
When I talk about Craft, I am referring to rules and blueprints that are learned and replicable for the purpose of being a foundation. I’m not just referring to music or even just art, but this is a foundational principle for all things Crafted, whether it be for practical or presentational or somewhere in between.
I also believe that when Craft is done well and in a God honoring way, it will be Beautiful. Because of this, I realize now that I should have talked about Craft first as a foundation and built on it with the Beauty conversation. Since I didn’t, I am taking a step back to talk about Craft now. As a result, there will probably be a decent amount of bleeding over into Beauty conversation, but I am going to try to stay focused specifically on Craft.
A little bit about my personal background: I minored in creative writing in college, I took a couple semesters of undergraduate music theory while in seminary, and I have taken a handful of free classes and paid coachings in songwriting proper. I consider myself to still be a novice in songwriting, but with some natural gifting, and enough coaching under my belt to no longer be on the bottom rung of the ladder. I do think I am a better critic than practitioner which is ultimately why I started this podcast.
That said, I built my questionnaire using the limited knowledge that I had in the area. After talking to Cody and Henry in the last couple episodes, I have tweaked the Beauty portion to be easier to follow and to incorporate more and better concepts.
See also the Questions for Christian Music Discernment.
In preparation for this episode, I asked Jesse this question: would it be possible to write a song a week for three straight years without a firm grasp on the rules of language and music?
Great question. Highly unlikely! Also unlikely to be able to do so without having written a great deal of songs prior to the endeavor. Little info from us, both Leah and I were writing songs for many years and in great numbers before starting everypsalm.
Are the Lyrics and Music Crafted, Creative, Clever, and Clear?
Check out Pat Pattison’s books.
- Constructed well using the generally accepted building blocks of language and music
- Original and fresh without throwing the rules out the window
- Thought provoking and interesting
- Able to communicate its message accurately and completely
Discernible Care and Attention
- Word Choice
- Growing in knowledge in vocabulary, vernacular, and appropriate language. Listen to episode 27 for more on colloquial language in songs.
- “You can’t communicate a complete Truth with an incomplete sentence” -Bryan Wulfmuller
- Sentence order
- Knowing when to break the rules without becoming confusing
Check out Bryan on the Sound in Worship podcast.
Discernible Care and Attention to Basic Music Theory Elements
- Chord Structure
After this conversation, the noteworthy edits made to the Craft section were 1) switching the order of importance of Craft then Beauty and 2) adding Music Theory as its own category with the other items in the list falling under it.
We have exciting things in the works that will get more into on the next episode (which should air three weeks from the release of this episode).
Thanks for listening
The Balm of Gilead podcast is a member of the Tech Reformation family of podcasts. If you enjoy the show, please share it with others. We enjoy hearing from you, so join us on our Discord and let us know what you’re thinking. If email is more your thing, write to us at thereis <at> balmcast <dot> com. Thanks again and we’ll see you next time, Lord willing.