A friend recently gave me a CD of the Beatles' Love album. There is plenty of interesting innovation in the sound, and in the remix, that I appreciate—like the inclusion of the sitar in some songs, and the merging of one track into the next. When you go from "I Want to Hold Your hand," complete with screaming girls in the background, to the rather inscrutable "Hey Jude," you wonder if this is the same band.

This made me long for more such innovation in contemporary worship. Every week at church, it's the same drums-guitar-keyboard-base combo. With a congregation of 2,000 plus, surely there are some who can play the cello, sax, or trumpet. Or could we just shut off the electricity for a moment and have a trio of trained singers sing "Amazing Grace" a cappella?

I'm reminded of the most concise critique of contemporary worship I've heard—from that great cultural critic and philosopher, Hank Hill, from the TV series King of the Hill. On one show, his son Bobby befriends a Christian rocker, and when Hank hears his band play he says, "Can't you see you're not making Christianity look better? You're just making rock 'n' roll look worse."

But this is less about critiquing worship music than it is about aesthetic experience. The same week my friend gave me the Beatles CD, I bought a Vivaldi CD, specifically for one movement of a concerto that I heard on the radio. It's a four-minute andante from Vivaldi's concerto for violin and two string orchestras in B-flat major (listen here). When I heard it on the radio at work, I was entranced by the beauty of the piece. When I heard it was Vivaldi, I was surprised. No composer's name had entered my mind while I listened, and this is not typical. I know Vivaldi's work fairly well, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.