non-linear, emergent, participatory, ambient music


Via Crucis :: Immersion 2008 flyer

Well, I’ll admit it.  I’m procrastinating.  I should be writing a seminary paper on podcasting.  But at the moment I’m pondering more about non-linear, emergent, participatory, ambient music.

Yeah, I know.  You were thinking the exact. same. thing!

Specifically, I’m looking forward to Via Crucis :: Immerison 2010 that we’ll be creating this Spring. (if you want to play, let me know)  Every year we’ve had some kind of opening night event.  In 2006, Aradhna played a beautiful concert in the round.  In 2008, Isaac Karns (of the Pomegranates) conducted an ensemble of brilliant musicians who created a fantastic musical happening (I’ll repost the mp3s that we recorded soon).  In 2010, I’d love to push the envelope a bit further and create music together as a gathered body – but do it in a non-linear, emergent, participatory, ambient way.  I’ll attempt to delineate deliberately in reverse:


– It matters.  As much as worship isn’t only music – a helpful corrective from folks like Lilly Lewin – music remains a powerful and visceral way we connect with God, the world around us (in a sonic, vibration sorta way), and one another.  There is something about music that quite literally rings in our ears and penetrates to the heart.


– I’m thinking here of the musical genre, which our friend Wikipedia defines thusly:

Ambient music is a musical genre that focuses largely on the timbral characteristics of sounds, often organized or performed to evoke an “atmospheric”, “visual” or “unobtrusive” quality.

As such, this would be building on the work and thought of Brian Eno.  Deep resonances and earthy electronica that evoke (and perhaps, provoke) more than they instruct, lead, or demand.  Allowing the space between to be attended to as much, if not more, than the actual notes, sounds, or chords.


– One of the bones to pick with typical “worship music” – be that “traditional” (hymns, organs, choirs) or “contemporary” (bands, guitars, drums) is how non-participatory it actually is.  In both cases we watch the professionals/experts on the stage conduct us to minimally participate at the lowest common denominator.  Sure, we may sing – or some do – but that’s it.  Deciding what we sing, when we sing, how we sing and the notes to which we sing – that’s the expert’s job.  So, what if Via Crucis :: Immersion was a deeply participatory event?  Not just those who create the stations and engage the stations – but what if the music that is generated on opening night is fully participatory.  What if what existed that night would not exist if not for each person gathered – not merely in the spiritual presence sense – but in the actual live creation of music.  I’m thinking here of an Aural Event – that resonates from our the soles of our shoes to souls of our brains.  Sort of like a musical wiki.


– Imagine an aural event of ambient music created together by active, live participation that EMERGES out of a set of simple rules that everyone follows.  I’m thinking here of the complex behavior of ant colonies or bee hives.  All created by leaderless systems of autonomous individuals following specific behavioral codes.  This music would be birthed out of people following a simple set of guidelines.  Nothing pre-ordained, no sheet music, no conductor.  Rather when the gathered assemble we would instruct them of 3 rules about how, what, and when they can play (this might be vocal or instrumental) – out of this social matrix (something that is intentional and crafted) the musical aural event would emerge.  Think fractals.  See also emergence on Wikipedia.


– This would not be a 1, 2, 3 process.  Sure, the Stations of the Cross are linear – they follow a path that leads from point A (Jesus’ condemnation) to point B (Jesus in the tomb).  And the music event would have a beginning and an end (though you could debate that to an extent).  But within the (parenthetical) confines of the Aural Event the music would follow it’s own path – not one that we predetermined.  It would be the Worship Music equivalent of a Spirit-led walk in the woods.

So, what do you think?  How could we pull this off?  What would we need to pull this off?


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