Music soothes the savage beast

Bugs Bunny Gorilla
Musick has charms to sooth a savage breast,
to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.
        William Congreve, in The Mourning Bride, 1697

Did you catch that? – the original quote is breast, not beast.

And Bugs Bunny didn’t say it first. Maybe best, but not first.

Yesterday was one of those days where everything went wrong from start to finish.  It was brutal. I’m driving home to face my family at dinnertime knowing that I was in a beastly mood.  To top it off, I had to got to go home teaching at 7:00pm.
(Wait, he’s going Home Teaching on March 1?  Why that Pharisee!  Note: In my mind it was February 29 – not my fault there was no leap year this year.)

Anyway, back to my sob story…  I knew that I needed to get out of my foul mood, so I did what has usually proven most effective for me.  I grabbed my iPod and selected a playlist called “Calm”. (I did this after pulling over to the side of the road. Sure.)

I spent the next 15 minutes listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  Seriously? You are buying this?

– The next few paragraphs might be considered heresy in some circles – proceed with caution –

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has never done much for me.  I love what they bring to General Conference, but I’m not one to turn to MoTab when I need a spiritual boost. Mozart, obviously, Bach, sometimes, MoTab, not so much.

Back to the story: My “calm” playlist contains songs by Jon Foreman. Jon is the lead singer of a Christian/Alternative band called Switchfoot. His/Their music rides the edge between full-out Christian music and alternative. Some of it is soft and deliberate, some is rock.

A few years back, Jon Foreman released a series of four EPs named after the seasons. – Fall, Winter, Spring Summer. Some of those songs speak to my soul.  And they aren’t even for sale at Deseret Book – go figure.

I do not claim to know the mind of God, but I am curious as to how He feels about people putting their praise into music that doesn’t fit into the traditional “church” mold. Many of these people have pieces of truth, but not all of it.  Few would argue that Mozart and Handel were not inspired men, even though they did not know the full truth of the restored gospel. So, can the case be made that some people outside our faith can be inspired as well in their art? I would say yes. But with guitars?  Why not.

Below is a Jon Foreman song that is partially a rework of the Lord’s Prayer.  Take a listen, see what you think.  Does it inspire?  Is it sacrilege? Does an evil tree bring forth good fruit?  I would like to know your thoughts on the matter.

(link to song here)

Oh, I got home with a softer heart, did not kick the dog or beat my kids, and had a nice Home Teaching visit. Don’t you just love happy endings?


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  1. Ok, Bookslinger, I take personal exception to your implication that Utah Mormons only play hymns at a slow tempo. I haven’t seen that in any of my wards, and I’ve lived in Utah most of my life. Utahns like to rock too. Speaking of which, I have recently gotten into a lot of Christian Contemporary Music lately. I love it. I have found some songs to be very inspirational to me. Some songs just have a good beat, and I enjoy them for that. While not all of it is conducive to the Spirit, at least the lyrics are clean. That’s good enough for me. There’s a difference between inspirational/uplifting and Sacrament-meeting appropriate.

  2. Here, here! And thanks for sharing the title of your playlist: I think I like the calm and uplifting title. Love the Jon Foreman song will check him out along with the other above mentioned artists!

  3. Ok, so I’m way late in commenting on this one. But I have quite a strong opinion on the matter. Once a week I meet with friends to sing, and for the last few months we have been learning Baptist choir music (you know, the clap your hands and bop to the heavens stuff). The friend teaching us is a member of K2 (yes, we are both trying to convert each other) and plays keyboard and sings back-up in the concerts before the sermons (she’s cool–yep). So, although I may not be singing any of these songs in sacrament meeting any time soon–I AM LOVIN’ IT! (and I feel uplifted every time we practice, and happy that the music has a message AND a groovin’ beat!)

  4. As I see it, at any given time the Mo Tabs, and the repertoire of church hymns represent Utahan Mormon culture as much as Mormon doctrine. The doctrine is in the lyrics, but in my opinion the tune and delivery are mostly culture.

    There are times and places where I enjoy listening to certain of the MoTabs performances, but outside of that, I find their music and style to be soporific and stultifying. They just ain’t my cup of tea.

    Whenever I visit another ward, I can tell if the organist/pianist is from Utah by the tempo at which they play the music. The age of the keyboardist doesn’t matter. They turn every hymn into a dirge.

    Your subject here is why Gladys Knight formed the Saints Unified Voices group.

    I’m extremely happy that she received President Hinckley’s blessing (not that she needed it) to produce LDS music with an appeal to those outside of the Wasatch Front.

    Praise the Lord for her and Alex Boye.

  5. I appreciate all aspects of declared truth even if it’s not in its fullness. The whisperings have to start somewhere. Look at the founding fathers of our Nation…definatley divinely inspired by our Maker without the fullness of his Gospel. Thanks for sharing. I will be adding Jon Foreman to my ‘uplifting’ playlist!

  6. I also don’t find the appeal in MoTab. My sister gave me a dirty look when I first admitted that to her.

    My playlist is called “sad,” though I’ve been thinking about changing it to “subdued.” It has Damien Rice, Jon Foreman, Joshua Radin, Azure Ray, Oren Lavie, and singles from many others.

  7. Love it! Thanks for sharing truly uplifting music! I do like motab at times, but lds pop music makes me want to poke myself in the eye with a spork.

  8. Ha ha! No leap year this year. That is going to be MY excuse too.

    I have no doubt that there is non-Mormon inspired music out there. I know this because Axl Rose told me.

Add your 2¢. (Be nice.)

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