Monday, September 5, 2011

Sermon Hymns: I. The Gospel of Jesus Christ

Watch the video here.

Read the accompanying thesis here.

What is it?
“The Gospel of Jesus Christ” is the first movement of a planned multi-movement composition entitled Sermon Hymns. This composition is a multimedia work for piano with electronic audio and video playback. The central component is a mosaic of sermon clips that have been sequenced together to communicate a specific narrative; in this case, the narrative is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but later movements will focus on different narratives. Thus, for this movement, I selected specific quotations from sermons by various Christian preachers that communicate particular aspects of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, such as Creation, human depravity, and Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. Moreover, I selected these quotations on the basis of whether or not they reflected an objective exegesis of the biblical account of the Gospel. [1]

I composed original music, presented both electronically and acoustically, to complement this montage of sermon clips. The acoustic instrument I chose is the piano, the writing for which is intended to support rather than eclipse the Gospel narrative. The electronic portion of the music consists of synthesized and sampled sounds, along with personal recordings of violoncello and drums. Furthermore, I created an accompanying video that displays animated texts from the sermon excerpts, along with corresponding diagrams and definitions pertaining to the message.

What is its purpose?
Sermon Hymns exists to glorify God, edify and encourage the church, and evangelize the lost.

What is its function?
Part of my hope and intention for this composition is to supply the Christian church with a new form of music for the corporate worship setting. [2] Despite its unusual form of presentation – namely, a piece for digital audio and video playback with live performance – Sermon Hymns could be incorporated into this setting on the basis of its

1) biblical textual content, which is consistent with the Gospel message outlined in the Christian Scriptures;
2) sensitivity to “spirit and truth” worship mandated by Jesus Christ in John 4:24; and
3) accessibility to the average Christian in regards to its method and clarity of communication.

Ultimately, the appropriateness of a musical composition in a local church worship setting should be left to the wisdom and discernment of the pastor or music director of that specific church, but I have sought to be consistent with the Bible’s standards of music in worship. [3]

Sermon Hymns may be experienced either with or without the live component. The video I have uploaded on YouTube includes the accompanying piano track and is certainly an adequate presentation of the composition. However, I composed Sermon Hymns to be experienced primarily with the live performance of the piano.

Who created it?
Music composed by Cody Curtis
Video created by Cody Curtis
Piano and electronics: Cody Curtis
Drums: Aaron Beasely
Violoncello: Jonathan Stuart-Moore

[1] I do not suggest that my presentation exhausts the biblical account of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I merely underscore foundational aspects.
[2] It is important to note that I certainly do not intend, or would wish, for this form to replace congregational singing, for congregational singing is the only art form commanded in Scripture for use by the church in corporate worship: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Eph. 5:18-19; cf. Col. 3:16). Rather, I present this form as an additional means of using music to facilitate worship.
[3] For a complete defense of my argument that Sermon Hymns is consistent with biblical standards of worship and could therefore be included in the Christian worship tradition, please see my graduate thesis entitled “Sermon Hymns,” which should be made available online in the near future.