Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Meaning in the Music

steven curtis chapman, christian, singer, songwriter, acoustic guitar
by Hännah Ettinger 

I grew up listening to four musicians.

Stephen Curtis Chapman, Out of the Grey, John Michael Talbot and Bob Bennett.

I mean, those are pretty okay bands, but that gets kinda boring after a while.

I did also listen to a lot of Hillary Hahn playing Bach, but that’s another story. It involves a LOT of pliés. So, anyway, four bands.

And then I went to college.

Everything changed. I met this guy named Napster and we had a violent love affair.

I caught up on music from the 90s in about two months and it was a mindfuck. A couple months later I listened to all of the U2 I could get my hands on. A friend played the Beatles for the entire course of an eight-hour road trip one way, and then on the way back we listened to three Rush albums. I joined my school’s chapel choir and we did Mozart, Fauré, Bach, Rutter. I got super into Katy Perry and Good Charlotte and Rutter’s Christmas carols. I introduced my younger brothers to honkytonk country music (because I’m an evil big sister like that). My sister (and roommate) and I listened to Wicked and Godspell on repeat all one summer and drove our parents insane with our round and round renditions of “Loathing” on bad days and “Day by Day” on good ones. I even had a phase where I was super, SUPER into French rock opera.
mozart, french rock opera, l'opera rock, mickelangelo locante 
My love of music has always been complicated.

These days, I can’t stand most worship music--partly because my family was always involved in worship team at church, so those songs bring back all the memories. But partly because it makes me feel panicked.

Worship services, in the church where I grew up—which was a cult, but looked like your average non-denominational church with a sort-of rock band to kick the service off—were sort of treated like performance displays, and it wasn’t just the band that worked to perfect the holy rock star pose. We were all expected to cultivate the same air and demeanor--during one service the pastor was talking about ways to worship with appropriate expression (we were pretty charismatic), and he pointed out a couple individuals (by NAME) as examples to emulate—their posture and gestures were apparently the most sincere expressions of worship in the congregation.

Maybe this is why I found sanctuary in the Episcopal tradition. Worship isn’t a show, and the music is secondary. No one is looking at me to see if I’m raising my hands during the Doxology. No one’s looking at me, period.

But I still passionately love music--especially live music. I’m still a sucker for really awesome music videos, and I’ve branched out a lot from the four, white, Christian, acoustic bands I grew up listening to.

Beyonce, singer, concert, I Am...World TourMy current favorites are loud, confident individuals who love themselves as they are--these are the folks I listen to late at night on my way home from work, with the windows down and the night sea air hitting my face as I drive down the highway.

I heard a sermon once where the pastor talked about the music you listen to being a reflection of the company you want to keep. I hated the sermon because it was filled with legalism, but on that point, maybe he’s right. These are the people I want to be friends with, the people whose confidence and joy I want to be possessed by.

I’m not sure what music will mean for me in the future. I’m not sure if I’ll ever learn to play an instrument without having a panic attack from daddy issues.

But I’ll definitely throw a fantastic dance party in my kitchen with these good folks any night of the week. 

Hännah's Dance Playlist

Janelle Monae - Dance Apocalyptic

Laura Mvula - That's Alright

Mika - Elle Me Dit

Stromae - Papaoutai

Beyonce feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche - Flawless 

Hännah Ettinger lives in Los Angeles. She writes and works as a bookseller, and has an opinionated orange cat. You can read more of her work at her blog Wine & Marble and you can follow her on Twitter @haettinger.

You can follow On Pop Theology on Twitter @OnPopTheology or like us on Facebook at If you'd like to support what we do, you can donate via the button on the right of the screen.

Image Credits:
Image #1 via genvessel
Image #2 via Mickelangelo
Image #3 via Jingjing Cheng

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