OK, it’s a bad pun.
I’m the “faith integration mentor” for the School of Music at Azusa Pacific University, but I also teach music theory (lower and upper division, a little of each), composition, commercial music and music technology.
I have several problems to solve in this role:
1) How to do faith integration in music myself!
2) How to help my fellow music faculty navigate the institutional pressures to do this in some recognizable way while retaining their own personal integrity and professionalism in teaching.
3) How to communicate to faculty from other disciplines that, for the most part, approaches to faith/learning integration they’ve used won’t work as well in music, or will work to music’s detriment.
Along the way, some related issues arise:
What IS faith integration in music? Is this any different than the use of music as an evangelistic tool? Or is it just a theology of music?
There seem to be lots of people who are willing to say what faith integration is NOT, but aren’t willing to say just what it IS. Why is this?
I think the answer is pretty clear: they don’t know. Neither do I. Nevertheless, I am personally determined to discover or develop some better understandings of faith integration in music. My standards for “better understanding” in this case:
1) There is a way to apply it (the “better understanding”) to teaching music (especially instrumental music, music theory, and choral music with non-religious text) that makes the experience more musical, not less.
2) The departure from norms of teaching these things (which do not include “faith integration” as understood in non-musical disciplines, or we wouldn’t be having this discussion) is not “pro forma” or an obvious “add on”, just to say we did it.
To me, the whole notion of integration implies a new wholeness that comes about as a result of multiple inputs. It is not a synonym for mixture, blend, or combination. Integration implies a mutual interactivity, more like the issue of multiple streams of genetic influence than chemical mixture (although a close analogy might be chemical compounds with notably different properties than any of the constituent elements). Who could have predicted salt from knowing the properties of chlorine and sodium? However, working backwards from understanding the crystalline structure and properties of salt, we do have a better chance of understanding some aspects of the two elements.
Ideally, a successful integration of faith and music will be like that. It will help us to know things about music and things about faith that we don’t know without the integration, or don’t understand as well.
Having said all this, I’m very uncomfortable with this language of “theories”, and “knowing”, and “understanding”. I think both faith and music exist as integrations in and of themselves, in ways that are analogous to one another, but quite different, of course. One way they’re similar is that neither is fundamentally about “knowing”, “understanding” or “theory”, though elements of these things exist in both, of course. Nevertheless, if the only way we can express their integration is in the language of “knowing”, “understanding” or “theory”, we have settled for the most shallow expressions of both faith and music as being demonstrative of the integration we seek…. surely a disappointing outcome.
I hear someone in the background chorus (life as Greek tragedy) shouting, “But there are different ways of knowing, and you’re assuming the most narrow way!”
Sadly, it is precisely, and only, that narrow way of knowing that can be verbalized or appear in print. Integration of the sort we are discussing happens only within a person. It cannot happen in mere content which is accessible to anyone who can read and has a general education.
Some problems with which to grapple:
Is it possible for music to inform faith, or only vice versa? (Again, we aren’t talking about lyrics, we’re talking about music. ) Interesting link on theology and the arts (not necessarily the same thing as “faith integration”).
If so, how?
If so, should music be limited only to that which does inform or support faith?
Is music primarily a tool to be used in the service of faith? Or is it something more?
If it is something more, how do we let it be what it can be, without making an idol of it?
There are lots more questions, of course… but at the moment my head hurts. I’m going to go listen to some cool jazz. I have it on good authority from a young friend that Jesus played the electric bass… which sounds unlikely to me, but since the scriptures are silent on this point, I really can’t argue it. (When the rocks cry out, who needs an amp?)