Archive for April 16, 2012

Apr 16

Sunday Morning, Noise, and Joy!

2012 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Recommended Link

Whenever there are instruments involved in anything, there are decisions about volume. That is certainly true when it comes to corporate worship in the church. On this subject, Mike Cosper has written a helpful article over at the TGC Blog, “How to Make an Appropriately Loud, Joyful Noise.”

Cosper shares a number of helpful insights and even specific suggestions for church musicians and audio techs, but here are some of the more helpful parts for the rest of us:

It was nearly time to begin the service. The congregation was gathering in the building, some clustering in the aisles and halls, others dutifully making their way to the space inside the large auditorium. At five minutes ’til, the musicians took their places, running through an instrumental version of one of the tunes we’d all be singing later in the meeting, and I winced in pain. A sinking feeling ran from head to toe: this was going to be a LOUD service.

As a musician who spends a lot of time recording, I’m nervous around loud sounds. I cover my ears when sirens pass. I rarely sit in the front rows of concerts. I don’t like playing with loud drummers. So as the volume swelled, I reached for my trusty iPhone, opening up the Sound-Pressure-Level meter app. The peaks were around 110 or 112 decibels, which is loud—near the damage threshold, in fact. I put the phone away, determined to do my best in participating without wincing, praying that they would turn it down.

The irony of this story is that the music was as traditional as it gets. The only instrument playing as I took SPL readings was a pipe organ.

…Many assume only contemporary music is loud. This is simply untrue. While a rock ensemble is capable of painfully loud volumes (and it’s often easy to get to these levels), so is traditional or classical instrumentation.

…Music that’s described as “too loud” is often more of an issue with harshness than volume. Imagine the sound of your worship band as though they’re running through your car stereo. Turn the bass down. Turn the treble all the way up. Now listen at a normal volume level for four or five minutes. It’s will make you feel like your ears are going to bleed. In reality, it’s probably not dangerously loud. It’s just dangerously bad. Music regarded as loud, especially in the church where musicians and techs work desperately to tame volume levels, is often simply harsh, imbalanced sound.

The goal of music in the gathering isn’t great sound or even great music. It’s a church gathered and united in song.

Good pastoral decisions related to sound will include wise decisions about songs and dynamics, ensuring that services create space for the congregation to hear themselves, to hear one another, and to join their voices in song.

Mike Cosper writes regularly on the gospel and arts at The Gospel Coalition Blog. Click here for more of his articles.