This. We need more like this.
I’m amused and amazed by remix culture: the broad concept of a society that encourages reinterpreting or reimagining existing works of art.
This includes sophisticated literature like John Gardner’s Grendel and Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, which retell (and deconstruct) Beowulf and The Odyssey, respectively. Remix culture also applies to the endless slew of recent films and television programs that turn familiar stories into action flicks, comedies or romances: everything from action-packed retellings of The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland to bizarre reinterpretations of fairy stories like “Hansel and Gretel” and “Red Riding Hood.”
By far my favorite aspect of remix culture is the music it produces. I’ve already extolled the creativity of the people who remix video game music, who can arrange a simple tune for everything from dance synths to Scottish bagpipes. People even remix music from cartoons like Gravity Falls and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
These remixes are not only creative and clever—they’re also legally available to download for free. The people who remix music often do so not for profit, but as a fun homage to the source material.
If melodies from cartoons and video games are getting rockin’ remixes, why aren’t hymns?
I love hymns. (Let’s not talk about contemporary worship music.) The old hymns are absolutely my favorite kind of music. Modern hymns like “In Christ Alone,” my all-time favorite song, are fantastic.
Why, why, why are these great hymns seldom reinterpreted with the same incredible creativity and brilliance as less important songs?
A few Christian artists do clever things with hymns, like Phil Keaggy in the video above. The band 2nd Chapter of Acts brought an eighties vibe to traditional worship music, and other artists occasionally record contemporary covers of old songs.
What I don’t see—and what I would love to see—is people getting creative with hymns, showing the same joyful abandon as the musicians remixing less important music. I want to hear smooth jazz arrangements of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and hard metal versions of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”
(Do not, for heaven’s sake, rewrite any lyrics. Got that?)
A wise man once asked, “Why should the Devil have all the best tunes?”
I must add: Why should cartoons and video games get all the best remixes?
I agree wholeheartedly with you about hymns – great music and lyrics that don’t sacrifice theological depth for artistry.
There are some pretty good remixes out there, there’s a whole album of hymns by Page CXVI that have been remixed by Derek Webb for a pop/slight electronic vibe. Attalus just released an album called Gospel Hymns Vol.1 of alternative/indie rock hymns that’s a lot of fun and different from most hymns. And The Modern Post (out of Mars Hill Church) released an album last year called Grace Alone that included a couple hymns done in a mix of indie rock and 80s synth rock.
I think the problem is that a lot of the bands doing cool stuff with hymns (and original music) don’t get the spotlight. The solution? Obviously, to become a hipster.
I’m relieved to hear some people are getting creative with the old hymns. I must continue my quest in search of great hymn remixes!
There are worse things than becoming a hipster, for sure. 😉
At present, I have little of substance to add, but I would like to give a little plug to some friends of mine: http://thisilldefend.bandcamp.com/track/chief-of-sinners
It’s a bit rough round the edges, but their “Chief of Sinners” is quite lovely. Slow and simple.