Thinking Out Loud

June 15, 2013

The Homogenization of Ideas

Many years ago, when my life was more about music than about books, I met a girl — name truly forgotten — who had written a children’s musical that she hoped I could help her get published. Despite the fact that I worked in the broadest sectors of the Christian music industry, my interest lay more in breaking new territory for contemporary Christian music, not in the choral music product market.

But then I listened to the tape she gave me.

Without any formal musical training, this girl had conceived an entire cantata for children — theme unfortunately forgotten also — that was truly awesome.

I made an exception and got to work on collecting contact names for choral publishing companies I was already in working relationship with, and some expressed interest in pursuing this talented young woman further.

Greetings from NashvilleProvided she was willing to relocate to Nashville.

This is the part of the story that amazed me, and one which I fought tooth and nail at the time. “What good does it do,” I asked, “If everyone in the industry is waking up in the same town, driving on the same freeways, shopping at the same malls, walking in the same parks, going to the same churches, and dare I say listening to the same music? Isn’t this going to lead to music that all sounds the same?”

Nobody listened. In the end she decided it was too big a move that was not guaranteed to offer sure returns. Your loss. My loss. Kids who would have learned and performed her musical; their loss. Don’t know what happened to her.

The other night we were listening to overseas radio stations online. Norway. The Netherlands. England (but not the BBC which is geo-blocked in Canada). The one thing we noticed was the decisive absence of the telltale Nashville influence. The American guitar-based country sound — that permeates rock and other genres here whether we admit or not — was replaced by the Euro music sound of keyboards. It was a nice change.

The more southern U.S. the sound — apologies, Third Day — the less I like it. In a shrinking world, we still get to hear too little of what is a staple musical diet for audiences in Europe. Geo-blocking of internet radio and YouTube music videos is not helping. I’d like to know how much of that blocking is European-driven, and how much of it originates with the American offices of multi-national record companies.

The Christian internet of which I am a part is no different. Justin Taylor or Kevin DeYoung writes something and Tim Challies and Zach Nielsen link to it, and then all the Challies wannabes link to it on their blogs. Sixty gazillion Christian blogs all carrying the one story of the day and the same blog referrer advertisement for the $1.99 eBook download of the day.

Yes, people exist on the fringes, and bloggers like this one who try “marching to the beat of a different drummer,” but ultimately, we witness the homogenization of creativity and the homogenization of thought on a daily basis; people striving to carve out an individual  identity, but essentially all waking up in the same town, driving on the same roads, eating in the same restaurants, and playing the same four chords. So to speak.


1 Comment »

  1. See, I’d think that the Church could be an amazing counter-balance to cultural homogenization. After all, it’s a key tenet of our belief system that we belong to one, global family. Which means that I have Norwegian aunts, Kenyan uncles, Brazilian brothers, Japanese sisters and on and on. Which means we have a massive richness of cultural expression and insight to draw on, and we’re impoverishing ourselves if we don’t.

    What can we learn about celebration from our Burundi siblings? What special insights into the atonement might we get from a distinctively Nepalese viewpoint? How could our Palestinian friends shed light on the cultural and geographic background of Jesus’ parables? What key theological questions are we not even asking that we could be guided through by our Maori family members?

    Because if we truly believe that we are citizens of a new kingdom, then presumably our identity as part of the family of God is more important than the nationality on our passport or our culture of birth.

    I’ve been fortunate to have actually seen this happen. I’ve worked with intercultural teams on mission and seen this cross-pollination of ideas, and I’ve seen churches in Toronto celebrate the multitude of cultures that make up their congregations.

    But I totally get your point about the blogosphere. I tend to follow the ‘Global Voices’ site frequently for a genuinely global set of bloggers and writers, but I don’t know of any specifically Christian equivalent. If you happen to know of one, I’d love to hear.

    Comment by trevor — June 16, 2013 @ 2:45 pm

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