Last night my brother Eddie and I gave a presentation at the Murrayfield Churches Together’s faith development group, Sundays at Seven, entitled “Where is God in modern music?”
I won’t go into what we said — you should have been there! Where were you? — but I simply want to say that we drew heavily on two books.
A Matrix of Meanings
One of the best books that we found while researching the topic was A Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Pop Culture (Engaging Culture series) (Baker Academic, 2003) ISBN 080102417X by Craig Detweiler and Barry Taylor.
Detweiler and Taylor look at not only music but television, advertising, film and other major mainstays of modern culture. They argue that while a lot of other commentators berate modern culture as being Godless that is not their purpose in this book. Instead they’d like to find a healthy, Christian attitude to contemporary culture; to find whatâ€™s right with pop culture. They’d like to see people open to the possibility of listening beyond the image (going deeper), listening to what is actually being said: prophetic messages of justice, the environment and poverty; songs of hope, abandonment and displacement, the sort of things we would expect to find in the book of Psalms, for example. It’s challenging and eye- and heart- and spirit-opening stuff.
In terms of our presentation, we used Microsoft PowerPoint, and followed the advice given in this excellent book: Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft Powerpoint to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate and Inspire (Microsoft Press, 2005) ISBN 0735620520 by Cliff Atkinson.
Atkinson’s approach to PowerPoint presentations, you’ll have guessed from the title, is to sweep away those boring bullet points and to draw on the success of modern television and Hollywood: tell a story. As he says:
The basics of good storytelling have been an open secret since Aristotle described them 2,400 years ago, and today you can tap into the power of these classical ideas by applying a story structure to your PowerPoint presentations.
Well last night we did, and it seems to work very well. It gave our presentation a very clear structure that I’m sure helped the audience as much as it helped us while delivering it. (There are some very good articles to download from Cliff Atkinson’s Sociable Media website. Highly recommended.)
As well as the visuals presentation we also played snippets of music (some songs downloaded from the excellent Apple iTunes store). Eddie chose some songs: Mylo, Robbie Williams, Mary Mary, Switchfoot. I chose others: Rage Against The Machine, MotÃ¶rhead, Slayer and Soulfly. As Eddie said, “I’m sure that was the first time that some people there had ever heard Soulfly!” I dare say it was, and probably the last, too!