Just last month, a recording of Britney Spears’ voice without auto-tune was leaked to the public. Her voice was pitchy and uneven. The internet ridiculed Britney for not being a true singer and relying on the computer to make up for her lack of talent.
But I have to ask, why?
Does it matter how the music is made, as long as the music is good in the end? Isn’t every piece of music influenced by the computer now? Why do we care when a voice is modified to make it sound on-key? Isn’t this a good thing?
Jack White, one of the few rock ’n roll guitarists left in the world, once said, “Technology is a big destroyer of emotion and truth. Auto-tuning doesn’t do anything for creativity. Yeah, it makes it easier and you can get home sooner; but it doesn’t make you a more creative person. That’s the disease we have to fight in any creative field: ease of use.”1
We are annoyed with auto-tune because it isn’t real. And in this Photoshopped reality that we live in, we crave emotion, truth, and beauty. Whether we hear the sound of hammer striking wire on a Steinway, bow pulling string on a cello, or a bass drum thudding deep in our chest, we love the reality of music. We can’t see the notes, but they are every bit as real as our next breath.
Auto-tune isn’t a voice. Auto-tune is a computer. A voice is tied to a real human being who has bled and wept and cried and laughed that brings reality to the music.
Every week in church, we are given the opportunity to create something real. Church can be filled with emotion, laughter, joy, heartache, complexity, diversity and wonder. And yet, more and more, the church leaves us feeling like auto-tune: empty. There’s no soul, no tears, and no risk to be found in our sacred walls. This happens over and over and over again because we are obsessed with ease of use.
We lazily avoid any reality by believing that we have all the answers we need in the Bible. We proudly boast that there is nothing more to learn because God has “Given us all the answers that we need in the Bible.”
The soul is sucked right out of church when we believe it should be the same as last week. There is no challenge, and without challenge, there is no inspiration.
The church we experience today is on auto-tune.
However, church is a canvas that begs for us to create something real. Church should create anticipation and excitement just before it begins. When a friend asks you to describe what’s happening at church next weekend, you should respond with, “I have no idea, but it’s going to be awesome!”
All this requires is a group of people, refusing to succumb to the same disease that plagues the music industry: ease of use.
Craig Hadley is the young adult pastor at the Redlands Adventist Church where he runs Shadow Ministries.
1. It might get loud. Dir. Davis Guggenheim. Universal Studios, 2009.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6155