Wednesday, April 01, 2009

pulled in two directions

As we get started on recording the new SmallTall Music CD (Yippee!!), I find myself pulled in two (at least) directions.

I had a conversation with a close friend last week who said "I don't know if I'm ready for a new CD from you yet, Bryan... I think the last one is so important, and relevant... I'd like to see you ride that one a while longer, and get it into more people's hands and hearts... I'd be sad to see you move on from that material already..."

This would be one representative voice from the camp that has been particularly moved by the songs I've written that are more "adult oriented", that lean more toward the "tall" than the "small"... and that have been encouraging me to write and record more in that vein...

And then there is another friend with a small child who recently told me "I hope your next CD will have some more songs that are fun and playful again..." This would be a representative voice from the camp that regularly tells me things like this: "I have been looking and looking for good Christian music for my children (or "for the children I teach/lead"), and I've been so discouraged by what I find... until I found your stuff. Thank you so much! Songs that are fun and engaging and easy to sing along with, that express a theology that I can support and feel good about..."

The other night I got together with "the band" to explore the new batch of songs that we'll be recording in the next two months, and again it is a real mix of "songs for small AND tall"... some are really fun, rather quirky, with some delightfully silly moments (I've been having fun with these in concert already), and others are more reflective and a couple are fairly dark - one that is even quite "apocalyptic" in its imagery, and another that is an expression of deep pain and hurt.

Can I get away with putting all these songs on one album?

This is not the "conventional wisdom" of how "the music business" - or even how the world of "Christian ministry resources" - works. I really have not been able to find a better label for my music than "songs of faith for small and tall," because that is EXACTLY what they are. The new CD will have songs that are guitar-based folky, a few that are piano-driven, others that are bluesy, jazzy, one that might be bluegrass...

Is it "children's music?" "Christian contemporary?" Gospel? Folk/Roots? Something else?

Too bad iTunes and music awards don't categorize artists by theology, ecclesiology, and missiology rather than by "genre"...

In any case, I continue to be pulled in different directions, as from a "marketing" perspective I'm sure it would be more "effective" to pick a "category" and release songs that way... and yet I continue to resist that approach, because what I do really is for the CHURCH, which is an intergenerational body, and I continue to be driven by the question "what do we need to SING together?"

If you have any thoughts on this, I'd love to hear them.

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3 Comments:

At 2:49 PM, Blogger Colleen Taylor said...

Singer-songwriter Sandra McCrachen's most recent CD, Red Balloon, is a double EP. I heard/read her rationale somewhere and tried to find it, but no luck. She calls them Side One and Side Two. (She's easy to find using Google.)

Anyhow, the double EP/album idea might work for you. You could have Songs for the Small and Songs for the Tall, so people can keep them straight. :) Of course, if there's any overlap, I'm fresh out of ideas there.

 
At 9:36 PM, Blogger Bryan Moyer Suderman said...

Thanks for the idea, Colleen. Maybe I'll do that kind of thing some day. Although part of the issue for me is precisely that my music tends to be all about that "overlap"... although even calling it an "overlap" implies accepting the different categories ("small" and "tall") as separate and mutually exclusive, which I don't...

And yet we do find ourselves needing to categorize ourselves one way or another all the time, don't we... farther down the road I can imagine putting together different "compilations" of my songs according to more commonly accepted/identifiable categories... a "folk" album or two, a Spanish language or "world music" album, a few "children's music" and "worship songs" albums...but in the meantime... hmmm...

 
At 9:09 PM, Anonymous Eugene said...

Your dilemma well stated. For me, there is a difference between what I like to "Sing Together" corporately, and what I like to listen to in the privacy of my mp3 player ... hmmm.

 

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