So what is Mormon music anyway?

This debate has been going on for years and its not likely to end anytime soon, so I thought Id throw out a few thoughts.

Last year, The Faith Centered Music Association added five new song categories to its annual Pearl Awards in a nod to the growing diversity of LDS music — or maybe it was just so I would have a chance of actually winning one. Even among LDS music makers there is always a lot of debate about styles and appropriateness. For example, some artists/producers dont feel comfortable having full drums in a song with lyrics that are overtly religious. Others dont have a problem with it.

Last Sunday night my group, Joshua Creek, performed a song at a tri-stake genealogy fireside. When the event was over, as we were putting our acoustic guitars into their cases, one of the leaders approached us to chat and offer his thanks. He ended with something like, "Some people are apprehensive about the use of stringed instruments in the chapel, but that was wonderful and appropriate."

Whenever this happens our guitarist likes to jokingly reveal an apparently well-kept secret: "See that piano over there?" he asks. "If you open it up and look inside, youll find 'em: strings! It just uses little hammers, we use our fingers."

While the FCMAs official definitions of styles are useful for voting, they dont hold a lot meaning for the average saint who simply wants to hear a good song — one thats just right for the time of day and day of week. And the appropriateness of the style is going to vary from person to person.

I had a group of Average Joe listeners in a BYU journalism class a year or so ago that produced an E-zine about LDS music. As part of the planning process, the students wanted to define LDS music so they would know what their boundaries were, so to speak. After some spirited debate about styles and formats, it really came down to just two basic categories as far as they were concerned: 1) Music made by Mormons for Mormons, and 2) Music made for everyone that just happens to be made by Mormons.

Beyond that it starts to get real fuzzy due to differing tastes and opinions. But both are equally legitimate and relevant. Both can be good, both can be tacky; both can be inspiring, both can be offensive.

For me, Ive tried to keep it as simple as possible and scaled it down to just one category of "Mormon Music." In fact, the definition has been around quite a while: "virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy" (13th Article of Faith). And even though the exact meaning of this is a little different for each of us, I think it works pretty well.


"American Idol" Update: At this stage of the "American Idol" competition, contestants voted off first are generally the ones who really shouldn't have been there in the first place. They are usually singers who — by the judges account — might have had some unique "artistic genius" lurking inside them just waiting to be freed. The problem is that many of these singers are amateurs who've had no professional training or experience, thus when up against the pressures of a big-time, live performance, the genius never steps out and their flaws are obvious — sometimes painfully so.

LDS entrants David Archuleta and Brooke White certainly arent in this category, so it was not surprising that they were both "safe" and moved on to the coming week.

While David cruised through with high marks on his rendition of "Shop Around," I would place Brooke's performance of "Happy Together" more in the middle of the pack among the girls (some official "Idol" watchers on the web placed her lower than that). She wasn't bad, but she didn't stand out, either.

Even with her bubbly, Faith Hill/Carly Simon thing going on she looked unsettled, even a little scared — like she was not quite sure what to do with herself without a piano or guitar. Hopefully, shell kick it up several notches this week. Based on her previous performances, we know shes got it in her.

New Blog-Mag: With the intent of providing a resource to those involved in the music industry, LDS music producer Greg Hansen has launched a new blog-mag called "Positive Music and Arts." It has articles highlighting opportunities for songwriters, new albums and projects, and items of interest to musicians and those interested in the regional music scene.

(Quint Randle was born and raised in Southern California and has been a music journalist and songwriter for more than 25 years. He is now a full-time journalism professor. He has co-written two No. 1 songs in the Christian-Country market and still moonlights as a member of the award-winning duo Joshua Creek. He founded Gig Magazine and has written for Mix Magazine, Recording Engineer/Producer and Guitar Player. He also co-authored the book "Making Money Making Music.")