Maybe we can’t sing hymns or psalms together and don't have preludes, offertories and postludes as we do during church-the-building worship. But we do have a music director because even in a virtual setting, music can play an important role by creating an aural environment for prayer. Here's why Rob Passow (@PilgrimsMusicDC) is our music director.
When I began praying with TVA in December 2009, I discovered that quiet music helped me tune out secular distractions and focus on the prayers. When I began leading prayer, I decided to share some music I’d found helpful. Soon, just as I do in real life as the part-time Director of Music at Church of the Pilgrims in Washington, DC, I ended up planning music programs for Virtual Abbey worship.
The first two playlists I created and posted on YouTube were a collection of Sacred Chants and a 16th century Mass setting by Palestrina, both of which seemed to evoke that timeless “Abbey-esque” feeling. Then, because I realized some might find sacred choral music distracting, I decided to include instrumental music.
One of my first and favorite instrumental playlists contains selections from Brian Eno’s recording, Music for Airports, which was actually written to be broadcast in an airport. In his liner notes for the album released in 1978, Eno wrote:
“Ambient Music is intended to induce calm and a space to think. Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.”
To some extent all of the music on our playlists is ambient because we offer it to support prayer. We also offer music that appeals to a range of listening preferences – intricate interwoven melodies (e.g., Palestrina); gentle slow moving harmonies (e.g., Liquid Mind); rhythmic chanted prayers (e.g., Taizé).
If you're like me, your musical preferences will shift from day-to-day and what might work to support your morning prayers won't work well at night, so choose whichever type of music enhances your prayer life and your suggestions are always welcomed.
Image: Alphabetum Hebraicum; Graecum; Italicum... (Manuscript, 1682)