Categorizing music (2)

Following yesterday’s initiatory look at music categories, here are some ways of categorizing church songs:

  1. Whether it’s a book or non-book song.  (“Hymnal” is sort of a misnomer, so I’ll just say “book.”)  We leaders tend to carry around an unspoken list of how many of our songs on a given Sunday were “hymns” (meaning “found in the book”), and how many were “contemporary” or “worship songs” (ignoring the fact that two of the book songs were worship songs, too!).   Almost subconsciously, as we plan and communicate plans and carry out plans, we are too conscious of how many songs are in the “old” and “newer” categories.  Of course, as “contemporary” songs come to be included in revisions of song books, this whole analysis becomes more complicated.
  2. Musical style considerations such as harmonic rhythm and presence or absence of a chorus/refrain.  These days, there seems to be less interest in a strict musical classification or even in anything musical whatsoever (summer singing schools and singing Sunday nights are just about extinct).  Folks often bend over backwards to avoid any appearance of giving too much emphasis to music or things musical, despite the pervasiveness of music — and the continued, albeit different, musical literacy in our culture.
  3. A third way of categorizing is in terms of textual content.  The content of a song is more important than its musical style, or whether the song is found in a book or not.  Lyrical/textual content merits primary consideration.

For what it’s worth, below, I offer an attempt at categorization of my church’s 2011 “top 25” based on content.  I feel that someone needs to challenge the status quo that worries too much about whether a song is in a song book or not.


Hymns/Direct Worship

Ancient of Days
As The Deer (Nystrom)
Here I Am To Worship
More Precious Than Silver
My Jesus, I Love Thee
On Bended Knee
Step By Step

Praise, Thanks, and Indirect Worship/Call To Worship
A Mighty Fortress
Blessed Be the Lord God Almighty
Come Let Us Worship and Bow Down
Give Thanks
How Great Is Our God
I Will Call Upon the Lord
The Steadfast Love of the Lord
We Will Glorify

Create in Me a Clean Heart
Light the Fire
Lord, Reign in Me
Unto Thee, O Lord

The Battle Belongs to the Lord (also, contains elements of praise)
The Greatest Command

Difficult to categorize (“crossover” or partially unknown to me)
God Himself Is With Us
He Still Came
Lamb of God
Yes, Lord, Yes


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