Perspective and Poetry: Reimagining 21st – Century American Hymnody
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Hymnody remains a pivotal aspect of Christianity, taking on a plethora of musical forms and traditions throughout the millennia. As a frequent component of church liturgy, worship through song should aid congregations in comprehending Scriptural truth and offer praise and reverence to the Lord. However, archaic language in many pre-20th-century works confuses many American Christians and distances the general public from the universal Church. In contrast, 21st-century worship music often avoids discussion of detailed theological concepts, instead relying on emotional appeals through its atmosphere and egocentric relationship to the divine. This self-centered view is countered by the unusual syntactic structure and lofty vocabulary of the older selections. The ensuing polarization thus requires modern hymnists to transform and reimagine the continuation of Christian hymnody. My paper analyzes and interpolates the syntactic choices of English and American hymns from the 18th century to the 21st century; using those historical examples, I argue that the solution to the United States’ evolution towards flippant and dichotomic hymnody is distilling complex theological concepts into modern, simple vocabulary that all listeners can understand, while retaining an emotional and reverent aura.