What is Fusion at HTC?
In the wider worlds of art, architecture, cuisine, and of course, music, “fusion” signifies the late-20th-century realization that culture is fluid. Techniques have never been fixed in space, but today, performing artists make conscious efforts to cross stylistic boundaries. Classical musicians, for instance, explore jazz and world music; rock artists draw upon the poetic freedom of folk and the rhythmic intrigue of funk. At their best, fusion experiments plumb the depths of multiple idioms, locate their common wells of inspiration, and produce sounds (or sights or tastes) that exceed the sum of the parts. That is why we call it fusion: it is not merely the coexistence of styles, but the wedding of sensibilities. Indeed, virtually any musical style we could think of (including those already mentioned) began as a felicitous fusion of various techniques.
It is sometimes hard for churches to embrace cultural fluidity, particularly when it comes to music. The firmness of our faith can be confused with fixed ways of expressing it in song. But congregations become pools of standing spiritual water when we equate (even subconsciously) doctrinal clarity to musical fixity. On the other hand, to commit a church’s music ministry to the potentials of fusion is foremost to recognize that music is art – of human artifice – and as such will, should, and must evolve in ways that the abiding truths of the gospel will not. If the constancy of God’s goodness and the foundation of his Word provide the common well of inspiration, great blessings will emerge from any number of musical marriages.
Fusion at Holy Trinity is born of our context. We live in a city where the potentials of musical fusion are vast, but where cultural divides have turned churches into fortresses of narrow musical preference, which have, in turn, reinforced the divides. If we are to overcome this division – and we believe the gospel compels us to do so – we must cultivate musical fusion across the boundaries. We must commit ourselves to not only tolerating music beyond our native inclinations but to engaging it on a deep level, incorporating it into our sincerest expressions of praise.
The musicians of Holy Trinity have several approaches to this mission. One is educational: we are committed to learning the various musical techniques that prevail around the city. We will be hosting, for instance, a workshop on gospel music led by the pianist Paul Sims in February 2009. Another approach is experimental: we are committed to exposing ourselves to a rich assortment of musical ideas. We might set an old text to a groovy new tune; we might dust off an ancient hymn to discover that believers liked to tap their toes in the sixteenth century as well. Performance events like Christmas on the Town, moreover, allow the full range of musical gifts across our congregations to come together in a laboratory of mutual inspiration. This year we featured everything from orchestral music of George Frederick Handel to a Croatian folk tune.
Above all, our strategies are grounded in the relational component of gospel ministry. To embrace a person’s culture is to embrace the person in the fullness of life that God has given to her. While the truth of the gospel transcends culture, culture is nevertheless the means through which the gospel is understood and expressed, and no one culture is privileged in this regard. When Christians intentionally cross over cultural divides to sing praises together, they take vital steps of faith that ground their relationships ever deeper within the gospel itself, drawing them all closer to the Lord. Such fusion generates harmonies that in every way exceed the sum of the parts, glorifying God with hearts attuned to the great promises of his Kingdom in which “all tribes and peoples” spend their days basking in worship of the Most High.