Culture and Religion: Performing Secular Music- Part I

In our new populist culture, there are still burning questions lingering about whether evangelical Christians should pursue a career in secular music. I, too, have struggled with this question. There are no books that actually address this question (one is pending). Before we proceed any further, we must define and answer the following questions:
1. What defines secular music?
2. How is secular music intrinsically different from sacred or Christian music?
3. Is it a sin or wrong for an evangelical Christian to perform work as a secular music artist?
4. Is it the music or the lifestyle that is in question?
5. What about music without lyrics?
6. Is there good music and bad music?
7. Where does art, work, culture and Christian music intersect?

1. WHAT DEFINES SECULAR MUSIC?

In the mid-seventies and early eighties there were Christian artists who “crossed over.” When we say cross-over, we are referring to Christian artists who sang Christian music that were construed to contain lyrics that were hazy in meaning and could easily be sang by Christians and non-Christians. Peter, Paul and Mary in the early sixties did just that. They had big hits with songs like “Put your Hand in the Hand,” and they made the song “If I Had a Hammer,”real popular. Even Sam Cooke, who obviously was raised in the church sang “If I Had a Hammer,”too. My point is this, if we take a step back in time, there obviously was a narrower and harmless view of “Christian” music in the early centuries up to the mid eighties. In our current culture, that is not the case. How times have changed.
Secular Music can be defined not in a performing functional context alone but in a lyrical content functional one. For the purposes of this article, secular music is defined as an umbrella category of music whose sole purpose and function is strictly to entertain its listeners. While their are subsets of secular music, their purpose may be to inform or convey a social message or support a social cause irrespective of the genre.

Sacred music is defined as music whole sole purpose and function is to inspire, evangelize and motivate its listeners to reach a higher level of spiritual connection with God. Sacred music is different from “Christian Music.” Hymns were early forms of sacred music but there were alos forms of sacred music that did not contain lyrics. “Jesu Joy of man’s Desiring” and many other works written by by Johann Sebastian Bach and Felix Mendelssohn for example did not contain lyrics. The writers felt that the music since dedicated only for the Glory of God, was composed to convey symbolic sentiments and the intent of the composer.
Christian music on the the other hand is the broad term successor of sacred music. Contemporary Christian music is the encompassing genre for music that contain “Christian” lyrics but the overarching styles are exactly like those of secular music genres. Christian music is the umbrella category for music whose lyrics contain words that deal exclusively with matters of heart-conversion, worship, and evangelization. The entertainment factor looming in Christian music today is a new phenomenon. Gospel, contemporary Christian music have many subsets genres including Rock, R&B, Jazz, Country, and yes even Hip Hop.

If a secular musician performs his music in a church, that does not make the music sacred. Neither does it identify the musician as a Christian. Unless, the musician is indeed a professing Christian who is already performing both secular and Christian music. Likewise, if a Christian musician is performing Christian music in a bar, his music is still Christian if the lyrical content is meant to inspire, evangelize and motivate its listeners to reach a higher level of spiritual connection with their God.

Johann Sebastian Bach was a Lutheran church musician who always wrote music “SOLI DEI GlORIA,” meaning for the Glory of God. This was part of the Protestant Reformation period mantras. Much of Bach’s music is, we note, without lyrics as well as Brahmes, Beethoven, Chopin and many other “classical style music.” His music was skillfully played and were difficult pieces including organ and piano etudes like “The Well Tempered Clavier” and the popular “Wedding March by Felix Mendelssohn. These are great pieces of music but they contain no lyrics. Which brings up a point. How do we classify instrumental music. Music that contains no lyrics is governed by the composers intent and context. If the author is a Christian and wrote with a specific intent, that is what colors the song. If a secular artist wrote music and dedicated it to God, that is what colors the song. If a secular composer wrote an instrumental for arts sake’, that is what the music is designed for. Music is a powerful expressive vehicle. It can be powerful if used in the right way and can beautify our lives.
So, we see that secular music is intrinsically different from Christian music in context and lyrical content. Secular music is music for entertainment. Christian music serves or should serve a different contextual function… to evangelize, inspire and worship. This is a good article on this subject.
©DAMGRP Publishers

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Student Loans: The Elephant in the US Economic Room

If anyone would have told me that I would get stuck with a $70,000 plus student loan, I would have told them they were crazy. but as it turns out, I have a student loan like millions of Americans and we are struggling. I would venture to say that the student loan debacle will turn out to be the next big challenge for the US Economy. Millions of Americans are out of work, and as Steve Jobs said those jobs are not coming back.

America is the land of the capitalist pig and he has eaten quite well during the last decade, tight economic times notwithstanding. If we examine the reasons for the loss of jobs we will understand that capitalism and some of its perils have come home to roost. It is not only difficult to regulate greed, it is impossible to put mechanisms in place to curtail renegade corporations from refusing to spend money hiring, choosing who to hire, who to fire and where to do business. Age discrimination is a well known practice among many companies. diversity is not a priority as many companies do not view this as a revenue driver.
While companies are in the marketplace to make money, employment does have its social merits and goodwill.

BUILDING A SOLID BRAND WITH YAAMO.COM

This is not your grandfather’s business environment. It sure isn’t business as usual. Navigating a business through this current jungled business forest is not for wussies. Today when any company decides to go into business, there are many new rules of engagement that come into focus. The Internet and its tethered siblings bring serious challenges as companies attempt to engage customers and build a sustainable brand.

It’s not strength alone that enables companies to go the long haul; building a sustainable brand demands a multifaceted approach and a solid hybrid technology strategy. A hybrid technology approach is really an intentional and deliberate strategy of using social media and the underpinning technologies to support its smooth running.

Companies now have to be in their customers’ faces constantly. Period! Customers now want to know what kind of corporate culture you espouse as a company, what are some of the socially engaging principles that a company they do business with employ. Do they have a position of climate change, are they environmentally friendly, are they LGBT friendly, are they using child labor to manufacture their products, are the working conditions under which the workers manufacturing their products humane or oppressive. In other words businesses now have to be more aggressive in spreading their brand identity message across a wide emotionally intelligent buying populace spectrum.

One social media company comes to mind that has the technology power to help companies build a better relationship with their customers. It is neither Facebook nor Twitter. Their rules of engagement are flat and one-dimensional. Yaamo.com Is, in my estimation the only social media network company right now that has the right sustainable strategy to help businesses build a strong relational brand.

Yaamo understands that your brand identity is who you are as a business. Brands can be harmed by idiotic corporate behavior; consequently, the social media engine has heightened the brand sensitivity of companies. If a business desires to engage its existing clients with new products Yaamo helps them do this by using an encompassing social engagement strategy utilizing all of the relevant and available social media platforms clients desire. New clients can be pulled in through the same manner.

By using what Yaamo calls a SEW (social engagement website) which is really a social media powered website that acts like an intentional social sponge for your clients. You can take serious charge of your social media strategy with a SEW. Within this representative microcosm of your company’s social identity brand, you can extend your soul to your customers through specially tailored deals, coupons, group deals like Groupon and LivingSocial without compromising your corporate and while building a sustainable relationship with existing customers and engage new ones.

Yaamo platform is seriously different because they provide the tools and apps for you to bring it to your captive audience within an extensible dynamic platform. Grow your brand with Yaamo.

Mark Hernandez

Social Media Architect

Mining Social Media Connections

As the information juggernaut swiftly moves across the business landscape despite its size, it’s leaving a trail of mineable data confetti. Good and bad. As the database has risen to become the de facto repository of critical business data, so social media has become the data candy that businesses are drooling over. It provides businesses wanting to get inside the minds of consumers the Holy Grail of all business data… what you like.

Social media is quietly distilling human behavior patterns in many ways. As analysts pour over data collected from social media activities its frightening what that data reveals. That data reveals where you shop, where you live, who your friends are, what your interests are, who you are following, who or what you like, how many kids you have, what kinds of games you or your kids play, and the list goes on ad infinitum.

It is no mistake that privacy advocates are sounding the warning bell. The FTC (http://m.npr.org/story/166935136)yesterday in a live press conference said that some kids game app companies were collecting too much invasive data about children. This in my opinion is not going to go away quietly. Social media platform companies and other social app makers depend on these kinds of data to target their products development and engage their advertising partners to make money.

Companies need to also take data privacy laws seriously. But better yet, act transparently and tell consumers what kinds of data they are collecting so consumers can ascertain if it is in their best interest to give up their data privacy in exchange for something more valuable…free services. The price is high the verdict is still out on the rewards.

Who is mining you? Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn all collect data. They do not tell members how they are using it. That would be like telling you their trade secrets. Yaamo collects data as well but they are responsible and transparent with your data. They take privacy laws seriously and as a company poised to become a social media leader they are proactive, for all too often companies fail to read the technology tea leaves because in case you haven’t noticed, the writing is on the wall for data privacy (no pun intended).

Mark Hernandez
Social Media Architect

Innovation through Functionality: The Quest for Sustainable Growth

Many organizations achieve growth in many different ways. The ones that do not grow eventually go out of business, fade into irrelevance, or slowly bleed to death. 
In an aggressive market, growth is often achieved by LBOs, mergers and acquisitions and hostile takeovers. However, history has been less than kind to these kinds of strategies. 

When HP bought Compaq in the early 90s, we did not see any real innovation emanate from that purchase. They did however incorporate the Proliant server line in the HP product line.  We did see some whistle blowing however indicative of greater problems. Innovation.
The problem with LBOs and other similar strategies is that unless companies are buying intellectual capital along with the underlying technology, there is no guarantee they won’t be left holding the proverbial empty bag. 
One company that has at their core innovation in purchasing, is Cisco.
When Cisco buys a company, they also bring some of the minds that created the technology as well. A lesson that many companies would do well to emulate. This is not to say that Cisco has not made some purchasing faux pas as well.
The companies that have been at the forefront of market sustainability are few. The first one that comes to mind is Apple Computer. As arrogant as they appear to some industry pundits, Apple is, at its core, an innovative giant. Steve Jobs may be the frontman and the face of Apple Computer, but make no mistake, there are incredible creative minds wandering the halls of Apple Computer in Cupertino. I know. I was there.

The ability to sustain growth in severe and hostile market conditions, can only come through nimble, agile and constant innovation. New products and services must always be lingering in the corporate creative sleeve. A former CEO of Checkfree, a check based financial clearing house, whose name escapes me now, once said after I asked him what must companies do to bridge the technology gap between themselves and their competitors. He said in a decidedly confident tone, “companies must innovate through functionality.”
In other words, if a product or service is good, improve it; add additional layers of function that were not there previously. 
If your goods or service are easily duplicated, you are a sitting duck. Add llayers of complexity under the hood that are difficult if not impossible to duplicate. Like Apple, guard your intellectual property with extreme measures. Reverse engineering is an art form that many Asian countries have mastered.
Apple has made a few purchases but they were complimentary and have been rolled into existing product lines… seamlessly. Coca Cola under the leadership of Goizuetta, purchased Columbia Records. A purchase that made no sense at the time but was finally sold off. Many of us have watched the Time Warner AOL merger debacle. History has not been kind to this purchase. AOL is still on the selling block as of this writing. 

What is at the heart of innovation? Is it different thinking? Is it the ability to come up with creative ideas alone. Dr. Maxwell in his book “Talent is not Enough,” rightly posits that creative talent is not enough. Marketong savvy is not enough. Webvan did an awesome marketing job when they launched. Obviously the market proved as unstable and unfriendly as the waves of the sea.

Sustainable innovation enables companies to build a consistent panoply of new products and services that when executed properly hit their target, generate revenue, and build a loyal following of new clients. Think iPod, iPhone, Blackberry and now iPad.

Delta airlines rcently successfully and brilliantly pulled through a bankruptcy. They immediately rehired old employees to much fanfare, only to embarrassingly let them go again. There really is no silver bullet to navigating a tumultous market. But, then again, there are certain indicators that companies would do well if they seriously consider. Consumer spending, hiked gasoline prices, a sinking dollar on the world market, anti-American sentiment and a slowing economy. 
Innovation comes from higly creative individuals. Period. It emanates from the minds of original thinking individuals who think of new ways or methods of doing something new, solving a business problem, or adding new functionality to a product or service that already exists. Innovative thinking also produces new ways to position products and services in markets that never existed before. That’s innovation.  

Coming to America: Immigrants Stories

You may have read many stories about immigrants coming to America. The vast majority of them are filled with stories of the guts and glories of fascinating and enterprising foreign nationals. However, there are some untold stories that are never read, flowers that never get smelled and fade in the countryside somewhere without ever being seen. These are the stores I will share in this blog. i welcome aother immigrants to share their stories, whether good or bad. Wheter you need help we can collectively help to point you to someone or somewhere where you can be helped.

A blog about Rants | Stories | Memoirs