Creating Mood Through Music

Phill Mellstrom, Worship Development Worker for the Church of Scotland gives us a quick thought on creating mood through music.

I often think of background music as if I were painting. 
What colours can I bring out? 
What images can be suggested? 

Whether using sounds ranging from ambient noise, instruments playing defined melody and harmony or perhaps more atonal noises, you can create very distinct moods and open up spaces that connect people with either dialogue or action unfolding before them.

If you watch some of your favourite movies or TV programs without the sound turned up, you experience something very different than what you would ordinarily recognise. More so, if you remove the musical soundtrack you are left with something that doesn’t get close to the emotional height or depth than with the carefully sculpted aural backdrop.

With this in mind, I recently took some of the voice recordings of excerpts from this year’s Pray Now publication ‘Living Stones’ that we are using to advertise the book and added some music. Initially this was a side project to simply demo a couple of ideas that I had been working on, but then it struck me… How often do we miss out on capturing the drama and emotional intensity of scripture readings or passionate psalms and prayers because of dry readings?

I am not suggesting that we simply heighten or play with emotion for no reason, but in making a point, creating a mood or atmosphere to set context or to help people remain in a moment or thought; music can provide a space to capture what words often cannot.

There are a couple of examples at the end of this blog of how simple noise or music can lift a reading and create a space where words come alive and images and mood are heightened.

Some other simple ideas might include everyday objects to create mood etc. For example, when reading about the crucifixion, perhaps having someone hammer nails into wood, could evoke the images and transport us to a place that it can be difficult to consider otherwise. Perhaps we could read the story of the journey to Emmaus as we walk together as a home group or bible study. We could read passages that centre on Jesus having a meal with others as we eat and use our senses to engage with not only the flavours of the food, but that of the stories Jesus tells.

There are many other ways of making elements within our worship come alive.

For more ideas check out the resources available within Resourcing Mission. From Quick Guides– ‘Bible Readings in Worship: Creative Readings’, to ‘Skinny Sketches’ there is advice that helps to inform our delivery when leading worship. It is always worth considering ‘how’ we deliver the different elements of our worship along with considering ‘what’ we deliver.

Phill Mellstrom is the Worship Development Worker for the Church of Scotland’s Mission and Discipleship Council. If you have any queries about resources or training options then you can contact him on 0131 225 5722 or by email.