Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Mormonism" as an epithet.


Ok, so here's a story...

I'm a musician working in Utah. I come from a classical background and have spent years studying music in college. Over the years I've had the opportunity to work with many LDS artists, some of which have carved out successful careers in the LDS "pop" industry.

The popular LDS music industry is very similar to other popular industries in that they can suffer from a lack of innovation. Everything sounds the same as everything else.

There is one thing in particular about popular LDS music that has grated my brain every since I became aware of it at a young age - the V4-3 ("five four-three") suspension. Without launching into too big a lesson on music theory, this is a chord suspension and resolution that is usually found at the end of musical phrases. It's hardly exclusive to Mormon pop music, but I can say without hesitation that the LDS market has been fixated on this musical convention for decades; to the point that I don't think LDS artists know how to finish a musical phrase without it. Doing so (to them) would be the musical equivalent of leaving the comma or period off the end of a sentence

Get me?

So yesterday I was asked to arrange a string accompaniment for a song that is recording in a couple days. As expected, the song is rife with V4-3 suspensions. Whatever.... I won't complain, especially since I'm getting paid for it. But I did decide to post what I thought was a funny and "inside" Facebook update. This was what I said:

"Mormonism is a never-ending series of 4-3 suspensions."

Offensive? .... Would you understand it had I not explained it beforehand? Probably not. I get dozens of incomprehensible updates from my friends a day that I just ignore. If you don't get it, forget about it.

Now, when it comes to my blogs or my Facebook I don't draw much attention; but there was something about this post that created instant buzz with my friends and family.

My cousin posted, "'Mormonism'? What is this, the 1800s? I still love ya tho."

A high school friend, who I recently came out to on Facebook said, "I'm not sure what you're saying here, but I wouldn't cast too many stones."


I'm still trying to digest what happened. Could it be that my friends and family are hyper-sensitive to my comments knowing I've come out as gay and no longer go to church? I don't have any intention of testing the strength of the ties that bind, but I do wonder if some of the people I thought as friends and family are only willing to stick around as long as I keep my opinions to myself. I'm actually OK with that. Maintaining family and friendship is more important to me than destroying faith. I know what believing in the church does for them and I don't want to take that away, even though I don't believe it anymore.

Perhaps it's my use of the word "Mormonism". When I think about it, someone who uses that word most likely views themselves outside and apart from the church. More than that, that person probably connotes a view that the Mormon church as just one type of belief in many. A variation on a theme. There are many "isms" in the world, but for people who believe the LDS faith as true as the laws of gravity, calling it "Mormonism" could be as insulting as if you actively attacked their faith. People go into a defensive mode, like what I saw today.

Needless to say, I deleted my post before it got out of hand.

I still hate the endless V4-3 suspensions though.


Chedner said...

I've personally considered saying, "That's so mormon" around my mormon friends who say "That's so gay" in that "What a stupid thing to do" kind of way.

I've yet to do it, though... something about trying not to be a prick about things.

Somewhat related to this post: I'm the president of a dance academy that will be, in the not-too-distant future, commissioning composers for some ballets we have in mind (which will incorporate not only classical ballet but also ballroom, latin, and tap).

If that's something that would interest you, I would love to hear some samples of your work; my personal email address is on my contact page.

TGD said...

OK, about the V4-3 suspension...

I use it. I like it. Especially when I don't actually resolve the 4 to the 3 but instead send it spinning off to a new key. Not very accepted in the Mormon Pop music but if done just right gives me goosebumps.

As for those random comments on on Facebook... Well, I can relate. Yes, my family and friends suddenly started treating me differently in some ways after I came out and left the church. I always made digs at Mormons and the Mormon church even while I was attending as a full tithe paying, temple recommend holding, full time missionary. I don't do anything differently. But they all now see me as having a different motivation despite the fact I never changed.

They used to just laugh with me as I made jokes about the culture and doctrine and we would all just laugh it off.

But now, same jokes even, they see me as being critical and contentious. And, truthfully, for short periods of time I was. Both in and out of the church.

But what has really changed is they now see me as one of "them" rather that one of "us". Meaning I've crossed over to the other side and become the "enemy". So, all the things they hear from me are now filtered through their paradigm that all people on the outside, who rejected the One True Gospel(tm), are just out to attack and persecute.