There’s a famous story that goes along with the 1954 film On the Waterfront. In one of the scenes, Eva Marie Saint drops her glove. And unscripted and completely in character, Marlon Brando picks up the glove, and proceeds to try it on while performing his lines, giving a much-needed insight into his the femininity and tenderness his character is trying to hide away in order to survive in the life he’s chosen. (See? All those guys we made fun of in junior high because they acted gay and listened to Alanis’ ‘You Oughta Know’ with such anguished looks on their faces so that all the girls would come running and giggle with because they were ‘sensitive’? Ya. They were right.) And the director of that film, Elia Kazan , when asked how he had come up with such a powerful and intimate scene replied, ‘All I did was have the presence of mind not to yell ‘Cut’.’
(Marlon Brando is the best actor in film history. Nope. That’s it. He was. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, just ask me again. Huh. That sounded funnier in my head.)
And the exact same thing happened to me at church yesterday. (See, I like to use phrases like ‘the exact same thing happened to me’ when it’s referring to myself and movie stars. Keeps me warm on those long nights when I lie in bed wondering how in the world Orlando Bloom can make more money than me.) We were practicing a song in which we normally do the classic worship build. Overdone, but effective. And our drummer comes in with this really cool ‘no cymbals’ beat. Not even hi-hat. But not a toms jungle beat either. Very different. And I’m like, ‘Alright, cool.’ But as we go into the bridge, and the song is supposed to take off, both he and the bass player stay on the backdrop and don’t build. And me, in my infinite musical genius, of course caught right on and did the same, right? Ya. Nope. I just ploughed right on through with the build I had started to play, like a complete hack. But it worked (in complete spite of my giving the band an unadvertised glance into my regrettable punk rawk roots.) Almost like what techno or cityscape music does…the feel of it, not the sound. (No, we’re not like, a clubbin’ church.) The vocals and melodic instruments almost started to pull away from the basis of the song that the drums and bass we’re laying down.
And it inadvertently sounded awesome. I realized this……but not immediately. In my head I was like, ‘Oh great. How are people going to be able to worship without the classic worship build? It’s impossible! Now we gotta re-do the song after I finish this up so the vocals can get the harmonies down. Great’ And then when we ended, I was like, ‘Wait a second. That was awesome!’ And I turned and looked at the drummer with the ‘What did you do?’ look on my face. And he just smiled, like, ‘Dude, it’s me. What do you expect?’ hehe
(My roots. The infamous punk rock mosh pit. So fun. So incredibly awkward. Hey, what else are you gonna do with all that pubescent angst? Let’s run into each other! Weird. I’ve got this strange urge right now to go do it again. Mosh pits rule. And that one kid looks like he’s going to eat me.)
And I would totally love to take credit for the arrangement. But in the end, all I did was to have the presence of mind (it took me awhile, but I finally got it!) to not yell ‘Cut’. It was all the band. I was the one hacking away with the stupid smile on my face, totally not getting the musicianship of the band. And I think that’s something that we as worship leaders, music directors, band directors, guitarists, musicians, vocalists, whatever, do all too often. We all get the little picture in our heads of how the song should go, and we don’t recognize sometimes the incredible musicianship, ideas, and genius of the players around us. Now, granted, sometimes those ideas do suck and we’ve gotta nix them. But many times, maybe the ideas are what’s really going to take the song to the next level, and we just cease to notice them because we’re too caught up with ourselves. And everyone is…that’s not some crazy new revelation. But it is a quick reminder to take a step back every once in a while, and listen to what the ideas of the other musicians are doing to the song. Because sometimes they just might be moving a song from the ‘classic worship build’ we’ve played on this song for 5 years to, ‘Whoa. Wait. What just happened?!’ Just take maybe 5 more seconds to take it all in before yelling ‘Cut’.
(Oh, and by the way, if anyone can help me sleep better at night by letting me know how Orlando Bloom makes more money than I do, I’m all for it! hehe)