Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Questions about Phe-Na-menal Sound

I think I learned something at the New Attitude conference.

I definitely learned a lot about the gospel, but that’s not what I’m writing about right now.

I think I learned something about the psychology of live production.

When New Attitude began, seven conferences ago, the sound experience was beyond phenomenal. Everyone came back amazed at how great everything sounded. And ever since Covenant Life moved into it’s new building four years ago, we’ve been working to make our monthly Friday night One Meetings as close to the Na experience as possible.

But could that pursuit of excellence be “backfiring” in some small way? Consider the following comments (paraphrased) that I received...

...from someone who recently moved from a Texas church to Covenant Life... “Last time I attended Na, the sound seemed so...something. Now, it does sound amazing. I hear everything. It’s so clear. And it has impact. But, it just isn’t the same as last time. It seems like it’s missing something.

...from a Covenant Life member who came to his first Na... “I heard so much about how great the sound would be. But it sounds pretty much just like what we experience week after week in our high school chapel.”

These come amidst a resounding response from all that the sound this year was better than it ever has been.

What’s missing? I think the missing component was the significant contrast between the normal and the Na.

Here’s my “discovery”: the excellent production and high-impact sound that have become so commonplace at Covenant Life is leading to conferences seeming less experientially unique. I think attendees are expecting MORE than their own “norm,” regardless of what that norm is. Na has to be better or louder or grander or cooler or just more — not only than the last conference — but than what they experience regularly in their churches.

This makes me ask some questions:

Is it possible that we are falsely leading people to expect an ever superior media experience year after year after year?

Is it possible that we are neutralizing people’s appreciation for excellence by providing it so consistently?

Is it possible that people have excitement or expectations or hopes that are based not on meeting God but on some environmental-experiential “mountaintop” that needs to be higher and higher and higher each time in order to be “effective?”

If so, what next?

1 comment:

Dave Johnson said...

One basis I have always tried to use in live sound reinforcement is to make sure we are not a distraction. It is so easy to strive to do the "Phe-Na-menal" but can cause us to lose site of the importance of the Gospel alone. All out striving to make the presentation "wonderful" is trite in the shadow of the cross.