Narrator: Standing in the middle of a large crowd of people can be electric. At a sports stadium the cheers and talking and movement becomes a sea that you stand in and let crash over you.
In crowds, sometimes a strange thing happens. If one person yells out, it’s lost in the crowd. But suddenly many voices join together in something that sounds like…
[recording of Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi! ]
Suddenly the whole crowd participates in this call and response. It’s a strange experience of coordination. There are lots of versions of these crowd chants.
Maybe you recognize this one…
[clap clap, clap clap clap]
In music this is known as a “call and response.”
There’s a power to hearing a strong call and participating in the response together in unison.
Matthew: My name is Matthew Cranley and I’m an audio engineer. I play guitar and I, uh, play some keys. There’s just nothing like hearing your song shouted back to you by like a thousand, 2000 people. And, they give you energy and you give it back.
Narrator: The call and response is common in pop music and many of the anthems on the top charts of the radio often have call and response written in.
Matthew: It kinda goes back to kind of our earliest recordings of music. You can hear it. And even before recorded music, it was a tradition even before that.
But, you know, it carries over into a lot of our modern music.
Narrator: The call and response actually has its roots in sub-saharan African cultures, where group gatherings and religious rituals take on a musical nature. This made its way into African-American work songs of enslaved men and women, and eventually the call and response style made its way into what we know as blues, gospel, jazz, and even hip hop.
Matthew: One example is Ray Charles’ song, Lonely Avenue.
But it’s basically like [singing] now my room has got two windows. And then like, the crowd’s like, mm mm. But the sunshine never comes through, mm mm. You know it’s always dark and dreary, mm mm.
It’s a part that people can kind of sing along with and it’s great. You know, anybody can, can kind of sing along. At any skill level, musically. That’s what’s kind of nice about it.
Yeah. I think maybe what, how you describe it as the fact that, you know, it brings people together. It makes people on the same wavelength.
Narrator: There’s something special about being in situations where your response is invited and important to something bigger, something “more.” In religious ceremonies there are often opportunities where the leader calls out for a response from the group. This makes our response in some way more sacred than a mere conversation. We’re opening up to a bigger reality, that the call and response is connected to something bigger than ourselves.
Martin Buber, the Austrian Jewish philosopher, wrote about two attitudes in human existence. The attitude of I-it and the attitude of I-Thou. I-it is an attitude toward an object we use or experience. But an I-thou attitude is one of ‘relationship’. It’s one thing to respond to a beautiful sunset as an object to admire, and a totally different thing to respond to a person calling you to tell you they love you. Something about the response is different, because a personal relationship is involved.
The call and response in music or sporting events is also one of relationship. It is a response to someone not something.
Matthew: There was a quote by Bruce Springsteen, as he was inducting U2 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.
He, uh, he had this killer quote. He said, “a great rock band searches for the same kind of combustible force that fueled the expansion of the universe after the big bang. You want the earth to shake and spit fire. You want the sky to split apart and for God to pour out.” And then he pauses and he goes, “it’s embarrassing to want so much and to expect so much from music, except sometimes it happens.”
Boom, that’s U2, right there. If you’ve ever listened to U2’s music, it’s like the whole crowd’s like, it’s like a worship service almost. You know, if you watch some of his videos, it’s not a Christian concert, but he kind of leads everybody into kind of raising their spirit in a way. And there’s just something about music that does it.
I haven’t figured completely out exactly what it is, but I think everybody’s searching for that same thing, you know, according to Bruce Springsteen and others.
Narrator: Faith is sometimes viewed as a blind trusting of God. But faith is actually a free, personal response to God born out of relationship.
In the C.S. Lewis series Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan the Lion represents both God the Father and Jesus Christ. In the book The Magician’s Nephew there is a portion devoted to Aslan singing into existence the creation of Narnia, representing the creation of the world by God. In the story Aslan begins to sing.
But a song to who? In The Magician’s Nephew, there are two reactions to hearing the song of Aslan. Some present love the singing so much that they remain present for all eternity enjoying the song. But others present can’t stand it and hide or dig in the ground to run away.
What if all creation, the world, and existence, is not just meaningless random chaos. What if creation is a song, a call, to respond to? What would it look like to respond in relationship to the song we hear under our experiences of beauty, truth, love, goodness, and mercy?
There is a call to a deeper relationship, and it is calling us to respond. But will you answer this call?