NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next, an excerpt from tomorrow’s Listening In. This week, Warren Smith talks with pianist and composer Stanton Lanier.
Stylistically, his music is often labelled, “New Age.” But he prefers the term “instrumental worship music”—much of which he says is inspired directly by Scripture.
WARREN SMITH: Well I want to talk to you a little bit, um, if I could Stanton about your songwriting process.
STANTON LANIER: So it’s pretty much all just reading the Scripture in my quiet time with the Lord, or just as I go through life, and then some stuff jumps off the page. Then some of that has to be sifted to where: “is there a title in there?” Um, and then if something’s really moving me and my spirit, I’ll look at different versions of scripture. So I’ve had the NIV, or the ESV, or the NASB, or the Message Bible, or see what it says and dig deeper in the Amplified Bible or whatever else. I’ll do almost like a verse or a passage study.
That’s the basis. And then it is oftentimes, with that open, at a keyboard or at my piano, or I have it in my head so much that I don’t have to keep opening it up, you know. It’s kind of locked in my mind. With that in front of me, I’m looking for the melody and the song. And so how the melody is born is what can be different.
SMITH: Yeah. So do you then, turn on a recorder and just play until something feels and sounds right, and then you kinda home in on that?
LANIER: In the beginning I would, I would sort of find it and play it over and over and over and then start recording it. Now with technology, I’m using a really nice studio and digitally capturing ideas, almost like journaling musically, like meditating, and I’m playing and I’m looking and I’m experimenting. And when I do capture it on a recording, then I can listen back and sort of find what I would call the magic, or the wonder, and the mystery, like there’s some really great melody in there somewhere, and it just needs to be magnified and sort of shared creatively.
I guess it’s a good moment to share Johann Sebastian Bach’s quote. He’s probably my great favorite composer from 1685 to 1750. We know him for Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, which has probably played it more weddings than any instrumental melody—but he said “the aim and final end of all music should be unto the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” That’s so profound and so beautiful, and that’s been my heart as well.
EICHER: That’s Stanton Lanier talking to Warren Smith. To hear the complete conversation, and some of his music, look for Listening In tomorrow wherever you get your podcasts.