New York worship band Young Oceans arranged an intimate and intentional night of music last Friday in the Chapel. Performing a swelling post rock-esque sound paired with serene visuals and low lighting, the band curated an aesthetic space geared toward reflective experience.
Since the release of their 2012 self-titled debut, Young Oceans has been creating contemplative, meditative music that just so happens to be explicitly intended for worship. The group originated as a collective of artists associated with Trinity Grace Church, a network of neighborhood churches in New York City.
Young Oceans has gone on to produce several albums, most recently releasing “SUDDENLY (Or The Nuclear Sunburst Of The Truth Revealed)” — an album that is the result of songwriter Eric Marshall’s fascination with the Eucharist. The album, which is intended as a Eucharist liturgy itself, explores the powerful community of creation in communion with God, which foreshadows a holistic God-world unity not yet fully understood or realized.
“Our first recordings were deconstructed versions of songs I’d written for our church community to sing. The was no plan, no name, no grand vision. More than anything, we wanted to record music that we ourselves could lay on the floor and get lost in,” Marshall said in an interview.
Although it is intended to be current, it is intentionally grounded in tradition, drawing lyrics and concepts from sources such as the biblical narrative and “The Anglican Book of Common Prayer,” as well as the writings of St. Francis of Assisi, G. K. Chesterton and N. T. Wright.
While their music is pointedly Christian — appropriating language and metaphor common to church liturgies and scripture — their concert was not a usual evening of worship. There were no words on screens and the audience was seated and somber until given an open invitation to participate during the last few songs.
Songwriter Eric Marshall made reference to the tricky nature of bringing his community-specific songs into other communities. Given this concern and the fact that Young Oceans began by writing songs intended for their particular congregation in New York, it is perhaps unsurprising that they shied away from orchestrating the event like a conventional worship service.
Young Oceans crafted a different sort of space for worship music. With their careful choices of minimal and soft lighting, all-black clothing and limited breaks between songs, they allowed for audience members to engage in their own quiet, reflective experiences by aesthetically illustrating a posture of meditative intentionality.