"The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly?" - with emphasis on the question mark - was the title of Peter J. Sorensen's class on developing discerning tastes in music. An assistant professor of English at BYU and a stake music chair, he said the question mark denotes that "good, bad or ugly is not the issue." Rather, the question, more commonly, is whether the music is appropriate for the occasion. This is determined by the following factors:
Performance. This refers to the style in which the music is presented and whether it is rendered by a congregation, soloist, small group ensemble or choir.Text. This is the character of the music, whether it be soft rock, sentimental or "feel-good," formal (such as classical or baroque), or Romantic (such as 19th Century "parlor" music.).
Context. This pertains to the place or time of the performance, and could be formal (sacrament meeting, priesthood meeting, Relief Society, Sunday School, Primary, funerals), less formal (Young Men or Young Women activities, firesides, devotionals) or informal (ward talent shows, parties or road shows).
Inter-relation of the foregoing factors can help Church leaders make decisions regarding music "with some sense of structure and concreteness" Brother Sorensen said.
For worship services, he suggested this question as a guide: "Is this music designed to aggrandize the performer or to praise the Lord and inspire the congregation."
Advance planning, usually two or three months ahead, can help, he said, and perhaps taking an opportunity to hear the performance before it is presented.
Planning would be particularly valuable in providing music for priesthood meeting opening exercises, he suggested. "The brethren sometimes end up meeting in places with no piano." Moreover, sometimes they lack available hymnbooks, and the person directing sometimes lacks a sense of pitch. Thus the quality of their hymn-singing experience is marred by the context.
He noted that the function of hymn singing in the Church is to prepare the congregation for worship and to unify. "Hymns serve some of the same functions as prayers: they bring comfort, praise, revelation, peace and joy."