Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What Does Understandable Music Meaning Mean?

What Does Understandable Music Meaning Mean?

Since I discuss music’s meaning so often my wife Sheila says that I need to explain exactly what I mean by the terminology “understandable musical meaning”.  When I use the terminology “understandable meaning” I mean that the information, insights, and understandings that may be received from the music part of the music (the arrangement of the formal properties of the music, i.e. the rhythm, melody, harmony, sounds, silences) as considered as a congruent whole have real life meaning.  They arouse emotional mental states; they arouse passions; they trigger cognitions that cause us to muse (think). 

My philosophical view is different than many music philosophers who believe that music has meaning but that its meaning is music’s alone and is in no related to real life outside of the formal properties of the music.  Others believe that music’s meaning evokes a “garden variety” of emotions but that these emotions are or are not triggered by the music part of the music per se.  Still others believe that the formal properties of the music contain symbols but that these symbols only give information and or understanding into a person’s “true humanness”.  Others believe that all of music’s meaning is referential and therefore only gives insights that are extra musical.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Considering Anti-Music-part 2

Considering Anti-Music-part 2

            Noise-music is a form of so-called music that some would consider to be the “expressive” use of noise or distortion within the context of what the composer or arranger considers to be “music” or “anti-music” music. This type of composition challenges the distinction between musical and non-musical sound. It is directly related to the 20th century philosophy off the destruction of music absolutes.

            Where am I heading with this discussion?  The purpose is not to get entangled in the controversy over whether some secular music that is rightly considered to be anti-music is music or merely noise.  The purpose of this very brief mention of anti-music it to point out that it was not developed by God fearing Christian musicians who were desiring to worship God with a genera of music that negated the elements of traditional Western music.  Therefore, it is misguided for a Church musician to entangle public worship with such styles of music.  Such entanglement is one of Satan’s stratagems for squeezing religious music into the world’s mold. 

Scripture Thought for the Day 

Isaiah 14:11, “Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.”

Selecting Appropriate Musical Art Forms for Worship

Selecting Appropriate Musical Art Forms for Worship
Every music worship leader must be sure that the music being used in worship is, as Tolstoy put it, “Christian art”.  Art forms that the world considers “great art forms” are not necessarily appropriate vehicles for worshiping the blessed Triune God.  Some religious music that is currently being used by Christian musicians is religious music but it is not always sacred music or Christian music, because some worship leaders use music that has previously been clearly associated with situations that were anti-Christian and adverse to “universal principles” that are congruent with the separated life of a born-again Christian which are taught in the Bible. When the formal properties of a piece of music form a congruent whole that is not an appropriate concomitant to the awesomeness and solemnity of worshiping a high and holy God and is clearly antagonistic to the purposes of worship it is not Christian music. When religious music is no longer distinctly Christian it has been fashioned or squeezed into the world’s mold.

Some religious music being performed today in the context of worship has been squeezed into the world’s mold because it has been fashioned so closely to the way that the world organizes its music that is no longer a Christian art form. Is may or may not be great art when evaluated in terms of what the world considers greatness.  However, when the music part of music is so closely identified to music that is clearly anti-Christ by its construction and enactment, it loses its Christian identify.  As a matter of fact, much of the music that is now used in public worship is more antagonist to the principles of the changed life of a Christian taught in the Bible than it is favorable, congruent or identifiable with biblical Christianity.

Religious Music as Quality Art

Religious Music as Quality Art

                Most Christian musicians would consider that sacred music is in fact an art form.   Donald Hodges stated that Leo Tolstoy believed that great art had two qualifiers.  “It must be Christian art that (a) expresses a union of man to God and to on another, or (b)  expresses universal feelings of common life accessible to all.”  Hodges quoting Leo Tolstoy in A Concise Survey of Music Philosophy by Donald Hodges, p. 153.  When I recently read Tolstoy’s beliefs about great art I began to think about the fact that religious music used in the context of Christian worship must be Christian in the completeness of its nature.  Also, its value as an acceptable art form to be used in the context of Christian worship should be judged by how well it “expresses a union of man with God”.

  Before we continue this discussion, I want to make it completely clear that I do not believe that art music is the doorway to the kingdom of God or that the ultimate purpose of worship is about great art music or any music for that matter.  Furthermore, some simple, straight forward, and even somewhat predictable sacred music is sometimes the best vehicle of praise and worship at a particular moment in the public worship service.  Never-the-less sacred music is an art from, and for that reason alone, its nature and value should be partially understood in that light.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Gospel Songs under Fire—part 2

Gospel Songs under Fire—part 2
Praise is the Christian’s response to God, i.e. thanks, adoration, and love for the trinity—it is what a worshiper “does” in response for what God Has done him.  Gospel songs explain very vividly what God has done and what He is “doing”.  My soul is blessed when I think about the difference between Christianity and the other world religions.  Christianity’s God is alive and is “doing” because He is not merely a god who “was”, but on the authority of His Word, He declares, “I AM THAT I AM”.  It is no wonder that Christians want to sing gospel songs as a way to brag on this God who is alive and well and is “doing”.  
 Lyric poems that expresses the pronouns “I” and “my” are not a passing novelty of the 19th and 20th centuries.  Psalm 34:2 states “My soul shall make her boast (halal-1984) in the LORD: the humble (anav 6035) i.e. the depressed in mind) shall hear thereof, and be glad.”  Some of the best sacred lyric poetry that has been written in the last two hundred years has been used in gospel music.  Gospel songs of the last two centuries are some of the most descriptive and well-written poems that Christians have used to make their boast in the LORD. 
Thought for the Day
Religion is “mere religion” until a musician has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  If there is no “I” and “my” to your musicing unto God, religious music will never be much more than an art form to you.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Gospel Songs under Fire—part 1

Gospel Songs under Fire—part 1

            Regardless of what some Christian musicians who are millennials say the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is “good news”.  That means frankly that gospel songs whether new or old are relevant and apropos in this century. All Christians desire to share this good news through their musicing.  The gospel of our triune God is much broader in scope than what we are able to express in our praise music.  Gospel songs allow a fellowship of believers to share many diverse aspects of full salvation by faith.  These songs are very positive songs that tell not only who God is but what He has done for sinful men and women in the past and what He will do for them now and what he can do for the seeker now and in the future.

            I will be the first to acknowledge that there are gospel songs that are not high quality poems and that furthermore that their musical content and structure are not shining examples of musical and compositional excellence.   Certainly there is some gospel music that should be allowed to sink into a state of well-earned oblivion.   We all are aware that there are gospel songs that were the work of a musical hack who was not a knowledgeable composer or arranger.  However, that is not proof that all gospel music is not usable or appropriate for public worship or evangelism.  

Thought for the Day

Be careful before you categorically write off all public singing of gospel songs in an attempt to be current and trendy.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Songs for The Service

         It is a mystery to me why many pastors do not share (in advance of the service) the sermon topic and the general direction or each service with the minister of music.  The object of public worship is edification and understanding.  Wouldn't the congregation be more edified and leave more understanding if the worship was unified.
        I have heard some say that the singers should pray and find the will of God.  I agree that the musicians should soak their musicing in prayer, but god is responsible to do for us what we are capable of doing for our selves.  Why should we expect God to reveal the pastor's text to the musicians when the pastor could simply text message his Scripture and topic to them?  I suppose the Lord really doe help those who help themselves.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What Do We Do Now that Rock Won't Go Away?

What do We Do Now that Rock Won’t Go Away?
        When a vocal soloists performance style allows scooping up to pitches, breathy unvocal sounds, purposefully delayed vibrato (or purposefully no vibrato), the result is without doubt “uncertain” sound.  As Dr. Frank Garlock has often taught in his Symphony of Life Seminar, breathing heavily into a microphone immediately places the musician in the listener’s “intimate zone”—a place that the Christian vocalist does not belong!.  I have said for years that scooping up to pitches is not a compatible vocal technique with the truth and constantness of the gospel. What I am saying is that the way we music unto God sends messages to our audience.
        When a vocalist initiates pitches without the use of vibrato, the sound produced creates two illusions.  First, the sound will either be or seem to be under or above the pitch.  The initial sound produced will leave the impression on the mind that the sound is not “true”, constant, or certain.  Second, this initialized sound creates undue tension in the sound, because the listener does not have to have an earned doctorate in vocal pedagogy to hear that the sound produced is too tense and not exactly on pitch.
        As a voice instructor of many years, I find it hard to concentrate on the spiritual message when I know that the vocalist has placed great tension on the arytenoid and cricoid cartilages that control the vocal folds. (This vocal technique is one of the chief reasons for the development of vocal nodes that often require laser surgery.)  It is my strong philosophical belief that the comfort and rest of the message of the gospel should be certain, constant good news and should sound like “good news”, and that any musical technique that distracts from this message should be avoided by Christian musicians.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Musical Congruency

Musical Congruency-Part 2 
        To Dr. Elliott musicing should take place through a praxial philosophy of music education.  Elliott states, “The noun praxis derives from the verb prasso, meaning (among other things) ‘to do’ or ‘to act purposefully.’  But when we use prasso intransitively [i.e. a verb not taking a direct object] its meaning shifts from action alone to the idea of action in a situation.” Music Matters, A New Philosophy of Music Education by David Elliott, page 14.
         To Elliott, music is always performed in community.  Below are some of his beliefs concerning praxial music philosophy which is in “community”: 
                           By calling this a praxial philosophy I intend to highlight the importance it places on music                                                   As a particular form of action that is purposeful and situated and, therefore, revealing of                                                       one’s self and one’s relationship with others in a community.                                  
                                The term praxial    emphasizes  that music ought to be understood in relationship to the meaning and                                   values evidenced in actual music making and music listening in specific cultural contexts. Music                                         Matters, p. 14.
         Those of us who know the philosophical tenants of MEAE (music education as aesthetic education), are aware that MEAE purports that music should be understood in terms of the aesthetic qualities of the music without regard for the context in which one is listening or performing it.  I have contended for years that no one can perform or listen to music in a bubble or vacuum.  All active musicing or music listening is done in the context of community.  In other words every performer or listener brings something to the performing or listening experience—something he or she contributes and something that is derived from community.   Therefore no one listens or performs without both internal  and external influences.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Musical Congruency

Musical Congruency    
        The Christian musician is commanded to be transformed (metamorphoo 3339) which means when applied to music to make a complete, thorough and dramatic change in the form, appearance and character.  This is extremely difficult for many Christian musicians to accomplish because he or she has not had a complete (anakanoisis 342) renovation of mind.  The People’s New Testament Commentary explains, “Two things we learned from this chapter [Romans 12] (1) There is a divine wisdom or mystery or philosophy.  (2) This divine wisdom, or mystery, is an absurdity or perplexity to the world, but the wisdom of God to the saints.” (Quoted in Power Bible CD, under Romans 12:2)  
      If a Christian musician chooses to only music in those styles that are philosophically congruent with the mind of Christ, this kind of musical restraint will be considered foolish by non-believers and Christian musicians who have not had a complete anakanosis of mind.  Worldly musicians will consider it foolish that the conservative Christian musician is constantly “Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord” Ephesians 5:10).  Furthermore, they will not understand that the careful musician proves every composition and acknowledges the command in verse eleven, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”