Sunday, January 19, 2014
Sunday, January 05, 2014
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Saturday, September 05, 2009
I lament an obvious lack of experience in music and singing in our culture. Nowhere is this lack more troubling than in our institutions of higher ed. It is shocking and appalling that college students in very good music programs read music so poorly. I sing in a college choral ensemble and our director recently commented to me on how poorly some of the students read notes.
The problem is not necessarily the fault of the singers themselves. They just simply haven't been taught to read notes. Again, the problem here is cultural. Our culture's pragmatism and desire for instant gratification have allowed the next generation of pro musicians and teachers to go without basic musicianship training. As mentioned before, part of this problem simply stems from worship. In worship we make a joyful noise unto God through song and this is something we do regularly and with purpose. Pragmatism has spoiled communal music-making in the schools, turning an exercise that in itself is worthwhile into concert preparation: "kids, we've got to learn these 8 songs for our holiday concert in December. Ready,...altos..." The kids learn their notes by rote and learn very little about personal responsibility and skill. On the other had, weekly worship is a performance before the Almighty, not a rehearsal, and the purpose and object of worship is worthy and true. So the church's music making is better than the world's, because 1. we have more "concerts" and, 2. our goal is divine.
But do we in the church think of worship as a performance, and what are we doing to prepare ourselves and our kids for hearty praise each Sunday? If nothing, we are no better than the heathen who do what they have to do prepare for the concert.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
This verse supports the medieval notion that creation is ordered much like a piece of music. The order and harmony of the earth itself sings God’s praise. In Paul’s language, God’s invisible attributes are known from the things made. Our songs then should reflect the harmony of the Godhead, the wisdom of God in creation, and strive remind us of God’s manifold attributes.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
In our church community in Moscow, Idaho we speak a lot about the importance of hearty singing in worship. The way I've said it is that in many churches singing is one of the few really active things the congregation does in the service. It thus behooves us to sing well. Yet in our culture there are many obstacles to this goal. We live in a narcissistic age when comfort, ease, and pleasure seem to be man's "chief end." To the evangelical and world-ling alike the reality of sensuous entertainment in our lives has made us a culture of spectators, a right that in past ages belonged only to those of the highest social cast. We sit around like a bunch of nobles with our courtly entertainers parading before us in sensational splendor. In a sense we have more power than they of old, because we have electronic buttons and dials. In a digital age everything is tidy: no booing is necessary.
Instantaneous entertainment has made us flabby. Robust singing in worship would have not been a stretch to our lower and middle-class forefathers because it was simply part of their culture. Singing was a form of entertainment and a way of easing the drudgery of hard labor. In our time we let others do the singing for us in our leisure time and over the radio while we paint the trim. So if we would sing well in worship, we must first sing everywhere else.
Saturday, August 08, 2009
It has been said that preaching should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Music in God's worship ideally will do a similar thing. As we sing God's praises we are reminded of the protection and Fatherly care we receive from God (Psalm 91) as well the seriousness of sin (Psalm 51) and importance of righteousness (Psalm 15). From the references in Ephesians and Colossians we know that singing is a means of teaching and correcting one another. This is consistent with the view that the book of Psalms in addition to being "the prayers of David" are a microcosm of the entire canon of scripture: we learn the Bible as we sing the psalms and therefore teach each other through singing.
Just what form this takes requires study and reflection and will inevitably lead to some liturgical reform. The fact is that the metrical psalms we sing in our Reformed churches aren't set up well for "teaching and admonishing one another," for in Hebrew poetry the natural dialogue that occurs structurally is downplayed in metrical settings. The didactic element of singing Paul talks about is likely the physical and spacial performance of the parallel phrase structure in the psalms. Early Christians would have been familiar with this method of singing from what was done in Jewish worship. In singing to each other (i.e. Dec. and Can.) we tangibly "discern the body" similarly as when taking the Supper.