Biting My Tongue
on December 09, 2008
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As a Christian pianist who records music and does concerts, I am constantly being drawn against my will into the music wars that never stop within Christianity. Those wars by the way have been fought inside the church for many centuries, and they are not going to be solved now.
I often want to write about this issue but do my best not to because I think the possible benefit is small and the possible damage is great. So, don't expect me to write much here about music theology.
After listening to a few sermons today online, I just can't help myself from saying a few things though. There is an incredible amount of bad teaching about music out there. I could say some pretty harsh things about it, but the nicest way I could put it is this--it tends to be influenced by culture and personal experience rather than reality.
Today, as I listened to the music "experts" repeatedly state things as fact that are patently false, I needed blood pressure medication. After relaxing for a while, I am ready to calmly discuss one little example of what I mean.
Have you heard teaching on the relationship between melody, harmony, and rhythm? Some teach that melody affects the heart, harmony affects the intellect, and rhythm affects the body. So, melody should be predominant while harmony and rhythm should be deemphasized. Very clean and neat, isn't it?
But even if true, what does that really mean from a practical standpoint? The problem is that this kind of thinking ignores a very simple fact. Music has been around for thousands of years and in hundreds of cultures. However, except for a few hundred years just within Western culture, harmony has not even existed. Songs were rhythmic but consisted entirely of a melody or perhaps, simple counter melodies. If you added up all the music ever written, only a tiny percentage of it would have utilized harmony.
See how the melody, harmony, rhythm theory falls apart when the truth is introduced? How can harmony be part of any music theology when it is just a blip in the history of music?
By the way, I do not know the history of harmony because I am a lifelong music historian or any kind of leading expert. I know it just because I have read a book or two. Trust me when I say any music history book will tell you what I just did. That makes me wonder what books these music experts are reading.
Now, I am not saying that anyone is being dishonest. I know that their motives are pure and they mean well. But their beliefs are often biased and they form their opinions within the context of the music they know--the Western classical tradition. In doing so, they discredit themselves and the audience loses respect for their message.
I could go on and on. But that is as much as I want to say about that...