Music and the Message
Who can compute the mystic power of music? Who can measure the influence it exerts for weal or woe? It is woven into the very warp and woof of this sinful world. Indeed, most of the demoralizing things of the world are fostered under the hypnotic spell of seductive and sensuous rhythmic strains. But what of the relation of music to the church and righteousness? God designed it to be the handmaid of religion. The uplifting possibilities of sacred music are unlimited, and they are practically uncapitalized in our movement. But the very spirit of praise, prayer, trust, consecration, and holy resolve finds its loftiest expression in song. There will be singing in heaven. When words fail in expressing fresh bursts of adoration for the Lamb, the heavenly chorus will strike a note higher in glorified praise to Him who was slain. Think of the song of Moses, the sweet strains of David and of Christ's hymn with the disciples. We should study the possibilities of dedicated song, and dedicated musicians, for it takes both. We ought to belt the globe with music of the message. May the suggestions which follow aid to that end.
Developing Evangelistic Music
By John E. Ford
The question is sometimes asked, Why is it that so many musicians connected with evangelistic and church work seem to have little or no burden for souls, and often are unwilling to carry any responsibility outside of the musical program? In answering such a question, there are two, and possibly three, fundamental reasons to be considered: First, those who do not have a burden for souls are unconverted; for it is impossible to be truly converted and wholly consecrated and yet lack a burning passion for souls. If the music leader admits that his heart is burdened for the salvation of souls, and at the same time refuses to share in any responsibilities aside from the musical work, then the case is one of laziness. It may also be due to the fact that the musician has been trained to regard his ability in an entirely wrong light.
But to diagnose the case is a more simple matter than to suggest the remedy; for we cannot prescribe the remedy until we have definitely determined the underlying causes of the disease; and when we get at the causes and apply the remedy there, then the patient will get well. At least, this Is the principle that I have worked on in my medical work in Ecuador.
Musicians are said to have what is termed a "musical temperament." In its last analysis, this is nothing more than selfishness gone to seed, sanctioned and condoned by friends and relatives as the accompaniment of musical ability. While it is true that the successful musician is guided by a fine sense of tone and touch, which is inborn, it does not follow that the many musical whims and fancies are legitimately the demonstration of a "musical temperament."
The trouble is that nine out of ten musicians have been spoiled in childhood by their parents. As soon as the parent finds that his child can perform in the musical realm, he praises and pampers the child until he is hopelessly snoiled. Well-meaning friends add their full part to increasing the difficulty. But if parents and friends realized the result of such a course, they would certainly do differently. Quickly the words of praise and flattery take root in the child heart, and develop into the attitude of self-importance and superiority over associates who do not perform in the same manner; and this is excused as "musical temperament," when it should be called a bad temper. Where the heart is filled with selfishness of this origin, the burden for souls cannot exist until Christ is permitted to enter and take control of the life.
Many parents have unthinkingly taken a course which cultivates laziness in their children, when the study of music is begun. When Mary says that washing dishes makes her fingers stiff, so that she cannot play the piano, mother excuses her, and does the work herself. John thinks that he must not go out in the cold and wet to help with the chores, because it would injure his throat and hinder advancement in his vocal work. So father does the work outdoors, and John lounges around in the house where it is warm. I do not believe that work indoors or outdoors, rain or shine, ever hurts any one in his musical work, unless there is some serious constitutional difficulty, and in such case some other occupation than music should be sought for the up-building of his health.
David, the sweet singer of Israel, acquired his renowned proficiency in playing and singing while herding sheep, in dust and in rain as well as in the sunshine. I find that the singing voice is greatly improved by outdoor labor and exercise of all kinds, and there is thereby created an immunity to the effects of dust, dampness, and the prevailing "cold" which singers seek continually to avoid. So, as a second contributing cause to the difficulty in question, I would place cultivated laziness; for I am persuaded that it is this cultivated laziness which leads musicians to shirk responsibilities which may not be directly in the line of evangelistic music.
It is not alone the parents who help to produce this underlying cause of a deplorable situation, but (if I am correctly informed) there are instructors in music who have taught their pupils that they should not try to do more than the music work in connection with evangelistic meetings; and some, I am sorry to say, have taken the position that evangelistic music is not the highest type of music, that it does not require much training, and that students who really wish to make a record for themselves in music would succeed better along other than evangelistic lines. I believe such teaching is wrong. Evangelistic music calls for more precise and higher training than any other line of the music profession. Let no one consider it a second-rate job to engage in evangelistic music. There is no branch of evangelism in warning the world of Christ's soon coming, that is second-rate. It calls for the truest talent and the highest proficiency.
The one who has charge of music in connection with an evangelistic effort must possess the ability of a successful concert artist; he must be a successful choir director and an expert song leader; he must be able to teach music, and have the gift of developing untrained voices. If such requirements as these do not call for the highest skill in the music profession, then I do not know where to find it.
Sacred music can never be placed on a comparative basis with the music of the world, for the ideals of each are entirely different; and the one who devotes his life to evangelistic music need never expect to receive exalted recognition from leaders of the music profession in the world. For a man or a woman to seek worldly admiration or distinction through the channel of musical education, is to embark on one of the most dangerous of careers, because where music is not controlled by the principles of the kingdom of heaven, it becomes a most effective medium of plunging into the depths of sin.
Music which originates and is rendered through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in human lives, tends to the conversion of the sinner and the uplift of mankind, and the promulgation of such music is one of the most glorious professions in this world, for it is of heavenly origin. Such worthy professions as preaching, medicine, law, art, et cetera, will become obsolete in heaven; but not so with true music.
It is my earnest hope and prayer that many of our young people who have musical talent will dedicate themselves to such thorough and masterly training in evangelistic music as to make them indispensable to the evangelist in the proclamation of the message to the world. Consecration, however, is more to be desired than talent; for it is the Spirit of God in control of the heart of the singer which makes the song effective, and the most wonderful natural talent, devoid of the Spirit's power, cannot accomplish that for which music was created,—bringing the soul into harmony with Heaven.
San Diego, Calif.
Music and Religion
By H.B. Hannum
The close connection between music and religion is not clearly recognized by many casual observers. Music is generally regarded as an art, the creating of something beautiful in the realm of tone; while religion is often restricted to belief in God, or perhaps, in a somewhat broader sense, as pertaining to the work of the church in administering to the spiritual needs of man. But music has always had an important place in the functions of the church, and it may be said truly that the stimulus of religion is largely responsible for the development of music along several lines.
Waldo S. Pratt, a well-known authority, and author of the book entitled, " Musical Ministries in the Church," says:
" Music is to a striking degree the child of the church. Many of its most ordinary technical ways and resources were discovered or invented primarily because the church needed them. Hundreds of its most constructive masters were trained primarily as ecclesiastical officers, so that sometimes for ages together the entire direction of its artistic progress has been given by those whose minds were full of religious ideas and whose work was actuated by religious motives. The stages of advance leading up to our modern musical styles were many of them strictly ecclesiastical undertakings, called forth by religion, intended to dignify religion, and more or less potent in fostering and conserving religion."
There is a vital and living element in song which makes it extremely expressive of personal feelings. To the children of Israel, the best known portion of the Old Testament, aside from the books of the law, was undoubtedly the Psalms, because these psalms were sung by the people and became a part of their experience. Music has an intense appeal to the emotions, and when it is of the highest order, has an elevating and ennobling influence on the life, and thus it becomes a worthy companion to the spoken word in appealing to the soul.
Classification in sacred music is a matter worthy of attention. A brief outline classification is as follows:
Hymns for Church Service.—Selections for the church service should be of a devotional, quiet, meditative character, the words being in harmony with the theme or the occasion.
This ideal can best be attained by studying the meaning of the words. The hymn tunes, or metrical hymns built upon rich and stately harmonies, such as " Nearer, My God, to Thee," " Abide With Me," " O Day of Rest and Gladness," are better than those with a bald harmony depending largely upon the rhythmic factor. The latter have another mission, and are effective in their place; but they are not written as church hymns. True hymns are an ascription of praise to God. The book entitled " Hymns and Tunes " is a church hymnal, while " Christ in Song " belongs to the services of the Sabbath school and the young people's meetings. In the latter book, however, on the half and quarter pages, will be found hymns well adapted to church service. As examples of the harmonic element which should exist in hymns for the church service, note numbers 246, 249, 391, 350, 312, and 304 in " Hymns and Tunes." Variety should characterize the selections, providing those which arouse and stir the soul, as well as those which tend to quiet reflection.
1. Songs for Sabbath, School.— These selections should be bright and inspiring, with the rhythmic element predominating. Study the words of the song, as the basis of decision as to its being suitable for the occasion. Suggestive Sabbath school songs are, "Give Me the Bible," " There Is Sunshine in My Soul," " Redeemed," " Jesus Is Calling," " What Are You Doing for Jesus?" " Anywhere With Jesus," or Nos. 1214, 1210, 1205, 199, in " Hymns and Tunes."
2. Evangelistic Songs.— In choosing songs for use in an evangelistic effort, it is well to bear in mind the songs which are familiar in, the popular churches and Sunday schools, for which such songs have the right appeal, there is the advantage of securing a ready response in the song service. As a rule, church hymns are not well adapted to evangelistic services, while songs of the Sabbath school type are more appropriate.
.4. Songs for Special Occasions.—Solos, quartets, choir selections, et cetera, are usually arranged for by a trained musician, and if the trained musician has obtained the true vision of the close connection between music and religion, his selections will be made for the sake of the message conveyed, rather than for the purpose of affording an exhibition of brilliant vocal technique. As a rule, united singing is impersonal in its appeal, while solo singing may be made more personal. A poor rendition of the most appropriate song may prove in effect to be worse than no music at all; therefore it is essential not only to make the proper and appropriate selection, but to sing with the spirit and with the understanding also.
Caution should control in the tendency to produce novelty effects in musical renderings which are not in harmony with good taste, and there must be rigid guard against bringing into any religious service the product of religious words set to secular music, because in many minds the secular impression will counteract the sentiment of the words.
Emmanuel Missionary College.
Two Aspects of the Music Question
By F.D. Nichol
As I understand the genius of The Ministry, it craves straight-forward ideas from all of us as to what we think on any and every aspect of denominational activity, Therefore I pass along these two items as topics for discussion.
First, taking for granted that the underlying purpose of music in religious service is to offer worship to God and thus induce a deeply spiritual frame of mind, I would like to inquire if it is consistent to have selections rendered to the tune of some old love song, or perhaps worse? This query was vividly forced upon my mind not long ago when I listened to a duet in a church. The words were above reproach, but the tune was " Juanita," which, to those who in their youthful days indulged in such a profitless pastime as strumming on a mandolin, recalled a very intoxicating bit of a Spanish love song. Perhaps some people are more successful than I in suppressing memories, but I found myself incapable of preventing the lines of that old Spanish, song from marching along in my mind in rhythm with the music.
Perhaps this is a. rather flagrant case. Nevertheless we have an illustration in " Christ in Song " where the hymn entitled, " I think when I read that sweet story of old," is put to the tune of " Believe Me, if All Those Endearing Young Charms," a selection from a well-known classical opera. Whenever the organist or pianist strikes up the notes of that hymn, I have a difficult time trying to keep the words of that love song from wandering into my mind.
Second, I would like to inquire as to the propriety of protesting against jazz — the syncopation and other joint-dislocating aspects of modern music while at the same time countenancing sterilized syncopation, or " sanctified " jazz, in various of our evangelistic and departmental songs? The lilt of some of these stirs every part of my being except my heart. By what process of logic or of musical composition could we prove satisfactorily the distinction between the rhythm of some of these songs and the lilt of the world's music?
Takonia Park, D. C.
Producing Sacred Music
By G.A. Roberts
When we stop to think that the very songs we sing, either to the praise of God, or to the pleasure of Satan, are recorded and will one day face us in the judgment, it seems to me that singing should be regarded as a very solemn and sacred thing. For a number of years I have felt that music should be regarded as strictly sacred, and have longed to see the day when some one in the musical field would dedicate himself exclusively to sacred music, receiving his inspiration from God rather than from the old masters; for I have been led to realize that even the old masters incorporated those sensuous strains which are so common today into much of what we call "sacred" music.
My convictions along this line were strengthened by a recent interview with Dr. Rosalvo Bobo, a master musician, composer, band master, and director of many years' experience. He told me that in his study of the history of music, which involved extensive research, he had discovered that the reason the Catholic Church makes so much of music and accomplishes so much through music, is because there is interwoven in most of the so-called sacred music the sensuous strains which appeal to the physical rather than the spiritual. Dr. Bobo's conclusions led him to make the plain statement that he believed there was really no such thing in existence as sacred music,—music free from everything of a worldly nature.
It has seemed to me that if some young person or persons would dedicate their lives to God for the production of sacred music, conscientiously rejecting all else, there would begin a new order of things in the musical world.
I believe that through such a consecrated channel God would produce music of a heavenly atmosphere, which would convey the message of salvation to the sinner in as effective a manner as through the speaking voice or the written word. Here is practically an unentered field. Please do not misunderstand me. I mean that the field of exclusively sacred music has scarcely been entered by any one. Satan has so interwoven the music of the world, classical and otherwise, with so-called sacred music as produced through recognized masters of music, that today none but an angel could segregate and say with certainty just which strains of music are sacred and which are on a different order.
I believe that the musician for God should no more indulge in worldly music, either vocal or instrumental, than should minister or Bible worker read, study, preach, or teach the common and cheap literature current at the present day. I consider that the reading of one cheap novel would mar the character of minister or Bible worker; and I am no less of the opinion that rendering the cheap, popular music, or teaching this kind of music to children, will have the same baneful effect. In the writings of the Spirit of prophecy we are told that " no one who has an indwelling Saviour will dishonor Him before others by producing strains from a musical instrument which call the mind from God and heaven to light and trifling things."—"Testimonies," Vol. I, p. 510.
Furthermore, I am strongly convinced that if there could be a getting together of musical directors connected with our institutions of learning, with our evangelist singers,—a getting together, not to practice music, not to display skill, not to discuss just the proper method for holding the baton, et cetera, but for the one purpose of humbly seeking God to learn the divine plan in music, the results from such a getting together would be of untold value to the work of God.
A striking object lesson concerning the preparation necessary for rendering song in a most effective manner is set forth as follows:
"In the full light of day, and in hearing of the music of other voices, the caged bird will not sing the song that his master seeks to teach him. He learns a snatch of this, a trill of that, but never a separate and entire melody. But the master covers the cage and places it where the bird will listen to the one song he is to sing. In the dark he tries and tries again to sing that song until it is learned, and he breaks forth in perfect melody. Then the bird is brought forth, and ever after he can sing that song in the light. Thus God deals with His children. He has a song to teach us, and when we have learned it amid the shadows of affliction, we can sing it ever afterward."—"Ministry of Healing," p. 472.
The crux of the whole matter in evangelistic singing is to have the heart in tune with the harmony of heaven; and in order for this to take place, it may become necessary for the Master to teach the lesson in the dark room of life's experience. But the heart which is attuned under such discipline will burst forth in perfect melody, which will thrill and win the soul.
In Luther's day the liturgy of the mass was in Latin, and the singing of hymns in the vernacular was excluded. This gave Luther his opportunity to make music a great force in the Reformation, and taking advantage of the Germans' love of music, he introduced hymns for the people in the native tongue, into the church services. It went like wild fire! Luther taught his own congregation to sing hymns, and he wrote and arranged new songs, enlisted his musical friends, Jonas, Eber, and others, in writing more, and the flood of Reformation music swept all before it. Arguments could be met with counter-arguments, but the songs not only carried the message in the words, but also stirred the emotions, satisfied the heart, blended wills, and allayed criticism. In Reformation influence the effect of Luther's music is placed second only, to that of his German translation of the New Testament. A Romanist of the time said, " The whole people is singing itself Into the Lutheran doctrine." And it is the opinion of many authorities that the Reformation would have been a comparative failure but for the inliuence of hymn singing.— Selected.