The Sound of Music

Considerations for choosing and listening to music.

MELVIN HILL, Chairman, Music Department, Union College

"FINALLY, brethren, whatsoever things are . . . pure . . . lovely . . . of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." What has this well-known text from Philip­pians to do with music?

What kind of people are engaged in perform­ing the various types of music that we lump together under the heading of "jazz"? For the most part, they are not the kind of peo­ple we would want to emulate. They are usually, especially in the "joints" in the larger cities, terrible specimens of human­ity. When the electric guitar player strums, he is likely to be using an arm that has been punctured many times by needles that shoot dope into his veins. Incessant smok­ers and drinkers, many have sold their souls to the devil for marihuana cigarettes. The drummer with his dead-pan expression and hopped-up actions is operating on bor­rowed power. The female performers are but the dregs of humanity. Many are three and four times divorced—legal adultery! The customers are little better; the kind of music that belongs to that environment someone else can have. I don't want this poor excuse for sound that is played in gambling dens, low-down night clubs, strip­tease joints and brothels heard in my home. My home doesn't smell like a bar; there is not the blue smoky atmosphere of the night club, and it will never sound like one either. I believe that a Christian in his home, in his dorm room, or in his car should not be inviting into his soul music that is so at home in places of ill-repute.

In my estimation, it is just as sinful to have this confused sound enter your home through the radio, TV, or record player, as it is to be in Harrah's Club in Las Vegas, or in a theater listening to the Beatles, watching people losing their senses and equilibrium over Satan-inspired music. I believe Jesus would not differentiate much in the environment. You would be guilty by association. In either case, the chance for translation would be zero.

The most difficult part of this question of musical association is where to draw the line. Sometimes a perfectly good piece of music is so arranged and performed that it is unacceptable to Christians. And Satan even goes further; he uses so-called sacred music to his own ends also. This latter will be the subject of our next article. Sym­phony music is also given a jazz treatment, much to the dismay of those trying to ar­rive at some sort of acceptable and workable standard.

The music department does not pretend to have an "objectionable" or "objectiona­ble in part," or "objectionable for chil­dren" list of music. We don't have that kind of system, nor do we have any committee to do our thinking for us. We try to live with the world, using only the best from it. We know that music changes in vogue—loses its stigma many times just as the Christmas tree and Easter bunny have lost their pagan taint. Some tunes that were former dance tunes but are now accepted practically as American folk songs are "Deep Purple," "Star Dust," "Put on Your Old Gray Bon­net," and others. When performed in a legitimate style, they are quite innocent. Other examples of more recent tunes in the category of harmless popular music are many of the songs from "The Sound of Music" and "Oklahoma." Compositions of this type are not examples of great music, but at the present time they are not strictly jazz or dance music if they are arranged and performed in an accepted manner.

The second question, then, that we should ask ourselves when choosing music for our personal use is: What company does this music keel)? Is it pure . . . lovely . . . of good report? Is it the kind of com­position that is used exclusively, or almost exclusively, to accompany types of en­deavor and actions that are out of harmony with our beliefs and principles?

Couple with this answer to the question raised in the last issue: How does this mu­sic and the manner in which it is being performed affect me? For your own choice of music consider these two questions care­fully and prayerfully. An honest answer will be your best guide.

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MELVIN HILL, Chairman, Music Department, Union College

September 1966

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