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Often, other people's reactions to music left me surprised or perplexed, and obliged me to learn to listen to others even more carefully and to open my mind to different and new understandings of music. I wrestled with questions and sought answers, but music always remained for me a wonderful companion and source of inspiration.
The time has come to speak up in defense of music. What was meant to be a most beautiful gift to humanity has often become a source of discord, disgust, hatred, and separation. It is time to come to the rescue of music and to give it back its innocence and dignity.
This book does not want to add to the interminable debate about music. While it does dissipate or correct some misconceptions along the way, its purpose is not to criticize, destroy, or prove wrong existing theories and opinions. Rather, it proposes to look outside personal opinions and preferences to find objective criteria that can transcend subjective approaches and help formulate a balanced and informed opinion about these important matters.
I am a strong believer in the principle that one of the best ways to counteract error is to implant the truth. This is one of the major aims of this book. In addition, I will frequently refer to the writings of Ellen G. White, which are abundant on the topic, and filled with great insight and common sense. Further, I will look at history to draw lessons from the experiences of the church in the past and to see how problems similar to today's were dealt with in other times and places.
Finally, practical lessons will be drawn to apply what has been learned to the reality of musical practice and discussion in the church. Before any study about music can be undertaken, it is important to understand the process of music: Here, too, many misunderstandings and preconceptions need to be weeded out so that discussions and dialogue may rest on facts and reality rather than on imagination and perpetuated myths.
In order to be convincing.
I invite you to follow me on this journey through the intricacies of music and the musical experience, especially--but not exclusively--as they relate to practices in the church. My first thought goes to my parents, who instilled in me at a very early age the love for music, together with the discipline needed to develop talent through assiduous and hard work. Then my gratitude goes to my husband, Jacques Doukhan, and my daughter, Abigail, faithful but also challenging partners in dialogue and discussion, who encouraged me all along the way on this difficult task.
A number of my teaching colleagues, musicians, theologians, and scientists contributed to a better and more correct understanding of the topic.
Finally, I want to thank my many students who, by sharing their own experiences, have always been a source of inspiration and renewal, leading me constantly to reconsider and adjust my position on the vast and diverse reality of the musical experience.
Ellen G. Review and Herald Publishing Assn. While each of the chapters of this book present self-contained sections, the reader is encouraged to follow the proposed order of topics; indeed, the progressive acquisition of knowledge proposed in the outline will help in bringing about a more solid understanding of the subject under study. The Nature of Music ne of the major reasons disagreement occurs in discussions or dialogues about music is the lack of information on the topic.
The partners in dialogue may be ill-informed or not informed at all about the subject matter and may rely entirely on their personal feelings,1 taste, opinion, or presuppositions. Instead of speaking to each other in an informed way, they might be speaking about two different things or about the same thing from a different perspective. Music is first of all an objective phenomenon, related to multiple aspects of life. It is connected to physics through the laws of acoustics; to mathematics by way of the numerical proportions that define the intervals; to psychology because of its impact on human behavior; to history in the way it reflects the values and thought patterns of the various epochs; to culture, of which it functions as a mirror; to economics, which drive the business of music; to politics, which appropriate music as a means of propaganda; etc.
This is not to say that anyone who wants to carry on a sensible conversation about music needs to be informed and proficient in all these subjects.
It shows, however, that music is an objective subject matter that needs also to be approached in an objective way. Before we can undertake a fruitful study or discussion of the topic of music or, more specifically, church music,2 we must take care to devote some time to understanding how music functions and how it affects us: Obviously, we will be able to scan only the surface of this topic.
It is much too broad for the scope of this book, and must therefore run the risk of appearing schematic, especially in the eyes of the professional musician. The following observations and elaborations should be taken for what they are intended, namely, a quick introduction, on behalf of the novice in musical matters, to the mechanisms of music, music writing, and music perception, with the purpose of creating a starting point and common ground for reflection and discussion.
It is certainly a true statement. Indeed, all human beings respond to music; they do so, however, in different ways. In order to better understand the extent to which this statement is true, we need first to explore what music is and how it functions and affects us.
At first we will take a look at the three main elements that make up music: Then we will consider general principles that make a piece of music work. Contrary to popular myth, musical composition does not happen by chance.
It is a conscious and willful act, during which the artist uses musical language--very much in the same way a writer uses letters, syllables, grammar, and syntax--to convey not only beautiful sound but meaning, thoughts, ideas, and ideals as well. The language of composers is always determined by cultural language, i. Through their works composers celebrate life, comment on life, express their view of life, draw attention to issues in society, protest, criticize, accuse, stir awareness and consciousness, or drive home a reality.
They entertain and please, excite and move, challenge and liberate, or they simply create a musical background. Some of their works are meant to elevate thoughts and inspire hope, courage, and vision. True artists have something to say to society, and they say it in a language--art--that speaks to their culture. The interest in and longevity of a piece of music will depend on the way the essential components of music--melody, harmony, and rhythm--are put together and interact with one another.
The more complex and subtle the relationships, echoes, variances, and allusions, the more satisfying, deep, and long lasting the listening experience will be.
Balance is the key behind any durable musical work. There must be balance between the elements of music--melody, harmony, and rhythm--and balance between the principles of variety and repetition. This is the essence of style: The way melody, harmony, and rhythm and other elements of music interact, how they alternate, and the lesser or greater emphasis that is given to one or the other, in turn, makes a composition unique and at the same time creates what we call style.
On a broader level style also applies to a type of music distinctive of a particular time in history baroque, Romantic, jazz , society folk , or group country, hip-hop, etc. The concept of style, however, goes beyond an artist's particular approach to composition. Style is also determined by a society or culture and its values. Music is at its very core a cultural phenomenon, a mirror of society. The composer will make use of a particular musical language that is produced, understood, and assumed by people living in that culture.
Tension is essential to create direction and forward movement. But tension must be relieved by moments of repose in order to retain its dramatic character. Too much tension sustained for too long a time creates confusion and chaos, even illness. Judicious use of variety creates interest, as it adds an element of surprise and unexpectedness. Lack of variety, on the other hand, or too much repetition, brings about dullness, shallowness, boredom, and lack of interest.
The appropriate use of repetition, however, is a vital element in the musical experience. It creates satisfaction through familiarity and pleasure through recognition. A purposeful alternation between repetition and variety is also an important factor in creating form and direction. Direction imparts and sustains meaning. As in good storytelling, it keeps the attention span going and engages the listener to the very end of the experience.
A musical piece. In order to produce a satisfying and meaningful musical experience, it is essential to observe a healthy balance between variety and repetition, which is guaranteed by a judicious and proportioned use of all the elements of music. It is essential to keep in mind these basic components of the craft of musical composition in order to arrive at a healthy evaluation of the musical process.
To do so, one does not need to be a trained or professional musician--one needs only to develop good observation skills and an informed understanding of what makes up music and how music functions. The following section, as it looks into the three main elements that constitute music, aims at helping the reader reach that goal. There are additional elements that shape music, such as timbre the particular quality of sound of an instrument , tempo how fast or slowly a piece of music is performed , volume the loudness , texture how many various parts and how they interact with one another , and more.
For the purpose of our study we will consider here only the three basic constituents of music: Melody Melody is the way sound is organized in space in a horizontal manner. It is a succession of tones of different heights pitches --we speak of high notes and low notes.
In order to qualify as a melody, this succession of pitches must be organized and perceived as happening in an orderly relationship with one another. Melodic organization happens on the level of form and rhythm. A single-standing melody is a very versatile entity; indeed, it can easily be accommodated to any style, from opera to church--and even to rock.
Because of the flexible character of a melody, the same tune has often been used for different settings, from secular to sacred or vice versa. While Western melodies use the diatonic scale built on 12 equidistant semitones, Arabic and Asian tunes use scales made of five or six tones within the octave pentatonic and whole tone and may accommodate intervals smaller than the semitone. The way notes are organized into a meaningful and beautiful continuous line--a melody--is one of the most difficult challenges for the composer.
Great composers often distinguished themselves by their gift of melody. Andrew Lloyd Webber, the English composer who wrote a number of immortal melodies for his musicals Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat , mentioned how he would struggle for weeks with small details that would make the melody sound just right.
All these composers mastered the difficult art of writing effective melodies, melodies that touch the heart and remain forever in the memory of the listener, melodies perpetuated throughout the ages. It is a general assumption that the emotional impact of music resides in the particular qualities of the melody. In reality, harmony and rhythm, the other two components of music, play a much more important role when it comes to touching our emotions.
Harmony is another way music is organized in space--this time in a vertical manner. As two or more voices blend together, they form a musical fabric very much like the texture of a woven cloth. When several voices sound simultaneously, we speak of polyphonic texture.
We distinguish between horizontal and vertical structures of polyphony. In horizontal arrangements, called linear counterpoint, several melodies run simultaneously, but the distinct voices move quite independently of one another, in separate rhythms.
These structures were predominant in early medieval polyphony, throughout the Renaissance, and predominantly up to the seventeenth century. Such structures, in which all voices move at a similar rhythm, create homophony.
Chords are the foundation of harmony. Chords are classified into consonances and dissonances.
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Consonances are often described as forming pleasant, agreeable sounds, whereas dissonances are said to produce unpleasant, distressing sounds. Consonances are generally associated with relaxation and closure; dissonances are associated with forward movement and tension. These descriptions are not absolute, universal values but rather subjective appreciations, matters of style.
It also depends on the culture in which the music functions and the extent to which an individual is familiar with the prevailing musical style. The concept of consonance and dissonance has constantly changed through time. It is actually a process called the emancipation of the dissonance8 that primarily contributed to changes in musical style.
A style can indeed be defined by its harmony. Specific chords and harmonic patterns define jazz, blues, or country in the field of popular music, but also baroque, classical, late Romantic, and twentieth-century styles in classical music. Several functions can be attributed to harmony. Within the field of sensations it creates interest and expectation tension and brings about feelings of pleasantness relaxation or unpleasantness.
On the level of cognitive appreciation, harmony brings structure and organization to the music. The particular way of arranging chords in succession is called harmonic progression.
These progressions are classified from strong to weak. Movement in music is achieved through appropriate use of harmonic progression.
Harmony has the ability to impart a forward movement to the music, to have it stall, or to bring it to a close by a slowing down of its harmonic rhythm. Harmony also lends "color" to a piece, according to the types of intervals that make it up. In the history of music, the more we advance in time toward the nineteenth century, the more composers play around with the concept of color.
Composers of the Impressionistic school of music used chords predominantly to create colors rather than to produce structure and progression. It took the Western musical world five centuries to develop its polyphonic language, which became the basis for its harmonic system.
As the harmonic language evolved throughout the centuries, composers were able to create impressions such as strength, tenderness, fright, awe, tragedy, seduction, contentment, etc. Rhythm Because of the complexity of the topic and the important place rhythm takes in discussions about music today, this section is given considerably more in-depth treatment than our discussion of melody and harmony. Rhythm is the element of music that inspires most heated debates. Out of misinformation, ignorance, or simply prejudice, most of rhythm's antagonists are quick to condemn it as the "evil" element in music.
However, rhythm is not only a basic ingredient of music; it is essential to every aspect of our lives. We cannot live without rhythm. Therefore, to look down on. Indeed, rhythm is the governing principle of life. Consider any gesture or activity that articulates human life. It will be rhythmically based: Nature also is ordered by rhythm: In much the same way, rhythm is the basic element that governs music.
It is the way music is organized in time, and it refers to the way sounds are ordered in time and to their relative durations. The following exercise will illustrate this principle. Take a simple scale a succession of eight adjacent pitches and sing it in a descending pattern. It will still be only a scale. Now animate it with a particular well-known rhythm, and it becomes music, a familiar song: In music, as in nature and our daily lives, rhythm carries the function of organizing movement and sound into distinct groupings.
This happens on several levels of the musical discourse. We distinguish between the concepts of beat or pulse, meter, accentuation, and melodic rhythm. Beat or pulse refers to the subdivision of the musical flow into regular basic pulsations or units of time.
Meter concerns the organization of these pulses or beats into distinct groupings of 2, 3, or 4, but also into asymmetric or additive units. Accentuation is particular emphasis given to a specific tone within a rhythmic group that makes it sound more prominent than others louder or longer, etc.
Finally, melodic rhythm involves patterns created by the flow and turns of the melody or the speech patterns inherent in the lyrics. These patterns are actually superimposed onto beat, meter, and accentuation. Rhythmic perception is not solely an external physical phenomenon dictated by the properties of music. Rhythmic interpretation involves a factor of perception on the part of the listener, who mentally manipulates the various rhythmic components of a piece of music.
The more complex these structures--such as in genres using cross-rhythms in which several distinct layers of rhythmic patterns are sounded simultaneously--the more resultant is the listening experience. An example of this can be found in the perception of beat and counterbeat as a resultant phenomenon rather than a dichotomy. Beat The concept of beat is generally associated with popular music, but it is actually a part of all musical performance.
We have already seen that it belongs to the concept of pulse rather than meter. For the past century the word "beat" has generally come to be understood as a sustained or exaggerated accentuation of the basic pulse, generally produced by a prominent sound source, such as a foundational instrument e.
Beat may be enhanced by a prominent counterbeat obtained through variably strong marking of the unaccented part of a pulse or measure. Musics that consistently emphasize a basic pulse featured together with predominantly repetitive rhythmic patterns distinguish themselves from the rhythmic practice found in Western music, mostly but not exclusively from before the twentieth century.
This music basically featured an alternation of accented and unaccented beats or pulses animated by varying rhythmic patterns. Rhythmic practices based on the principle of repetitive pulse or beat are. Syncopation According to the Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music,13 syncopation involves "rhythmic displacement created by articulating weaker beats or metrical positions that do not fall on any of the main beats of the measure.
In the first, second, and third phrases of the hymn, on the words "when I," the strong accent falls on the offbeat of the meter, as emphasis is given to the normally unaccented second half of the beat traditionally considered the weak portion of the beat , on the word "I.
Syncopation is generally explained as a musical feature that was first brought from Africa by slaves and later became a major ingredient of jazz and rock music. For this reason it has often been shunned from church. An objective and historical study of the practice of syncopation, on one hand, and the traditional rhythmic practices characteristic of African music, on the other hand, reveal that the situation is not this simplistic and that such an explanation of syncopation is outright erroneous.
The most characteristic element in African music is not syncopation, but its use of cross-rhythms. Ethnomusicologist Arthur Morris Jones comments appropriately on this fact. He says, "The very essence of African music is to cross the rhythms. This does not mean syncopation. On the whole African music is not based on syncopation.
In cross rhythms several voices compete with one another through different, sometimes conflicting, meters and rhythmic patterns 2 against 3, 2 against 3 against 5, etc. Here again, it is the resultant effect of these compound rhythms that is perceived and analyzed by the listener rather than the separate rhythmic elements. The overall effect is one of great interest and complexity, challenging not only the various performers but also the minds and bodies of the listeners and dancers.
Syncopation, on the other hand, has been a basic rhythmic feature of Western European music since the dawn of polyphonic music in the Middle Ages. To come closer to our times, the rhythmic principle of sacred or secular Renaissance music from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries--by composers such as Josquin des Prez, Heinrich Isaac, Orlande de Lassus, and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina--is strongly governed by the practice of syncopation.
Any sacred music written in those times, whether a motet a polyphonic setting of a Latin text, for religious use or mass, features abundant use of syncopation. Music was then composed according to a linear principle, and one way of setting the various voices off from one another, in order to create variety and diversity, was to animate them with different rhythmic patterns.
This was mainly achieved by offsetting the accentuated parts in the different voices. This Renaissance principle of composition was carried into the baroque, where it became a staple of church style and has since then remained a basic technique in contrapuntal. We find a wealth of syncopation in the sacred works by composers such as Claudio Monteverdi, J. Bach, and G. Often, the final sections of choral works of these great composers end with choral fugues, rhythmically animated polyphonic sections brimming with syncopation that create an effect of exhilaration and a triumphant climax to the whole work.
In an eyewitness account of a rehearsal of Bach's "Cum sancto spiritu" section from the St. John Passion, the rector of St. Thomas Church at Leipzig, where the composer himself was conducting the choir, commented about how "the rhythm takes possession of all his [Bach's] limbs.
By virtue of its particularly tolerant attitude toward local cultures and its fluid cultural boundaries, the colonial city of New Orleans, around the year , was brimming with music bringing together European and African traditions. The resultant combination later came to characterize the world of jazz. In today's popular music styles, beat and syncopation are closely associated and thus given a much more prominent character.
We saw earlier that the rhythmic component in music cannot be considered a freestanding entity. Instead, it must be placed within the larger context of the other musical elements.
Syncopation and beat must therefore be looked at in this broader perspective rather than as isolated elements of the musical discourse.
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Are they the sole governing elements in the music? Do they alternate with rhythmically less pronounced but melodically more interesting moments? Are they heightened through intense harmonies, or do they stand out against uninteresting melodies and poor harmonies? As we already noticed, the richer and greater the interplay between the elements of music, the deeper the musical meaning and the more satisfying and longer lasting the musical experience. This principle of balance has something to do with the way we perceive and receive music.
It touches our hearts, minds, and bodies through emotional, physical, and intellectual stimulation. In other words, it affects us on a wholistic level. The same is true for the principle of alternation between tension and relaxation, i. In a musical style in which one of the elements becomes domineering at the expense of the others through a monolithic, sustained, and pronounced presence, the principle of balance is destroyed, and the wholistic effect of music that should characterize our worship music, in particular, is lost.
The Effects of Rhythm In order to appropriately use and evaluate the rhythmic element in music, we must be aware of how rhythm works and adapt it to a given cultural setting. This has been achieved by studies in the field of the psychology of music.
To illustrate my point, I turn to an authority on the psychology of music, Carl E. Seashore,18 recognized by his peers as a pioneer in matters of scientific study of the psychology of music. In reading these paragraphs, one can easily verify their validity in one's own musical experience, whatever style is under consideration.
Seashore presents the effect of rhythm on three levels. Rhythm creates emotions. Herein we find the groundwork of emotion; for rhythm, whether in perception or in action, is emotional when highly developed, and results in response of the whole. Such organic pulsations and secretions are the physical counterpart of emotion. We generally connect rhythm with physical response, such as toe tapping, marching, swaying of the body, etc. But here we learn that rhythm affects our psychological response.
It is rhythm, not necessarily melody or harmony as is generally assumed, that governs our emotions. And it does so through the stimulation of various physiological functions of the body. Seashore also writes that in order to have such an impact, rhythm needs to be highly developed. This means that to achieve these effects, the rhythmic element needs to have a dominant or predominant character in the music. It is important to be aware, then, that rhythm is a powerful agent of influence in our emotional lives.
The impact is all the greater since it affects an aspect of our personalities, the emotions, that can easily get out of hand and beyond the control of our reasoning.
Rhythm empowers. It is like a dream of flying; it is so easy to soar. There is an assurance of ability to cope with the future. This results in the disregard of the ear element and results in a motor attitude, or a projection of the self in action. He told us the story of a time in his life when he was experiencing personal difficulties, because his parents were in the process of divorce.
He had trouble coping with the situation and had taken to the habit, each day after he came home from school, of lying down on the floor, putting a pair of headphones in his ears, and listening for half an hour to rock music. The driving beat, enhanced by the high volume of sound, restored his psychological abilities and gave him the strength to cope with the future.
He did this for a few weeks until he noticed that the effect of the experiment lasted little more than a few hours, after which he fell back into his depressive and desperate mood. He understood then that listening to music as a remedy for his troubles was, in fact, a deception, nothing more than a quick fix that would never bring him the lasting and enduring strength he was looking for. The feeling of power imparted by the music provided a way to avoid confronting a painful reality.
Shortly after that time, he was encouraged to turn to prayer and was able to start the long and difficult process of healing--and ultimately to achieve it. We all have experienced the energizing power of rhythm when, worn out from a day of work and still more to come, we get into our cars, turn on the engines, and hear lively rhythmic music streaming from the radio. We start tapping our feet motor attitude --or our fingers on the steering wheel for more security--and feel energized and ready to go on with our tasks projection of self into action.
Rhythm stimulates and excites. It excites, and it makes us insensible to the excitation, giving the feeling of being lulled. One becomes oblivious to intellectual pursuits. There comes a sort of autointoxication from the stimulating effect of the music and the successful self-expression in balanced movements sustained by that music and its associations.
Expressions such as stimulation, elation, ecstasy, and loss of consciousness of the environment point to similar experiences. Anything with a lesser stimulating effect seems dull and uninteresting. A similar effect can easily be observed in our consumption of rhythm: Notice that Seashore places these phenomena in a context of "pronounced rhythm," i. The effect of pronounced and sustained rhythm can lead the individual to become so absorbed in the actual engagement and enjoyment of the rhythmic activity that there is a progressive loss of interest in the rational or cognitive control of the situation.
The capacity for control can diminish progressively and even be shut out and eliminated. This can easily be verified in some worship experiences of a charismatic type, where the musical element is very animated, prominent, and sustained, helping the believer to reach the desired stage of being touched by the spirit. The stimulating and autointoxicating effects of music with a highly pronounced and sustained rhythmic element may result in making us oblivious to the voice of reason or of the conscience.
The situation is made even more complex by the fact that these responses happen without our even noticing them. We are so taken by the pleasurable experience that everything else is ruled out. A number of examples from the secular, military, and religious worlds illustrate this mechanism.
The first is found in dance. There was a good reason for the great swing dance bands in America to take off and become so popular precisely during the Great Depression years s. It was the distinct need, in the midst of all the hardship, worrying, and despair, to find a way to "lose consciousness of the environment," to forget the harsh and often unbearable reality and get completely absorbed, at least for a few moments, in a pleasurable activity--"action without any object other than the pleasure in the action itself.
From the earliest times of humankind, war making has been accompanied by music and song. Even the Bible has its own examples of such practice: Soldiers are trained to march to war while singing. Why is this method so effective?
According to Seashore,23 as soldiers sing their marching songs or march to the sound of a military band, they reach a stage at which they are completely absorbed by the marching movement, which creates a sort of absentmindedness through its monotonous repetitiveness. The singing of songs of patriotism and victory in combination with the marching creates some feeling of elation or even ecstasy.
The subjects become "oblivious" to the reality that they are actually marching off to kill or be killed. One may similarly observe the ambiance in clubs to verify the impact of a sonic experience.
Psychologist and author John Booth Davies has adequately described such a setting. The emotionally heightened ambiance in an environment of loud repetitive sound intensified with stroboscopic lighting affects the attitude of the dancers.
They are apparently oblivious to anything that goes on around them, but they never completely lose consciousness--they are still able to discriminate between various sounds and to continue making automatic rhythmic responses. In a first stage the dancing excites.
Then the dancer becomes "insensible to the excitation" getting entirely absorbed in and concentrating totally on the pursuit of the physical activity per se , "oblivious to intellectual pursuits" giving up rational. Anybody watching a trance or possession dance can observe these different stages. It is essential, however, to point out that this process does not happen in a mechanical or automatic way. Seashore himself took care to make this very clear. As he speaks about the gratifying experience of "auto-intoxication" and "successful self-expression," he explains how the two happen through the combined effects of both the music and its context and associations.
Getting into a trance does not happen automatically, as a result of the effects of music, etc. This explains why musicians providing the music for events related to possession do not automatically enter the state of trance themselves. But, as with anything else, this powerful tool can be misused or abused to the point that it carries us beyond the limits of our full control.
When dealing with church music--but equally in our personal listening habits--it is especially important to realize how rhythm functions and how it affects us as individuals or as groups, so as to use it appropriately.
We need to clarify in our own minds what we are looking for during our personal musical experiences and, particularly, during worship, and measure and adapt the level of the rhythmic activity of our music accordingly. Here is a last reflection on rhythm. The foregoing explanations might suggest a possible answer to the question What makes the rhythmic element so prominent in today's society? In a world of stress, deadlines, insecurity, self-doubt, and disillusionment--in a time when the exploration of hitherto unknown regions of the personality and the pursuit of new sensations through a variety of stimulants is occupying so much time and money--one reason for the incessant pursuit of rhythm might be to fulfill a need for freedom, power, and expanse.
Both manifestations, the spoken language and the musical language, acquire their meaning only from the moment that their elements start being combined--and according to the interpretation that is made of them in a given cultural context. If I do not know the Spanish language, the word "madre" does not carry any meaning for me. It remains neutral, a mere juxtaposition of letters of the alphabet.
If, on the contrary, I have learned this word from my earliest childhood, it not only carries the meaning of the person who gave birth to me; it is also ripe with a wealth of associations that come with the word "mother": It works the same way with music. A given melodic turn, a particular chord progression, a rhythmic pattern, or a specific instrument may evoke a number of different meanings.
Where do those differences come from? What is it that makes us appreciate one type of music over another one or, on the contrary, leaves us indifferent to it?
How is music a universal manifestation? These are questions we need to address. In speaking about church music, we will focus mainly on music made by the people, that is, congregational singing.
A note to the reader is in order here: Whenever we speak of music, it is always meant as music per se, independent of the meaning of the lyrics that might accompany a particular song or piece. Occasionally, some groundbreaking composers will transcend the rules of given conventions and create new styles, e. This phenomenon will be revisited in our discussion of contrafacta see "The Practice of Contrafacta," pp.
The semitone is the smallest interval in Western musical tradition. It represents the distance between any two neighboring keys on the keyboard, white or black. While polyphonic writing was a predominant compositional technique during those times, it lost its primary character during the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries. However, it never disappeared totally from musical composition and became again a predominant element in twentieth century music, especially during the first half of the century cf.
For a description of this concept, see Jim Samson, Music in Transition: Norton, , pp. Even though the practice of harmony as found in the Western world is not part of many a musical system around the world, the same complexity of structure can be observed in musical languages that use predominantly rhythm and melody only.
A similar process of rhythmic manipulation is also applied by the performer and is at the origin of the concept of groove in popular music. Groove refers to a characteristic rhythmic pattern of the music used in a repeated manner, producing a distinctive rhythmic feel within a repetitive context.
In classical music the same concept is found in terms of stretching or compressing a given tempo during performance rubato. Yale University Press, , p. Stanford University Press, , chapter Tonality's Poor Relation. Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2nd ed. Stockton Press, , s. Hymn No. The same rhythmic displacement can be found in hymn No.
Jones spent many years in Africa as a missionary and specialized in the study of African rhythm. Oxford University Press, , pp.
The African tradition contributed musical techniques such as call and response improvisation and polyrhythms.
Robert W. Lundin, An Objective Psychology of Music, 3rd ed. Malabar, Fla.: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, , p. This principle should also become a concern within cultural settings that feature a high threshold of rhythmic tolerance, and needs to be considered accordingly. The Experience of Music n the movie Out of Africa there is a halting scene in which the sounds of the second movement of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A Major stream out of a strange black box, an early phonograph, striking us almost as anachronistic in the given context.
The strange sounds attract a crowd of Kikuyu people, who listen with smiling faces to the music. Incidents such as these are readily picked up to prove the point that classical music can be appreciated immediately by anyone, even the least educated. The problem with such affirmations is whether the intrigued reaction of these individuals should be interpreted as a real aesthetic appreciation or as curiosity, surprise, or even bewilderment.
What is really the character of the musical experience? Is it, indeed, universal in the sense that all individuals around the world are able to experience the same aesthetic experience at their first hearing of, say, Bach, Mozart, Bob Dylan, or U2?
The musical experience is an integrated human process, involving cognition especially sequencing and memory , the emotions pleasure and expectation , and the body motor coordination. A fulfilling and artistically valuable experience encompasses all three aspects of the human being. In regard to worship music, the wholistic character of the musical experience becomes even more important. Putting a preferred emphasis on one of these elements at the expense of the others impoverishes and adulterates an authentic worship experience.
The statement may be true--but only to a limited extent. Ethnomusicologist Bruno Nettl noted that while "music is a cultural universal, it is not a universal language. But, continues Nettl, "humans speak many mutually unintelligible languages. The world of music consists of musics that are not mutually compatible. We respond physically to animated music by tapping our feet or toes, swaying our bodies, or outright dancing.
We are filled with joy, sadness, triumph, anger, or inspiration and wonder. Our response to music on the universal level could be qualified by this phrase from Iris Yob, assistant professor of education, State University of New York at Genesco: Sometimes reactions to a single piece of music can be drastically different from one individual to another.
French music scholar Jules Combarieu, in his. He writes, "Which is the degree of exactitude which musical expression can attain? Musical images must not be applied to one single object only; they can be interpreted in different ways.
Their interest and poetry probably lies in this very fact. Indeed, beyond its universal character the musical experience is foremost an acquired experience.
My class is generally made up of individuals from countries all over the world. This gives a particular flavor to the experiment and makes it even more relevant and interesting.
This part of the course has become a favorite moment for the students, not only because they can participate actively in the experiment but also because the exercise is an incredible eyeopener that makes them understand, firsthand and almost instantly, the intricacies of the musical experience. There are two sections of music in this experiment: The secular selections are all instrumental, i. This avoids any associations with a particular situation.
As I play the various excerpts of music, the students all react in some way to the music, but they do so in very different ways. Their interpretations may vary considerably, according to the basic mood of the music, or the students may not be sensitive to or touched by the music at all. What for some feels invigorating or transcendent, comes across as boring or uninspiring to others.
As we examine together the deeper reasons behind these divergences in opinion, we learn that an individual's reaction to music is determined by a certain number of acquired or learned factors. These factors include one's familiarity with the style, formal or informal education in matters of music, cultural setting and environment, and particular values and beliefs. Associations that come spontaneously with the hearing--such as the remembrance of a mood, event, or situation, or certain gestures and actions that accompanied the first or subsequent hearings of this type of music-- may also need to be taken into consideration.
The classroom experiment reveals that music does not happen in a vacuum but is intimately tied with, and carried by, a given culture or society. Lundin, author of An Objective Psychology of Music, concurs that musical responses are "acquired through one's life history.
A large part of anyone's responses are culturally determined. These conditions refer, not only to one's intimate musical surroundings, but in general to his whole musical culture. We, therefore, include not only the general Western musical culture but also our own family, school, and other intimate sources of musical stimulation.
We may not even react at all to styles that are unfamiliar to us. Music acquires meaning only through context and education. A particular style of music must, then, be understood within the context of the community or cultural group that gives it its meaning. It is also the community or cultural group that determines when an earlier established meaning changes or becomes obsolete.
Musical meaning "ceases to be effective when the relationship between a group and the symbol musical language changes in space and time. There is no universal way music is appreciated in different cultural settings. In one setting it can be very well received, even applauded. In another setting it may be perceived as inappropriate.
Therefore, it is important to learn to decode or understand the meaning of a style within a particular cultural setting. On the other hand, it is just as important not to fall into the trap of quick judgments on value and statements as to the implicit "good" or "evil" nature of a style, chord, melody, rhythm, or instrument.
Some people speak of "good" instruments for worship piano, organ, violin, flute and of "evil" instruments saxophone, guitar, synthesizer, etc. They forget that it is the context generally associated with these instruments, chords, or rhythms that determines their meaning and evaluation. One would be very hard-pressed to demonstrate that a given chord e.
This would be the equivalent of lending the power of good or evil to a letter of the alphabet, a syllable, or even a word without its context. Good or evil connotations are given to a specific word within a particular linguistic setting, which is just the product of social conventions. If someone addresses me with a four-letter word in Chinese, it will not have any effect on me--I might even interpret it as a compliment if it is said with a smile!
Musical language is not much different from verbal language. The isolated components of a language--letters, syllables, even words--do not carry any moral weight in themselves. They acquire meaning as they are put together into phrases, sentences, and paragraphs, and then they are given significance within a cultural language group. The interpretation of those meanings must be learned, and the learning process happens within a given cultural setting, determined by the value system of that culture.
It is exactly the same for the musical language. When melodies, chords, rhythms, and harmonies are combined together, they are given a specific meaning within a particular cultural setting; they are then interpreted as happy or sad, elevating or debasing.
Every society or subculture develops a concept of what is sacred and what is entertaining, and what is tasteful or vulgar. Expressions of respect, veneration, adoration, and solidarity--sacred or religious attitudes basic to the human race-are shaped according to established value systems.
Every society develops its own verbal and musical languages to translate these concepts. The interpretation of musical content does not primarily happen on the basis of the innate nature and quality of the musical sounds produced,11 but according to the context in which this type of music is created and performed, i. It becomes difficult, therefore, to judge the content or meaning of a style of music if we are not familiar with its function and meaning within that given society--if we have not learned to understand its meaning in its original context.
This dimension will be dealt with in depth in a separate section. A Lion Book, , p. Bruno Nettl, Excursions in World Music, 5th ed.
Upper Saddle River, N. Pearson, Prentice Hall, , p. Iris M. Yob, "The Arts as Ways of Understanding: Perspectives on Music Education, Estelle R. Jorgensen, ed. University of Illinois Press, , p.
Jules Combarieu, La musique et la magie: Etude sur les origines populaires de l'art musical, son influence et sa fonction dans les societes Paris: Alphonse Picard, ; reprint Geneva: Minkoff Reprints, , p.
Elizabeth Brown and William Hendee, in their clinical study of reactions to music, came to the same conclusion: Music is a very individual and complex experience" from "Adolescents and Their Music," Journal of the American Medical Association [September ]: For example, in The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal ed. Review and Herald Publishing.
An erroneous popular myth, for instance, interprets music in the minor mode as being associated with sadness, and music in the major mode as being expressive of happiness. In reality, the majority of folk music uses the minor mode which actually belongs to modal language both for happy songs or dances, as well as to depict sad situations. This brings up the case of rock music, which will be discussed later see "Excursus: The Case of Rock Music," pp.
This type of music needs to be dealt with separately since it falls more under the category of a music culture than a musical style.
The Meaning of Music here are several assumptions about music and its capacity to convey meaning. Misunderstandings and misconceptions about the issue, lack of information, and oversimplification of the matter have contributed to spread a number of beliefs and convictions, which are then perpetuated from generation to generation, bringing about endless discussion and debate.
The purpose of the following reflection is to demystify and clarify some of these misunderstandings and misconceptions.
First, we will take a look at the concept of sacred music and investigate what makes a style of music sacred. Then we will look at the issue of aesthetics versus ethics. A number of questions will articulate that section: Is aesthetics equivalent to ethics?
Is there good music and evil music? How does music convey meaning? Where does the real power of music lie? How can we use music responsibly? What makes a musical style sacred? A good way to provide answers to these questions is to listen to different types of sacred music. I have my students listen to and react to selections of music from different religions, music such as Tibetan Buddhist chanting, Jewish synagogue chanting, religious rap, a South American folk mass, Gregorian and Orthodox chanting, Black spirituals and Black gospel, traditional Protestant hymns, classical sacred selections, etc.
Every selection played was written with the specific intent to convey a religious message--or is at least understood, in popular imagination, to have been so. The sacred character of the music is indicated either explicitly by the words or implicitly by means of the ritual, liturgical, or religious setting in which the music is generally performed.
In my class the listeners' reactions were interesting to observe, especially since they provided clues to the answers we were looking for. Selections in familiar styles were acclaimed with great enthusiasm, pleasure, and personal--sometimes even physical--investment in the experience.
In general, the music played in these excerpts was perceived as conveying some quality more or less related to the concepts of transcendence, grandeur, or majesty.
However, a more detailed analysis of these impressions revealed considerable differences in appreciation. The various reactions covered such diverse and opposite moods as wonder and fright, elevation and boredom, spirituality and entertainment.
Settings evoked by the playing of J. Bach's Toccata in D Minor, for example, ranged from a lofty cathedral to haunted houses, horror movies, and cartoons.
Crash cymbals[ edit ] A pair of crash cymbals in cross section. The bell is in green and the straps are in red. Main article: Crash cymbal A type of crash cymbals used in Assam, India. It is similar to Khartal. This instrument is used in Assamese dances called Bihu. Orchestral crash cymbals are traditionally used in pairs, each one having a strap set in the bell of the cymbal by which they are held. Such a pair is always known as crash cymbals or plates. The sound can be obtained by rubbing their edges together in a sliding movement for a "sizzle", striking them against each other in what is called a "crash", tapping the edge of one against the body of the other in what is called a "tap-crash", scraping the edge of one from the inside of the bell to the edge for a "scrape" or "zischen," or shutting the cymbals together and choking the sound in what is called a "hi-hat chick" or crush.
A skilled percussionist can obtain an enormous dynamic range from such cymbals. For example, in Beethoven's ninth symphony , the percussionist is employed to first play cymbals pianissimo, adding a touch of colour rather than loud crash. Chinese-style crash cymbals in use Crash cymbals are usually damped by pressing them against the percussionist's body. A composer may write laissez vibrer, "Let vibrate" usually abbreviated l. Crash cymbals have traditionally been accompanied by the bass drum playing an identical part.
This combination, played loudly, is an effective way to accentuate a note since it contributes to both very low and very high frequency ranges and provides a satisfying "crash-bang-wallop". In older music the composer sometimes provided one part for this pair of instruments, writing senza piatti or piatti soli Italian : "without cymbals" or "cymbals only" if only one is needed. This came from the common practice of having one percussionist play using one cymbal mounted to the shell of the bass drum.
The percussionist would crash the cymbals with the left hand and use a mallet to strike the bass drum with the right. This method is nowadays often employed in pit orchestras and called for specifically by composers who desire a certain effect. Stravinsky calls for this in his ballet Petrushka , and Mahler calls for this in his Titan Symphony. The modern convention is for the instruments to have independent parts. However, in kit drumming , a cymbal crash is still most often accompanied by a simultaneous kick to the bass drum , which provides a musical effect and support to the crash.
Main article: Hi-hat instrument Crash cymbals evolved into the low-sock and from this to the modern hi-hat. Even in a modern drum kit, they remain paired with the bass drum as the two instruments which are played with the player's feet. However, hi-hat cymbals tend to be heavy with little taper, more similar to a ride cymbal than to a clash cymbal as found in a drum kit, and perform a ride rather than a crash function.
Main article: Suspended cymbal Another use of cymbals is the suspended cymbal. This instrument takes its name from the traditional method of suspending the cymbal by means of a leather strap or rope, thus allowing the cymbal to vibrate as freely as possible for maximum musical effect.
Early jazz drumming pioneers borrowed this style of cymbal mounting during the early s and later drummers further developed this instrument into the mounted horizontal or nearly horizontally mounted "crash" cymbals of a modern drum kit , However, most modern drum kits do not employ a leather strap suspension system.
Many modern drum kits use a mount with felt or otherwise dampening fabric to act as a barrier to hold the cymbals between metal clamps: thus forming the modern day ride cymbal. Suspended cymbals can be played with yarn-, sponge-, or cord wrapped mallets. The first known instance of using a sponge-headed mallet on a cymbal is the final chord of Hector Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique. Composers sometimes specifically request other types of mallets like felt mallets or timpani mallets for different attack and sustain qualities.
Suspended cymbals can produce bright and slicing tones when forcefully struck, and give an eerie transparent "windy" sound when played quietly.For 20 years, the semi-pro kit sector has been dominated by the Pearl Export. Music acquires meaning only through context and education. The quality of racks used in the entry-level section tend to vary somewhat. The interest in and longevity of a piece of music will depend on the way the essential components of music--melody, harmony, and rhythm--are put together and interact with one another.
While Western melodies use the diatonic scale built on 12 equidistant semitones, Arabic and Asian tunes use scales made of five or six tones within the octave pentatonic and whole tone and may accommodate intervals smaller than the semitone. University of Illinois Press, , p. Main article: Hi-hat instrument Crash cymbals evolved into the low-sock and from this to the modern hi-hat. Even though this was wonderful music, to her it was associated with a disagreeable experience.
This effect, however, is achieved not only with popular music pop, rock, and their associated styles as is generally assumed; it happens with any kind or style of music, including classical music.
Rhythmic perception is not solely an external physical phenomenon dictated by the properties of music.
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