Music – it’s just so personal.
Musical Theory Crash Course – What is Music?
Let’s, for a second talk about music on a secular (wordly) level. It’s composed of melody, harmony and rhythm. Theoretically, then, a computer can write a song by adding all of these elements in some way and create ‘music’. And computers can and do this. On a secular level, it’s actually pretty good. So let’s be clear that music can also be 100% impersonal.
Genres are really just a ‘tendency’ of one or more of the three components above to follow similar patterns. I happen to really like reggae as a genre and the reason is syncopation or ‘off beat’ rhythms. Instead of a typical rock beat which goes:
So ‘reggae’ would follow a ‘tendency’ to do that or similar rhythm and would therefore be considered a ‘reggae rhythm’. There are, of course, other elements like the place where the bass comes in which is so different from standard rock as well.
And don’t think that church music is without genres and this is part of the discussion of this blog post. But if you were to step back there are two major ‘church genres’: the hymn and what Koreans call ‘CCM’ or what English speaking countries tend to call ‘Praise & Worship Music’. Now, on that topic, let’s start this blog with some FUN! Because I’m all about fun whenever possible, even if people get upset.
Note before clicking: do *NOT* go to the red URL because it seems to go to some very potentially *bad* places, although I haven’t researched nor will I.
Is it possible to make worse music for God? It’s music like this that has turned a lot of people away from Jesus I think! What the heaven genre is this? “Mullet Praise”? Dear God have mercy…
Let’s stick with this fun theme and watch another one, shall we?
Note before clicking: Based on my own research I cannot support Amazon (who owns Audible) or Facebook, so please do not support what he is selling until you have done your own due diligence.
How to write a perfect “Praise and Worship Song” (CCM):
This same guy made this similarly funny video.
The Problem with Christian Bands
But this topic of music is not actually that ‘funny’ in the church. I heard a statistic that I have never been willing to research myself but that I believed immediately upon hearing which went like this: “Music is the number one cause of all church splits”. As soon as I heard it, I believed.
When I became a disciple of Jesus I was coming from a rock and roll garage band kind of background. I was the typical teen with the guitar and amp and even made a little headway with our little band. Although music was, before I met Jesus, my god and idol, when I came to the church I realized that music was still important. Ever since then, and it has been over 20 years now, I have wanted to take a deeper look at what music is, what it should be, and why it’s so impacting. This blog post is supposed to just whet the whistle on the topic and hopefully spur some comments from people around me and out there so that I can build on the study and leave something useful out there for the body of Christ.
We’ve had some laughs, we’ve drunk some milk, but now let’s get into the meat (even though I’m trying to be a vegetarian). A Korean sister in the Lord found this video. I searched both high and low trying to find it in English because a) I want to know who this dude is so I can give him some credit and b) I desperately want to watch part 2 of this series. Anyway, if you speak either English or Korea, this video should be amazingly beneficial to you on this topic. If you know who this guy is, please throw some comments below and let me know:
Details about music, genres, right, wrong, harmony, melody, rhythm as it pertains to the church and worship
But for me, it didn’t stop there. There is more to discuss. Here is a good video to watch where a hip hop reggae Christian artist dude asks a very important and personal question: Why do some churches reject his music? Please watch especially the response from Ravi Zacharias at the end.
Why do some churches reject my music genre?
The first speaker answers with a very bold and, in my opinion overly generalized way when he said ‘If you reject a certain kind of music there is something wrong with you.” I totally disagree. There may be very good reasons to reject a certain kind or genre of music as we shall hopefully study over the next few months as I find time.
He also mentions the idea that ‘you can reach people with music’ and his implication is therefore ‘so you should use music as a tool to reach people’. I am now of the opinion that this is a very dangerous position to take because I agree that music is, at the very roots, a tool: a tool of expression of the soul, a motivation tool, a tool of influence, a tool of worship, and many more applications. But if a tool is powerful, the person using the tool must understand what the tool is, the benefits and dangers of the tool, the right and wrong time to use the tool, and essentially be well grounded in the usage of said tool. To just throw a ‘Christian band’ in front of your church and ask people to participate in whatever they lead you to do is, in my opinion, opening yourself up to some problems. Refer to the ‘Problems with Christian Bands’ video above.
I believe that Ravi’s answer was more grounded and has within it the core issues that need to be addressed when discussing music.
Music is the Language of the Soul
Ravi said ‘Music is the language of the soul’ – and how correct he is. But this brings us to the most fundamental problem in the church today: no one knows what the soul is, let alone that there is a difference between the soul and the spirit! To get immediately educated on the topic, I recommend that you go and buy Watchman Nee’s “The Spiritual Man”. I regret so deeply that I had this book on my shelf for nearly 20 years and never opened it until now. Now and only now things are starting to make sense in the world as this teaching of body, soul, and spirit comes alive.
What is the Soul?
As a quick snap shot, the soul is composed of the mind, the will, and the emotions. Simple as that. But as it pertains to music, you will note that *unsaved sinners* all have a mind, a will and emotions! And herein lies the greatest danger – what is the *spirit* behind the music? Is the person leading you into worship even saved? Are they born again? Are you sure? Or, are they leading you down a pathway to *their soul*? And who is the master of their soul? Is it Jesus? Do you know? Are you sure?
I’m not going to pretend to scratch the surface of this topic but I hope that up to now I have spurned some ideas and that we will be able to walk down a very deep path towards truth on this topic of music in the church and in worship.
Eun Chae, one of my students, submitted this interested topic for her writing. I thought it was quite intriguing so I thought I would publish it. She didn’t do exceeding amounts of research but enough for all of us to benefit. Enjoy and thanks, Eun Chae.
Why do musical instruments that come from Korea, Japan, and China look similar? All three countries were in the same cultural area, and shared commercial relationships, and musical elements such as instruments, and songs. Just like the evolution and changes that occurred culturally between the regions, music and instrument variations also occurred. People in their respective countries improved the instrument to benefit their unique playing methods. Therefore, the instruments in each country do not look identical. The reason why they updated the instrument was a result of a lack of understanding of those methodologies, and to make clear their own respective and unique national identities. Thus, one cannot state that Korea, China, and Japan have the same instruments. After comparing the three countries’ typical stringed instruments: the Gayageum (Korea), the Guzheng (China) and the Koto (Japan), the differences will become apparent.
A good starting place to begin to explore the similarities between the Korean Gayageum and the Chinese Guzheng is that both are Asian traditional long zithers, and both are made of paulownia. An Asian traditional long zither is a square, elongated, stringed wooden resonance box that looks like the harp but played lying horizontally on the floor. The paulownia is a tree that produces the best wood for musical instruments because it is not vulnerable to fire and because it resonates well. In addition, both the Gayageum and the Guzheng have bridges and both are played with the fingers, and people usually push the left side of string to produce a vibrato effect on both instruments. There are also differences between these two cousins. While the Gayageum has twelve strings made of silk thread, the Guzheng has twenty-one strings made of metal. The Gayageum player performs a vibrato technique – the gentle bending of the string to create a wavering effect on the sound wave- but the Guzheng creates a celestial sound by doing rapid alternate picking. Lastly, the Gayageum is played with the bare fingers, but the Guzheng requires picks on the player’s right thumb, forefinger, and middle finger.
The Korean Gayageum and the Japanese Koto also have similarities and differences. The Gayageum and the Koto are similar in that they are both made of paulownia, and they are classified as Asian traditional long zithers. Also, both instruments’ bridges can change the pitch of the string by manipulating or moving the bridge. In regards to their strings, they are usually made out of silk. The Gayageum and the Koto are different in that the Gayageum players put the instrument on their knees in a cross-legged position when they play it, where the Koto is placed on the floor in front of the kneeled player. On the top surface of the body of the Koto, there are tuning pins like a piano’s, to facilitate tuning. The Gayageum sounds soft, and lingering, but the Koto has sharp, clear tones and its sound limited sustain. While the Gayageum is played with the bare fingers, the Koto requires the use of picks on player’s right three fingers like the Guzheng. Finally, the Gayageum was invented by Wu Ruk, who was commissioned by Gaya’s king, but the Koto is an ancestor of the Guzheng.
Comparing the Japanese Koto and the Chinese Guzheng reveals more similarities than differences. Both have clear, and sharp sound. In addition, unlike the hand controlled tuning pegs of a violin, they have a tuning mechanism for tightening and loosening the strings more like a piano. Both musical instruments usually use rapid alternate picking when the players want to make the sound ornate. Furthermore, their movable bridges along the body look similar, in that they are angular arch-shaped and have two long legs while the Gayageum has round arched bridges with short legs. However they differ in that the Koto has thirteen strings, while the Guzheng has twenty-one strings. It is difficult to find the differences between these two instruments because the Koto originated from the Guzheng.
The Chinese Guzheng, the Korean Gayageum, and the Japanese Koto have individual, indigenous sounds distinguishing one from the other, though they look similar externally. Each respective country’s musicians redesigned the instrument by applying to it their character which contributed to the unique sound of each one. Also, traditional instruments are connected to their own country, so people who might think that those three musical instruments look the same and have almost the same sound could find the differences easily after hearing them individually. One should not be surprised because China, Korea, and Japan share similarities between their cultures, while maintaining their own unique customs.