Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Heavenly Dance

I love music. I love all kinds of music, whether it was written 500 years ago, or last week. Although it certainly isn't always used to glorify God, I believe that, like many things we misuse, it is a gift to us from God, designed to help us understand him more, and express ourselves to him.

Most of all, I love choral music! I know that's strange to say, because that isn't the kind of music you hear on the radio much, even if you choose to listen to a classical station, but I think the reason I love it is because so many people can do it. It doesn't require much equipment; we all have voices, though some are more blessed than others. It doesn't always require printed music; many can harmonize by ear. It doesn't always require a conductor or an instrumental accompaniment; beautiful songs can be sung without those. But it does require cooperation, agreement, listening, and collaboration to sing harmoniously. It is a communal effort with a common goal- to make a beautiful sound, and express a feeling or thought.

I found a great quote from a man who created a commotion in the world of church music with his emphasis on choral harmonies:

"When man's natural musical ability is whetted and polished to the extent that it becomes an art, then do we note with great surprise the great and perfect wisdom of God in music, which is, after all, His product and His gift; we marvel when we hear music in which one voice sings a simple melody, while three, four, or five other voices play and trip lustily around the voice that sings its simple melody and adorn this simple melody wonderfully with artistic musical effects, thus reminding us of a heavenly dance, where all meet in a spirit of friendliness, caress and embrace. A person who gives this some thought and yet does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs."

(Martin Luther, 1538, in his foreword to a collection of chorale motets)

Good old Luther! I think he and I would have been friends, had we shared the same moment in history.

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