The Christian perspective of music has always been a controversial subject. Therefore I feel compelled to start this series with a disclaimer. This post is not intended to be a standard for what is “right” or “wrong” music. Rather, my intent is to inspire you to dig into what God has to say about the music you choose to listen to.

I will try to include an example song with each major point I make. Please note that the songs that I give as examples do not necessarily reflect my personal music choices. I will try to choose music that is of good quality, and assure you that none of them will be inappropriate.

Why is Godly Music Important?

Because music is so prevalent in our culture, we often do not realize how much we are affected by what we hear. We are constantly exposed to it, whether by our own will or not. Conservative Mennonites tend to have strict standards for movies and other forms of entertainment, but musical standards are often very vague. Even if we only listen to a capella music, we can be exposed to some very harmful theological concepts.

Music is one of the most subtle forms of art, and it affects people in ways that we cannot even begin to understand. Due its complexity and variety, it is very difficult to form a set of standards to govern our listening choices. It is very important for us to grasp the concepts of music so that we can better discern whether a song is spiritually helpful or harmful.

Not only are we commanded to sing (Psalm 47:6, Ephesians 5:19), but we are also commanded to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). I believe that this is the greatest calling in forming convictions about music. We are not asked to exclusively listen to music that praises God, but it is God’s command that everything we listen to brings glory to Him.

What is Music?

The Basics

According to the free dictionary, music is “the art of arranging sounds in time so as to produce a continuous, unified, and evocative composition, as through melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre.” It is an art form that is very prevalent in cultures around the world. Let’s take a look at the different basic elements of music.

  • Melody – This is the “tune” of a song. It does not need to have rhythm or tempo, but must contain some form of pitch. This can either be a single pitch drone or a rising and falling tune. The melody is the part of the song that you hear someone humming to themselves. A song with a single melody is called monophony (example). A song that has more than one independent melody is called polyphony (example). Melodies are usually written in either a major key (example) or minor key (example), which helps to define the general mood of the song.
  • Harmony – This consists of other notes sung or played with the melody. They support the melody and add depth and emotion to the song. Although harmony usually is written to blend with and support the melody, composers often write harmony with “clashing” notes to add character to a song. For an example, this performance uses harmony and this performance does not.
  • Rhythm – This is the “beat” of a song. Most music has some form of rhythm. The rhythm is the repetitive pattern of accented and unaccented beats in a song – it is what makes you want to tap your foot or nod your head when listening to a song. This pattern varies based on the meter (usually defined by the time signature) of a song. The speed at which a rhythm is performed is called the tempo. Rhythm can be constant (e.g. marching), alternating (e.g. swinging), or syncopated.

If you have any questions about any of these terms, do a quick Google search. There is an infinite wealth of YouTube videos explaining every aspect of music. I encourage you to research what sparks your curiosity. It will help you understand and appreciate music better.

 

Next up: understanding syncopation

 

References:
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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