Monday, December 29, 2008

Joseph Funk Research Project

I was notified last week that I did receive the research grant I applied for! They awarded more money than I asked for, so they must have thought it would take more time than I thought, or my travel budget was unreasonably small.
I narrowed my research to two basic questions:

1. How does Funk's hymnal, the Harmonia Sacra, differ from other tunebooks, and why was it more successful than so many similar publications of the era?

2. What methods did Funk incorporate in his teaching and musical publications that made his efforts in spreading musical literacy so successful?

I have started to read through the material I got through my initial library search. I found a couple of published dissertations that look like they will prove very helpful. I'm hoping to get a lot of the reading done during Spring semester so I can travel to Virginia and Indiana early in the summer. That way I will have more of the summer to work on getting my research together.

It will be a lot of work, but I am very excited for this project!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Why Every Christian Should Sing

I'm still working through Jones' collection of essays (Singing and Making Music: Issues in Church Music Today), and I just ran into another portion I thought was excellent and very applicable to the Church today. I would like to post a few quotes from his essay "Why Every Christian Should Sing."
Frequently I encounter men and women who say that they "do not sing." There are many reasons for their lack of vocal participation, but I have yet to hear one from anyone with working vocal folds that would be an adequate excuse before God. Fear is the least-cited but generally all-inclusive reason. It takes many forms: fear of error or embarrassment, fear of what others think, fear of losing control, fear of criticism, fear of offending others. Such self-conscious behavior may be appropriate to certain situations, or aspects of our person, but it has little place in the corporate worship of the Almighty God. God never said, "If you feel good enough about yourself, sing to me," or "As long as you have a peer-approved voice, praise me in song." According to Scripture, the praise of God is not an optional activity.

Most of the rest of the essay contains examples of singing saints in the Bible, specific commands to sing (mostly from Psalms and Isaiah), examples of heavenly beings singing, and of Jesus himself singing.
Jones ends the essay with a summary list of reasons we should sing:
We should sing because of God's attributes and acts in creation and redemption. We should sing because this was the exemplary response of biblical saints. We should sing because God has commanded us to do so. We should sing because it is a Christian and heavenly activity of eternal duration and significance.
If we do not sing, we disobey God and miss out on the rich blessings derived from this activity.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Paul S. Jones on the Mass

I have been reading Paul Jones' book Singing and Making Music: Issues in Church Music Today which was recommended to me by Mark Reagan. I am enjoying it very much so far! I ran across a paragraph on the Mass as way to organize worship, and I found it very refreshing after several discussions about worship styles and organizational techniques in my Music and Christian Faith class.
The Mass is a marvelous structure for organized worship--it is liturgy at its finest, imbued with Scripture, carefully honed and internationally utilized for centuries. It begins with acknowledgment of our need for God's mercy, moves into praise and thanksgiving, declares our faith, reminds us of God's holiness and the significance of the one who speaks in his Name, and finally confirms the finished work of Christ while recalling our daily need of him. We should not fear the Mass as liturgy but feel the liberty to employ it or elements of it to aid our gathered worship.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wake, Awake for Night is Flying

One of my favorite pieces we performed at my school's Christmas Concert this year was "Wake, Awake for Night is Flying." We have used it in worship for years at my Church, but practicing it so intensely and performing it made it make more sense to me.

Wake, awake, for night is flying;
The watchmen on the heights are crying:
Awake, Jerusalem, at last!
Midnight hears the welcome voices
And at the thrilling cry rejoices;
Come forth, ye virgins, night is past;
The Bridegroom comes, awake;
Your lamps with gladness take;
Alleluia! And for His marriage feast prepare
For ye must go and meet Him there.

Zion hears the watchmen singing,
And all her heart with joy is springing;
She wakes, she rises from her gloom;
For her Lord comes down all glorious,
The strong in grace, in truth victorious.
Her Star is risen, her Light is come.
Ah come, Thou blessed One, God’s own beloved Son:
Alleluia! We follow till the halls we see
Where Thou hast bid us sup with Thee.

Now let all the heavens adore Thee,
And saints and angels sing before Thee,
With harp and cymbal’s clearest tone;
Of one pearl each shining portal,
Where we are with the choir immortal
Of angels round Thy dazzling throne;
Nor eye hath seen, nor ear hath yet attained to hear
What there is ours, but we rejoice and sing to Thee
Our hymn of joy eternally.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Trinity's Lessons and Carols

My family went to the Episcopal Lessons and Carols service at the Portland Trinity Cathedral this Sunday evening. It has been a while since I attended a service at any Church but my own, but I think it is good to get out and see what the rest of the Body of Christ is doing.

We were all immediately struck with the beauty and glory of the sanctuary when we entered the church. The high ceilings, stained-glass windows, and wood and stone produce a different atmosphere for worship than most modern Church architecture. The Church was drastically remodeled in the past 25 years to accommodate the Rosales pipe organ.

The service, in spite of some of the bizarre readings (I don’t think Trinity is very conservative as far as churches go), was very good. It was a mix of readings, music by the choir, and carols for the congregation. The choral music was excellent, and it is always great to sing with an organ. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the congregational singing. Most of the people there were the age of my parents or older, but they seemed to know how to sing!
It was an excellent way to begin the Advent season.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hymns vs. Praise Choruses

In my "Music and Christian Faith" class, we are having a lot of discussion about the value/importance/use of hymns and praise choruses. We discuss the content of the two forms, which has more intrinsic value, what worldviews they might promote, what purpose they might fulfill and if the musical setting is even important at all, but while we think about these two forms, I think we take a very narrow view of the options for musical worship. We start to think "Hymns or praise choruses," but I suggest that these are not the only options out there!

The Psalms seemed to be ignored in this debate over hymns and praise choruses, and this puzzles me a little. The Psalms have been the primary source of songs for worship for thousands of years, but they have been largely abandoned in the Evangelical Church today. Complete Psalms have not been set to "chorus" music yet, but they can be sung in metrical styles (like hymns), and plainchant, in monotone chant, or in Anglican chant, all of which are possible for a congregation with a knowledgeable leader and a little practice.

Second, I think we can expand the definition of "hymn." In my class, I think most people are unconsciously defining "hymn" as 18th and 19th century devotional poetry set to 19th century music. Augustine defines "hymn" as "a song in praise of God," which covers a lot more than the common definition above (praise choruses would actually be under Augustine's definition as well). We should expand our thinking about hymns to cover the songs written by men from the Early Church and the Medieval Church. Why limit ourselves to the past 300 years?

It is easy in America today to forget that we, as the people of God, are part of a family that includes Adam, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, Job, David, Jehoshaphat, Isaiah, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Peter, James, John, Paul, Basil, Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory, Anselm, Bonaventure, Josquin, Luther, Calvin, Schutz, Richard Cameron, Bach, John Bradford, George Washington, Haydn, R.E. Lee, Mendelssohn, Jonathon Edwards, Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Van Til, Rushdoony, Jim Jordan, and Dennis Tuuri. When we sing the songs the saints have used throughout the centuries, we remember that we as Christians are here for the long-haul. We can learn from these saints who have gone before. Try to sing songs from across the breadth of Christian history. It will bring that "cloud of witnesses" one step closer.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Joseph Funk Research Project

I'm in the process of putting together a research proposal through the Richter Scholars program at George Fox. I think I want to do some research on Joseph Funk, the "Father of Sacred Music" in Virginia. He published a good and early hymnal (1832) called the Harmonia Sacra, taught singing schools, and printed and sold thousands of copies of his hymnals and other musical materials. I only have a couple weeks to put the proposal together at this point, but I think it's possible. There doesn't seem to be much written about him, but he seems to be an important figure in American sacred music. The Richter Scholars program grants funding for research, pays for some travel, and even pays students a stipend!
If I get the proposal together and they accept it, it might fill up my summer.

Monday, November 17, 2008

CREC Memorial on Worship

The Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches has a number of "Memorials" that outline the official position of the the denomination on different issues (abortion, homosexuality, terrorism and other current topics). My pastor (Dennis Tuuri) wrote the majority of the memorial on worship. We have been talking through it the last couple weeks on Sundays. The whole memorial is a little over two pages long, but here is paragraph eight, which is specifically on music:

8. We believe that these portions of the Bible also teach us that each of these glorious aspects of worship are to be set in the context of beautiful music that is maturing in both voice and instrument, to the praise of Christ the King.

Supporting Scripture passages include I Chron. 15:16, 25:6, 7; Ps. 98:4-6; 144:9; 150; Rev. 5:8; 14:2,3; 15:2, 3.

This single sentance covers a lot of ground. 1. What we do in worship is done through music (not all, but most). 2. We aren't making this up. The Bible teaches us to use music, and it has been practiced by the Church through most of history. 3. The music is to be "beautiful," which is hard to define, but it suggests there is some sort of objective standard for beauty that we can work towards. 4. We are to keep maturing. We are to move from glory to glory (II Cor. 3:18) moving towards Christian maturity. God is pleased with simple music if it is the best that can be offered, but you shouldn't stay there. 5. We are to use instruments as well as voices. This is clearly stated throughout the Bible, but especially in the Psalms and in Revelation. If David, a man after God's own heart used instruments (and even invented new instruments!) and instruments are used in heaven, I think we can safely say God is pleased when we use instruments for His praise. 6. Our music is to be made in worship to God. It's primary purpose is not to make us feel good or worshipful, or to make the visitor feel comfortable or good about themselves. Its first purpose is to glorify God through reflecting the Beauty, Goodness and Truth of His character. If it does this properly, it will result in the maturation of the Saints.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Singing as a Part of the Christian Life

(This was a response to a post by another student that claimed that Christians don't need to sing, but can just praise God is whatever way they feel comfortable with.)

I have been reading the Psalms a lot for the past two or three years and I think it can at least be said that God wants us to sing to Him. A brief search on the word "sing" in the Psalms came up with around 26 commands/encouragements to sing to Him. We can allegorize this and apply this to other ways of praising God, but don't think we should ignore the simple meaning of the text. If it says to sing to God that many times, He probably means it!

We can praise the Lord in many other ways, but I think that singing His praises should receive special attention and time. We can praise Him in other ways besides singing (the Psalms are filled with exhortations to praise Him as well), but with this many imperatives, I think we can safely say singing is something that pleases God, and he expects it from His people. I believe that it should be part of the Christian life.

There are at least 26 exhortations to sing to God in the Psalms, but there are as many as 50 places in the Psalms where is says something to the effect of "I will sing to God." So everyone should sing to God because He commands it. Just because that is true doesn't mean you alone are responsible to make that happen. We don't have to "judge" everyone that isn't fulfilling that responsibility. We are responsible for ourselves and those God has put under our care. We can encourage others to sing, and train them to do it better, and try to show them that God loves it when we sing to Him, but we start with ourselves. "I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me." Psalm 13:6.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame

I'm looking at different graduate schools right now and one of the five schools offering a Master of Sacred Music is Notre Dame in Indiana. I don't know much about their program yet, but a couple of things attract me, including their chapel. I wonder how it is to sing in. The Catholics still have retained some of the sense of beauty and glory of God and worship of Him that much of Christianity has lost.

RCC "Top Ten Hits"

A couple weeks ago I was given the "RCC Top Ten List" of songs we use in worship. This is a list compiled by one of the long time members of Reformation Covenant Church.

1. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
2. Psalm 98
3. O Sing a New Song to the Lord (This is the same song as above...?)
4. From Heaven O Praise the Lord (Ps. 148)
5. Now Shall My Inward Joy Arise (Africa)
6. Lorica (St. Patrick's Breastplate)
7. I To the Hills Will Lift My Eyes (Ps. 121)
8. Before Thee Let My Cry Come Near (Ps. 119-Russia)
9. Holy, Holy, Holy
10. TBA

I don't believe that what the congregation "likes" is what is always absolutely best, or even best for them, but I find this list helpful in understanding what resonates with the congregation (one member at least). I found it interesting that nearly all of these Psalms and hymns are set to American music (with the exception of the Lorica, and possibly Ps. 121). The music is mostly 18th and 19th century hymn and Psalm tunes with a couple of good fuging tunes thrown in. I was happy with the high percentage of Psalms! 5 out of 9, if you count Psalm 98 twice.
I should ask more people in my church for their list of favorites and see how they compare.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What is Worship?

Worship can be briefly defined as acknowledgment and adoration of the sovereign Creator God. In a larger sense, all of life is worship. We worship God by living our lives in service and obedience to Him.

To understand what worship means in a more narrow sense, I suggest we look to the Bible. Here we see spontaneous worship (Genesis 24:26, Joshua 5:14, Judges 7:15, Matthew 2:11, 14:33, John 9:38, etc.), prepared, or regular worship, private and public (Genesis 4:2-7, 22:1-18, I Samuel 15:10-25 etc.), and public, congregational worship, which is usually more liturgical (Leviticus 1-9, I Kings 8:54, II Chronicles 29:21-36, Luke 2:42-43, Revelation 7:11 etc.). This more “formal” worship can happen with one person reading their Bible and praying to God, or when “a few are gathered together” to worship and/or praise Him, but the “pinnacle” of worship is when a congregation, representing the Body of Christ comes together for formal worship. Historically, this public congregational worship has been based on the model for worship given by God to his people in Leviticus (a whole book in the Bible about worship!).

In Leviticus, we have the all the sacrifices described in detail along with the description of the tabernacle with all the goats’ skins, brass basins, altars of incense and other stuff that can look boring to us, but in this book we have God’s model for our worship of Him is spelled out in great detail to His people. What follows is a summary of the model given in Leviticus and a summary of how this model is reflected in New Covenant (or New Testament) worship.

Worship consists of a series of sacrifices in a particular order with certain meanings. The basic order of worship is given very succinctly in Leviticus 9:22. “Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings.” Worship begins with the sin offering because we must be made clean and holy before we can come to God to worship. We confess our sins, and God is faithful to forgive and make us holy. This is represented by the Kyrie or its equivalent in the historical Christian worship service.

The sin offering is followed by the ascension offering, or the whole burnt offering. In this offering, the worshiper, represented by his animal was “torn apart,” and put back together again as a sweet smelling smoke ascending to God. In New Covenant worship, we are ascending to the throne room of God to worship. After God forgives us, we respond with song as He lifts us up to worship Him. This section of the Mass is the most musically involved and includes the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Benedictus. We glorify God for His forgiveness of our sins (Gloria), profess our faith (Credo), join with the angels in heaven through the Sanctus and Benedictus. The teaching part of the service also happens here. We are “cut apart” by the Word (Sword of the Spirit), and put back together again as people better equipped to serve God.

The whole burnt offering, or ascension offering was accompanied by the grain offering (also called the tribute offering) where we bring God representation of our work. The Israelites offered grain that God had given them improved by grinding, baking, and covering it in oil and incense. Some of it was burnt as an offering to God, but most of it was kept for the priests (think pastors, musicians etc.) to eat. This is the tithe that supports the Church.

Liturgical worship climaxes with the peace offerings as we sit down to eat a meal with God. Part of the peace offering was burnt as an offering to God, part of it was given to the priests, but the majority of it was eaten by the worshiper and his family. When we take communion, we sit down to eat a meal with God. He feeds us from His table. We also remember His sacrifice for us, which is greater than any sacrifice that we offer to Him. He administers His Grace to us through the sacrament of communion. In the historical liturgy, the Eucharist was accompanied by the Angus Dei.

When we worship, we offer our praises and prayers to God, but in the end, God has given us so much more back. Worship can almost be seen as a sort of transaction (I know that sounds kind of bad). We offer our praises and prayer, and covenant to serve God better, and God forgives us our sins, teaches us from His Word, and lets us enter into the community of God through Communion.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What is music?
Many definitions of music have been put forward, but short and concise definitions seem to fall short. Music has been defined as “organized sound,” but that seems to encompass more than just music. The puffing of a steam engine, and the whine of a siren are both “organized sound” and while they may have some musical aspects, they are not real music. Some say that music is “emotion externalized” but so is a kiss or a punch in the nose.

Music has been defined as “the poetry of the air,” “the mediator between the spiritual and sensual life” (Beethoven), “the wine the fills the cup of silence” (Robert Fripp), “the universal language of mankind” (Longfellow), and “moonlight in the gloomy night of life” (Jean Richter). Some of these might be helpful, but they don’t really get at what music literally is. Martin Luther kind of sums it up when he says “The riches of music are so excellent and so precious that words fail me whenever I attempt to discuss and describe them…” Music really defies definition.

One definition in the dictionary for music is “an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.” This does not sound as poetic or profound as some of the definitions above, but it is more specific and I find it more helpful. I would modify that and say music is a combination of pitch, rhythm, harmony, timbre and form.

Pitch makes up all melody and harmony and is present in all of what is commonly called music. Rhythm covers all the time element of music. Music is a performance art, and it cannot be music without time. Meter, tempo, and length of the music all fall under the rhythm category. Harmony is present in almost all music, and has been developed to very high degree in the West. Some monophonic music lacks harmony (it is still sort of present in the overtone series), but harmony is often still implied. Color, or timbre is what makes a guitar sound different than an oboe. Form is also present in all music whether it be in Sonata-Allegro form, or a simple AB folk song like Arkansas Traveler.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Since I'm thinking and writing about a lot of important musical issues right now for a couple of my classes at college, I thought I'd put together a blog to post some of thoughts.
Questions important to me right now include:
What is good music?
How do we know?
What is the purpose of music in the Church?
How do we best reach that goal?
What kind of music should be used in the Church?
How can the Church again become a former of culture and art?