Music Over the Ages

By: Danielle Lee

Music, or a form of music has been played or sung from the beginning of time. It is a beautiful oral tradition that is and was passed along to people through the passages of the ages. Music was used to celebrate humanity, our love of the Lord. It can also represent the more despicable elements of our nature. It has the ability to represent and elicit any and all emotion.

Chanting was the first form of written music that was discovered in 800 BC. Chanting is a type of music that monks typically sang for religious reasons. It normally has 2 or 3 notes in it and is very simplistic in tune.

The most interesting thing about chants, in which the tradition is evident in today’s music, is how the direction of the melody clearly lets the listener know when there are lyrics of significance to listen to.  For example, when music goes up or down in notes, tempo or volume, there is always a significance worth noting in the lyrics.

For example, when a hymn or contemporary piece of music has something important to say it is commonplace for melodies to change direction in a rather dramatic way. Think about “Shine Jesus Shine.”  The first couple of lyrics use the word ‘shining,’ in which the melody goes up. The word ‘shining’ is an important word in the lyrics and the change in melody points this out.  It says “Lord the light of your love is shining, in the midst of the darkness, shining.”

Another point I would like to highlight is that music should be created for the sake of exhibiting or triggering a certain emotion. In the Early Church days there were many ‘hymns’ that were created that were not only non-biblical but also sung for the sake of cohesion such as in the Old Catholic Masses. I’m not saying that is a bad thing, but rather in my opinion music should always generate a sort of emotion to help listeners understand the music better. It should be the purpose of composition. In Christian music, the emotion that comes from listening to it should be one that allows people to feel the presence of God and praise Him!

Finally, music should be created or composed with the right intentions when it comes to Christian music. If Christian music is written with anger towards a historical moment for example, then it is not written for the praise and worship of God. A good example of having the right intentions would be the Psalms. I am specifically thinking about Psalm 35 when David seems to ask God to take over his fights emotionally and physically. Although, David seems angry at God for allowing him to have enemies he still is thinking about God in a conscious way that still speaks to God. David had his intentions right.

“In Christ Alone,” is a perfect example of these three important characteristics of Christian music. “What heights of love, what depth of peace,” is leading to the climax of the song. The melody raises in anticipation of what Christ can do for us, or what he has done for us. This song tugs at my heart strings and was clearly composed to do so as well as to praise God.