Dear Young People,
In the last letter I sent you I made the point that music, whether good or bad, has a profound effect on us. The question of what music we listen to, play on our instruments or sing, is an important question, and involves an important aspect of our calling to live an antithetical life in the world.
I must admit from the outset that while I enjoy singing and listening to good music, I am not a musician. I have very little knowledge of the theory of music. I have often wanted to study this subject and learn more about it, but it seems as if there has never been time to do this. I have also tried to learn to play the organ, but it soon became apparent that God had not given me this great gift. And so, what I have to say about music is mostly what I have learned from books and have thought out myself better to fulfil my calling, especially with young people, in this area of music.
I do know and firmly believe that there is in God’s creation laws governing music. If music is a gift of God, as I firmly believe that it is, music in imbedded in God’s world. In a way, this is true of all the arts. Drawings and paintings, to be good art, must obey the laws of colour, perspective, composition, etc. Not every blob of colour on a canvas is a work of art – even though in the world men apparently think so. I have been told (I cannot confirm it) that in an art show in Philadelphia many years ago one person had a chimpanzee smear colours on a canvas. Lo and behold, that painting won first prize! Works that claim to be art and break God’s rules are not art, but a perversion of art.
The same is true of music. Imbedded in God’s creation are rules of music: rules of rhythm, harmony, tempo, key (whether minor or major) note harmonics, etc. These rules have to be followed for real music to be the result.
There are those who deny this. I debated the subject once with a musician who claimed that any combination of notes constituted music. But this seems to me to be impossible. A combination of notes can be played by letting one’s two hands drop on a piano keyboard. The ensuing combination of notes cannot be considered music.
Further, music, as an art, is intended to convey some idea of some sort. Even the world seems to think this. Outrageous blobs of colour and form are given titles, titles, I presume, that are supposed to be expressive of the main idea of this particular work of art. But no one but the artist himself (maybe) can see what ideas are expressed with a mass of random colours – unless the idea is the chaos and lawlessness of our age.
These ideas expressed by works of art are, however, subtle. They are subtle because the arts appeal primarily to the emotions. Perhaps because the appeal of the arts to the emotions they are exactly the power they have to affect us. Our emotions play a very important part in our life, and appeals to our emotions have far more influence on us than we like to admit. But somehow, paintings, sculptors, pieces of music must say something to us about God and His world.
I have often wondered whether Adam and Eve knew music in Paradise. I suspect that the whole creation, unblemished by sin and the curse, was together a beautiful song of praise to God. Birds, fish, animals, trees, owers, stars, all God’s creatures joined in a beautiful chorus of praise to God. I have a book in my library. It is a book actually on science. But its title is “The Harmony of the Spheres.” The author is an unbeliever, but he is at great pains in the book to explain how all the world, from galaxies to atoms are one harmonious whole. I think he was on to something, but he insisted that all this harmony just happened by processes of evolution. How foolish!
I do know too that there are traditions of music in the world of unbelief and in the church of Christ.
The tradition of worldly and evil music began already before the flood. We are told about this in Genesis 4:21, 23, 24. The Bible says in Genesis 4:21: “His
[Jabal’s] brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.” Then we are told in verses 23, 24, “And Lamech [the father of Jabal, Jubal and Tubal-cain] said unto his wives, ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.” The words that Lamech spoke to his two wives were written as a song.
It seems as if Lamech, Adah and Zilah had three very gifted and brilliant boys. Jabal, we are told, developed the entire art of husbandry. That is, Jabal learned how to domesticate animals and use them for man’s good. He learned to use them in eld work and to use them for food: milk and meat especially. Tubal- cain invented metallurgy, the industry of making use of various metals, and even making various alloys. That is, he was an industrialist and learned to manufacture tools, weapons, and utensils for man’s use. But Jabal was the musician in the family. He not only discovered music, but invented various instruments to play the music. A harp and an organ are specifically mentioned.
And Jubal’s wicked father composed a song to sing to the music Jubal made. The lyrics of the song were terrible. Lamech was, of course, an adulterer. He was the first one we know that corrupted the institution of marriage by marrying two wives. But, however that may be, he sang a song to his two wives that told of his murder of a child of God. God’s people were sorely persecuted at this time. Enoch was taken to heaven without dying because wicked men were looking for him to kill him, for he was a preacher of righteousness (See Heb. 11:5, Jude 14). Lamech was part of that wicked bunch of people who were determined to kill all the people of God. It was so bad that when the flood came, even though the population of the world was in the millions, there were only eight people left in church.
To make the whole matter worse, Lamech composed a song to celebrate his murder, a song which boastingly put to music the murder of a child of God. And in that song he dared God to punish him: “If Cain be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seven and sevenfold.”
That was the beginning of music. That was the beginning of a whole tradition of music that is carried out throughout history and of which today’s worldly music is a part. It is a corruption of God’s gifts of music, in the same way that man corrupts every gift of God and puts it to his own sinful use.
We will continue our discussion of music next time, the Lord willing.
With love in the Lord,
Written by: Prof. Herman Hanko | Issue 9