The “Dumbing Down” of Music?

OK, so maybe this doesn’t sound like the most “spiritual” topic to you; perhaps you think I am just going to “vent” about some of my pet peeves concerning music today, especially as it relates to the current church scene.  Well, please bear with me.  I think you’ll find some interesting observations here that may even get you thinking about some issues you may not have thought of!

A few weeks ago my husband and I visited a nearby church that featured a very “free” style contemporary praise band.  Although it was loud, it wasn’t any different than countless other churches I had been in which featured the same style of “three chord” simplistic “praise” music, complete with several guitars, drums, keyboards, etc.  You get my drift!  Anyway, about twenty minutes into the worship, the lady seated directly in front of us started to put her hands over her ears as if in intense pain.  I hoped she was OK!  Then, she whispered something to her husband and left the sanctuary.  I assumed she wouldn’t be back until the worship was over; it was quite apparent she found the music too loud for her ears.  Well, to my great surprise, she emerged again in just a couple of minutes with two ear plugs in her hands, which she promptly put in and continued sitting by her husband!  Needless to say, I don’t think she was getting much out of the worship!

In sharp contrast, we recently visited a rehearsal for a world-renowned church choir with a more liturgical or classical slant to their music.  As they sang, I noticed the woman sitting in front of me began wiping tears from her eyes as she pulled a hanky from her purse.  Obviously, she was greatly moved emotionally by the song and the tears followed.

Now, what do these two incidents have in common, you may ask?  To my mind, it seemed as if the first woman, who was obviously there to worship, was not getting a thing out of the musical service.  She was “enduring” it!  In sharp contrast, the second woman was moved to tears by the sheer emotion exuded by a great composer and glorious choir and was obviously touched somewhere down in her soul!

I have read many times Psalm 33:3, “Sing unto Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.”  (NKJV)

I’ve used this verse so many times to encourage people to take piano (or another instrument) lessons, or even learn to sing properly, when I had my teaching studio in Texas for over 28 years.  As a student of classical music myself, I have a deep appreciation for good music, properly performed.  Badly performed music leaves me cold!   When a person has sung or played beautiful, challenging music with intricate and fascinating chord structures and patterns, such as I have, it is extremely difficult not to be bored with the current three chord “pablum” being offered up as the sole choice for any given worship service in many churches.  Any other alternative, such as time-honored hymns written by revered musicians, men and women of God, are sadly viewed as absolutely unacceptable in some churches!  It sometimes appears that the churches who wish to have a “free” worship style and move into “praise and worship” also fail to utilize great music and seasoned, well-trained musicians who can play “skillfully” as the Word mentions in Psalms.  It seems to be the “dumbing down” of music!

Interestingly,  Numbers 8:24-26 speaks of the Levites (the priests) serving in the tabernacle from the age of 25-50.  In I Chronicles   23:3-5  we read that the Levites from the age of 30 and up numbered 38,000 and of that number 24,000 were to carry forward the work of the house of the Lord.  Of this number, we read in verse 5:  “…four thousand praised the Lord with the instruments which I made, said David to praise therewith.” (KJV)  I want to get into this whole concept of trained, paid temple musicians more in future postings, but suffice it to say that by reading about the Levites, many of whom were musicians, we see that they were first of all trained, then spent many years actually performing as musicians before spending the last part of their lives teaching the next generation of musicians coming up!  In II Chronicles 20 we read that the singers and musicians led the  army against the enemy as they sang and praised God!  Verse 28 mentions “stringed instruments and harps and trumpets, to the house of the Lord.”  (NKJV)

It is obvious (and we will get into this subject more later) that these were skilled musicians,  anointed by God to lead the praise and worship!  Is there room for more than one type of music in our worship today?  I think that the answer is emphatically, yes!  Different styles minister to different people; it has not as much to do with age as with preference.  Does everyone like the same kind of food or pick the same thing at a buffet?  Do we all order the same food off the menu?  The same is true with our musical tastes.  Skilled musicians are going to have a greater appreciation for a deeper type of musical genre than someone who has had no musical training, perhaps.  Should we honor differing musical tastes in our worship times?  I believe we should!  If someone is not worshiping, but using ear plugs to endure, perhaps the whole idea of helping everyone enter into the presence of God has been lost!

Let’s stop picking apart each other’s musical tastes and admit that God loves variety and diversity.  Why not help each other enter into worship by respecting  various musical preferences and allow skilled, trained musicians to help us enter into the presence of God!

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