Encouraging a higher standard for Christian music

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~ Chapter 5 ~ Music – The Sound and the Unsound

“A THOUGHT-PROVOKING LOOK AT HUMANITY’S MOST INFLUENTIAL FORM OF EXPRESSION, MUSIC  – THE SOUND AND THE UNSOUND

MUSIC

THE SOUND

AND THE

UNSOUND

C H A P T E R  F I V E

THE MUSIC OF LAODICEA

“…that first little dirty song that slipped out on the radio without being censored, that ‘roll ’em girlies, roll ’em down and show your pretty knees,’  that was the first slip-up right there.”21

The year was 1925. William Jennings Bryant and Clarence Darrow battled in a Tennessee courtroom over the issue of evolution;  in Germany, an ex-prisoner by the name of Adolf Hitler published his memoirs which he titled Mein Kampf;  a new dance craze called the Charleston kept arms and legs flying in 4/4 time;  and across America, radio became a major source of family entertainment, ushering in what came to be known as the Golden Age of Broadcasting.

Undoubtedly, the most revolutionary advancement of the early 1900s was the recording of sound. Man had at last discovered for himself an earthly, if somewhat fragile, immortality, and the force of its influence transformed our world and dominated our lives. It was good: No longer did we have to rely on memory or evoke imagination to recall the voice of a loved one, the performance of the musician, or the intonations of the orator. It was bad: It opened doors into darkened sanctums, and with our minds we walked through those doors and into places we would never have allowed our feet to take us.

Music now occupied the center stage of the world, a feat unthought-of before the arrival of phonograph and radio. And its unique abilities to attract, entertain, teach, cajole, and influence its listeners was not overlooked by the smut-peddlers of the day.

Listen girls, listen girls

I’ve a word for you,

Just because you’re up to date

And do the things you do,

Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t act nice,

You’re as sweet as Grandma was

So take my advice.

Roll ’em girls, roll ’em

Go ahead and roll ’em

Roll’em down and show your pretty knees,

Roll ’em girls roll ’em, everybody roll ’em

Roll ’em high or low just as you please.

Don’t let people tell you that it’s shocking,

Paint your sweetie’s picture on your stocking,

Laugh at Ma, laugh at Pa,

Give them all the ha! ha!

Roll ’em girlies, roll ’em, roll your own.

Roll ’Em Girls by Marr, Heath, and Fletcher

Copyright 1925, Joe Mords Music Co.

Selfish, provocative, and defiant, “Roll ’em Girls” opened fire on old time religion in a new, teasing way. Uncensored, it slipped its  subtle  message of  immorality onto the airwaves and into the subconscious of an unwary public. A pathway had been cleared through the field of broadcasting for an army of musical goblins that was fast advancing on the horizon.

Gospel music continued to contribute its share to the musical stew. In 1929, the Graves Brothers recorded what they called “rockin’ and reelin’ spirituals” for Paramount Records – based loosely on the kind of congregational singing that was being heard in Holiness and Pentecostal churches throughout the South.  In 1934 a live recording was made in a backwoods church that proclaimed:

“Oh, my Lord! Oh, my Lordy! Well, well, well! I’ve gotta rock! You gotta rock!”22

At the onset of the 40s, it was estimated that fully half of all Pentecostal Christians lived below the Mason-Dixon line, and most of that half were hillbillys – dirt-poor farmers and sharecroppers. In the North, member churches thrived principally in lower-class neighborhoods, and by 1945, four fifths of the 500 black churches in Chicago were of the Pentecostal variety. Pianos and organs were beyond the financial reach of most of these ‘holy roller’ congregations, but with guitar, drums, and horns they supplied the rhythm for the dancing feet and swaying bodies that were now an integral part of the Pentecostal church service.

As they struggled for position on the ladder to stardom, it was inevitable that those musicians who had been raised in church would begin to combine that familiar gospel fervor with the worldly lyrics and vocal characteristics of the pop(popular) and country (hillbilly) music of the day. But, for the general population of the 1940s, music was still as much segregated between blacks and whites, as were all other aspects of social life. This newest musical offering was simply too ‘racy’ for the mainstream music market. Outraged parents protested when radio DJs tried to introduce white youth to the ‘jungle beat’ of  ‘race’ music.

In 1947 a new term was coined: “Teenager.” And what teenagers wanted to listen to was something that moved them. They wanted to clap, sing, and dance. They wanted to “Shake, Rattle, and Roll.”  The alliance of youth, rebellion, and sexuality (albeit as old as time) was explosive. It didn’t take record producers long to realize that if they could just find a white man who could sing with the style, energy, and passion of a black singer, they could both satisfy the teenage lusts, soothe parental concerns, and take control of the music industry in one fell swoop.

At the same time, it was unmistakably clear that American music was once again experiencing birth pains. Blues, jazz, ragtime, boogie-woogie, pop, country – all the driving energy and carnality that a generation eager to put the war behind it could muster – had come to term. And the evidence suggested that this offspring would be the most noisy that music had ever produced – a noisy, rebellious, American brat to grab the attention of the entire world. Its name was Rock’ n ’roll.

In 1954, a young truck driver named Elvis Presley recorded an old blues number titled “That’s All Right Mama” at Sam Phillip’s studio in Memphis, Tennessee, and by 1956 the phenomenon dubbed Presley mania had the entire music industry all shook up. They knew they had found their man.

“Pentecostalism was folded into the substance of Elvis’s music, like eggs folded into pancake batter…”23 but in the process, the eggshell that had separated inspiration from exploitation, wholesome from unwholesome, had been cracked. The very definition of music was being blurred, and willingly America listened, as all of hell broke loose.

Editor’s note:
Taken from the magazine ONLY BELIEVE (no longer in publication). The regression of music amongst our churches is a cancer which, if not properly dealt with, will suck the true Life out of The Church. This downward spiral is caused by a lack of discernment and a general lowering of standards by a generation wanting something new and different rather than stand fast, and hold to what is tried and true, proven, and right. Many have failed to heed the warning expressed in this article. Innumerable groups, bands, and various musical artists spawned forth since Brother and Sister Smith published this article in December 1991, [Vol. 4, No 3].  No doubt the Christian artists she names here gave birth to groups like: MercyMe,KutlessNewSongSidewalk prophets The David Crowder band,Casting CrownsJeremy Camp, and Third Day to name a few. If Brother Branham called people like Pat Boone, modern day Judases, obviously these are too. What kind of person feeds off these groups, and promotes their demonic inspired lyrics and music within our churches? I pray this article will help someone. (the pictures are mine) – [DM – discerningMusic editor]
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~ Chapter 3 ~ Music – The Sound and the Unsound


“A thought-provoking look at humanity’s most influential form of expression, MUSIC  – The Sound and the Unsound

Music

THE SOUND

AND THE

UNSOUND

 

C H A P T E R  T H R E E

MUSIC AND RELIGION THROUGH THE AGES

“As soon as they went out from the Presence of the Lord, they started building cities, they started making instruments, they started in science – making brass and iron, and they started playing music. Where did it come from? Who went out? Cain, the serpent’s seed. “9

Within man there exists an inherent impulse to worship. God even provisioned our physical beings with an instrument through which we can declare our devotion – the human voice. When we choose to vary  the  melody  and rhythm of our vocal sounds, the result is music, and nothing characterizes the very essence of worship like the unornamented songs of man.

The Bible gives us very few written clues concerning the first music  produced by man, but our oldest existent vocal traditions, such as that of the Jewish cantor, the Moslem muezzin calling the faithful to prayer, or even the chanting of the North American Indian, indicate that mankind’s first musical expressions were likely a part of his religious experience. As man’s musical skills developed, he began to fashion instruments from what he found in nature – bones, horns, willow bark, animal skin and gut – and he adapted these materials to suit his personal needs. Jubal, the great-great-great-great grandson of Cain, was “the father of all such as handle the harp and organ, ” (instrumental music) Genesis 4:21, reflecting the love of beauty and the arts, which was his birthright.

In time, as men developed their artistic abilities, music began to take on many forms and serve many functions, both sacred and profane. From generation to generation, musical expression played such a vital part in cultural development that the religious morals and social values of a given community reflected in the quality of the music that they produced.

Most music produced by the people of the Bible never developed beyond simple homogeneous songs and chants with basic accompaniment of harps, trumpets, and cymbals. Much of the Hebrew music was consecrated to the service of the Temple worship, but throughout the Scriptures there are numerous accounts of secular use also: songs of triumph after victory, songs at marriage celebrations and festivals, songs for shepherds and for kings.

In the great temples of ancient Egypt, the priests trained choirs in the singing of ritual music to pagan gods. Their songs were complemented by the clapping together of sticks and disks.

At the same time, in other parts of the world, more primitive societies evoked their deities in a wild abandon of religious fervor and emotional ecstasy, accompanied by the pounding of syncopated rhythms on a hollow log.

Music has always left behind evidence of its effect upon a given society. One can even trace the rise and fall of civilizations by making a parallel study of the types of music listened to during the corresponding era.10 Four hundred years before the birth of Christ, the Greek philosopher Plato said, “When modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state change with them. Through foolishness they deceived themselves into thinking that there was no right or wrong in music, that it was to be judged good or bad by the pleasure it gave.”

At the time of Christ, both vocal and instrumental music were flourishing. Jesus and His followers participated in the traditional Jewish synagogue music, and undoubtedly this directly influenced early Christian songs. The ornamented cantonal melodies were adapted to the new teachings of Christ and absorbed into the fledgling Christian faith. It was common practice for a cantor to serve a synagogue on Friday evening and then place his skills at the disposal of the Christians on Sunday.11

Instrumental music played no part in the life of the early Christian church. Instruments had too many associations with the debauched life of Rome, and only the voice was considered to have the purity and nobility worthy of God’s ear. Cantorial chant evolved gradually into a slow-moving, unison singing called plainsong (later known as Gregorian chant), which dominated Christian worship for a thousand years. During the  Middle Ages, there was an attempt by the church-world to gain widespread control of music by deeming certain chords to be un-harmonious and therefore blasphemous and unworthy to reflect the glory of God. The church denounced all music that was unsanctified by a sacred text.

In 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg (accusing the Roman Catholic church of corruption) and the Reformation was born. Luther, an accomplished musician, threw out much of the old church music and wrote new hymns, bringing the language of the people (rather than Latin) into use for sacred songs. He declared, “ Nothing on earth is more powerful than noble music in making the sad joyful, the arrogant discreet, the despondent valiant; in charming the haughty to humility, and in mitigating envy and hatred.” Luther believed that music in the church served as a resounding sermon,12 and he is accredited with saying that he didn’t care who preached, as long as he wrote the song. By acknowledging the staying power of music in the worship experience, Luther single-handedly established congregational singing as an important part of the Christian church service. Elements of harmony, which had been reserved previously for highly trained musicians of the church, were now being mastered and sung by the common people. Music and religious worship became bonded into one, inseparable experience. It seemed that the fellowship of a common faith could be expressed through song far more effectively than through a formalized cannon, dogma, or ritual of the church.

In secular use, music was becoming a melting pot of sounds. The clash of cultures, which had been launched by the Crusades in 1096, brought many different musical traditions together, and increasingly these new harmonies and rhythms found their way into the music of Europe. Near the end of the sixteenth century, new printing methods and a newly developed system of musical notation made possible the duplication of every kind of music and placed it on the open market. It was the dawning of a new day for both the composer and the performer. Music was on its way to becoming a universal language.

With the passing of the centuries, there was also a darker, more sinister form of music finding expression and establishing its place within the musical brotherhood of mankind. This music involved a complex primitive theology embracing fetishes, totems, and magic. It was born in the sacrificial incantations to a river god, nurtured by the unimaginable horrors of slavery, and released upon the New World to wage war with the God of Christianity. It was called  ‘voodoo,’ and its throbbing beat prophesied of the evil fruit it would yield.

By the early 1600s, the Western colonization of other lands was a growing concern. Spanish and Portuguese colonies in the New World and Africa were already well established, and an armada of ships operated by slave traders plied the waters from Western Europe to the coast of Africa. After picking up their human cargo, they would continue their voyage across the southern Atlantic to Brazil, Central America, the West Indies, and the New World. And wherever they were sent, the slaves took their music with them – an agonized inspiration that would become the cornerstone for virtually every American musical expression to follow.13

By the time the New World was being recognized as a blossoming mission field by the various progeny of Luther’s reformation movement, the rhythm and melody of Africa had already joined with the harmonies of European music, which the church had so carefully nurtured, and a powerful new musical form was born.

Taken from the magazine ONLY BELIEVE (no longer in publication). The regression of music amongst our churches is a cancer which, if not properly dealt with, will suck the true Life out of The Church. This downward spiral is caused by a lack of discernment and a general lowering of standards by a generation wanting something new and different rather than stand fast, and hold to what is tried and true, proven, and right. Many have failed to heed the warning expressed in this article. Innumerable groups, bands, and various musical artists spawned forth since Brother and Sister Smith published this article in December 1991, [Vol. 4, No 3].  No doubt the Christian artists she names here gave birth to groups like: MercyMe,KutlessNewSongSidewalk prophets The David Crowder band,Casting CrownsJeremy Camp, and Third Day to name a few. If Brother Branham called people like Pat Boone, modern day Judases, obviously these are too. What kind of person feeds off these groups, and promotes their demonic inspired lyrics and music within our churches? I pray this article will help someone. (the pictures are mine) – [DM – discerningMusic editor]

A Call To Spiritual Maturity

DiscerningMusic is linking this article as food for thought. The direction of the church today is one reason music and more importantly true worship has degraded to such a sad state. While the author of this article might not be in total agreement or have revelation of the truth of the message of the hour, he nevertheless makes some thought-provoking points. It is time for Christians to Mature in the Presence of the Son.

No longer is the world ashamed of, or threatened by, the church. We have adopted their ways as superior to our own. We entertain like them, teach like them, party like them, celebrate like them, gyrate like them, dress like them, sing like them. We even use their shows and books to, supposedly, teach “deep, life-changing spiritual truths” (as opposed to the “Truth that sets you free”). This is not the true church of Christ. What often passes as the church in contemporary society is the devil himself in disguise: an angel of light offering us a better way, a new enlightened way, a way leading us straight into the jaws of hell itself.


 

As Martin Luther brought about a reformation that has resonated through the centuries, when he, sickened by what he saw in the church of his day, took a stand for Truth, so we, too, must take a stand for Truth in our day. We are out of options. God’s church will prevail. Christ promised that the gates of hell themselves will not be able to stop it. It isn’t God’s true church that lies in such a low-estate; however, His people are, at times, mixed into it. We must seek them out and bring them out. We must go into the “churches” and teach the Truth of God’s Word.

God’s people must once again boldly take a stand for the Truth of His Word. As in Luther’s day, armed with fervent, effective prayer, guided by the Father, fueled by love for the One Who died for us, and directed by the Holy Spirit of God, God’s people must go forth towards a new Reformation that guides His people back to Him. Christ’s Truth and His church will prevail and we, by the grace of God, can have a part in it.

Click HERE to read the entire article.

Some Initial Considerations of Music and its Relationship to Christian Culture

This is an excellent article written by David Ledgerwood Chair of Department of Fine Arts at Maranatha Baptist Bible College. I encourage you to click the link above, print it, and prayerfully ponder this timely article.

He makes these eight propositions concerning music and cultural expression:

  1. Every culture has aspects of its art that reflect sensuality, rebellion, and false worship.
  2. Music both reflects and affects culture.
  3. Musical meaning can be intrinsic, associative or both.
  4. The meaning of music is strongest within its own culture, but there is a move to a “world culture” or “world music” that communicates throughout the world.
  5. Cultural values can and should be evaluated upon biblical absolutes.
  6. Musical styles within a culture are fluid; musical meaning is often contextual.
  7. Since musical styles are fluid, churches that build their music programs on what is popular are shooting at a moving target.
  8. Music can be very addicting.

His concluding paragraph asks some very poignant questions worthy of reflection by discerning believers today.

  • Does music have a hold on you?
  • Do you turn to it to soothe yourself, to help you escape from reality?
  • Do you listen to music so that you don’t have to listen to the voice of your conscience?
  • Do you listen to it to help “put you in the mood” of something that is not right?
  • Are we so far away from God as to believe that we can somehow offer our sensual worship to God and that He is obligated to accept it?

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