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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
One piece of music "sacred"... and another is not?

I mean music without words. Lyrics can be sacred or not, I get that. But how about the notes, chords, rhythms, or whatever else is going on?
 

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One piece of music "sacred"... and another is not?

I mean music without words. Lyrics can be sacred or not, I get that. But how about the notes, chords, rhythms, or whatever else is going on?
It's merely a label for some piece that may have gospel or hymnal roots. As far as I know there are no Holy chord changes.
 

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A melody has no defined sense, it's just music. A certain meaning comes with symbols connected with the music. If one quotes a song, the words and their meaning are transfered in a way, too.
Or think of baroque music - it's full of symbolic phrases: A descending chromatic line (named passus duriusculus) means pain, other figures crucification, joy, holy spirit and so on. But these are symbols - but like all symbols not totally free (a trumpet playing an ascending triad would not go easily with pain and sorrow....)There are hundreds of figures like this and if you know them, you can read some instrumental pieces (f.e. organ pieces from Bach) like a book. But Bach would easily transcript a piece which praises a king to a sacred work where it would praise "the king" in a religious sense. The figures would be the same. He did that all the time; the first part of the christmas oratory for example has a secular ancestor.
The sinfonic music of the 19th century was dominated by the question whether music should have a story (a program - Liszt and others) or whether it should only be music (Hanslick, Brahms and others). Great music on both sides (but I'm more with Brahms' in this case)
I hope, this all makes sense in English.....
Do you think of a certain piece of music?
 

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Over at another forum I frequent they have a "Worship Service Players" section that deals not only with worship music but with the issues faced by folks with respect to performing at houses of worship.

It's always a fine line and a tight rope that folks have to walk to avoid it becoming a religious discussion.

I love gospel music, and even many hymns (for example, Jerusalem), though I prefer not to encounter any theological discussions being the secular person that I am.

Regarding non lyrical music being sacred, didn't Bach come up with a few church pieces that had no words? (some of the titles are dead giveaways, however.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Yeah, IMHO there re no ~Holy Chord Changes~. As Taragot (love that handle, by the way) points out, at least during certain periods there were musical devices that tended to be used in church music, but those devices made their way to secular music pretty quickly, and vice versa.

I asked this as a rhetorical question. It's my personal opinion that what makes a piece of music "Holy" is not the music, but the spirit in which it is offered. Certainly there are lyrics which are not appropriate for church. Also, as a "church musician" it's wise to be aware of the relative liberalness or conservatism of a given congregation or minister when performing. When in church you don't make music for the music's sake. It's not a CONCERT. It's worship. The music needs to contribute to the worship.

However, I'm also hyper-aware that I'm in a huge minority, when it comes to lyrics versus music. I bet some of the participants in this forum are, as well.

To me, what "gets to me"...makes me feel something, think about something, reflect on something is not the words to a piece of music. It's the music itself.
98% of the rest of the world does not work this way. The "music" is merely a venue that presents the words, to most people. To most people, it's the words that matter.
 

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One piece of music "sacred"... and another is not?

I mean music without words. Lyrics can be sacred or not, I get that. But how about the notes, chords, rhythms, or whatever else is going on?
All it means is that the primary or intended use of the music is in a religious or sacramental context. I doubt that you would find any composer, musician, or musicologist involved with "sacred music" who would claim that the music itself is inherently holy or consecrated. The ancient Greeks may have believed that, and perhaps a similar view existed in western Europe during the Middle Ages, but now -- no.
 

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Music can tell stories with or without words. In many different ways. From grade school I recall Peter and the Wolf as having certain instruments represent certain characters, and the story coming through, or being depicted by, the music. Can’t recall specific examples, but I think we learned about a number of other pieces that told a story solely through the music.

And then there are the emotions, feelings, moods, ideas that a composer seeks to convey, including through his chord changes.

No reason it can’t be done for religious themes as well. As Bach and others did.

Being called sacred doesn’t make it better or more important, or otherwise deserving of “praise” in either the religious or secular meaning of the word. It just puts it in context, at least, for this usage here. Maybe it’s just a question of terminology.
 

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A melody has no defined sense, it's just music. A certain meaning comes with symbols connected with the music. If one quotes a song, the words and their meaning are transfered in a way, too.
?
I disagree, language is just one abstraction of thoughts that we are using to communicate and music is a different form of abstraction that we use to communicate. Both can be written down using different symbols that have evolved over time and culture.

In addition, music is often used to communicate more in the sense of language as well, just think of military fanfares, Jodeln, and several indigenous languages based on whistling or clicking, not to mention the proverbial bush drums. You could argue that none of those qualify as music but that's what my parents said about Rock.

To take this to the next level, read the Glass Bead Game.
 

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In addition, music is often used to communicate more in the sense of language as well, just think of military fanfares, Jodeln, and several indigenous languages based on whistling or clicking, not to mention the proverbial bush drums.
Yes, there are cultures that use music to transport a certain message. Often through imitating the melody of sentences. I remember the story a european djembé-student told from his lessons in african drumming: One time, when a man passed by on the street, his teacher played a sort of short solo. The man returned with two bottles of beer which were ordered with this "solo".

But the military fanfares you mention work in a different way: A certain buggle call ist just a symbol for a certain command which had to be defined beforehand by someone.

You could argue that none of those qualify as music but that's what my parents said about Rock.
No, I would not argue in this way.
 

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In my opinion, "Music is a grand and glorious gift of God", and comes from Him through us, whether we're cognizant of it or not. I think God digs players, and blesses us with music to play. In that regard, ALL music is sacred, whether it's used for religious purposes or not.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
In my opinion, "Music is a grand and glorious gift of God", and comes from Him through us, whether we're cognizant of it or not. I think God digs players, and blesses us with music to play. In that regard, ALL music is sacred, whether it's used for religious purposes or not.
You and I think alike.

About 6 months ago I wrote an e-mail to the church mailing list asking people not to clap after a musical performance during church. Now that is a ridiculous over-simplification of what I wrote so I'll expand on it a little bit.

First of all, I told folks, the last thing I want to do is shut down an expression of joy or gratitude in church. So honestly, if you're moved to clap, whistle, shout or dance, go for it. It's just that "applause" is what people do after a concert, where the whole point of what is done is the music itself.

In church, I wrote, I'm not really "performing". I mean, I AM...but the "Performance" is not the thing. THE GIFT is the thing. I happen to have a gift. It's musically inclined. That's nice but it's not greater, better or worse than the "mathematical gift" that the church member who does the annual budget has. Do we clap for Him/Her? Maybe we SHOULD!!! How about the person who brings food to the homeless womens shelter that our church runs? That's a gift, too. How about the people who organize their thoughts and do background work and do the adult study forums? That's a gift, do we clap for them? How about the two guys who come by every saturday and mow the lawn, tend the landscaping, do the electrical and plumbing work?

These are all gifts...every one of us takes our time and talents that we are given and gives those right back to the church community. Music in worship is a gift which tends to get a lot of immediate recognition but it's no greater or lesser a gift than any of those other things. ALL of those things are gifts, and all of them are sacred. some people are better with their gifts than others. Some musicians perform at a higher level than others. Some accountants make more mistakes than others, sometimes the guys can't fix the lawnmower. But if the day ever comes where each of us in the community are afraid to give our gifts to that community because "I'm not good enough"...or equally awful... " I'm not as good as Alan is, so I'll let him do it" then that's a day when we as a church community are in real trouble.

ALL gifts to the community are sacred. If it happens to be rock and roll, 'tain't no difference.
 

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Yes, there are cultures that use music to transport a certain message. Often through imitating the melody of sentences. I remember the story a european djembé-student told from his lessons in african drumming: One time, when a man passed by on the street, his teacher played a sort of short solo. The man returned with two bottles of beer which were ordered with this "solo".

But the military fanfares you mention work in a different way: A certain buggle call ist just a symbol for a certain command which had to be defined beforehand by someone.

No, I would not argue in this way.

+1

I play music, therefore I am! That's sacred enough for me :)
 

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One piece of music "sacred"... and another is not?

I mean music without words. Lyrics can be sacred or not, I get that. But how about the notes, chords, rhythms, or whatever else is going on?
That's a very good question. There's a very good book on the subject entitled, "Notes on Music," by a husband and wife team with experience in the upper echelons of the music industry. He was once the bass guitarist playing for Bill Haley and his Comets. She was once First Violinist of the Long Island Symphony.

A little google search turned up an excerpt of the book here:
www.practicapoetica.com/music/articles/rhythm-rules/Rhythm-Rules.pdf
 

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I play trad-jazz. The old-jazz repertoire has many religious tunes, which I enjoy listening to and playing . . . JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE, THE OLD RUGGED CROSS, WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS, I'LL FLY AWAY, OVER IN GLORY LAND, DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE (the trad version, not the folk-version - the chords and lyric are different), and many more come to mind.

When the Dixieland jazz festivals were popular several years ago, many of them featured a Sunday morning set at one of the local churches with one of the festival's bands featured at the church service. We'd pack the place for our religious "stomps".

Some of my band's members were religious folks and they really knew how to put on a worship service. We had the church rockin' with old-tyme jass music, all tied into what was considered to be a routine service, with an offering and all of that.

Funny, I was about as non-religious as one can be, but it was still fun and rewarding. Fortunately, no lightening struck while I was playing. I still play those tunes today, not for the religious value but for their melodies and the way a crowd reacts to them. Sacred? I don't know about that, but I know what is meant by sacred music. DAVE
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
That's a very good question. There's a very good book on the subject entitled, "Notes on Music," by a husband and wife team with experience in the upper echelons of the music industry. He was once the bass guitarist playing for Bill Haley and his Comets. She was once First Violinist of the Long Island Symphony.

A little google search turned up an excerpt of the book here:
www.practicapoetica.com/music/articles/rhythm-rules/Rhythm-Rules.pdf
Hey, I grew up in Carmel.

Anyway I clicked on that link, 'cause that sounds pretty interesting but didn't get nuttin'.
 

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I play trad-jazz. The old-jazz repertoire has many religious tunes, which I enjoy listening to and playing . . . JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE, THE OLD RUGGED CROSS, WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS, I'LL FLY AWAY, OVER IN GLORY LAND, DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE (the trad version, not the folk-version - the chords and lyric are different), and many more come to mind.
True story: I composed some music for a Tennents beer ad. The composition included a 5 second "cameo" of traditional jazz to go with an animation of angels with trumpets. The obvious thing to put there was a bit of "Oh When the Saints..." (being in public domain)

However the Advertising Standards Authority banned the ad due to having religious music which was agains the regulations apparently. So I had to re-record that 5 second bit without the Saints.
 
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