Puts Some Dynamis into Church Music

We have a lot of nice-sounding church music. Perhaps we even have too much of it. This depends on meaning, of course: what’s the right and proportionate way to portray God in all the subject matter of worship?

At least some of our church music, for the right functions in each service (okay, every song should have a particular function already, really), ought to be compatible with the sound of thunder. In the world of my fantasizing, and also in older church chant practice, this will include an ison (a drone of the base note). Since in primary school creative writing they say ‘Show, don’t tell,’ today’s your lucky day for examples.

Very musically appropriate, I think, for the subject matter (translation by Francis Marchal):

Statuit ei Dominus
testamentum pacis,
et principem fecit eum;
ut sit illi
sacerdotii dignitas
in aeternum.
Alleluja, alleluja.

The Lord made to him
a covenant of peace,
and made him a prince;
that the dignity
of priesthood
should be to him for ever.
Alleluia, alleluia.

Solemn, otherworldly and compatible with the sound of thunder outside.

And another, perhaps more emotional example, for Good Friday (translation mine):

Σήμερον κρεμάται ἐπί ξύλου,
ὁ ἐν ὕδασι τὴν γῆν κρεμάσας.
Στέφανον ἐξ ἀκανθῶν περιτίθεται,
ὁ τῶν ἀγγέλων βασιλεύς.
Ψευδῆ πορφύραν περιβάλλεται,
ὁ περιβάλλων τὸν οὐρανὸν ἐν νεφέλαις.
Ράπισμα κατεδέξατο,
ὁ ἐν Ιορδάνῃ ἐλευθερώσας τὸν Ἀδάμ.
Ἤλοις προσηλώθη,
ὁ νυμφίος τῆς Ἐκκλησίας.
Λόγχῃ ἐκεντήθη,
ὁ υἱὸς τῆς Παρθένου.
Προσκυνοῦμεν σού τὰ Πάθη, Χριστέ.
Δεῖξον ἡμῖν καὶ τὴν ἔνδοξόν σου Ἀνάστασιν.

Today he is hung on a piece of wood,
he that hung the earth upon the waters;
With a circlet of thorns he is encircled,
he the king of the angels;
With false purple he is encompassed,
he that encompasses the sky with clouds.
Slaps in the face he took,
he that in the Jordan set Adam free;
With nail-heads he was abused,
he the Bridegroom of the Church;
With a lance he was stabbed,
he the Son of the Virgin.
We prostrate ourselves to thy Passion, O Christ;
Show us also the glory of thy Resurrection.

For those suspecting I’m just musically bigoted, I note that I’m partial to Renaissance polyphony and to Valaam chant as well, but I’m totally open to the possibility of a church musical tradition developing out of Chinese and Japanese music theory. It’s usually the CCM scene that demands a narrowing with its myopic focus on chasing the tastes of the day. And as they say, diversify (thoughtfully and coherently).


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