Hezbollah and the Need for Better Music

Hezbollah is today leading the defence of Lebanon against the forces of Daesh (ISIS), not fearing to make tactically aggressive manoeuvres in Syria and lend its hand to the forces of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. For this reason even Christians and Sunnis have joined their defence. This willingness to use military force for the common good is due at least in part to the music that helps maintain Hezbollah’s confidence.

So much of contemporary Christian music, on the other hand, seems to be written for women and eunuchs, and certainly not for men. I am not, of course, the first to have observed this tendency: others have noted it for years. How much of our music, training us in a general meekness and mildness – rather than humility before God and justly wielded power, but iron strength before the prowling lion Satan – has destroyed our ability to stand up to the snakes who spread false teaching, wolves who devour the flock, and wild beasts who rage against the people of God?

Shall we not consider the words of Glaucon and Socrates discussing music in Plato’s Republic (398d–399c, tr. Grube)?

Nonetheless, I said, you know that, in the first place, a song consists of three elements – words, harmonic mode, and rhythm.

Yes, I do know that.

As far as words are concerned, they are no different in songs than they are when not set to music, so mustn’t they conform in the same way to the patterns we established just now?

They must.

Further, the mode and rhythm must fit the words.

Of course.

And we said that we no longer needed dirges and lamentations among our words.

We did, indeed.

What are the lamenting modes, then? You tell me, since you’re musical.

The mixo-Lydian, the syntono-Lydian, and some others of that sort.

Aren’t they to be excluded, then? They’re useless even to decent women, let alone to men.


Drunkenness, softness, and idleness are also most inappropriate for our guardians [i.e. the warrior ruling class, as opposed to the producers].

How could they not be?

What, then, are the soft modes suitable for drinking-parties?

The Ionian and those Lydian modes that are said to be relaxed.

Could you ever use these to make people warriors?

Never. And now all you have left is the Dorian and Phrygian modes.

I don’t know all the musical modes. Just leave me the mode that would suitably imitate the tone and rhythm of a courageous person who is active in battle or doing other violent deeds, or who is failing and facing wounds, death, or some other misfortune, and who, in all these circumstances, is fighting off his fate steadily and with self-control. Leave me also another mode, that of someone engaged in a peaceful, unforced, voluntary action, persuading someone or asking a favor of a god in prayer or of a human being through teaching and exhortation, or, on the other hand, of someone submitting to the supplications of another who is teaching him and trying to get him to change his mind, and who, in all these circumstances, is acting with moderation and self-control, not with arrogance but with understanding, and is content with the outcome. Leave me, then, these two modes, which will best imitate the violent or voluntary tones of voice of those who are moderate and courageous, whether in good fortune or in bad.

The modes you’re asking for are the very ones I mentioned.

In the kingdom of God, as long as it exists within a fallen world, there must (pace Plato) be lamentation. The Lamentations of Jeremiah, indeed, teach us to mourn for Jerusalem fallen, and mourn we must unto the ending of the world. Blessed, says our Lord, are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. In the mourning of a Christian, directed toward God, is both a plea against the present and a confidence in the judgement of God. For the Christian warrior, then, it is the elegy and the hope of the world to come, the world that is coming from heaven to earth, that together make his resolve to fight. In Christendom, therefore, we must have the Lydian and the Mixolydian (both authentic and plagal), which Western music has kept as church modes 5–8, elegiac but hopeful.

Nevertheless, much neglected among Western Christians today are modes 1–4, comprising the Dorian and the Phrygian (both authentic and plagal). These are modes we dearly need to bring back into the idiom of the common Christian’s expression, that he may be fit both to speak sober reason and to make war against the devil and, when there is need, against forces of flesh and blood as well. What the devil has removed from the throats of Christians, let us restore to the songs of the Church.

Tallis’s psalm tunes here, except the ninth, are numbered to correspond to the church modes (or tones): (1) Dorian, (2) Hypodorian, (3) Phrygian, (4) Hypophrygian, (5) Lydian, (6) Hypolydian, (7) Mixolydian, (8) Hypomixolydian.

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