Monday, April 23, 2012

Appoggiatura & Affections

In this fascinating Wall Street Journal article we learn HOW music has power to create physiological responses. Through particular musical devices a musician can increase the possibility of chills, goosebumps, and tears. One of those devices is called appoggiatura and it's defined as "a type of ornamental note that clashes with the melody just enough to create a dissonant sound."

I was immediately disturbed with how the results could be disastrous if this information fell into the wrong hands with malicious aims. Even into the hands of worship song writers who want so badly to have a "hit" that makes people's toes tingle.

Fortunately I proceeded to read Stephen Miller's Worship Leaders Are Not Rock Stars in which he comments on much of what was ailing me. He comments,

emotions are not bad in and of themselves. They are quite useful in engaging us holistically in worship. Consider how Jonathan Edwards, the great theologian and pastor, put it:
I don’t think ministers are to be blamed for raising the affections of their hearers too high, if that which they are affected with be only that which is worthy of affection, and their affections are not raised beyond the proportion to their importance, or worthiness of affection. I should think myself in the way of my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with.
It is the job of worship leaders to raise the affections of the people we lead to the highest possible height with the truth of the worthiness of God in our songs. And yet, while emotions are helpful handmaids of worship, the emotional and even sensual nature of music can make it difficult to know whether we are raising the affection of our hearers with the truth or simply the thrill of the song. We may go for the emotional jugular and completely fail to exalt the character, holiness, and majesty of God. The music becomes self-serving.

The whole post is worth the read. An excellent word.

Music has tremendous power. We all know this. We've been moved emotionally by music. We are swept along by movie soundtracks adding increased weight to performances. We've experienced the chills from appoggiatura before we knew what it was. Music has a way of helping us experience the ineffable as does general revelation. We know that God's invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, are manifest int creation. But creation, and instrumental music, however wondrous and emotive, cannot reveal Jesus Christ. That has to be done through the specific revelation of Christ and him crucified as told in the Scriptures.

For purposes in the church, music must be utilized in a way that communicates powerfully the ineffable qualities of God but also reveals and glorifies Jesus Christ. To have the former without the latter lends itself to emotionalism or even manipulation under a demagogue. We might say that a good combination of powerful music and solid theology looks something like worship in spirit and truth.

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