The Nature of Music

The Nature of Music

September 24, 2021 by Gregg DeMey

Here’s a lie that many have been told: “Certain people can sing, others can’t. And unless you’re really good, you’re one of those that can’t — and — shouldn’t!” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Human beings are born to sing and dance. Singing is a heightened, natural extension of talking, which virtually all of us do with great regularity. Dancing is a heightened, natural extension of the mobility which most enjoy in day-to-day life. People have been singing and dancing in every culture, in every corner of the globe for as long as there have been people.

It’s a historical curiosity that since the advent of recorded music and its mass distribution over the last 100 years, song and dance have belonged to the professional class. Certainly, some folks are extraordinarily gifted in the musical and dance arts (for instance, Yo-Yo Ma and his cello!). But that fact does not detract from the complementary truth that we are universally able to sing and dance and need to do so for our health and sanity. Imagine a society in which only highly coordinated Formula One drivers drove cars — or a culture in which only genius French chefs cooked. In such a world, most of us would be stuck at home and hungry around the clock!

There’s a danger, even in worship music, that “regular people” willingly subcontract the singing and the dancing to the highly gifted among us. That unhealthy surrender creates both poverty and starvation: a poverty of God’s presence and an unhealthy lack of glory directed to him.

When it comes to church music, the main job of those leading congregations is NOT to prove their own musical excellence, but rather, to energize and empower the participation of the people. We can unwittingly fall into the consumer trap — if the choir is spot on, if the band is especially tight — that the gifted musicians are doing their thing and it’s best for the non-musicians to look on and admire. God forbid!!

At Elmhurst CRC the band plays in Sunday morning worship to invite all of us into the song and to direct our collective energies in gratitude toward God. At Elmhurst CRC, the choir sings to inspire and invite the rest of us to use our voices, too, in giving glory to God.

Most musical “performers” will tell you that the best musical experiences of their lives have to do with deeply connecting with others. Rarely will a musician relate their most satisfying experience to a private, perfect performance. I think it’s the same with God. He could have been content with the heavenly worship of angels — surely on a level that we can’t currently comprehend. And yet it was God’s delight to create the likes of us and to give us the capacity to sing, move, live, and dance for him.

May God supply you with the energy to do all of that this coming Sabbath Day in worship,

  • Pastor Gregg

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