Philosophy of Music - RR148F11

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Lesson[edit]

Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: Philosophy of Music
Course: Course - Philosophy of Christian Eduction in Christian Schools
Subject: Subject:Education
Lesson#: 11
Length: 0:51:48
TapeCode: RR148F11
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
Philosophy of Christian Eduction in Christian Schools.jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission.


Almighty God, our heavenly Father, guide our minds, our heart, our understanding as we give ourselves to the things that are {?}. Enable us to become better teachers of thy covenant children, that they may grow in grace and in understanding. We thank thee, our God, for the privilege of serving thee. We thank thee that we have the blessed assurance that thy word does not return unto thee void, it accomplished thy purpose, and that our labor is not in vain in thee. Strengthen us ever in thy service that we may be more than conquerors through Him that loved us, even Jesus Christ, our Lord. In His name we pray. Amen.

We have been dealing with the Christian philosophy of education, and had been considering specific subjects in the last two meetings. We dealt with mathematics last time. This evening, we shall deal first with music, and then in our second period, with grammar.

The humanistic philosophy of music is very ably summarized by the state of Ohio and its minimum standards for Ohio elementary schools. According to that document, “Music, as one of the fine arts, is an integral part and an enriching force in the life of the individual. As a required part of the elementary school curriculum, the music program includes learning opportunities for children of varying levels of musical abilities and achievements; those who perform, those who enjoy, and those who become professional musicians. The instruction emphasizes the development of aesthetic sensitivity, creative capacity, cultural awareness, musical competence, and intelligence.” The report goes on to say that one of the aspects of the music program is to relate music and other human experiences. Now, a great many Christians “buy” that philosophy, and this is very unfortunately because the emphasis is thoroughly humanistic. It is on the life of the individual. Music is for the enrichment of the individual, for his better self-expression. That is humanism. The individual is supposed to find himself in a number of ways in the educational process, according to humanism, to realize himself. Music is one of these means of enrichment, self-expression, and development. This is the focus of music in the modern age. [00:03:42]

Music in the modern age began with a background of...[edit]

Music in the modern age began with a background of Christian influence, and it has left that influence very steadily over the past few centuries, and especially in this century. As a matter of fact, church music has been very largely influenced over the years by secular music. This {?} is operatic music. So that the music of opera began to influence very strongly a great deal of church music. Then romantic music came in, and romantic music on all levels, both the very serious choir pieces and popular songs, began to have a very popular and powerful influence in the church. Some of the very popular hymns are really romantic pieces. To cite one example, “In the Garden.” That’s a very romantic piece with a background and a context that is very, very much a part of early twentieth century, late nineteenth century love music. As a matter of fact, at one summer conference where this song was used very heavily in the evening campfire meetings, one of the young ministers who was there was a little disturbed because when they were preparing for the {?} service on the last night of the summer camp, one of the boys said when they asked what music shall we sing, “Let’s sing the song about Andy.”

“Andy? What song about Andy?

“Andy loves me, Andy walks with me.”

Now, that misconception of the song really caught the spirit of the song, because the flavor of it is early romantic. Now, a great deal of our music is secular in its outlook. There had been, in our time, two basic directions of humanistic music. First of all, you had the popular developments that came to a focus in the twenties in jazz, and today it finds it expression in acid rock. To understand that music, we have to understand its purpose. Beginning with jazz, music began to seek on the popular level, the exploitation of feeling as such. Now, music always has had an emotional impact. Feeling and music are inseparable, but the music has always been tied to something, to be expressive of something, to be expressive of an idea, of love, and idea of fellowship, an idea of this. Popular music, before jazz, was designed to express popularly an idea, but now the concentration was on feeling for its own sake. Thus, instead of tying feeling to a purpose outside of man, now popular music was to express feeling to be experienced for the sake of feeling something. [00:08:06]

To illustrate, one of the many forms of music is march...[edit]

To illustrate, one of the many forms of music is march music. March music can be of various forms. It can be a wedding march, an academic procession, a church procession, parade ground procession, a civil function, a war march, in each case, a certain type of feeling is created. Now the emphasis began to be on feeling for its own sake. In acid rock, music was aligned to narcotics, to heighten isolated emotion, pure emotionalism, to be divorced, this is the goal and still is, from things outside of yourself and simply to feel. Now, of course the desire there is in essence that which the tempter expressed in the fall. “Ye shall be as God, knowing,” that is determining for yourself what constitutes good and evil. Autonomous man, man as his own god in his own world, his own universe, need nothing outside of him. So the goal of acid rock, which is the culmination of this tradition of popular music in the modern age, is to enable you to turn off the outside world and to turn yourself on, and to forsake reality. Altered reality for the only reality yourself.

Of course, this is impossible, but because man lives in God’s universe and is God’s creature, and the psalmist says, “Thou I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I fly to the outermost parts of the morning, behold thou art there.” And if we go to the innermost recesses of our being, behold God is there. So, the net result is as man has tried to find this kind of music, this kind of self-absorption, it becomes necessary for him to heighten the music and its autonomy, to heighten the drug experience, to try to go deeper, to dive deeper into his own being in order to escape from the outer world of God and his love.

This is why the very basic part of rock is loudness. It has to be loud. Why? Because you’re drowning out everything else. It has to be so {?},. So loud a noise that it can drive every other thought out of your mind. It has to take you over with its beat, so that nothing else can come into your mind. At, of course, the objection of some parents to the rock music their kids play is you can’t think. That’s the point, you see. You can’t function along traditional conservative lines. The emphasis is on the autonomous self, to clue you into your own being and to go deep enough ostensibly to escape from God and His world. Now, that’s one direction, the popular direction of humanistic music in our age. [00:12:22]

The other is the direction that classical music has...[edit]

The other is the direction that classical music has taken. Classical music in our day has become overly intellectual and rationalistic. In much of it, emotions have been radically squeezed out. Experimentation has been the order of the day, the creation of new scales, the dissonance, new sounds, distortions. With the older classical music you had, for example, the kind of abstract music that Johan Sebastian Bach represented. Now, Bach’s music is abstract in the sense that it is not program music; his Fugues I’m speaking of. But, Bach’s music such as his fugues, which represents pure abstract music all the same, creates in you an overwhelming feeling and an emotion of religious awe and reference, exaltation. It ties you in very definitely with God’s world.

Then you have program music. Music written to, in effect, tell a story, develop an idea of a movie musically, and then you have suggestive music in the last century, which was the counterpart to impressionism in art. All of these musics had some kind of relation to the real world, but the new music is different. It denies, for example, the unity of mind and feeling. It strives for autonomy, a radical independence. It wants to offer a manmade world. It wants to create new reactions, and new feelings. For example, when you listen to some avant gard composers of today, you find that their music plays games with you. It begins with something that you feel, “Oh, this is a gay note,” and then suddenly, there’s something that comes in that is very depressive. It will give you {?} the development of a sweet and lilting melody, and then it comes and destroys that. In other words, it is trying to destroy the classical type of reaction musically, to bring emotions together that normally we think clash. It’s playing games with the traditional, ordinary, feelings of man, and in a sense saying, “We are going to rearrange your insides. We are going to make over music and we’re going to make you over in the process. [00:16:04]

Moreover, as it strives for autonomy, from independence...[edit]

Moreover, as it strives for autonomy, from independence from the past and from God, and outer reality, it seeks to be radically rootless. Throughout history, they’ve been able to identify music in terms of its cultural context. Thus, you can usually identify Russian music right off the back. You can identify German music and you can tell the difference between German opera and Italian opera in just a minute or two. French music and Spanish music each have their characteristics, as do English music and American music, but the new classical composers try to give you a music that is so abstract and intellectualized that it will not show a nationalized origin. It is not to be recognizable in terms of representing their background and their culture. Now Bach, as a great musician, is a unique figure in the history of music, but Bach also is very emphatically the culmination of a very long musical tradition, so that when you come to Bach you can say, “Well here are all these men who contributed to the development Bach. This is the musical tradition that has culminated in him,” and in understanding Bach, you understand the whole world of music and appreciate all of that that preceded you. He’s very much a part of it.

But the modern classical composer does not want roots or heritage. He wants to be unique, create out of a vacuum, so that now, nationality and reference, all these things, traditions are denied.

Well, the result is sometimes a very striking experimentalism that {?}. So that our new classical composers are men who produce musical {?} sterile music. Too often, the church has imitated both the jazz to rock tradition, as well as the avant gard tradition instead of creating its own kind of music. Now remember, I said at the beginning that the essence of humanistic music is on the life of the individual.

Let’s look at what scripture has to say about music, because a truly Christian music must be true to scripture and it must develop its own musical {?} Well, the first thing we must say is that in biblical faith, there is a unique emphasis on music. In no other religion, do we find the same stress, the same emphasis on music. When you open your Bibles, the middle of the Bible gives you one of the biggest book of the Bible; Psalms, a music book. That’s what the book of Psalms represents, a music book, and we find snatches of psalms or {?} repeatedly in the Bible. What did the children of Israel do when they crossed the Red Sea? We have the song of Moses. “Sing unto the Lord for He is glorious. The Horse and the rider he has hurled into the sea.” We have songs of David apart from the psalms. We are told in Revelation that the redeemed sing the song of Moses, and of the Lamb, so that over and over again we have in the Bible a strong emphasis on music, which is unusual in all the world’s religions. Not only so in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, believers are commanded to sing. [00:21:07]

For example, in Isaiah ...[edit]

For example, in Isaiah 12:5, Ephesians 5:18-19, James 5:13, Colossians 3:16 and elsewhere. We forget when the scripture says, “Sing unto the Lord a new song,” that’s imperative, a command. Sing! Christians are commanded to sing. We don’t think of it as a command, but it is. Sing unto the Lord. But then second, we tend to forget that, in the Bible, the tithe goes, in part, to the musicians. No wonder we get poor music today. We won’t support musicians. But the Bible says that not only the musicians who play the instruments, but the singers were supported. This was true in the temple. This was true in the synagogue. It was true in our Lord’s day. The tithe provided for the musicians. In no other religion in the world does music have a place like unto that in scripture. In fact, someday I hope someone will write a book on the importance of music in missionary work. Do you know that pagan religions are afraid of our music. Why? Because they find, on the mission field everywhere, that long before the natives really understand the language of the missionaries, and they find that his knowledge of their language is so simple and weak that they cannot really follow him very intelligently, they know that when he and his wife, and his kids try to lead the open air meeting, or the church meeting, and sing a song like “Rock of Ages Cleft for Me,” that conveys something, and pagans will pick up that music. The music has an impact. So much so that, in many parts of the world today, various pagan religions are simply borrowing our hymns and changing the wording so that they can keep their people. You can go into the Far East today and hear Buddhist children sing, “Buddha loves me, this I know.” They can borrow the music, but you see, they can’t borrow the joy, and that’s where they fail. [00:24:48]

We are unique in the world...[edit]

We are unique in the world. We are unique in history, in that Christianity is a religion of music, of song. You go outside the Bible in Bible-believing portions of the world, music is usually something that is associated with magic and witchcraft, enchantments, or else central {?} It doesn’t function much otherwise. Pagans are not singing peoples. Because our anthropologists are pushing Christian presuppositions onto them, they go and they tape a few things and they try to give us the idea, “You know the songs of the various tribes and the peoples of the world.” The reality is there isn’t much music there outside in the non-Christian world. We are the people of music, we’re the ones who have something to sing about, and we need to give it its due place, in the school curriculum, and to teach it from a biblical perspective.

But then, third, we have to recognize that the function of music in the Bible is not man-centered, it is not the enrichment of our human experience. It is God-centered. The Bible never tells us that we sing for our self-expression. It never says anything about the individual in the songs, about how to enrich our experience. Rather, it says that we are to sing because we have been enriched by the grace of God. There’s a world of difference between the two. We sing because we are rich, because we have been blessed by the grace of God. To take one verse of many in the scriptures, Psalm 30:4, “Sing unto the Lord O ye saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness.” The commandment is always “Sing unto the Lord,” not to the congregation, not to enrich your life. Sing unto the Lord. Now we’ve forgotten that totally. We sing the songs that we’re going to enjoy, and we say, “What’s your favorite hymn?” or “Let’s sing hymns that we like.” That’s not the purpose of songs in the church service. Whether it’s in the New Testament or the Old, it’s always, “Sing unto the Lord.” [00:28:12]

Did you know churches, in the old days and you still...[edit]

Did you know churches, in the old days and you still find it in the East, the choir loft is often in the back or up in the balcony, and it was facing the pulpit or in the Catholic church, the altar. Why? Because the choir and the congregation are both singing unto the Lord. Now the choir sings to the people, and the people are asked to sing the songs they will enjoy, but the Bible always says, “Sing unto the Lord. Sing unto the Lord.” Now that puts an entirely different {?} on music, you see? Then we cannot belong to the humanistic tradition, either the popular or to the classical, because the function of our music is not our enjoyment, but the expression of our joy, our thanksgiving, our prayer, our praise to the Lord.

And this is to be the case whether it be with the voice or with instruments. For example, Psalm 98:5, “Sing unto the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the voice of a song.” Incidentally, did you know that the organ was the instrument of the temple in Jerusalem? Interesting, too, that when the temple was destroyed, the synagogue banned the use of organs because they said, “It is an instrument of joy and praise, and thanksgiving, and we have nothing to praise God for now that the temple is destroyed and Jerusalem is destroyed.” So, until some of the liberal, modernist synagogues reintroduced the organ, there was no organ in synagogue worship. The early church took over the organ because they felt that they were the true Israel of God, and they had something to rejoice in. One of the first objections to the {?} organ was that some felt it would lead some believers back to the synagogue, which of course, it did not, but the organ is an instrument that our Lord heard in the temple. [00:31:13]

Then, to continue, the value of music in teaching depends...[edit]

Then, to continue, the value of music in teaching depends on a God-centered emphasis. St. Paul, in Colossians 3:16 declares, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns, with spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” What St. Paul here declared is that others are taught, they are admonished by psalms because those psalms are sung unto the Lord. Now, they may enjoy other types of singing more. They may enjoy singing that expresses our feelings, and they prefer that type of song, but they’re going to be admonished. They are going to be instructed when we sing unto the Lord. This is a most pronounced stress throughout all of history. Not only does God rejoice in our singing, not only does He require that it be sung unto Him, but it is only when we sing unto the Lord, that the people around us are going to be instructed and admonished, so that it is not singing that is aimed at people, or expressive of our feelings, that accomplishes God’s work, but singing unto the Lord that best accomplishes the task of evangelism.

What we need today is God-centered musicians and God-centered music. The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with the statement, “What is the chief end of man?” and answered, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” I think we can call that the best single statement of the philosophy of music in a Christian context. To glorify God and to enjoy him forever. [00:34:01]

Thus, very clearly, we need to rethink our views of...[edit]

Thus, very clearly, we need to rethink our views of music, and to remind ourselves as we teach music that it is unto the Lord, and when the child begins to recognize this is the function of music, sing unto the Lord, that he will also recognize the function of his own life to be lived unto the Lord, that if our music is aimed at pleasing the individual and helping him to enjoy himself, and to enrich himself, then he will come to think of God and self as another human resource, another resource from man’s {?} and he will have God put to the use of a humanistic faith. Are there any questions now? Yes?

[Audience] I think it was in the Westminster Confession of Faith, it talks about using worship just as scripture. Would you comment on that? I think they had at one time they just used scriptures in worship and they didn’t use manmade things. Is that true, could you comment on that?

[Rushdoony] There are some groups, this was not true at the Reformation, no, because remember Luther composed a number of hymns, and Calvin had an associate who wrote hymns one of the most popular which is still with us, Old 100, which begins “As people that on earth do dwell, praise ye the Lord,” and so on. Concludes with the Doxology that we still use. You did have groups that said we will only sing the psalms. Now, in the New Testament there are definitely references, not only to the singing of psalms, but of hymns and spiritual songs, and St. Paul gives us snatches of some of these hymns that were commonly used in the early church, so that those who argue, and there are a handful of them in the country, that we can only use the Psalms for singing, are missing the whole point. First, the commandment is to sing unto the Lord, and not merely to sing with psalms. And second, what they do is not really to use the psalms, but paraphrases of them which are very usually {?}. The most wretched kind of transliteration and setting them to rhyme and so on, so that they really botch up the psalms before they are through. Yes? [00:37:30]

[Audience] Some groups don’t allow instruments at all...[edit]

[Audience] Some groups don’t allow instruments at all. They say it’s scriptural. How do they arrive at that?

[Rushdoony] They tend to be dispensational and different groups have different ways of showing their dispensationalism. They say unless something’s mentioned in the New Testament, we won’t use it, and the instruments they aren’t mentioned in the New Testament. Well, that’s true, they’re not. Well, for one thing, the early church was an illegal organization. They met at homes. They met in small groups, and it wasn’t the situation where instruments could function very well. The same is true, incidentally, in Red China. In Red China today, church services are limited to ten people. Why? Well, if you had more than ten getting together in somebody’s little room, or a home, it attracts attention, and they can easily be spotted and persecuted. Naturally, they don’t have any instruments in those meetings, and if they did have one, they wouldn’t use them because it would be heard. So, you can see why musical instruments, by and large, were not used. In fact, the church for the first couple centuries didn’t even have {?}. It was a persecuted, illegal organization, but instruments are mentioned in the Old Testament. There’s nothing in the Bible that tells us those things aren’t still valid for us. It’s a weird aspect of many churches, almost every church {?} dispensationalism. With some it’s with regard to instruments, others it’s with regard to the law, others it’s with regard to this or that, but all of them say, “Well, this doesn’t apply anymore to us.” Well, if the Bible doesn’t tell us it’s ended, we have no reason to say it is. It still does. Instruments are still a means or praising the Lord. Are there any other questions? [00:40:04]

[Audience] I have one ...[edit]

[Audience] I have one {?}

[Rushdoony] Oh, this is in many encyclopedias, histories of music. You can find a lot of very interesting data like that in the recent book by Goldberg, The Jewish Connection, in which he traces some aspects of Jewish history.

[Audience] {?}

[Rushdoony] Well, it was {?} naturally it was not the developed modernism that we have. Yes?

[Audience] What chronological year are you talking about {?}

[Rushdoony] In the temple. We don’t know how far back it goes. Apparently, it was in years well back into the Old Testament era. There are at least nineteen or twenty instruments mentioned in the Old Testament and references to many other instruments. But very early apparently, they did develop the organ for use in the temple. We are told, incidentally, that David was the inventor of a number of musical instruments for the purposes of worshiping God in the temple. Yes?

[Audience] When you talked about music, you said that music should be unto the Lord, and music should be a daily part of our lives. The church today looks at music as if you were to play music, with the music would you think of sounding {?} and end it there. Alright, what are some of the implications of some of the things you said in our daily lives as you look at music, and {?}

[Rushdoony] Yes, first of all, we’ve got to disabuse ourselves of the idea that worship belongs to the church. Worship is something that should take place every day in our lives, as well as in church. We worship God at the table when we bow our heads. We should worship Him all through the day in our activities. So that worship is a much broader thing than a church service. Now, one of the things that’s disappeared in my lifetime was the use of hymns and psalms {?} throughout the day. People don’t sing much as they once did. It used to be commonplace for women to go around the house singing as they did housework, and I can remember when it was nothing for men to relax at noon and start singing. That’s disappeared since I was in high school. Songs, somehow now as far as Christians are concerned, it was Sundays only. Church singing. So, that tells us something about our faith. It doesn’t well up in song readily. Yes? [00:44:34]

[Audience] Were there any instruments that are not...[edit]

[Audience] Were there any instruments that are not to be used in church? I know a lot of churches frown on say, for example, guitar in church because they, the association in modern times. Can we use any kind of instrument in church?

[Rushdoony] The question is a good one. Can we use any kind of instrument in church? That’s a difficult question to answer. I know a great many people who are very hostile, for example, to the use of a guitar in a church service. Now, there are differences in church services and meetings. A morning service, for example, is a more formal thing, and I would say a morning service should be a more set pattern, and limited and restricted in the kind of music it has. An evening or a midweek service is much more informal, and it does permit the possibility of various instruments. It used to be, for example, that Catholic churches would have an entire symphony in the church. It isn’t a question of the instrument always, but the use it is put to. Now, too often when some of the instruments, like the guitars are brought into the church, it’s because they want to bring in people, to mass, for example, Catholic churches, and modern type of music into Protestant churches, rather than to develop a Christian music with it, you see. They’re trying to be contemporary. They’re trying to imitate the world.

Now, the guitar can be a very beautiful instrument, but the question is when is it used? Is it being used to develop a Christian music or is it because youth today like the guitar, therefore, “Let’s appeal to the youth by bringing a guitar into the service.” You see the difference there? Because one has a humanistic emphasis and this is the one that usually prevails. It has to be a God-centered emphasis. Yes? [00:47:24]

[Audience] I was wondering if you’re familiar with...[edit]

[Audience] I was wondering if you’re familiar with John Hendrix production, “Evolution of the Blues,” {?}

[Rushdoony] No, I’m not.

[Audience] Well, a friend of mine went to see it, and he’s not a Christian, but when he saw it, {?} development of music {?} commonly came back to that {?} God and Jesus Christ, and I was wondering how you evaluate or look at the blues?

[Rushdoony] The Blues did begin with a great deal of Christian reference, but the Blues were predominantly an expression of human emotion, human grief, human sorrow, so that man {?}. There’s no theology in the Blues in any period, you see? There is a great deal of humanism. If there’s anything, it’s the theology of man. So, you have to say that the Blues are very deceptive and {?} because they led to an intense concentration on oneself, and the emotion they stimulated and do stimulate is self-pity, and that’s not a godly emotion. It’s a very deadly and dangerous one. Yes?

[Audience] {?} about {?} Christian background music?

[Rushdoony] The term “background music” has an interesting history. Early classical music began as background music to a royal court. The idea was let the Duke or King or the Lord be able to dine, visit, carry on whatever activity they were carrying on with delightful music in the background that wouldn’t obtrude itself on the consciousness, but would create a very pleasant mood. Thus, classical music began as that kind of thing, background music, and of course, you have a great deal of background music now a days piped into stores, and into offices to put people into a good mood, so that there’ll be more chance, work better, or spend money more readily. I can’t see Christian music as background music, you see, the truly Christian music. For example, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” or “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” If I’m really listening to that I can’t allow it to be a background thing. It calls for a commanding of my feelings, my mind. I think, therefore, Christian music, as background music, involves a contradiction in terms. It’s priority music.

Well, I think our time is up and we’ll take a five minute break. [00:51:18]

End of tape