Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Music's affect on mind, soul is nearly beyond words

A good friend of mine sent me this Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel article this morning and told me it's everything he and I have been saying about music's power for years when we taught choir and band together at Winnebago Lutheran Academy. So I read the article by Philip Chard. I don't know the man, but I can tell one thing about him–he's missing one vital piece of information which would make his premise make sense and be irrefutable.

God gave us music. The reason why the quasars and black holes and the earth flicker and hum and resonate is because God let them and made them to do that. The reason the sad, the happy, the testy, and the hyper-stimulated respond to music is because God gave music power. David played his harp in the Old Testament to calm King Saul's soul and drive out evil spirits (1 Samuel 16:23).

Yes, music and math can be compared, but music composed by purely mathematical formulas (e.g. serialism) is not usually "pleasing" and passionately melodic. It's not the type of music that you whistle or hum when you are happy or sad. Even Johann Sebastian Bach, the great Lutheran church music composer, buried numerology throughout his works (he was also a member of a mathematical society) , but that music is mostly for the brain, not the heart and soul. You have to understand the math to be moved by the music. God gave music an even greater power.

What songs come back to you in times of trouble? What melodies do you sing when you are happy? Hymns come back to me–the hymns I sang in church sitting next to my family and the hymns I learned in school for devotions and memory work and Hymnology class. The songs I learned in Sunday School and Lutheran elementary school, and choir in Lutheran high school, and Lutheran college, and the songs and hymns I teach to my Lutheran high school choirs come back to me. And my students tell me this is true for them too. More times than I can count, students have asked me to play for them, or to find recordings, or to sing with them or for them the songs and hymns and they learned over the years when tragedy came into their lives. When their dads and uncles and classmates died, Music, connected to God's Word, comforted them and their families.

When God's Word is put to music, it gets locked into our brains. We can remember the lyrics of a song when we sing them, but if we would just try to say the lyrics, we stumble at reciting them. Music + text = powerful memory. Music + God's Word = Lifelong Comfort.

That's the missing piece of information. God gave us Music to help us remember His Word better and to keep it in our hearts and to sing it in happy or sad times.


  1. Dale, I have gotta tell you, I got a little weepy-eyed. Well-said, friend.