One of the most basic definitions of music is that it is organized sound. When you take random noises and organize them into some kind of discernable pattern, you have music. If those sounds are made by a human voice and have meaning, you have human speech. The two are closely related.
And in the same way that a language can have a whole set of accents and dialects, the same is true with music. People who grew up in “the South” of the US and those who are originally from Boston, or Ireland, or Minnesota, or London, or … all have a different “accent” or flavor. Musically think of how related the “accents” of the following musical styles are: southern gospel, bluegrass, dixie land, blues, country and western, …
Even inside of one accent, speech changes over time: people in England no longer speak with thee’s and thou’s and such, unlike in the days of King James and Shakespeare.
And so musical “accents” change over time as well.
No particular accent or language is “morally superior” to another. Which would you say is a holier language: English, German, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, … Certain languages may have greater natural vocabularies for talking about things (Eskimos: snow, Dessert Nomads: sand, …) but it’s the CONTENT that has moral value, not the accent or language itself.
In the same way, there is no “morally superior” style of music per se. Some styles of music may be more well known and popular, some may be easier for a group of people to sing to, but there really isn’t a “good” or “bad” style or language. Music is a-moral (not moral or immoral, but neutral).
So… which accent/style of music should we do in our churches? How many styles of music are naturally “spoken” by the congregation? If we are trying to bring the good news of the gospel to the “unchurched” around us, what language should we as missionaries to them learn to express the Gospel in?
In the same way that music is abstract art, not concrete, so the way that it is used and the lyrics are what give us a way to evaluate it’s morality.
The fact that music is a type of abstract language, “the language of the heart” as it’s been often called … has a ton of practical consequences.
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