Music’s Unique Nature and its Contributions to Worship

Luke Dahn
Tenure Paper * Northwestern College
October 2012

(Footnotes will appear as mouse–over text.)

This paper is also available in PDF Format.

Emotions–in–Music Puzzle Stated. Groundwork. My Theory of Musical Expressiveness: "Heightened Emotions". The Belief Factor. Primary and Secondary Music. Emotional Education and Sympathy.
A Picture of Worship. The Emotion–Heightening Phenomenon in Relation to Worship. "Worship Wars" and the Belief Factor.
Art as Religion.
The Color–Coded Method Described. Application: J.S. Bach’s Prelude in D–flat Major, Well–Tempered Clavier, Book 2. An Application to Hymn Composition.


In a garden shady this holy lady | With reverent cadence and subtle psalm, | Like a black swan as death came on | Poured forth her song in perfect calm: | And by ocean’s margin this innocent virgin | Constructed an organ to enlarge her prayer, | And notes tremendous from her great engine Thundered out on the Roman air. —W. H. Auden, Hymn to St. Ceclia

This essay may seem a bit sprawling. I readily accept such the charge but can at least offer a few justifications for it. First, as a musician with graduate degrees in music composition, whose primary teaching load is in the field of music theory and whose deep interests include aesthetics and the philosophy of music, my scholarly interests tend to veer into several specified realms of study. What I believe unifies all of the various tangential scholarship areas into which I venture is this one fundamental question—How does music work? The second justification is a rather selfish one—this venue gives me an opportunity to formulate some of the various musical ideas I have had in recent years. Thirdly, in Section Three of this essay, which serves as climax and conclusion to the paper’s main body, it is my hope that the various ideas presented will ultimately be brought together in an investigation of their implications for musical worship, as I believe there are many important ones. In this regard, it is my hope that all the loose strands are here brought together.

In the opening section, I want to explore a facet of the nature of music that I believe is unique to it, namely, music’s unique sense of spatiality and the metaphoric potential that that spatiality affords. This will both provide us an opportunity for fruitful theological reflection through music and provide some context for the investigations in aesthetics, worship and music theory to follow. Section Two presents my own theory of musical expression in which I hope to make some headway in explaining some of the difficult questions related to the topic: How is it that we can speak of music in emotional terms, when music is incapable of possessing emotions? What is the relationship between the emotions expressed by music and the emotions aroused in the listener? How can something as abstract as music arouse such strong feelings or emotions in the first place? The full description of my theory of "heightened emotions" is immediately preceded by an investigation of the philosophical terrain dealing with such matters. The philosopher will likely disdain my dabbling in philosophy as a non-philosopher. But I do it, because, as I believe Section Three will show, we as trained musicians who lead musical worship and lay congregants alike need to think deeply and become philosophizers on these matters. Section Three, then, serves as the crux of this essay. Here I attempt to bring all the preceding threads of discussion into an overall investigation into the implications they have for Christian worship and for the Christian musician. Worship is described in new terms introduced in the first two sections which will hopefully provide new ways of thinking about old issues. In Section Four, I undertake an exercise I often ask of my students. I want to explore the ways in which the aesthetic experience and the religious experience are similar. In such an exercise we may discover how one kind of experience may shed light upon and enrich the other, and we may also discover ways in which the aesthetic experience and the religious experience differ. I end this section with a warning not to let the former serve as a kind of substitute for the latter. In an Excursus that follows, I venture into music theory application. I relate a recently–developed color–coded method of music analysis that, while limited in breadth, focuses on several oft–ignored musical surface devices that I believe are central of music’s expressivity. Some music theoretical terminology is used out of necessity. This Excursus includes a brief application to hymn tune composition.


Andy Dufresne: That’s the beauty of music. They can’t get that from you. Haven’t you ever felt that way about music?
Ellis ’Red’ Redding: Well, I played a mean harmonica as a younger man. Lost interest in it, though. Didn’t make too much sense in here [prison].
Andy: No, here’s where it makes the most sense. You need it so you don’t forget.
Red: Forget?
Andy: That there are places in the world that aren᾿t made out of stone. That there’s... there’s something inside that they can’t get to; that they can’t touch. It’s yours.
                 —The Shawshank Redemption

It is virtually impossible to discuss music without the use of spatial terminology. We talk about movement "up and down" the scale, about "higher and lower" pitches, about "returning" to the home key. But how can there be space in an aural world? And how can we conceive of movement in an aural world that has no real spatiality with no physical objects? In music, after all, nothing we hear literally moves. Either music does have a spatiality of some form, or something else is going on when we invoke spatial descriptions and refer to musical movement.

We no doubt use such spatial language metaphorically. When we hear the harmonic interval E4–C5(1), the C5 is not really "higher" than the E. We come to refer the two ends of our two–dimensional pitch frequency spectrum as "high" and "low," but sound waves with higher frequencies are not really spatially higher.(2) As Roger Scruton puts it, our experience of melodic movement "involves the conception of movement, but it is a concept that is being metaphorically applied to what is literally a sequence" (Scruton 2009, 43).

Now one may suggest that the sources of all sound and musical notes is physical and does occupy space. But when we talk about musical space and when we hear music inside its musical space, we detach it from such sources. This detachment is known as the acousmatic experience. Consider the performance of a music piece in which orchestra members are directed to play from various places in the hall. If a flutist sitting on a stage in a concert hall plays the "high" note of a chord while a tubist sitting the in balcony plays the "low" note, we do not suddenly hear the flutist’s note as being lower than the tubists. Musical events in musical space are acousmatically experienced apart from their sources.

Rather than attempt an explanation for why it is that we invoke spatial metaphors when speaking of music, turning our attention to the nature of this metaphorical musical space will be more fruitful toward the intended purposes of this paper. Just what kind of spatiality is musical or aural space? How is it unlike the physical space of our bodily world, and what can aural space unique bring to the table in a reflection in our experiential worlds, both physical and spiritual?

Two important facets unique to aural space are worth noting. Aural space is both a penetrating space and an interpenetrating space. It is a penetrating space in its non–locationality and un–segmentability. When we hear a sound, it occupies the totality of our aural space, not merely segments of it. Sound penetrates our aural world in a way that sights do not penetrate our visual world. If we see a disturbing image or an artwork we find distasteful, we can easily avert our eyes from that image. If we hear a disturbing sound, we cannot avert our ear toward some other "aural direction" in aural space so that the unpleasant sound is not heard. In this respect, sound encroaches upon us and engulfs us. Physical space, being locational, implicates our separateness from the world around us. We see objects that are out there, extended from us. When we hear sounds, they engulf us almost as if they are within us, especially when those sounds are acousmatically experienced musical tones. Musical space is, as Andy Dufresne declared in The Shawshank Redemption, not a place "made out of stone," and this unique space opens up new worlds to us as it did for the prisoners at Shawshank.

Secondly, aural space is an interpenetrating space—a spatiality in which more than one entity can occupy the same space. This fact is as remarkable as it is simple and has incredible implications. That two sounds, or two tones, to stay within a musical context, can occupy the same aural space with both being heard simultaneously, is a remarkable phenomenon—one that begs our contemplation and one that gives music a great potential for metaphorically imaging deep truths.

Let us take a few moments to ponder the most basic of musical structures—the major triad or chord. The tones C, E and G create a C major triad, with C being the chord "root," E being the chord "third," and G being the chord "fifth." Imagine first the root of the chord, the C, sounding alone. (Imagine, perhaps, an organ playing these tones, since there is no decay in its sound.) This C penetrates the totality of the listener’s aural space, not just a portion of it. Then comes the E, the third of the chord. Once it sounds, the E too penetrates the totality of the listener’s aural space but not at the expense of the C. Both these C and the E are able to occupy the same aural space simultaneously, interpenetrating each other, and this is one of the remarkably unique facets of aural space.(3)

Compare this remarkable capability of sound in aural space with color in physical space. Mixing two colors, say blue and yellow, in the same visual space is certainly possible as it is with the combining of sounds. However, what happens in visual space differs from what happens in aural space. In the combining of colors in the visual space, either one color covers up the other or the two colors mix together to create a third color, green. The key difference in the first instance is that two colors cannot occupy the same visual space as sounds can occupy the same aural space. One replaces the other. The key difference in the second case is that the two colors combine to create a third distinct color, green, and the original two colors themselves are no longer seen in the visual space that is occupied by the green. The point once again is that two colors cannot simultaneously occupy the same visual space. As Victor Zuckerkandl puts it, physical and visual space is juxtapositional whereas aural space is not.(4) The C and E do not combine to create the D that is in between them. They each retain their identities even while occupying the same space.

A few observations deserve mention here while we only have two tones. In addition to hearing the C and E penetrating our aural space simultaneously, we hear something else—we hear a relationship between these two tones.(5) We experience this relationship in terms of consonance and dissonance, with the former being defined as an "absence of roughness" or "relief of tonal tension" and the latter being defined as "roughness" or "tonal tension."(6) The consonance–dissonance designation refers to a continuum, with tonal relationships falling at various places within the spectrum. The "major 3rd" interval created by the C-E dyad is consonant (one of the "imperfect consonances," to use music theoretical categorization), one that lacks tonal tension needing release. The C and E sound "harmonious" together.

Now let’s consider what happens when we add the G, the chord fifth, to our C–E dyad. Not only does the G interpenetrate the same aural space that the C and E occupies, and not only do we then hear new relationships between the G and both other tones, we hear something else happening. The three tones fuse together in a unique way, thereby creating a new harmonic entity—the "chord." This new entity is, however, more than simply the sum of its parts—more than the mere combining of three tones. The tones fuse together to create a singular harmonic unit. And when we hear a chord progression, we are hearing several of these singular units being strung together in a meaningful way. Once again, the fascinating and unique facet of the musical chord in aural space is that while it constitutes a new singular entity created by the fusion of tones, these tones retain their individual identities all the while and can still be heard inside the chord. Thus, the simplest of harmonic units, the chord, is a marvel to think about—a phenomenon unique to aural space.

Section 3 will be devoted to theological reflections informed by our musical investigations, but one is worth noting now while the concept of the musical chord is fresh in mind. In the musical chord we are given one of the strongest metaphors for the Trinity, a metaphor afforded to us by music’s unique spatiality. Father, Son and Holy Spirit fuse beautifully together as one while each retain their unique Personhood at the same time. Like members of a musical chord, these three Persons have relationship with one another—indeed the entire gift of salvation is portrayed in Scripture as a loving inter–Trinitarian transaction, one in which we are merely caught up. Musician and theologian Jeremy Begbie has made similar Trinitarian reflections, noting also that the problematic nature of the most commonly invoked Trinitarian metaphors can be avoided if we open up our reflecting minds to aural rather than physical or visual space:

What could be more apt than to speak of the Trinity as a three–note chord, a resonance of life; Father, Son, and Spirit mutually indwelling, without mutual exclusion, and yet without merger, each occupying the same space, "sounding through" one another, yet irreducibly distinct, reciprocally enhancing, and establishing one another as other?(7)

Let us go back for a moment to this idea of tonal relationships which are manifest as consonance and dissonance. Acoustically speaking, consonance and dissonance is determined by the degree to which the sound waves of two tones vibrate sympathetically.(8) Without going into too many of the details of acoustics, which would take considerable time, pitch is determined by the frequency of its sound waves. (Orchestras tune to the pitch A4 which has a frequency of 440Hz.) Tones whose sound waves vibrate sympathetically are heard as being consonant or being "in harmony" with each other, while two tones whose sound waves do not coincide with each other and do not vibrate sympathetically are heard as being dissonant or "in disharmony" with each other. Now, just how many tones or pitches are there? In one sense, we could say there are an infinite number of pitches on the pitch spectrum since we could essentially consider infinitesimal gradations of pitches extending from 0 Hz to as high as numbers can go. (Many of these pitches would fall outside the range of human hearing, which is from 12 Hz to 20,000 Hz in children and which diminishes throughout life.) However, musically speaking, we say that there are 12 discrete pitches in our Western tonal system. From middle C on the piano (or "C4"), there are twelve notes before we come to the next C above (or "C5"). We say that C5 is one octave higher than C4. The phenomenon of the octave is fascinatingly unique, and the task of explaining phenomenologically the way in which C5 is the same but different than the C4 without referring to the acoustical physics (C5’s sound wave is double that of C4) is very difficult to do. This makes the pitch spectrum helictical rather than linear, a phenomenon that does not exist in the color spectrum.

Music then, through its unique spatiality, has unique capabilities for imaging a unified collection of discrete units. The Trinitarian principle of unity–in–diversity has long been considered a significant criterion for aesthetic value. And music, with its various same–but–different phenomena, so beautifully portrays such a concept in so many different ways: in the members of an orchestra playing instruments of varying timbres coming together under the direction of a leader; in the temporal synchronization of a ensemble to play "in time" with one another; in the polyphonic voices of a fugue each interpenetrating aural space with independent melodies that create a layered, harmonically rich tapestry. It was music’s remarkable capacity of imaging Trinitarian unity–in–diversity that led Dietrich Bonhoeffer to the following reflection, written while in prison:

Where the cantus firmus (the principal voice upon which counterpoint or polyphony is built) is clear and plain, the counterpoint can be developed to its limits. The two are ’undivided and yet distinct’, in the worlds of the Chalcedonian Definition, like Christ in his divine and human natures. May not the attraction and importance of polyphony in music consist in its being a musical reflection of this Christological fact and therefore our vita Christiana? [...] Only a polyphony of this kind can give life a wholeness and at the same time assure us that nothing calamitous can happen as long as the cantus firmus is kept going.(9)



To open a chapter devoted to music and theology, Frank Burch Brown has written:

For reasons that are clear to almost everyone but theologians, musicians (even church musicians) do not generally make a habit of reading theology. If they have heard of a particular theologian, it is often because that theologian has had something to say about music—preferably something complimentary and quotable. (Brown 2000, 160)

This statement would be no less accurate if we substitute "theologians" and "theology" with "philosphers" and "philosophy." It is to the detriment of musicians (especially church musicians) that this is the case, for several reasons. First, the philosophical literature of late on the subject of musical aesthetics is rich, engaging, growing, and quite accessible for the non-philosopher (generally speaking). This increased fascinated with music has led Stephen Davies to declare that "if medals were awarded for growth in aesthetics in the last thirty years, the philosophy of music would win gold" (Davies 2005, 489). Current topics include musical ontology (Just what kind of thing is a musical work?) and its corollary topic of "authenticity" in musical performance (The scare quotes suggest that the entire notion of authenticity has been rendered dubious.). But the topic that has garnered the most attention is musical expression, the topic that occupies out attention in this section. Davies again: "If a single topic has dominated the philosophical discussion of music, it is that of music’s emotional expressiveness, which has standardly been found puzzling" (502). The second reason that musicians miss out by ignoring music philosophers is because those engaged in this discussion are by and large musically untrained. They are enthusiasts and write passionately about music, and their distance from and posture towards music has advantages. It keeps focus on the listening experience rather than on arcane pitch and structural relationships, as music theorists are wont to do.(10) It also more clearly represents how the layman listens when listening to music, which is important for church musicians leading a lay congregation in worship. The late pianist Glenn Gould believed that untrained listeners "usually have an intuitive edge"(11) over trained musicians who listen with preconceived notions and peculiar listening habits. Thirdly, philosophers are both extremely careful with words and, as I have found, write more honestly that those in other disciplines. With a discourse as rich as this, dishonesty is quickly exposed by peers. Both care and honesty are a must if we are to gain ground in a true understanding of the musical experience. Because of these things, the philosophical literature on the subject of music’s emotional expressiveness is endlessly fascinating, passionately written, and extremely insightful. We would do well to pay attention.

The Emotions–in–Music Puzzle Stated

Generally speaking, we usually see no difficulties in thinking and speaking of music in emotional terms. The language we use in describing music very often endows music with emotional content. "This music is sad," we might say. We do this regularly, and there seems to be general consensus that we do it validly. Such statements as, "Music M expresses emotion E," are common. But closer inspection of this manner of speaking begins to reveal a number of questions. What exactly is it that we mean when we say music M expresses emotion E? And why is it that we speak and think this way, especially when it is quite obvious that music itself is non-sentient and thus incapable of expressing anything at all? Since real, "occurrent" emotions, as they are experienced in their usual way, necessarily involve cognitive capacities, sentience seems to be a requirement. So why is it that emotional descriptions of music seem to fit so appropriately? Perhaps when we say music M expresses emotion E, we mean that music M expresses emotion E in that it induces emotion E in the listener (the "arousal theory"). Or perhaps we mean that the composer has expressed his own emotions through the music (the "expression theory"). Maybe we only mean that music M resembles in some way the real–life experience or manifestations of emotion E (the "resemblance theory").

Problems of various kinds arise with each of these assertions: Emotions as they are normally experienced require objects and beliefs. Fear, for example, is always tied to some object: we fear someone, something, or some potential happening.(12) But what could possibly be the object of the emotion "aroused" in the listener? Are there such things as objectless emotions, such as moods or feelings, and are these what music arouses in a listener? And if we call music M sad by virtue of it arousing sadness in the listener, why would anyone willingly listen to such music? What happens to the expression theory in instances where the known state of mind of the composer does not correspond to the expressiveness of the music? If music’s expressiveness merely ’resembles’ the emotions in some way, why do we hear this resemblance and not some other? Can the resemblance theory really account for the deep emotional engagement of our listening experiences? These are just some of the thorny questions that have kept philosophers and musicologists busy for a long time.

What follows in the next several paragraphs is a cursory description of the philosophical terrain dealing with these issues, which will provide a fuller context for the description of my own theory of "heightened musical emotions."


People listen to music for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways (not all of which should be considered aesthetically relevant). People likewise are moved by music in different ways and for different reasons. The power of music to move people is quite mysterious, especially when considering that music is, acoustically speaking, nothing but the combination of physical sound waves. How can mere sound waves have such an effect on us? For all of these reasons, attempting an all–encompassing theory of musical expression is a daunting task if the theory is going to do justice to the many valid ways of listening.

Such a task cannot be attempted here. My aim is to provide thoughts on some of the questions that have occupied philosophers and musicologists in the musical emotions discussion and then to briefly outline a theory of "heightened" musical emotions. But before proceeding, some words of clarification are in order to describe exactly what it is I am intending to explain.

My parenthetical mention at the beginning of this section of aesthetically relevant reasons and ways of listening to music suggests that there are aesthetically irrelevant reasons and ways of listening. I want to exclude such reasons and ways from our discussion for the moment. Here are a couple of examples of aesthetically irrelevant reasons or ways of listening. If a person loves a particular piece of music for the way in which it vividly reminds the listener of a person, time or place that she remembers fondly. This is often referred to as the "our song" phenomenon. As fascinating as music’s ability to vividly conjure up memories, it is not the phenomenon that aestheticians devoted to this topic attempt to explain. The thoughts conjured up in the "our song" phenomenon are only attached to the music by association. The music may trigger thoughts or emotions much like a bell may trigger a dog’s saliva glands, but the there is nothing intrinsic to the music or bell that cause the response in each case, and the responses in each case do not reflect or illuminate in any manner the intrinsic qualities of their causes. Another aesthetically irrelevant way of listening is to do so while engaged in other activities that occupy the mind (e.g. listening while doing homework). Music in this case becomes reduced to unattended ambient noise.

The phenomenon I am most interested in explaining is the one in which an emotional response occurs while listening to and attending to the music, an emotional response that is triggered by the music’s properties and inner workings, and not by any extra-musical associations. It is the visceral, emotional reaction a listener experiences, the "inner stirring" as one philosopher has put it (Addis 1999). This phenomenon includes that moment when the listener thinks, "Oh, I love this part!" while listening to a familiar piece of music (when "this part" refers to properties of the music itself). This experience to which I refer is one that is shared by other listeners when listening to the same musical piece or passage (not the case in the "our song" phenomenon) and is one, therefore, that sheds light on the expressive content of the music. This is not to say that the other ways in which we respond to music are necessarily aesthetically irrelevant. There may be other responsive phenomena that are involved when listening to music in aesthetically relevant ways, but it is this endlessly fascinating phenomenon that occupies us here. Just how is it that the music itself—its acoustical and structural properties—can elicit strong reaction? Just what is it that moves us? We will examine some of the prominent current theories of musical expression.

We begin with the "arousal theory" which "explains the music’s expressiveness as its propensity to evoke the corresponding emotion in the listener" (Davies 2001, 32). We call Chopin’s Prelude in E minor sad because it "arouses" sadness in its listeners. One of the appeals of the arousal theory is that the directness and immediacy between the music’s expressiveness of emotion and our emotional response seems to correspond to how we experience music.

Now for many years, even centuries, the arousal theory was the only expression game in town, that is until Eduard Hanslick began punching holes in it during the second half of the 19th century when he (in)famously proclaimed that music is incapable of expressing emotions.(13) Hanslick provided a number of objections to the arousal theory. First, he challenged the notion that the listener can actually possess the emotion of which the music is expressive. Real emotions like sadness, as they are normally experienced in everyday life, require accompanying objects and beliefs, and it is difficult to imagine what the required object or belief would be in the emotion aroused by the listening experience.(14) Consider the emotion of fear. It is difficult to imagine a genuine experience of fear without being afraid of something. An afraid person may be afraid that his house is about to be robbed or that his father might die while in surgery. And even if the threat of having his house robbed is not real, the belief of that threat is enough for the genuine emotion of fear to be present. But if music expressive of sadness truly arouses sadness in the listener, about what is the listener sad? What is the object and belief of this sadness? The prerequisite object and belief appear to be absent. The second objection Hanslick and anti–arousalists put forth is that the emotion in the listener does not always (and for some people, does not usually or even ever) correspond with the emotion being expressed by the music. A listener is often moved to emotions contrary to those being expressed by the music. She may be exhilarated by the agitated pounding of a work expressive of rage. Or she may loathe the way in which a piece of music expresses sentimental cheerfulness. This frequent, if not usual, lack of correspondence between the music’s expressiveness and the listener’s response seems to discount the arousal theory. Third, even if it is possible that music arouses true emotions in the listener, there is no reason why anyone would want to experience such music. No sane human would voluntarily subject herself to such unpleasant experiences. "If every dull requiem, every noisy death march, every plaintive adagio had the power to make us sad, who would want to go on living?" (Hanslick 1986 [1854], 65). The fact is that we value highly the experience of many such works, and that fact also counts against the arousal theory. As a result of the force behind these attacks from Hanslick and others that followed, the arousal theory has not garnered many advocates throughout the 20th century.

Numerous responses to each of these objections have been provided, and not only by arousal theorists. Some arousalists have maintained that the emotions that are aroused in the listener by the music differ in some manner from true, everyday emotions, saying that the musical variety of emotions are objectless or that they are make–believe emotions. Some attack the cognitive view of the emotions assumed in the attacks from non–arousalists. Others make a distinction between emotions requiring objects or beliefs and those that do not (e.g. feelings, moods). Regarding the objection that no sane person would subject themselves to negative emotions, some arousalists suggest that sane people do, in fact, open themselves up to negative emotions in real life. We willingly watch fictional films and read fictional stories that make us cry. We subject ourselves to fear when watching bullfights. (Bullfighters subject themselves to fear in bull fighting.) Philosopher Ted Cohen has noted that "the willing submission to pain as a part of human experience does not occur only with experiences of art, and that whatever remains enigmatic in our appreciation of artistic tragedy is equally enigmatic in our appreciation of some realities."(15)

One additional point is worth making, one that is not always considered. Versions of the arousal theory either explain the emotional expressiveness in the music in terms of the emotion aroused in the listener or explain the aroused emotion in the listener in terms of the emotional expressiveness in the music (or both). If a theory suggests that music M’s expressiveness of emotion E is explained by emotion E’s being aroused in the listener, the theory itself does not say anything about why it is that emotion E is aroused and not some other emotion. If the theory suggests that emotion E is aroused in the listener because music M is expressive of emotion E, the theory itself does not say anything about why or how it is that emotion E is expressed in the music. It a theory suggests that the expressiveness of E in the music and the arousal of E in the listener are explained by each other, then an obvious circularity is involved here. The arousal theorist has a couple of options in response. She can either look for other explanations regarding how it is that emotion E, and not any other, finds its way into the expressive loop(16), or she can chalk up how it is that emotion finds its way in as one of those great mysteries of music’s expressive power.

Derek Matravers, an advocate of his own version of the arousal theory, acknowledges this potential for circularity. He rightly suggests that the circularity does not itself disprove the arousal theory—the circularity does not preclude that the arousal theory from explaining what actually happens. What it does do is show a deficiency in the theory if it is looked to for an explanation of the nature of the expressiveness found within the music. Matravers also admits that the circularity shows that "in the absence of independent motivations—[we have] no reason to believe [the arousal theory]" (Matravers 2001, 150). What this observation also shows is that it is at least conceivable that the arousal theory and the resemblance theory are not necessarily incompatible. One could suggest that the arousal theory is true in that emotion E is truly aroused in the listener by music M which expresses E and then go on to suggest that the resemblance theory explains how emotion E is made manifest in music M.

Unfortunately (and perhaps unfairly), a thorough treatment of the responses from the arousalist camp will not be attempted here. I point the reader to three current arousalists who have made significant efforts in resuscitating the arousalist position: Derek Matravers (2001), Jenefer Robinson (2005) and Charles O. Nussbaum (2007). Overall, they represent the minority report.

We turn now to the "expression theory" which suggests that the emotional expressiveness of the music should be heard as an expression of the composer’s emotions. It is difficult to imagine how the music itself, being non–sentient, can contain emotions, so the expression theorist turns to the composer who is certainly sentient (though some may wonder!). The composer, through his art of composition, has infused in the music his own emotions, and the listener hears the emotional content of the music as an expression of the composer.

Several shortcomings of this view explain why it has been largely marginalized. The primary objection is that our listening experience of music does not allow for this theory since we generally place the expressive content of music within the music. We hear it as belonging to the music, as an attribute of the music itself. A now famous aphorism from O.K. Bouwsma is often invoked in connection with this distinction: "The sadness is to the music rather like the redness to the apple, than it is like the burp to the cider" (Bouwsma 1950). When we say that music M expresses emotion E, we take E to be a property of M itself rather than a property of something external that stands in some relation to M. While it is true that a composer may wish to infuse his emotions into the music, it is very often the case that a work’s expressive content is contrary to the known state of mind of the composer during that work’s composition. A clear example of this would be the jubilance of much of the music by Mozart written during the darkest period of his life (e.g. the Jupiter Symphony). But even if the emotional content of the music does correspond to the state of mind of the composer, the fact is often given that we do not generally listen to music in the way that assumes it to be the emotional expression of the composer.

Stephen Davies points out this separation between the composer and the work when he notes that "in the most plausible account [of the expression theory], the composer appropriates the music’s expressiveness in order to make the connection with his or her own emotions. In other words, the composer is like the person who expresses his or her feelings, not by showing them directly, but by making a mask that wears an appropriate expression" (Davies 2001, 32). Davies’s comment indicates a deficiency in the expression theory—namely, that it carries very little explanatory weight, for while it does attempt to explain what it is that we mean when we attribute emotional content to music by saying that it is the expression of the composer’s real emotions, it stops well short of explaining how it is that the emotional content is heard by the listener or inserted into the music by the composer. Put differently, it is the nature of the expressiveness that we hear within the music that we are seeking to explain, and this view offers nothing by way of an explanation.(17) It only takes for granted that the expressiveness is there, and states that it should be heard as belonging to the composer. This deficiency of failing to explain the how–it–is–that of it all is found in several of other prominent theories as well.

However, while acknowledging this deficiency, a modest rescue of the expression theory may be possible. While it might be true that we generally do not hear music’s expressive content as being an expression of the composer’s real emotions, due to the expression theory’s quite narrow explanatory scope there is certainly no harm done in listening in the manner the theory suggests. Since it leaves untouched the question of the nature of the emotional content within the music, the expression theory is allowable, and this allowance can be acknowledged by both the arousalist and the resemblance theorist (to be discussed shortly) without doing any damage to their respective views.

Not only is the expression theory allowable philosophically, but in certain situations the listener would be often correct in listening in a manner that hears the expression in the music as being an intended expression of the composer’s real emotions. This is more appropriate when listening to music from periods during which the prominent view of art saw it as a vehicle for personal expression (e.g. 19th century) and when listening to music by composers who were known to take such a view of art. Just as there are counter–examples of instances when the known state of mind of the composer during a work’s composition does not correspond to the expressive content of the music, there are also many examples when the known state of mind does correspond. There are even works that we know were intended by the composer to be personal expressions of states of mind. So why not hear them in this way? I suspect that more people listen in the way the expression theory suggests than philosophers have generally granted, and I have more than musicologists in mind.

Taking the rescuing endeavor further, even when we are not sure whether the state of mind of the composer corresponds, is there any harm in listening in this manner? If we can, by the use of our imagination, hear the emotional expressiveness of a piece of music as belonging to ourselves (as is suggested by Kendall Walton (1988, 1994) and, more recently, by Jerrold Levinson (2005b)) or as belonging to a fictitious "persona" (the so–called "persona" theory), why can we not hear the emotions in the music as the imagined emotions of the composer? It seems, at least, a possible approach.

While the Bouwsma quip invoked by critics has considerable thrust and makes an important distinction that we must not forget, it may not do the damage to the expression theory that its critics assume it does. It seems to me that it only does considerable damage if the expression theorist denies that the sadness is a property of the music, and I do not see that the expression theory is necessarily committed to such a position. Can the sadness heard in the music not be a property of the music and still be an expression of the composer’s own emotions? Is it not possible that the sadness in the music is both like the redness to the apple and like the burp to the cider in some way? It seems to me that the Bouwsma invocation does not do the intended damage here. For even though the expression theory and other theories, such as the arousal theory or resemblance theory, answer the question "What do we mean when we say music M expresses emotion E?" differently, it does not necessarily make the expression theory and others incompatible.

What the Bouwsma quip does do, however, is it exposes once again the expression theory’s deficiency in explaining anything about the nature of expression. Even if the expression theory does not deny that the sadness is a property of the music, it does not affirm it either. It says nothing on the matter. The expression theory is an attempt to explain the way in which the expression of emotion is to the music as the burp is to the cider, while the chief enterprise at hand is to explain the way in which the expression of emotion is to the music as the redness is to the apple.

One final objection to the expression theory will once and for all lead us to brighter and better theories. The fact of the matter is that the mere recognition of emotional expressiveness involved in the expression theory seems too conceptual and fails to account for the emotional investment of our listening experience. The fact is that we invest ourselves emotionally in the music without hearing or imagining the expressiveness in music as coming from the composer (or anyone else outside the music, for that matter). The expression theory truly carries too little explanatory weight for it to satisfy. We must look elsewhere if we hope to get at the nature of the expression of emotion in music and our deep emotional investment in it.

Finally, we come to one of the more widely held theories in the "resemblance theory"(18) which states that when we describe a piece of music in emotional terms and when we hear emotions in the music, we hear these emotions primarily(19) by way of the resemblances the music has with the physiological and/or behavioral manifestations of real everyday human emotions.(20) We may (validly) call Chopin’s Prelude in E minor a sad piece of music, and we hear this sadness in the music because its musical characteristics (i.e. slow tempo and musical activity, downward melodic motion, minor depressed tonality) resemble the behavior of people who are sad (i.e. slowed heart rate and bodily movement, drooping posture, dragging gait). It would be difficult to conceive of a sad piece whose tempo is quicker than the human relaxed heart rate or a joyful piece whose primary pulse is slower than the relaxed heart rate.

Peter Kivy is one philosopher who has very persuasively argued against the arousal theory and has suggested a version of the resemblance theory that he calls the "contour theory." According to this theory, the "’contour’ of music, its sonic ’shape,’ bears a structural analogy to the heard and seen manifestations of human emotive expression" (Kivy 2002, 40). He suggests that we hear emotions in the music subliminally, without knowing fully what is going on. "We hear the melancholy and cheerfulness of the music immediately, ...and can be quite unaware of the features of the music in virtue of which it is melancholy or cheerful" (40). We do this because we are "hard–wired by evolution—by natural selection"—to animate ambiguous figures and shapes as when seeing “living forms in clouds, in stains on walls, in the shadowy things lurking in the woods" (41).

There are several corollaries to the resemblance theory that are worth noting. First, if music possesses emotional content by way it its resemblances to physiological or behavioral manifestations of human emotions, then only those human emotions that have physiological or behavioral manifestations can be heard in the music. It is difficult to image a music that is expressive of an emotion like guilt because guilt usually does not manifest itself in typical and therefore recognizable ways. A text portraying guilt that is set to music may lead us to believe that guilt is being expressed by the music, but without a text, it is difficult to imagine that guilt would be recognized as being expressed by the musical properties. A second corollary is this: since some human emotions possess similar or even identical manifestations, there is a significant limit to the range and nuance of emotions that music can express.

Resemblance theorists have their fair share of critics as well, as a number of objections have been raised. If when music is said to express emotions we only mean that music resembles the outward manifestations of real human emotions, then there is no direct connection with real emotions at all. And furthermore, how can this be called expression at all? And if there is no direct connection with real emotions, then it is difficult to understand why we should hear the music as resembling emotions and not something else. There is a degree of separation between the music and emotions that calls into question the whole notion of musical expression. Roger Scruton, who claims that the resemblance theory "confuses expression with the route to it," properly notes that the putative resemblance must not be between the music and the emotions themselves, but between music and things we take to be expressive of the emotions themselves. He does this by noting what he sees as the inconceivability of the idea that music resembles the emotions themselves, an idea that certain philosophers such as Susanne Langer are believed to accept:

It is astonishing to discover the frequency with which theories of musical meaning, deploying the most sophisticated apparatus, reduce in the end to a lame idea of analogy between music and emotion... The invocation metaphor is here as redundant as the use of Charles Morris’s theory of the icon. Both are rhetorical gestures designed to render interesting the theory—as banal as it is false—that music resembles our states of mind... Once again, the massive investment in technicalities falls instantly away, and leaves one with the bare assertion that music (the ’object’ of hearing) resembles our states of mind. Yet no argument is given to tell us how any such thing could be true (Scruton 1997, 147n).

Scruton has a way of making his retort sound stronger and more logically sound than it actually is. He seems rather offended by the suggestion that there is no real–life occurent emotions involved when talking about emotions within the music. Whatever we make of Scruton’s objection, he is not alone in believing that resemblance theories are ultimately unsatisfactory in explaining the immediacy and depth of our emotional responses to music. Ironically, Kivy counts himself among the resemblance theory detractors: "Add all of [the] difficulties [with the contour theory] together and the contour theory begins to look pretty shaky. Indeed, it looks shaky not only to its detractors but to at least one of its supporters as well: me. Having vigorously defended the contour theory, [...] I can no longer say that I am not without serious qualms [...] {But} it simply refuses to die, in spite of its numerous difficulties. There doesn’t seem to be another, more plausible alternative" (Kivy 2002, 47).

However, even if we grant that the resemblance theory accurately explains why we hear the music as possessing emotional content, it is not necessarily relevant to the question of what is it in music that moves us deeply, which is the phenomenon we initially set out to explain. (It is for this reason that Kivy is comfortable with being so uncomfortable with the resemblance theory.) In other words, while the arousal theory addressed the emotional response in the listener since it is thought to be connected with music’s emotional expressiveness, the resemblance theory only attempts to explain how it is that music can be thought of as expressing emotion. It says nothing really about our response to music at all.

Many philosophers (though certainly not all) believe that there is little or no relevance between the emotions of which the music is expressive and the emotional response of the listener. What this equates to saying is that the expression of emotion in a piece of music has little or no relevance to its aesthetic merit. This was one of Hanslick’s primary points, that "beauty [or aesthetic merit] is and remains beauty even if no feelings are aroused and even if it be neither perceived nor thought."(21) These critics point to several pieces of evidence that seem to support their view. First, there are many pieces of music, particularly from the Romantic era during which art was thought as a vehicle for personal self–expression, whose emotional content is easily recognizable but which fails to move the listener whatsoever. Second, there are many pieces that seemingly bear no resemblances to any emotional content and yet move us deeply. There are plenty of Bach fugues, for example, that do not seem to be expressive of any particular emotion at all. Related to this is the fact that different listeners often provide varying answers when asked to describe the emotional content of the same piece.

Kivy is one such critic who believes the expression of emotion in the music is not particularly relevant to the question of aesthetic merit. Kivy agrees with Hanslick that emotions require objects and beliefs, and in his own theory explaining the what–moves–us–in–music question, he looks to fulfill these requirements. What is the object of the listener’s responsive emotion? Why the music itself. "Or, more exactly, the object of the musical emotion is the set of features in the music that the listener believes are beautiful, magnificent, or in some other ways aesthetically admirable to a high degree" (Kivy 2002, 129). What about the belief requirement? "That, clearly, is fulfilled by the listener’s belief that the music she is listening to, or an aspect of it, is beautiful, magnificent, or in some other ways possessing positive aesthetic properties to a very high degree" (129). Take this belief from the listener, and the emotional response disappears. Finally, Kivy describes just what kind of feeling this emotional response to the music is. "The feeling is the kind of excitement or exhilaration or awe or wonder... that such beauty customarily arouses" (131). So Kivy refers to the "object–belief–feeling" requirements and this is how he sees them fulfilled.

Now for Kivy, all this is not to say that a listener may not be moved by the way in which music expresses sadness. But in such a case, the way in which the music expresses sadness would be counted among those beautiful, magnificent musical properties that serve as the object of the emotion of exhilaration. Furthermore, this seems to removes the "problem of tragedy" since no negative emotion is really ever felt by the listener. A listener of Chopin’s sad prelude might be moved by the expressed sadness, but she is not moved to sadness.

While Kivy’s view is not without its detractors, it has garnered support. I have given Kivy’s theories much attention because I am sympathetic with them to a large degree. I only wish to add a couple components, which I will do shortly.

My Theory of Musical Expressiveness: ’Heightened’ Emotions

I now turn to what I believe is the most plausible theory of musical emotions—what I call the theory of "heightened emotions". The theory rests heavily on the resemblance theory, but I believe it also resuscitates elements of the arousal theory in a way that explains why it was held so widely in times past and why, in its simplicity, it still appeals to many today.

I believe that the resemblance theory goes a long way in accurately explaining how it is we hear emotions in the music. We hear the characteristics of the music itself resembling the physiological and behavioral manifestations of real emotions, and therefore describe the music as being expressive of that emotion. We call Chopin’s Prelude in E minor "sad" because its features resemble people who are truly sad. I also believe, like Hanslick and Kivy, that in the paradigmatic listening experience (when done in an aesthetically relevant manner), the recognition of the emotional content of the music via its resemblances to real emotions in people fall quite low on the list of reasons we value music and respond to it. It is certainly possible for a person to recognize the sadness in Chopin’s E minor prelude while at the same time fail to respond to the work and fail to see any aesthetic merit in the work. While that experience may not frequently happen with Chopin’s beautiful prelude, it certainly happens with other works and happens frequently. Likewise, a person may have a deep response to a work that she values highly, say an intricate Bach fugue, and fail to recognize any particular emotion being resembled by the music.

Remember from the discussion at the beginning of this section just what phenomenon it is that we are trying to explain. We want to explore the question of what it is in music that moves us when we listen and attend to the music. The fact of the matter is that while the resemblance theory goes far in explaining the emotions in the music, it does little to explain the emotions in the listener.

Now it should be noted that the extent to which the recognition of emotions in the music falls in the list of reasons that we value and respond to music varies depending upon the listener. It may certainly be the case that a person plays a kind of name–that–emotion game when listening to music and responds to the musical game with enjoyment. Such people, if there be many, will gravitate toward musical styles that abundantly feature highly emotional content and away from music seemingly devoid of emotion. (Any arousalist who thinks this characterization trivializes their view need not worry. I hope to do proper justice to the arousal theory in due time.) For other kinds of listeners the recognition of emotion falls low on the list. Personally, I fit this category. As a composer, I listen in a very composerly way. I am often moved by musical features that particularly demonstrate the skill of the composer. For example, I might be thrilled to figure out that a piece features a canon in the flute and oboe, and that thrill may be further heightened by the brilliance with which the composer hides the canon from obvious discovery. Now this may be an extreme case of a composer listening in a peculiarly composerly way, but even for me with my composer’s ears, this is not the primary reason for my being moved by a musical passage (when I am moved). However, I am moved primarily by the attributes of the music; by the turn of a phrase, by the reappearance of a theme in different guise, by the beautiful imitation of instruments of varying timbres, by the surprise harmony, and so forth. In my experience, it is the musical features such as these that move me most when listening to music, and I believe this is true of the average listener (when that listener is competent and listening in an aesthetically relevant way).

Music, In other words, Kivy’s theory of object (the music), belief (the music is beautiful), and feeling (exhilaration) corresponds with my own listening experience and, I believe, the experience of others. Music presents itself (or is presented to us) as an aesthetic object and, as such, invites contemplation and aesthetic evaluation. Through this evaluation process, we form the beliefs toward the music, and when those evaluative beliefs are positive (for whatever aesthetic reason), we feel exhilaration. What this view essentially implies is that the expression of emotion by music is entirely unnecessary for the music to be valued aesthetically and for the listener to be moved. Because this is the case, the arousal theory, at least taken by itself, cannot explain the "what moves us?" question.

I only wish to add one more component to this view, and that is an aspect component. The object is the music itself, but just what aspects of the music are we talking about? An aspect component would go a slight bit farther in describing why the object (music) warrants the attendant belief that it is beautiful. Now as listeners, we may not always know exactly which musical aspects are commanding our evaluative belief. Some listeners may seek to discover what those aspects are, but such an attempt is not always successful and is not at all necessary. Regardless, having a way to refer to these aspects will help us as we move forward. So then, I wish to render the view as having an object/aspect–belief–feeling requirement structure.

But this is not the end of the story. Such a view as the one just stated fails to account for those listeners who truly believe they are responding to the music’s emotional expression and responding in a manner that in some way takes on the corresponding emotion expressed. After all, it is essentially my word against theirs at this point. I will now attempt to explain why it is that arousal theories seem so right to many and why people seemingly respond to music with the emotion that is expressed by the music.

And so we come to the crux of the "heightened emotion" theory. I reject the arousal theory if it is intended to explain music’s expressiveness by turning to the emotion aroused in the listener. I accept the resemblance theory that music expresses emotion by way of its resemblances to manifestations of emotions. I ascribe to the object/aspect–belief–feeling view of the listening experience. However, something interesting happens when the emotional state of the listener matches the emotions resembled by the music. The listener’s visceral feelings of that emotion are heightened, strengthened, amplified by the sympathetic musical characteristics that resemble those visceral feelings. In this regard, music’s movement acts as an emotional resonator as the music helps the listener emote. The music provides the listener an emotive voice. This phenomenon I call the "emotion–heightening phenomenon," or "EHP."(22)

This special power of music to heighten our emotions can be explained in large part by its unique spatiality as described in Section 1. When we see something in physical space, we see it out there, distanced from ourselves. The juxtapositional nature of physical space, as Zuckerkandl put it, implicates our separateness to those things we see positioned in space. When we hear a musical tone in aural space, it engulfs us, invades our being, occupying the totality of that aural space. The nature of aural space is an interpenetrating rather than a juxtapositional one. Because music engulfs us, we can easily imagine the music as coming from within us, as being an expression of our own emotions. This point has been well made by Kendall Walton, a proponent of the "persona" theory:

My impression is the opposite of being distanced from the world of music (if we can call it a world). I feel intimate with the music, more intimate, even, that I feel with the world of a painting. The world of a painting (as opposed to the world of my game with the painting) is out there, something I observe from an external perspective. But it is as though I am inside the music, or it is inside me. Rather than having an objective, aperspectival relation to the musical world, I seem to relate to it in a more personal and subjective manner (Walton 1994, 54).

This capacity of music to engulf the listener gives some credence to the "persona" theory if the persona involved is the listener himself. Such a view as this—imagining the music as being a fictitious portrayal of ourselves, of our own persona—resonates with the theory of heightened emotions (though other aspects of the persona theory as typically described are less congruous with the theory of musical emotion presented here(23)).

I believe that we enjoy this emotion–heightening phenomenon so much that we often find ways of possessing the emotion expressed by the music. We may put into our minds something in our lives that causes us to experience a particular emotion. Music can help us grieve over a recently lost loved one. We often do not have to look far for a real emotion to be heightened, since the music itself can fill that role. In the case of music expressive of joy, the music sympathetically resonates with our belief that the music is wonderfully and beautifully crafted, and so our emotion directed to the music is then heightened by the music, further enhancing our belief in the beauty of the music. I believe this wonderful reciprocal experience is a common occurrence.

Or we may take on pretend emotions (not real ones) that correspond to the music, much like an actor pretends to possess the emotion of the character being portrayed. (Musical performers no doubt take on these pretend emotions in order to better play expressively. If it heightens the listener’s emotions, it should likewise heighten the performers as well.) Some listeners take on these pretend emotions with such regularity that it becomes an unconscious process. As a result the listener feels as if the emotions heightened by the music were in reality aroused by the music. This explains why so much stock has been placed in arousal theories in the past.

In taking on these pretend emotions, we essentially mirror the music. Mirroring is a phenomenon not unique to music but is found in many other facets of life. Consider the natural tendency to yawn after seeing someone else yawn. David Brooks has recently explained our propensity to mirror this way:

Philosophers have argued about the process people use to understand one another. Some believe that we are careful theorizers. We come up with hypotheses about how other people will behave, and then test those hypotheses against the evidence we observe... But these days most of the research points to the primacy of a rival hypothesis: that we automatically simulate others, and understand what others feel by feeling a version of what they are experiencing, in ourselves. In this view, people aren’t cold theorizers who are making judgments about other creatures. They are unconscious Method actors who understand by sharing or at least simulating the responses they see in the people around them (Brooks 2011, 39).

The phenomenon Brooks describes here corresponds nicely with the theory of heightened emotions. We move sympathetically with the music perhaps because our minds are hard–wired to do so. In doing so, we exercise our emotions and our ability to sympathize. In this respect, music provides us with a kind of emotional calisthenics during which we can exercise emotions that we may infrequently experience in life. So for those emotions which are negative in real life (e.g. sadness), we are able to experience a version of them through music, a version that is not tied to life implications. Just as a horror film may provide us with an opportunity of experiencing fear without really fearing for our lives, so music may provide us the same opportunity.

Now, it should be noted that this phenomenon of heightened emotions is a byproduct of the aesthetic listening experience. That is, the object/aspect–belief–feeling view to which I ascribed above explains our experience of music as an aesthetic object, and any listener who stops short of engaging in this emotion–heightening phenomenon, whether the attendant emotions are real or of the pretended variety, is prevented access neither to a full comprehension of the expressive content of such music nor to the feeling of exhilaration, which is, after all, the (more) aesthetic emotion. So the evaluative object–belief–feeling process occurs on the front end of our experience, only after which the emotion-heightening phenomenon occurs. However, even though the phenomenon is a byproduct, it is one of some importance given the extent to which this emotion-heightening phenomenon is engaged, and its importance is significant enough for us to seek explanation.

Since the object/aspect–belief–feeling evaluative process occurs prior to the EHP, the involved belief component also conditions the emotion-heightening phenomenon. If I believe that a particular piece of music is poorly constructed or performed, I will likely not have a response to the music (except for the negative response of disliking the music). Such a piece will likely not heighten any emotion in me, and I will have a difficult time playing the game of pretended emotions. If I believe that a particular piece is brilliantly constructed or performed, I will more likely respond to it, my emotions will be heightened to the extent that I believe what I’m hearing is good (assuming my emotions match the music), and I will more readily buy into the "heightened emotions" game. This I henceforth refer to this the belief factor.(24)

Now, for people who are inclined to playing the EHP game, it is possible that a piece of music’s capacity for heightening emotion be counted among the potential aspects fulfilling the object/aspect requirement. A person may certainly love Tchaikovsky’s "Pathetique" Symphony for the way in which it heightens her pretended emotions of angst and grief. (I suspect that this aspect is among those fulfilling the object/aspect requirement for many people!) But to what extent does this particular aspect fit under the category of aesthetically relevant aspects? We have, after all, not placed stipulations on which aspects aesthetically qualify for the object/aspect requirement. A father could believe Tchaikovsky’s "Pathetique" Symphony No.6 to be excellent for the way its puts his baby child to sleep, but that can hardly be considered aesthetically relevant.

I do know how possible it is to conclusively define which aspects can qualify as aesthetically relevant, but I have reservations with saying that the capacity to heighten emotion can in all situations stand as an aesthetically qualified aspect. Saying so would allow for the possibility that a piece filled with the most banal harmonic progressions and cliché–ridden melodies has aesthetic merit if its musical features, by way of its resemblances to manifestations of real life emotions, give the music a capacity for heightening emotion. A person listening to such music for the sole purpose of engaging in the EHP could be entirely satisfied by the piece. Such people who "wallow in feelings," as Hanslick described them, are not interested in the "aesthetical comprehension of the musically beautiful" (Hanslick 1986 [1854], 65). At the same time, it would seem to me that, counterexamples aside, when people consider the capacity for the EHP in Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony to be one aspect (among any others) that fulfills the object/aspect requirement, that aspect is indeed an aesthetically qualified one. But how can this be? How can I have it both ways? Well, perhaps it could be stated that in counterexamples of banal music, the aspects warranting a negative evaluation far outweigh its positive capacity of facilitating the EHP. It would seem, likewise, that the capacity for the EHP in Tchaikovsky’s symphony only counts as a qualified aspect if other, more aesthetically relevant aspects in the music result in a positive aesthetic evaluation and belief. This feeble and rather incomplete answer will, for the moment, have to suffice.

Primary and Secondary Music

Now before proceeding any further, an important distinction must be made between music whose intended purpose is to stand alone as an aesthetic object for aesthetic contemplation on the one hand (e.g. Tchaikovsky’s "Pathetique" Symphony) and music whose purpose is to serve a secondary function on the other (e.g. film music, worship music). For sake of ease, I will refer to the former as "primary music" and the latter as "secondary music." Primary music, being written for an audience that attends with undivided attention to the music, results in a purely musical experience. Secondary music is intended not for the purely musical experience but for other experiences (not all of which may be called "aesthetic") in which music plays only a part. Therefore, secondary music is certainly heard, though not with the same undivided attention with which primary music is heard. What I wish to exclude from the category of secondary music is Musak—that is, music–as–wallpaper. Such music is heard far too marginally (if at all) to be of any significant relevance. Even primary music may be heard in such a manner (offensive as some may find it) as when the sounds of a Mozart symphony fill a department store. Listening (or non–listening) of this kind will be largely excluded from our discussion.

It should be said that most philosophers, when treating the subject of music–and–emotions, isolate what I have called primary music for their discussion. Their reason for doing so is understandable since they wish to deal exclusively with emotional engagement found in the purely musical experience without the pollution of other factors. For instance, bringing into the discussion a Schubert song that includes text allows for the possibility that a portion of any emotional response to such a piece is attributable to the text and not the music. (Never mind for the moment that a Schubert song would likely fit our category of primary music as I have described it and would at the very least fall somewhere between primary and secondary music.) What philosophers are concerned with is how and why humans are so mysteriously moved by "music alone."(25) Bringing in what I have called secondary music significantly complicates matters since, as one philosopher has put it, "the presence of a literary element [for example] makes the whole situation very complex, leading to the creation of a new artistic work that goes beyond pure music" (Ingarden 1986, 42).

However, as complicated as things might become, I believe that including secondary music in the discussion can help lead us to a fuller understanding of music’s power to move us. We can learn much through a contemplation about how music moves us when listened to in a secondary manner as opposed to a primary manner, as the two kinds of listening are, after all, very different. (And we would do well to remember that the vast majority of music that is heard today falls in the category of secondary music (again, excluding the ubiquitous music–as–wallpaper variety).) Nicholas Cook, among others, has noticed just how differently contemporary avant–garde music, for example, is heard when heard as secondary music rather than primary music:

Here again it is the circumstances of listening rather than the sounds themselves that are decisive in determining the listener’s response, for the same person may react to the same piece of contemporary music quite differently under different conditions. A passage from Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Mikrophonie II, for instance, may be accepted without demur as the sound-track for a science–fiction movie; heard on the car radio it may be ignored, or the radio may be retuned to another station; whereas in the concert–hall the music may be angrily rejected. Throughout the twentieth century, the most characteristic response to avant-garde music on the part of its detractors has not been a cool indifference, but a hot–blooded denial: ’that’s not music!’ is the pronouncement not of somebody who is simply uninterested in the new music, but someone who feels that his basic musical values are being challenged by it (Cook 1990, 13).

In addition to showing how differently primary music and secondary music are heard, this passage also demonstrates the extent to which the belief factor can become significantly attenuated or at least recalibrated in the case of secondary music. Cook is certainly right that austere contemporary music (of which Stockhausen’s is indeed a good example) grates on the average listener when listened to as primary music while at the same time has the ability to effectively serve as secondary music without eliciting such a negative reaction. Primary music, standing alone as a work of art, demands attention of its listeners and therefore provokes aesthetic evaluation. Thus, the belief factor kicks in. Secondary music makes no such demands for aesthetic evaluation, or at least its demands are significantly reduced. And to the extent that such demands are reduced, the belief factor is attenuated.

However, even though the belief factor is reduced, it would seem that music listened to secondarily retains its emotion-heightening abilities to a certain degree. Consider the case of film music. The average viewer hears the music certainly, though not as primary music. His primary attention is devoted to what is happening on the movie screen. Yet the fact that music is largely marginalized in his attention does not prevent it from playing a significant role in heightening the emotions in viewers. (And the success of music written for such secondary functions is determined by the extent to which it can heighten emotions while occupying this marginalized position. As suggested by Cook, much primary music does not function well as secondary music, and vice versa.)

Now, if secondary music retains its emotion–heightening abilities to a certain degree, what exactly is that degree? It seems that that degree is conditioned by a number of factors. But before naming some of them, we should examine more closely the extent to which and manner in which the belief factor conditions the emotion–heightening capacity of music in primary music. Since the belief factor is reduced or eliminated in our experience of secondary music, we should determine what is left of primary music’s emotion–heightening capacity once the belief factor is stripped away, and to do that we must investigate more fully just what it is the belief factor adds.

The central questions to be asked then are these: How much does believing that a piece is of poor aesthetic quality detract from primary music’s emotion–heightening capacity? How much does believing that a piece is of excellent quality enhance primary music’s emotion–heightening capacity? And to what extent does the emotion–heightening capacity remain in primary music that is either not evaluated (no belief regarding its aesthetic quality) or that is evaluated as being neither particularly good nor bad? (Never mind for the moment that these questions severely oversimplify our complex evaluative thought processes.)

In one respect, these questions seem practically unanswerable given the wide variety of (aesthetically valid) ways of listening and the variety of dispositions and personalities of listeners. The fact is that some listeners are more likely to play the game of heightened pretend emotions than others, just as some listeners are more critical in their aesthetic evaluation than others. All we can hope to do is to shed a little bit of light by speculating about how the belief factor usually plays out in the experience of most average listeners.

It seems to me that in our experience of primary music, a positive evaluation of the music’s aesthetic merit is required for emotion–heightening, especially when such heightening is to occur with pretended versions of emotions. Remember that primary music is music that stands alone as an aesthetic object, and a positive evaluation is required to the extent to which primary music demands aesthetic evaluation. Again, this extent may vary based on the disposition of each person, but generally speaking, I believe the tacit demand is there and must be satisfied before emotional engagement takes place. (For listeners more inclined toward the game of pretended emotions, the evaluative process may take place simultaneously. For such a person, the process may be construed differently: until a positive evaluation is ruled out, pretend–emotion–heightening engagement can occur. Still, aesthetic evaluation is embedded in the listening experience, and it should be remembered that the game of pretend–emotion–heightening is a kind of byproduct of Kivy’s object–belief–feeling view to which I ascribed to above, important as that byproduct may be.)

However brief and incomplete this reflection is regarding the belief factor, it will suffice as we now proceed to investigate some of the factors that condition the degree to which secondary music retains its emotion–heightening capabilities. Here are four factors:

A) The extent to which the belief factor is attenuated in the various experiences of secondary music.

B) The degree to which each of the various kinds of secondary music (with its associated medium, function, context, etc.) recedes from the category of primary listening—that is to say, recedes from the aesthetic attention of the listener.

C) The extent to which those aspects toward which the beliefs involved in the belief factor are directed are heard when listening to secondary as opposed to primary music.

D) The extent to which any other belief factors at play with non–musical aspects of the overall experience condition the emotion–heightening capacity of the attending secondary music.

We begin to see right away just how complicated things become once we enter the realm of secondary music. These factors not only condition the overall question of the extent to which secondary music retains its EHP capabilities, they also condition each other. Furthermore, arriving at conclusions with each of these conditions is problematic due once again to the wide variety of listeners and listening habits. Still, these factors are worth investigating to whatever extent possible if we hope to shed any light on our experience of secondary music (which will in turn hopefully shed light on our experience of music in worship).

As has been stated, in comparison with primary music, we listen to (perhaps "hear" is the better word) secondary music with less attention focused on the music itself. But just how much less? That is the question, and it all depends upon these factors.

Factor A — Attenuation of the Belief Factor

What would happen if the belief factor were eliminated entirely (supposing this is possible) as a factor in the experience of a piece of secondary music? In such a case, the belief factor would no longer have any bearing on the music’s capacity to facilitate the EHP. But what would that mean? What is left of the EHP capacity if neither a positive nor negative evaluation is made toward the music’s aesthetic merit? I suggest that the music would retain its capacity for the EHP to a significant degree. I believe that the negative evaluation of a piece of music diminishes or eliminates the capacity for the EHP to a greater degree than a positive evaluation of a piece of music enhances it. This is supported by the known fact that certain kinds of background music in stores and other public places affect a person’s behavior. If the belief factor were eliminated entirely, it would also render Factor C moot and Factor B pointless, since both assume the belief factor in play to some degree.

However, I do not believe it possible that the belief factor can be eliminated entirely, especially with the kinds of art–related secondary music we have in mind. Music, even secondary music, invades the entirely of our aural space. We cannot escape it. And even when are aesthetic evaluative attention is not directed toward it, we assess to some degree. We, at the very least, notice when it is exceptionally good or exceptionally bad.

Lastly, there is an aspect in the music to which the belief factor is directed in secondary music that is not present in primary music. This secondary–specific object relates to its function. Secondary music is functional music. It serves to accompany, to provide atmosphere, to facilitate dance, etc. And if we believe that the music fulfills its intended function well, then its capacity for the EHP is enhanced (all other factors being equal). But, and this is more decisive, if we believe the music fails to fulfill its intended function, then its capacity for the EHP is significantly curtailed or even eliminated (and this is possible even with music that would be considered excellent as primary music).

Factor B — Receding from the Category of Primary Music, from Aesthetic Attention

The fact is that various kinds of secondary music recede to the background of our attention to varying degrees. Music that accompanies modern dance will likely not recede nearly as much as most film music, though the former would likely recede more than music accompanying traditional ballet such as Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. But even within secondary music, different parts of our attention recede. For example, compare music that accompanies modern dance with music that functions to facilitate ballroom dancing. The former retains more of the hearers’ aesthetic attention (complete with aesthetic evaluation) when compared to latter, but the latter is likely listened to more intently since its hearers, the dancers, must follow and move with the music. What this means is that "receding from the hearer’s attention" is not always to be equated with "receding from the hearer’s aesthetic contemplation and evaluation." Aesthetic posture varies in the various experiences to which secondary music attends. Factor B, then, conditions Factor A, since the belief factor in A is directly related to aesthetic posture.

This should remind us that with secondary music, we may be moving outside the realm of the aesthetic (depending on how that is defined, of course). For Hanslick, this is definitely true.(26) This need not concern us, however. Even if secondary music does fall outside the realm of the aesthetic, its capacity for the EHP is not necessarily eliminated, and it is on this EHP that we are attempting to shed light. Once we come to a discussion on worship (with its attending secondary music), we may again find ourselves outside the realm of the aesthetic (by some definitions).

Factor C — Aspects Involved in Belief Factor Heard in Secondary Music

Factor C is a kind of restatement of Factor B, being defined in terms of aspects toward which the belief factor is directed. And here is where we see how complicated things really are. Generally speaking, what kinds of aspects in the instance of primary music typically fulfill Kivy’s object requirement, and are those aspects heard (sufficiently) in the case of secondary music? In describing his theory, Kivy provides minimal elaboration regarding the attendant aspects when describing them as a "set of features in the music that the listener believes are beautiful, magnificent, or in some other ways aesthetically admirable to a high degree" (Kivy 2002, 129). The question remains whether the features to which Kivy refers are heard in the various cases of secondary music. Kivy is no doubt purposefully vague because he knows that listeners appreciate such a wide variety of aesthetically relevant aspects in music. The extent to which the aspects involved in the belief factor are heard in secondary music, then, depends partly upon the kinds of aspects toward which a listener typically directs his beliefs. One listener who is rather easily carried away by beautiful, singable melodies will likely be able to hear such melodies in her experience of secondary music. Another listener may be predisposed to direct her beliefs toward very technical aspects in the music (e.g. intricate contrapuntal devices) that are only heard when paying close attention. Such aspects will likely go unheard in the case of secondary music.

And just as aspects that warrant a positive evaluative belief may go unheard, so aspects that warrant a negative belief may go unheard as in Cook’s example with Stockhausen’s avant–garde music. The listener who is stylistically competent enough to detect when piece of primary music falls into banal and clichéd means of expression may not detect such banalities in a piece of secondary music. (For this reason, the composer of secondary music can "get away with" a lot more, since evaluative attention is divided!) If Cook is right, and I am sure that he is, then whatever aspects that warrant a negative response in Stockhausen’s music as primary music (when his music does in fact warrant a negative response) are seemingly not heard when the same music is heard as secondary music. (Or is it that the superior way in which it fulfills its function as secondary music outweighs its negative aspects? Based upon personal experience and the behavior of others, I truly doubt this is the case.)

However, things are still not so simple as they seem (not that they seemed all that simple to this point), for this reason: it is so difficult to calculate not only what we really do hear but also to calculate what it is in the music that leads us to believe it is "beautiful, magnificent, or in some other way aesthetically admirable." It is remarkable the extent to which the totally untrained lay listener can be moved by music without being able to explain the first thing about why they are moved.(27) Furthermore, since secondary music, like primary music, invades the totality of our aural space, our ears literally hear all of the musical data that would be taken in were the same music listened to as primary music. Just how much does our mind consciously and subconsciously hear? And just to what extent do musical features that are heard only subconsciously (if measuring that were even possible) fall out of the realm of possibility of being counted as objects toward which beliefs are directed? And is it possible that the beliefs fall to a subconscious level?

The complexity of our listening experience has been characterized by Giorgio Biancorosso in an intriguing article on how the "shark theme" in the movie Jaws represents the shark. He says:

My perception of the minor–second motive is a function of my thoughts and feelings about the onscreen action. The moment is so densely informative and induces such strong emotional reactions that the music’s configurational aspects — its sonic components — escape my attention: melody, timbre, rhythm — the very stuff of music — vaporize, as it were, into pure content. But I hear the music nonetheless (Biancorosso 2010, 315).

And a further elaboration regarding the extent to which secondary film music recedes from the viewer’s attention gives an indication of the fusion that occurs between the different attending media into a single Gesamtkunstwerk:

The substitution of a stream of musical sounds for the agency of the shark ensures that some awareness of the medium will always be lurking beneath the threshold of our attention. But by the same token one could also argue that rather than calling attention to the medium, the deployment of music heightens the impression of an unseen presence, stressing as it were the absence of the image, and further driving attention away from the sonic medium as such (326, n15).

Factor D — Other Belief Factors at Play with Non–Musical Aspects

Just as there is a belief factor at play in our musical experience, so there are belief factors at play in other aesthetic media. When secondary music accompanies another art form that takes a more prominent position in the overall experience, the secondary music’s emotion–heightening capacity may certainly be conditioned by the belief factor that is directed toward aspects in the more prominent non–musical art form (or aspects in the Gesamtkunstwerk as a whole). The capacity for the EHP in the music of a film may be nullified by the perceiver’s belief that the filmic qualities are poor. Likewise, secondary music is more likely to facilitate the EHP when the perceiver believes the filmic qualities are excellent. However, this too is certainly a complicated matter. Remember that we are considering the emotion–heightening capacity of the music as separate from any emotion–heightening phenomenon that is occurring because of non-musical aspects, which is undoubtedly possible. Is it possible to distinguish between the heightening contributed by music as opposed to any heightening done by non–music aspects? It is difficult to say. In the case of film, one could watch a film without its music and compare that experience with one in which its music is added. Such experiments would undoubtedly prove secondary music’s capacity for the EHP. Since I believe that is the case, I want to acknowledge it, even if calculation of any precision is impossible.

Whether or not this emotion–heightening of secondary music falls outside the realm of the aesthetically relevant listening experience, it should not fall outside of a discussion on music’s power to move us. Our investigation into secondary music is rather incomplete, but it gives us enough to contemplate as we move forward.

Emotional Education and Sympathy

Before ending this section, I wish to return briefly to the idea of sympathy, of mirroring, and of emotional calisthenics. During our discussion of the EHP, mention was made in passing of the way in which we mirror the behavior of others. One way in which this mirroring is manifest is through our experience of sympathy. We sympathize with someone when we imagine being in the same predicament as that person. Sympathy involves the imagination, and the extent to which we can imagine being in the position of someone else conditions our ability to sympathize. Sympathy is often triggered by the comportment of the person toward whom our sympathy is directed. We see their comportment and mirror that comportment sympathetically, at times without knowing anything of the object of that person’s emotion. This mechanism if often referred to as "emotional contagion" (Scherer and Zentner 2001, 369).

Sympathizing emotions are slightly different from emotions that we normally feel ourselves. Sympathy is rather more like an emotion complex. If Jane has been wronged by Bill, we feel both empathy for Jane, but we also feel a form of indignation directed towards Bill. So what fulfills the object requirement when we have sympathetic indignation? It is Bill, not because he has wronged us, but because he has wronged Jane. As Roger Scruton puts is, "sympathetic emotions borrow their intentionality: it is [John’s] emotion that defines ours."(28) Our sympathetic emotions are formed and directed through imaginatively putting ourselves in Jane’s shoes and feeling the emotions she feels.

Furthermore, real life experience of sympathy often motivates us to action. In addition to doing something to comfort Jane, we may be moved to confront Bill. If the emotion with which we sympathize is not indignation but fear, we may be called into action to an even greater degree as we seek to eliminate or prevent the object of that fear.

For Scruton, one of the most significant reasons why art is valuable is for its ability to exercise, to practice, our sympathizing emotions. It is easy to see how this is the case with representational arts such as literature or film. We are presented with fictional characters and fictional situations in which we can engage fictive versions of our emotions which are free from real life implications. In watching a suspenseful movie, we are able to experience a kind of fear without really fearing for our lives. These emotions, being fictive, are also freed from any motivation to act upon them. Thus, art can provide a kind of emotional calisthenics in which we practice our emotions. Furthermore, as Scruton says, art can also teach us how to properly emote, and this gives artists a big responsibility. "Through the free play of sympathy in fiction our emotions can be educated, and also corrupted. And that is one reason why art matters" (Scruton 1997, 355).

But what about non–texted primary music, an art form that is non–representational? For Scruton, the music represents a kind of abstracted human life: "The life in music belongs in the musical process, abstract, indeterminate, unowned except through the act whereby we listeners possess it." He turns to dance as an analogue. Dance involves responding to the movement of another, movement that takes place for its own sake. The dancer must match gesture for gesture her partner.

This kind of dancing resembles our experience in the concert hall, which is itself a kind of truncated dance. When we listen we may tap our feet and sway subliminally; our whole being is absorbed by the movement of the music, and moves with it, compelled by incipient gestures of imitation. The object of this imitation is life—life imagined in the form of music. [...] Light is cast on the expressive character of music if we see the response of the listener as a kind of latent dancing—a sublimated desire to ’move with’ the music, and so to focus on its moving forms (355-57).

Whatever we make of this "life imagined in the form of music" idea, Scruton’s overall characterization of the listening experience resonates nicely with our idea of the emotion–heightening phenomenon. We move with the music in a kind of sympathetic dance that resonates and heightens our emotional response.

This analogy with dance and image of "moving with" is certainly at play in performance. Our attention has been devoted towards the listening experience, but most of what we have said applies equally to the experience of performance and in some ways to an even greater degree. (Performers, of course, are also engaged in the listening experience while they are performing, and to an even greater degree than the audience member. Performers are not permitted to suspend their listening attention for a moment or the performance will suffer.) Performers move with one another, playing a game of give and take—transferring melodic thoughts to one another as if in conversation, following each other in subtle tempo adjustments, matching each other’s intonation and dynamics. Even the members of the violin section coordinate their up–bows and down–bows in order to literally move with each other. Not doing so affects the unity of the section psychologically but also the expressive interpretation of a given passage.

Nicholas Cook has described the give and take process among chamber musicians this way:

[I]f good conversation can easily be disrupted by the bore who will note listen, will not see anybody else’s point of view, but insists on ’saying his piece’ as if he were delivering a lecture, then precisely the same applies to chamber music performance: there are musicians, especially those accustomed to solo performance or to playing in orchestras, who play without regard to what everybody else is doing, or who insist upon a rigidly enforced beat—so that the mutuality of performance, which is the distinguishing feature of chamber music, disappears. Perhaps the most damaging criticism than can be made of a chamber musician is that he doesn’t listen: for this strikes at the heart of an art in which openness to the other is of the very essence (Cook 1990, 130-31).

The music participant (as opposed to the mere listener) then engages in a double–sympathizing, mirroring not only the music but also his fellow participants.

Recent research has shown that children who actively engage in music–making with others are better able to sympathize for it. One such recent study states that music "can be a powerful medium for social interaction. In particular, musical group interaction, when two or more individuals play music together, tends to align and join individuals into states of togetherness. Such joint states emphasize other-directedness, whereby special attention is given to the actions and intentions of the other players, entailing greater understanding of their physical and emotional states."(29) The writers of this study identify "empathy–promoting musical components" and demonstrate how musical interaction among children (8 to 11 years old) can produce a state of shared intentionality, where not only objects are shared, but cognitive and affective dynamics also. Music group interaction, then, provides a kind of "empathy education" in which children are equipped "with an augmented and enduring aptitude for empathy" even in non–musical contexts (Rabinowitch, Cross and Burnard, 2012, 11).

Much has been said about our engagement with music. Far more has been left unsaid. But let us know come to the context of worship to see how these investigations might play out.


I wish to begin this section with two remarkable and perhaps less well known biblical stories. The first comes from the third chapter of 2 Kings. Jehoram, son of Ahab and Jezebel, had become king of Israel, and while he was not like his parents, he still "did what was evil in the sight of the LORD."(30) Mesha, king of Moab, was obligated to send 100,000 lambs and 100,00 rams to Israel, but since the death of Ahab, Mesha defaulted on this obligation. Jehoram, along with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah and the king of Edom, marched with their armies toward Moab by way of the wilderness of Edom. After seven days of marching, the three kings and their armies ran out of water and came to understand their situation as being the LORD’s hand in giving them over to the Moabites. The three kings then went to the prophet Elisha, of whom King Jehoshaphat said, "The word of the LORD is with him." (v.12)

13 And Elisha said to the king of Israel, "What have I to do with you? Go to the prophets of your father and to the projects of your mother." But the king of Israel said to him, "No; it is the LORD who called these three kings to give them into the hand of Moab." 14 And Elisha said, "As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, were it not that I have regard for Jehoshophat the king of Judah, I would neither look at you nor see you. 15 But bring me a musician." And when the musician played, the hand of the LORD came upon him. 16 And he said, "Thus says the LORD, ’I will make this dry streambed full of pools’ 17 For thus says the LORD, ’you shall not see wind or rain, but that streambed shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, you, your livestock, and your animals.’ 18 This is a light thing in the sight of the LORD. He will also give the Moabites into your hand, 19 and you shall attack every fortified city and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree and stop up all springs of water and ruin every good piece of land with stones."

The second story comes from 2 Chronicles 5 which describes the bringing of the Ark of the Covenant to the temple. As the ark was brought in, all the congregation of Israel stood before the ark and sacrificed "so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered." (v.6)

11 And when the priests came out of the Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had consecrated themselves, without regard to their divisions, 12 and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the alter with 120 priests who were trumpeters; 13 and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the LORD), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD,
      "For he is good,
      for his steadfast love endures forever,"
the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, 14 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.

We have here two remarkable stories in which music plays a significant role. In the first instance the Lord speaks to Elisha through music, more specifically through the performance of music by "a musician." We are not given many details as to why Elisha asked for a musician or what the musician played or whether he listened to the music as "primary music." Neither are we told why the Lord chose to speak through music, but apparently it pleased God to do so. Music, like donkeys and bushes that appear to burn, is a creation of God and can therefore certainly be used by him. (Unlike Balaam and Moses, Elisha asked for the musician.) In the second story, we see an amazing display of musical worship. Led by skilled musicians serving offices to which they were appointed and accompanied by 120(!) trumpeters, the congregation of Israel partook in genuine emotionally engaged, God–centered worship. And because of it, the Lord made his presence known in the form of a great cloud that filled the temple, even preventing the priests to continue the work to which they were called. God got in the way of his own people’s ministerial work!

That God inhabits the praises of his people (Ps 22:3) is given clear evidence in 2 Chronicles 5, and this willingness of God to appear in and work through music gives music a quasi–sacramental function.(31) Music may not have been instituted explicitly by Christ per se, but the Scriptures are replete with commands to worship God through music—to sing new songs, to play instruments skillfully and loudly, to sing with joy, with emotions engaged. As 2 Chronicles 5 demonstrates, music can serve as a kind of signaling of of God’s presence, and just as with baptism and communion, the practice of musical worship involves an interaction between God and his people in which God’s active involvement supersedes that of his people. God stoops to hear our fallen, lisping attempts at worship and redeems those attempts. God dispenses his amazing grace through musical worship and can even enlighten us through music as He did the prophet Elisha.

Why are we commanded to sing to God and about God? Just what does music add to worship? What would be lost if in our worship we simply chanted about these things? I believe our investigations into music’s unique spatiality and into music capacity to heighten emotional engagement can give us an indication as to music’s contribution to worship.

A Picture of Worship

The worship experience should be one in which our emotions are engaged. For this reason, the theory of heightened emotions applies well to the worship experience. If music possesses this ability to heighten our emotion by way of our mirroring the music’s movement, then our emotional engagement in worship of God, too, can be heightened by music. Our inner beings vibrate sympathetically with the music, which engulfs us through its unique aural spatiality, creating a crescendo in our emotional engagement in worship.

As our mirroring of the music heightens our emotions, we also mirror those fellow worshipers around us. As is our natural habit, we respond sympathetically to those like–minded people around us and therefore a double–heightening of emotions can take place. And so these two kinds of experience—the aesthetic and the religious—come together "in tandem," to borrow a phrase from James K.A. Smith, with their similar function of building and strengthening communities with shared beliefs and values. We sing primarily to God, the object of our worship, but we sing secondarily to each other, much like the Seraphim in the prophet Isaiah’s vision (Isaiah 6:3).

Congregation singing then truly unifies a people. Our individual voices enter into music’s unique spatiality, and our voices interpenetrate each other in singing chords, those musical objects that are greater than the mere sum of its parts.(32) If we sing in parts, our voices become relational to one other, just as the members of a chord do, pulling each other this way and that. If we sing in unison, our individual voices are lost in a unified strand of melody. In both cases we have an imaging, an "embodiment," of the body of Christ. However, this is no mere analogy of unity, no mere illustration of unity. Music is that, but it is far more. Musical worship, when it receives the full participation of a congregation, is unity. We enter this musical space as individuals, and as we enter, we pass from the first–person singular to the first–person plural.

Steven Guthrie, referencing Colossians chapter 3 in which the Apostle Paul commands his readers to "put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony, and [to] let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body,"(33) says that singing together is an action that allows us to participate with our bodies (our voices) in a unifying act (Guthrie 2011, 81). The unity of a body should not be limited to cerebral likemindedness of doctrinal thought. In fact, music has power to unify those of differing ideas. The worship act unifies.

According to Paul, it is love (and not doctrine, per se) that "binds everything in perfect harmony," and our loves and affections are heightened and strengthened through worship.(34) As James K.A. Smith has pointed out, music, along with other liturgical activities, comprise a "certain species of ritual practice that aim to do nothing less than shape our identity by shaping our desires for what we envision as the kingdom—the ideal of human flourishing. [...] Our ultimate love is what defines us, what makes us the kind of people we are. In short, it is what we worship" (Smith 2009, 87). Smith challenges Christians to reassess the importance of worshipful practices in shaping our desires, practices that are "more affective than grasping doctrines or beliefs."(35) This idea of Smith’s is not a new one but is found in Augustine whose writings on music and the other arts give an indication of his understanding of their power to shape us. Notice the reference not only to love but also to music’s emotion–heightening capacity in his commentary on the 73rd Psalm:

For he that singeth praise, not only praiseth, but only praiseth with gladness: he that singeth praise, not only singeth, but also loveth him of whom he singeth. In praise, there is speaking forth of one confessing; in singing, the affection of one loving.(36)

Confessing engages the head; Singing engages the heart. Praising with song then heightens our gladness and any other experienced emotion directed towards God (e.g. gladness, gratitude) which in turn increases our love for God.

In a brilliant, little book entitled Thinking of Others: On the Talent for Metaphor, philosopher Ted Cohen contemplates the mystery and power of metaphor. He draws from a variety of sources, from sports to the Old Testament. One of the most enlightening chapters examines the story of the prophet Nathan confronting King David in his sin of adultery and murder against Bathsheba and Uriah.(37) Nathan confronts David, not by simply pointing out his sin, but through allegory and metaphor, and its effect is decisive. The story Nathan tells is of two men: a rich man who owned much flocks and herds and a poor man who owned one little ewe lamb. The poor man had nothing except this lamb. "He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him." When a traveler came to visit the rich man, the rich man took the poor man’s one ewe lamb and prepared it as a meal rather than taking any of his own livestock. When David heard this story, he burned with anger against the rich man declaring that, "As surely as the LORD lives, the man must surely die!" The Nathan then turns to the power of metaphor: "You are the man!"

A metaphor is a statement that "A is B." In the case of this story, "David is the rich man." Cohen characterizes the metaphor as being an invitation to see one thing as another, to think of A as B, which leads to new thoughts about A. "How this happens is a wonderful mystery, and the ability to do it, to ’see’ A as B, is an indispensable human ability I am calling the talent for metaphor."(38) Cohen, drawing upon Arnold Isenberg, further explains that a metaphor involves an attempt to achieve a "sameness of vision" with the audience. "When your metaphor is ’X is Y’, you are hoping that I will see X as you do, namely as Y, and, most likely, although your proximate aim is to get me to see X is this way, your ultimate wish is that I will feel about X as you do." Cohen continues expounding on the Nathan and David story:

What has happened is something like this. David’s anger and moral outrage at the rich man have been transferred to himself. Nathan says, ’You are the man,’ which is essentially ’You, David, are the rich man who has taken a poor man’s only ewe lamb,’ and David connects. [...] Nathan achieves a community of feeling (between himself and David) by inducing in David a sameness of vision (with Nathan himself, a sameness in the way they now see David’s treatment of Uriah). Indeed there is a kind of double community created. First, David and Nathan now both feel the same about David’s treatment of Uriah, and second, David now feels about himself as he feels about the rich man. [...] Nathan says, ’You are the rich man,’ and David’s implicit response is ’Yes, I loathe myself as I loathe the rich man.’(39)

Cohen’s exploration of the story is a remarkable insight into the power of story and metaphor to shape our views and affections toward ourselves and toward others. I believe something similar can happen with other arts in general and with music in particular. When we sing together, we are inviting each other into a shared devotion and shared thoughts about God. The music with its capacity to heighten emotions that are appropriate for the thoughts being sung is an invitation to experience just those emotions. In all liturgical practices (communion, baptism, worship, etc.), we are invited to see ourselves in a particular way—as a member of the body of Christ and as everything else that that means (e.g. as sinners in need of redemptive grace, as co–heirs with Christ, etc.).

Given the way worship music should invite us to emotions that are appropriate to a particular sung text and even teach us something about which emotions we should have (as Scruton has suggested), given the way in which all our worship practices shapes our very selves, we must think thoroughly and carefully through our approach to worshipful music-making practices, both as worship leaders and as congregants.

The Emotion–Heightening Phenomenon in Relation to Worship

Because of our fallen natures, worship on this side of glory is difficult to do well. Worship is a practice that takes practice. It requires careful thought and approach. Worshipping well in spirit and in truth is like staying atop a small hill that has steep declines in all directions. We as individuals and as congregations frequently fall into traps of various kinds that hinder our worship. Thankfully, we have a God who graciously stoops down and sends his Spirit to assist our lisping tongues and misaligned hearts. Working through our previous theorizing about emotions in music and about the Emotion–Heightening Phenomenon (EHP) as they relate to the context of worship will help us examine some of the ways in which we fall short in our efforts at true worship.

First, we must remember the problems with arousalism. Some of the problems we run into in our worship efforts are the results of being essentially strict arousalists. We look to the music to arouse the emotions of the congregation and in so doing place an overwhelming and unwarranted burden on the music (and musicians) to wake the congregants up to emotional life. Such a view has a tremendous effect on how worship is done. Certain styles of music will be emphasized to the exclusion of others. Repetitions of individual songs and modulations between songs (always upward, never downward!) will be planned out carefully. From the congregants’ perspective, if the music fails to arouse any emotions in us, something must be wrong with the music or musicians. The arousalist position often infuses a critical eye in the congregant toward those leading worship.

On the contrary, we must remember that worship music, functioning as secondary music, only heightens emotions that are already in the listener. In the case of worship, we are not taking on any pretended emotions in order to play the game of the EHP. We must come to worship with our real thoughts and real emotions already directed toward the object of those thoughts and emotions — our God. And as worshipers, we must bring our thoughts and emotions to the table. If music plays the role it is intended to play, not as an emotion arouser but as an emotion heightener, then the music comes alongside and provides a resonator to the emotions already present in us worshipers. Such an anti–arousalist view reminds the worshiper that thoughts and affections should always be directed toward God. Such a view also frees the music (and musicians) of the unnecessary burden of arousing emotion.

This is precisely what Søren Kierkegaard had in mind when he likened worship (or "devotional address" as he puts it) to the theater stage. All too often we have things backwards:

Alas, in regard to things spiritual, the foolish of many is this, that they in the secular sense look upon the speaker as the actor, and the listeners as theatergoers who are to pass judgment upon the artist. But the speaker is not the actor — not in the remotest sense. No, the speaker is the prompter. There are no mere theatergoers present, for each listener will be looking into his own heart. The stage is eternity, and the listener, if he is the true listener (and if he is not, he is at fault) stands before God during the talk. The prompter whispers to the actor what he is to say, but the actor’s repetition of it is the main concern — is the solemn charm of the art. The speaker whispers the word to the listeners. But the main concern is earnestness: that the listeners by themselves, with themselves, and to themselves, in the silence before God, may speak with the help of the address. The address is not given for the speaker’s sake, in order that men may praise or blame him. The listener’s repetition of it is what is aimed for. If the speaker has that responsibility for what he whispers, then the listener has an equally great responsibility not to fall short in his task. In the theater, the play is staged before an audience who are called theatergoers; but at the devotional address, God himself is present. In the most earnest sense God is the critical theatergoer, who looks on to see how the lines are spoken and how they are listened to: hence here the customary audience is wanting. The speaker then is the prompter, and the listener stands openly before God. The listener, if I may say so, is the actor, who in all truth acts before God (Kierkegaard 1948 [1847], 180–81).

Kierkegaard has it right. Too often we as congregants view worship leaders on "stage" as "performers," and we view ourselves as "audience." Because of this tacit posture which is exacerbated by our entertainment culture, we so easily fall into listening to the worship music as primary music. Worship leaders and congregants must rotate our view: Congregants are the true performers, worship leaders are the conductors (and fellow performers alongside the congregants), and God is our true audience.

"Worship Wars" and the Belief Factor

Much ink has been used in characterizing the so-called "worship wars" in the Church, and for good reason since these wars can tear a congregation apart. Worship takes such a central place in the life of the Church, so it is only natural that people have strong feelings and opinions about how it should be done. As Steven Guthrie states, "it is because these acts and practices so effectively mark out the dimensions of our communities, our families, and even our own identity, that we care about them passionately. [...] [Worship wars] are disagreements over the shape and identity of a community" (Guthrie 2011, 90–91). Some of our strong opinions in these matters are rightly motivated, but others are not.

Returning to the Belief Factor in this context may shed some light on the problem of worship wars. Again, according to the Belief Factor, our beliefs regarding the quality of the music we are hearing conditions our emotional engagement with the music as well as our ability to experience the EHP. Remember, too, the component that comes into play with secondary music regarding its function. Our belief regarding the extent to which the music fulfills its function as secondary music can condition our experience of the EHP. The "worship wars" are essentially the playing out of the belief factor in our churches. Person X may believe that Music Z is bad or inappropriate for worship, for whatever reason, and therefore X’s ability to worship and opportunity to experience the EHP is negatively affected. Person Y, on the other hand, may believe that Music Z is excellent for worship, for whatever reason, and therefore Y’s ability to worship and opportunity to experience the EHP is positively affected. The question is: what are the attendant reasons involved for believing music Z is bad and inappropriate or good and appropriate? Are they legitimate reasons?

In order to explore the legitimacy of reasons, it will help to formulate some thoughts about how worship music should properly function as secondary music, about what worship music should do. What constitutes appropriateness in worship?

I want to suggest four things that worship music must be. I believe these four things will help align our motivations for our thoughts on how worship should be done. Worship should be 1) theologically sound and rich, 2) emotion–heightening, 3) corporately unifying, and 4) excellently composed and performed.

1) Worship should be theologically sound and rich.

Christian worship should always comprise of thoughts and emotions directed toward the proper object of our worship — our God. We should always guard against any tendency for our thoughts and emotions to be directed toward other objects such as the music itself or even the way in which our emotions are heightened. (Perhaps "emotionalism" can be defined this way: when the object of our emotions in the experience of worship is our emotions themselves.) In the specific context of musical worship, the words we sing should constitute sincere and deep thoughts about God. For Martin Luther, who was a trained musician and composer himself, hymns were "as much theological statements as they [were] musical forms. Many [of his hymns] included references to the Trinity and some are not only Trinitarian in content but are also Trinitarian in form."(40) Luther’s hymn, which include Ein feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) and his paraphrase of Psalm 130 Aus tiefer not schrei ich zu dir (From Trouble Deep I Cry to Thee), are essentially theological statements of faith — catechism put to music. One of music’s great powers, in addition to its capacity to heighten emotion, is its ability to solidify thought in the minds of singers. As children, we learn our ABCs through song, and when we reach late adulthood such songs remain in our memory. So singing deep theological truths can help catechize in a way that is permanent.

Singing hymns and songs with deep theological reflection can guard against certain tendencies. It helps prevent viewing worship music as primary music, since it keeps focus on God and his character. This in turn helps guard against emotionalism, which is the result of object displacement. In singing theological truths, we make confessional statements one to another and hope to achieve "sameness of vision" in those truths.

At the same time, those of us who lean toward the deeper theological hymns would do well to remember that many of the examples we have in Scripture of true praise involve simple expressions of deep sincerity. In the worship that took place in 2 Chronicles 5 during which God made his presence known, the only lines that we are told were sung constituted a simple expression of God’s goodness: "For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever" a phrase that I suspect must have been repeated. (It’s a good one to repeat!) Therefore, while those of us who lean toward theologically rich hymns and songs may certainly offer encouraging critique of "styles" that are theologically shallow, we should be wary of blanketly condemning all praise songs with simple expressions of devotion and faith. Such blanket prejudices do not constitute legitimate reasons for considering music bad or inappropriate for worship. In addition, we would do well to remember the danger of our worship becoming overly cognitive and lacking in appropriately engaged and sincere emotions. This brings us to point number 2.

2) Worship should be emotion–heightening

Between the dangers of emotionalism and emotionlessness, the latter is the more prominent one in the brand of Reformed Protestantism in which I find myself. The anti–emotionalism pendulum has swung to the other extreme. Guarding against emotionalism, against being carried away by the pleasures of the music, has a rich history and has generated an ambivalence toward music in some of the great Christian thinkers in Church history and a complete marginalization of music in others (e.g. Zwingli).

Augustine’s ambivalence toward music has been well–documented. One cannot read much of Augustine’s writings without getting a sense of his deep appreciation of the profound power of art, which accesses our inner beings through the senses. But this power, at the same time, largely explains his ambivalence toward the senses. In the tenth book of his Confessions, Augustine describes his wrestling with music, and the passage is worth stating in full, as packed as it is with sound wisdom.

The pleasures of the ear had a more tenacious hold one me [than the allurement of perfumes]; but you set me free and liberated me. As things now stand, I confess that I have some sense of restful contentment in sounds whose soul is your words, when they are sung by a pleasant and well–trained voice. Not that I am riveted by them, for I can rise up and go when I wish. Nevertheless, on being combined with the thoughts which give them life, they demand in my heart some position of honour, and I have difficulty in finding what is appropriate to offer them. Sometimes I seem to myself to give them more honour than is fitting. I feel that when the sacred words are chanted (sung) well, our souls are moved and are more religiously and with a warmer devotion kindled to piety than if they are not so sung. All the diverse emotions of our spirit have their various modes in voice and chant appropriate in each case, and are stirred by a mysterious inner kinship. But my physical delight, which has to be checked from enervating the mind, often deceives me when the perception of the senses is unaccompanied by reason, and is not patiently content to be in a subordinate place. It tries to be first and to be in the leading role, though it deserves to be allowed only as secondary to reason. So in these matters I sin unawares, and only afterwards become aware of it. Sometimes, however, by taking excessive safeguards against being led astray, I err on the side of too much severity. I have sometimes gone so far as to wish to banish all the melodies and sweet chants commonly used for David’s psalter from my ears and from the Church as well. But I think a safer course one which I remember being often told of bishop Athanasius of Alexandria. He used to make the Reader of the psalm chant with so flexible a speech–rhythm that he was nearer to reciting than to singing. Nevertheless, when I remember the tears which I poured out at the time when I was first recovering my faith, and that now I am moved not by the chant but by the words being sung, when they are sung with a clear voice and entirely appropriate modulation, then again I recognize the great utility of music in worship. Thus I fluctuate between the danger of pleasure and the experience of the beneficent effect, and I am more led to put forward the opinion (not as an irrevocable view) that the custom of singing in Church is to be approved, so that through the delights of the ear the weaker mind may rise up towards the devotion of worship. Yet when it happens to me that the music moves me more than the subject of the song, I confess myself to commit a sin deserving punishment, and then I would prefer not to have heard the singer.(41)

Augustine’s writing is wonderful for its humanity and deep sincerity. This 1600 year–old passage reads as if it could have been written yesterday. The pendulum swing between emotionalism and anti–emotionalism is found in a single person. Augustine recognized music’s power to move us towards piety, so long as the emotion heightening of the music never supersedes the emotion heightening of God, the object of our worship. Augustine’s comments about being moved by chant during his own conversion and about "the weaker mind ris[ing] up towards the devotion of worship" by the "delights of the ear" are certainly curious ones that suggest music itself can become a kind of evangel, an enticement to weaker minds. Augustine seems to suggest that music is useful in exciting the spiritually immature to devotion which can be achieved in the mature without the aid of music.

Similar warnings have been offered by many other Christian thinkers from John Wesley in his instruction for appropriate singing (Wesley 1761) to Zwingli who did "err on the side of severity" and "banished all singing" and instruments from the church. (Though Zwingli, like Luther, was a trained musician, he came to a opposite conclusions regarding music in the church.) Today, even Harold Best, whose imaginative writings on music provide an model for true integration of faith and music, nearly succumbs to the temptation of banishment. One can hear in the following words a lifelong wrestling with the pervasive worship wars of today’s Church:

As much as I love music—many, many kinds of it—and as much as I realize that we are commanded to make music, I will say over and again [sic?] that we have placed far too much faith in it and not nearly enough in the power of the Word, the authority and sweep of fearless prophecy and earnest, yet hope–filled, intercessory prayer. I have often wondered what would happen if we got music out of the way, especially in its upfront dress, and spent abundant time in interceding prayer, reading and searching the Scriptures, sitting in silence, prophesying and perhaps only then singing and making music. Stated another way, I wonder if Christians would be ale to enter into such personal and experientially ecstatic praise of God—corporately or privately—without music, with just the Word, words about the Word and sheer silence within which the work of the Spirit cannot be related to or equated with anything we craft or shape.(42)

It is both striking and disheartening to see such ambivalence and even jadedness in a man who for several decades served as Dean of the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music and as President of the National Association of Schools of Music. He is certainly right that "getting music out of the way" equates to a breaking of the biblical command to make music in worship, but he is also right to warn us against placing "faith" in music and to remind us that music in worship must always be secondary.

Music is absolutely necessary for proper worship. About that we should not be ambivalent. Care must be taken that we use music properly in worship, as we have been duly warned by a great many voices. But we should also never let music’s power to heighten our emotions lead us to suspect that we are being "carried away" inappropriately by the music, to use a warning phrase from Wesley.(43) If music heightens our emotions and carries us to a "kindled piety" toward God, then music is doing exactly what it is intended to do. We should sing heartily and loudly(44) with all our might and with full emotions engaged. Jeremy Begbie certainly has the right attitude in this beautiful characterization of worship:

Christ assumed the whole of our humanness in order to redeem us. Included in this are our emotions, likewise our renewal in his image. Emotions are not intrinsically fallen or incidental to our humanness, but part of what God desires to transform, not least in worship. At its best, then, worship is a school of the emotions. Whether confessing with heavy Lenten hearts, or shouting East acclamations, we learn to become emotionally mature, to become (so to speak) a little less adolescent.(45)

Therefore, legitimate reasons for considering a particular music or musical style bad or inappropriate for worship would not include the fact that it helps kindle the emotions of the congregants. Emotions should be kindled, and music has a special contribution to assist in that task.

3) Worship should be corporately unifying.

Returning to Kierkegaard’s picture of worship, we must remember who the true "performers" are in the worship of the church: the congregation as a whole. Recalling music’s power in imaging unity is appropriate here. As we all sing to God, the object and audience of our praise, we declare his goodness to each other. We share a "sameness of vision" as we sympathetically sing in synchronized tempo. As individuals, we embody the first person plural that is the body of Christ.

Music and musical performance that does not facilitate congregational participation and the imaging of unity is therefore inappropriate. There is a natural tendency to get this congregational emphasis wrong, since music, in the words of Augustine, "tries to be first and to be in the leading role." Therefore decisions regarding musical worship must be addressed with great care. This affects not only the usual decisions regarding the music itself but also affect decisions regarding instrumentation, amplification, and the placement of musicians. As Best emphasizes, "The center of all church congregational song. There should be no attempt in any music program to undo, cover over or compromise this primary musical action. It is imperative that organists, pianists, choirs, song leaders and plugged–in worship teams understand that it is the congregation that is to be heard above all. If it is not, then one of two things is wrong: either the congregation is not singing to the Lord with all its might or some other musical body or activity is keeping this from happening." (Best 2003, 144)

In our individualistic, culture with its television amateur talent shows and in which each person seeks their five minute of fame, there can be a tendency as worship leaders to project the self rather than projecting the music in a way that facilitates congregational singing. Amplification may be necessary in certain cases with large congregations, but we should amplify cautiously.(46) Not only does amplifying run the risk of drowning out the congregation’s collective voice (which is what matters most), it also generates by its nature a tendency to view worship leaders as "stage performers." As congregants, there is also a tendency to use church worship as a means for individualistic personal self–expression. In such a case worship is "hijacked by the swirling eddy of individualism, [...] [where] even gathered worship is more like a collection of individual, private encounters with God in which worshipers express an ’interior’ devotion."(47) Keeping a congregational emphasis on worship guards against both a worship–leader–as–performer mentality and a individualism that undermines true corporate worship as exemplified in 2 Chronicles 5.

We should therefore be careful that we do not sing songs that overemphasize the first person singular. This has been a frequent charge from those that lean toward the more theologically dense kinds of hymns and songs. There is much truth here, especially in our individualist culture. We should "consider the number of worship choruses that make ’I’ (the worshiper) the subject of the sentence rather than God. [...] [U]nwittingly, we actually end up singing about ourselves—our devotion, our worship, our surrender—rather than about God" (Smith 2009, 150n). At the same time, we should recognize the extent to which our book of Psalms is replete with the first person singular. Our worship is corporate, but it is also personal. In our individualistic culture, we should particularly guard against individualistic self–expression, but again, we cannot make blanket judgments on these matters. We must search the Scriptures and examine the worship we find there.

As a side note, I admittedly have a personal preference for music that can be sung in parts (SATB). Aside from personal reasons (e.g. enjoyment in singing those parts, music that is more technically interesting), I believe the singing of parts by a congregation retains both sides of the coin—we sing our individual parts (the personal), and yet our parts interpenetrate one another to create a musical fabric that is more than the sum of its parts (the corporate). Singing in parts beautifully images the many–in–one unity that was described in Section 1 with regard to music’s spatiality. In our parts we become relational just as the discrete tones of a musical chord become relational. While both singing in unison and singing in parts image unity when done well, the latter demonstrates the Romans 12 kind of unity in which each member of the body of Christ performs (sings) the work in which he or she is gifted (soprano, alto, tenor or bass).

Because worship should be corporately unifying, legitimate reasons for considering a particular music or musical style bad or inappropriate for worship would not include the fact that it does not allow for my individualistic self–expression. Legitimate reasons would also not include the fact that a particular song uses the first person singular, or that a particular song uses the first person plural. Legitimate reasons would include an over–emphasis of one to the exclusion of the other.

4) Worship should be excellently composed and led

As worship leaders, we must choose music and perform in such a manner that facilitates hearty, emotionally engaged singing. The music must excellently fulfill its role as secondary music. We worship leaders should also strive for excellent performing. In 2 Chronicles 5 (and throughout the Old Testament), God appointed skilled musicians (Asaph, Heman, Levitical singers, etc.) to lead temple worship. We are commanded repeatedly through the Psalms to worship the Lord by "playing skillfully" in instruments of various kinds. Such skillful playing pleased God then, so we can be sure that skillful playing pleases God today, so long as such playing is done tastefully in a way that directs hearers toward God.

There is often a tacit (and sometimes not so tacit) attitude that when it comes to worship, God accepts our mediocre performances because he only looks at the heart. There is undoubtedly an element of truth to this. Our performances and our attempts at worship are never perfect, and yet God accepts our imperfect worship offerings nonetheless. However, we musicians must guard against the pervasive attitude that it is okay to give to God something less than our best. Such an attitude equates to sacrilege and failed stewardship of our musical gifts. Offering to God music that is less than our best effort is the equivalent of Cain’s offering in Genesis 4. God certainly sees our hearts and knows if we are giving our best to him. We should be training up musicians in our churches, and that training process requires allowing musicians–in–training chances to assist in leading worship as there is no substitute for experience. Through this process, many less than perfect "performances" will result. But the congregation should graciously bear with all musicians who are serving with their gifts. This also shows the importance of hearty congregational participation in the singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, as the congregation’s singing assists in the training of the young musician.

Just as we need skilled performers in the church, we also need skilled composers to write new songs of deep and sincere expression to God. The biblical mandate for composing occurs throughout Scripture: "Sing a new song unto the Lord!" Why a new song? What is the importance of singing new songs? I believe that God wishes us to sing new thoughts about him, thoughts that relate to our everyday lives. He wants us to explore new aspects of his character, as our lives should be a constant exploration of his character. I also believe that these new thoughts about God require new, fresh means of musical expression.

A cliché is an outworn figure of speech—an expression that has, through overuse, become banal. Such a phrase loses its meaning and value. Scruton characterizes the cliché as "a sign of thoughtlessness" (Scruton 1997, 479). Music also has the possibility of clichés, or musical gestures that have lost value or import through overuse. Artists create works of art for all of us in the world. The poet gives those of us who have no gift for language a voice of expression. The painter gives those of us who lack the sensitive eye a clear vision to see images with new insights. When an artist resorts to clichés, he creates thoughtless sentimental art, art that expresses not true emotion but an empty shell of it. Cliché is the death of expression. We need worship music that does not use musical clichés. We need skilled composers to compose music that contains a rich, thoughtful expressive language that matches rich new thoughts about God. We need worship leaders who can provide voice to those who are musically talentless. As John D. Whitvliet has charged, we need musicians who will "accept the challenge to be both profound and accessible at the same time, which is a lot more difficult than simply being one or the other." (Whitvliet 2010, 48)

This is where the Belief Factor comes most prominently into play in worship. For most of us who believe that a particular worship song or musical style is bad or inappropriate for worship believe such because that particular song or style offers us a weak expression with which to voice our praise to God. Singing a song with a banal text or musical language puts banality into our own worshiping voices. This is naturally offputting and gives no hope for the music’s capacity to heighten emotion. Such cliché–ridden musical expressions are unacceptable offerings of worship.

We must be careful here, though. I do believe that these concerns are legitimate reasons for considering a particular song or style bad or inappropriate. I believe that the church has not done particularly well in providing worship music with cliché–free expression. But we should also remember to be gracious, and to remember that worship music is not primary music. We must be sure that our belief factors are attenuated to an appropriate extent—that is, that we are not treating worship music as primary music requiring our aesthetic evaluation. Furthermore, personal preference against a particular style is not always the result of an identification of banality. We, as members of the body of Christ, should make it a habit to submit to the preferences of others. If we detect banality in a particular style, we can try to gently suggest other means of expression. But if it is simply a matter of preference, we would do well to exert effort in heartily participating in corporate worship to promote unity and the edification of the body. Our thoughts are directed toward God, and we can only hope that music will contribute its emotion–heightening power.

[The challenges related to music quality and performance quality are particularly thorny for mature trained composers (especially as they relate to the former) and for mature trained performers (especially as they relate to the latter). The mature composer has a double–challenge. First, she is attuned through experience to all manner of musical sentimentality. She must guard against such lazy, clichéd expressions in her own compositions and so detests any inkling of banality. Second, she finds it difficult to turn of the "composer’s mind" which carries an incessant aesthetic evaluation. It is difficult, then, for her not to treat secondary music as primary. In the case of the mature trained performer, he is likewise unable to turn off the "performer’s mind" which carries an incessant performance evaluation. Because of these propensities, it is often exceedingly difficult to worship well. With the help of God’s grace and with an awareness that worship performances need not be perfect in order to gain God’s presence, trained musicians can participate in deep and sincere corporate worship, and hopefully, as per Factor D from our discussion in Section 2, the EHP that occurs with our experience in the Gesamtkunstwerk that is our adoration of God will far outweigh any negative affects from the belief factor directed toward the music.(48)

Trained musicians would do well to constantly remind themselves that worship music is secondary music, not primary. We would do well to remember Wolterstorff’s warning on these matters: "It is habitual for musicians trained within our institution of high art to approach the music of the liturgy by insisting that it be good music, and to justify that insistence by saying that God wants us to present our very best to Him—all the while judging good music not by reference to the purposes of the liturgy but by reference ot the purpose of aesthetic contemplation." (Wolterstorff 1980, 184)]

I offer two simple pieces of practical advice to church musicians interested in facilitating good congregational singing. I urge all worship musicians that I am able to counsel that they should always 1) listen for the congregation singing, and 2) participate in the singing, if playing an instrument that allows them to do so. Listening to the congregation is absolutely crucial for appropriately facilitating good worship. Based on listening, the sensitive performer can appropriately adjust playing style accordingly, particularly with regard to tempo and dynamics. Singing while playing (and listening) will allow the worship musician to participate in the corporate worship to a greater extent, will help provide the performer with the appropriate tempo and rubato (tempo flexibility) and key phrase junctures, and will help shape phrases musically. Singing while playing is difficult at first, but with practice, that habit will reap rewards. (If singing the appropriate words is too difficult, hum the tune until you are able to sing with words.) These are two simple ideas, but they make a tremendous difference and yet both are so often ignored. Attempting to appropriately engage in worship when the tempo is too fast for part-singing or too slow for emotional engagement, or when a rushed phrase ending provides no room for breathing can be immensely frustrating and EHP–inhibiting.


What we have done in the previous section is explored some of the implications in combining two kinds of experiences — the aesthetic and the religious.(49) I want to follow up our explorations in worship with an exercise that I sometimes ask of my students. I want to examine briefly some of the ways in which the religious experiences that we have and the aesthetic experiences that we have resemble each other.(50) I do this with students because I believe that through such an exploration, we may discover how one kind of experience may shed light upon and enrich the other. Such an exercise also brings to mind ways in which the two differ. This, too, is important since dangers may be found lurking when one kind of experience serves as a substitute for the other, a tendency that is ever present due to the very similarities we will be exploring here. Finally, contemplating how the aesthetic and religious work in similar ways gives us an indication of the potential for combining the two.

Two marginal points are worth making here. First, most of the similarities apply to the arts more broadly, though some may apply more directly to music than its sister arts. Where "musical experiences" is read, "aesthetic experiences" may be easily substituted in most cases, and vice versa. I vacillate between the two phrases, sometimes when context seems to require one over the other, though at other times I choose one over the other more arbitrarily. Doing so will hopefully remind us of the translatability. Non–musical artists are encouraged to explore the application of these resemblances in their own fields. Second, since I am primarily a musician and not a theologian, the reader may find my characterizations and treatments of the religious experience side of the equation to be less than robust. I dare not pretend to be a theologian, and so I only hope that this discussion may stimulate more robust exploration of the theological implications of these thoughts by others more qualified than myself.

The nine resemblances to be discussed are listed first and then dealt with individually.

Both aesthetic experiences and religious experiences...
1. Can result in a deep sense of awe and wonder.
2. Play important roles in defining and shaping communities and cultures.
3. Shape individual identity.
4. Reflect voices of the past within their cultural communities.
5. Implicate shared values and modes of expression, the modification of which can have immense significance.
6. Have meanings that are found only in the experiences themselves.
7. Are useless.
8. Can provide an escape from reality, so to speak.
9. Are endlessly renewable.

1) Both aesthetic and religious experiences can result in a deep sense of awe and wonder.

LORD, who is like You among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, revered with praise, performing wonders?   —Exodus 15:11

Perhaps the most glaring similarity between aesthetic and religious experiences is the deep sense of awe and wonder that can result from each. Both have the potential to send us in orbit, to dazzle us, to induce deep contemplation, to amaze us. As we are wrapped up in contemplation of a great work of art, we are filled not only with a deep appreciation for the skill required to produce such a work, we are also filled with gratitude for the way in which the artist has made available to us that which the work expresses. The artist gives to the masses an eye for beauty, the poet a tongue for expression, the musician a voice for singing. The experience of coming away from a work of art saying, "THAT is exactly how I feel!" is (hopefully) a familiar one. In providing us a means of expression, the artist also provides us an opportunity for a visceral exercising of the emotions. As R.G. Collingwood put it (citing Coleridge), "we know a man for a poet by the fact that he makes us poets" (Collingwood 1938, 118). Worship leaders and musicians should desire to make all of their fellow congregants, even the least talented, musicians unto God.

In the religious experience of rite and worship, we are likewise filled with a great sense of awe of and gratitude for the Person behind the experience. One key difference here, as we have seen, is that the Artist himself is the object of our contemplation—the Artist is the Work of Art, the thing whose beauty transfixes us. In the act of worship, we marvel at the very attributes of the Artist himself. Furthermore, our sense of gratitude runs deeper in the religious experience compared to the aesthetic experience, since we ourselves are implicated by the act of worship or rite. We worship God for his goodness, but not merely as disinterested bystanders considering the concept of "goodness" in the abstract. No, we worship Him for the goodness he has bestowed upon us. In sacramental observance, we are participants to a significantly greater degree than when we engage in our experience of art.

2) Both aesthetic experiences and religious experiences play important roles in defining and shaping communities and cultures.

Tell him: This is what the LORD says: Let My people go, so that they may worship Me. But if you will not let My people go, then I will send swarms of flies against you, your officials, your people, and your houses. The Egyptians’ houses will swarm with flies, and so will the land where they live. But on that day I will give special treatment to the land of Goshen, where My people are living; no flies will be there. This way you will know that I, the LORD, am in the land. I will make a distinction between My people and your people.  —Exodus 8: 20-23

Both religious observance and musical experience play important roles in the bringing together of a people into an identifiable community of shared values. Both kinds of experience are then essentially communal in nature. They "pull us into something bigger than ourselves," as David O. Taylor has put it. (Taylor 2010, 24). Through Christian religious observances such as Communion, we see the unified church body participating in a communal act. Such experiences implicate a community in which we worship, with the Object of our worship being the Object of our shared allegiance. Music, too, is a communal activity that shapes a culture and brings together people who have shared interests and values.

3) Both aesthetic experiences and religious experiences shape individual identity.

During these religious and aesthetic experiences, we lose our sense of individuality—our individual desires, sufferings and achievements—through the implication of our greater community. At the same time, both religious experiences and aesthetic experiences shape our individual identities; they shape our very persons; they shape the presuppositions upon which life decisions are made, and therefore shape our very mode of thinking. People wear their chosen musical tastes—their musical bands, their favorite composers—as a badge of honor and identity. Our experiences to worship and rite should also mark us as followers of Christ. We should wear them as badged of honor and identity.

4) Both aesthetic experiences and religious experiences reflect voices of the past within their cultural communities.

One of the greatest functions of the liturgy is to keep us in touch with the past and the dead. —W. H. Auden(51)

As both religious and aesthetic experiences help define cultural communities and their shared values, they also invoke the voices of the past within those communities. The voices of our ancestors are heard through both the religious rite and the aesthetic experience. Jesus’s instruction to those partaking of the sacrament of communion was this: as often as you do this (in the present) to remember Christ’s death (in the past) until He comes (in the future). The reference to the future points to the presentation of the bride of Christ, his spiritual body, and therefore, as the partaker reflects on Christ’s death, all those who belong to the body before Christ, since the death of Christ and in the future, are implicated.

The aesthetic experience like the experience of worship is, or should be, an embodied one—one that is sensory and affective. The extent to which such experiences are disembodied, a loss of connection with the past occurs. James K. A. Smith puts it this way:

"In the same way that our embodiment drops out of the picture, so too does our temporality: if humans are conceived almost as beings without bodies, then they also are portrayed as creatures without histories, without any sense of unfolding and development over time. So these models are too narrow in the sense that they ignore our embodiment and too static in the sense that they ignore our temporality." (pp.46-47)

This connection of embodiment and temporality has fascinating implications for the art of music. It may seem that such a connection is loosened in music, or at least that there is a potential or even tendency to loosen such a connection. Music is, on the one hand, a temporal art. On the other hand, Music’s abstract character gives it what some consider to be a unique potential for disembodiment. The extent to which people treat music as a individualistic consumer product, something we listen to on our portable music devices, music ceases to be embodied and ceases to be communal, and therefore ceases to connect with the past.

5) Since both aesthetic experiences and religious experiences demonstrate shared values through established modes of expression, the modification of such modes of expression have immense significance.

If art and religion shape cultures and the shared values that define them, then any changes made to the modes and means of expression have enormous significance. And such changes are often not readily accepted since they threaten the "sharedness" of our values. In accounts of the history of Western music (and I am sure this is the case with other discipline-specific accounts of history), those composers who were the expressive "game–changers" receive considerable attention, specifically those whose expressive developments became influential in shaping new values that eventually became shared. In other words, it is not those composers who were simply experimenters with unusual methods of expressive that get attention, it is those whose experiments "took." It is the Beethovens, Wagners, Debussys, and Schoenbergs, and not the Gesualdos, C.P.E. Bachs, and Erik Saties (fascinating as these figures may be), that are deemed most significant because they changed our means of expression and, therefore, changed our world. They changed the way we artistically speak and they way we artistically listen.(52)

Likewise, changes in Christian liturgies and modes of worship have the utmost significance. If our liturgical practices of worship that shape who we are (even more so that the particular theologies we espouse), then changes made to those practices have consequences not only for the religious communities of which we are apart but also for our very selves.

6) Both aesthetic experiences and religious experiences have essential meanings that are found only in the experiences themselves.

The essential meaning of both kinds of experience (or, at the very least, an essential part of that essential meaning) is only truly found in the experiences themselves and not in any mere cerebration or description of the experience or its nature. Reading and thinking about the doctrines involved in the sacrament of Communion can be hugely rewarding and enlightening, but if such study does not lead the person to hunger for the experience of Communion, of eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ, and lead to an enrichment of that experience, then such study has little benefit. Reading and thinking about Johann Sebastian Bach’s beautifully haunting Crucifixus movement from the Mass in B minor, though rewarding as it may be, can never substitute for the actual experience of its haunting beauty. Descriptions may be fruitful, but they ultimately fall short since the true essence of these activities rests in the experiences themselves.

This point is foundational in the theory of art put forward by philosopher Benedetto Croce and his disciple R.G. Collingwood. These two men are largely responsible for placing expression, as distinct from representation, at the center of aesthetic discourse. At the heart of representation is imitation; a representational work of art points to something outside of itself—the thing represented. Croce considered representational accuracy to be completely irrelevant to aesthetic value. A work’s aesthetic meaning, being synonymous with its expressive meaning, is of far greater importance than any representation meaning the work might have. Thus, bad art can succeed at representing accurately, while good art need not represent anything at all—it must only express. And there is no other way to grasp aesthetic expression of a work of art than through an experience of it. Each unique work of art has a unique expressive content that can only be accessed through an aesthetic experience of that particular unique work.

This influential Crocean theory of aesthetic expression is very much a Romantic one and one that had been endorsed even earlier by German composer Felix Mendelssohn whose letter to a friend include these oft–cited words:

There is so much talk about music, and yet so little is said. For my part, I believe that words do not suffice for such a purpose, and if I found they did suffice I would finally have nothing more to do with music. People often complain that music is too ambiguous, that what they should be thinking as they hear it is unclear, whereas everyone understands words. With me it is exactly the reverse, and not only with regard to an entire speech but also with individual words. These, too, seem to me so ambiguous, so vague, so easily misunderstood in comparison to genuine music, which fills the soul with a thousand things better than words. The thoughts that are expressed to me by music that I love are not too indefinite to be put into words, but on the contrary, too definite. And so I find in every effort to express such thoughts that something is right but, at the same time, that something is lacking in all of them.(53)

Much has been made since Mendelssohn of the ineffability of music. Numerous musicologists and philosophers have elaborated upon the idea in many different ways. According to Collingwood, a description of an artwork’s expression "actually damages [expression because] description generalizes. To describe a thing is to call it a thing of such and such a kind: to bring it under a conception, to classify it. Expression, on the contrary, individualizes" (Collingwood 1938, 112).

[Incidentally, this notion of music’s ineffability renders dubious the entire enterprise of music theory, which is devoted to the analytical description of musical works. If music’s most important aesthetic content cannot be translated into words, then what good is the music theorist doing? Much music analysis ends up being a meaningless, academic exercise, but this need not necessarily be the case. Music theory at its best provides analytical description that results in the enhancement of the experience of music. Just as studying and contemplating the theology behind the sacraments should increase one’s hunger for experiencing those sacraments and enhance that experience, so too music theory properly done should have the same effect.]

On the side of religious experience, James K. A. Smith has recently emphasized the idea that it is through the experience of embodied practices, rather than through disembodied cognitive theologizing, that the affections are engaged and the mind is renewed. This is why experiential practices of worship are so crucial. For Smith, human beings are primarily loving creatures rather than thinking creatures. It is what we love that defines us, and it is through practices that our affections are shaped. Again, Smith’s view is very Augustinian in its concern with how our loves are shaped and directed. It does no good to simply study the practices; experiencing them, and experiencing them repeatedly, is the key. "Over time, rituals and practices—often in tandem with aesthetic phenomena like pictures and stories—mold and shape our precognitive dispositions to the world by training our desires." (Smith 2009, 59) What is important is not so much information, but formation, and formation occurs through practices. Smith states one of his main goals this way:

What does worship say about Christian faith? Too often we try to define the essence of Christianity by a summary of doctrines. We turn to texts and to theologians in order to discern the ideas and beliefs that are distinctive to Christianity... Instead of turning to texts, doctrines and the theoretical articulations of theologians, we will consider what Christians do—or more specifically, what the church as a people does together in the "work of the people" (leitourgos). To discern the shape of a Christian worldview, we will read the practices of Christian worship in order to make out the shape of a distinctly Christian social imaginary. (134)

The appropriate mention, in the first of the above passages from Smith, of "aesthetic phenomena" working "in tandem" with religious practices hints at the rich potential of combining the two kinds of experiences being discussed here. If aesthetic experiences can shape the affections just as religious practices do, it is easy to imagine just how potent these two kinds of formative experiences can be when combined into a single experience. In a sense, the very idea of aesthetic phenomena working in tandem with religious experience is the primary theme of this entire essay.

7) Both aesthetic experience and religious experiences are useless.
8) Both aesthetic experiences and religious experiences can provide an escape from reality, so to speak.

"I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies [singing ’Sull’aria’ from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro] were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are better left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank [Prison] felt free." —Ellis "Red" Redding, The Shawshank Redemption entranced consciousness, engulfed in the imaginary, is suddenly freed by the sudden ending of the play, of the symphony, and comes suddenly in contact with existence. Nothing more is needed to arouse the nauseating disgust that characterizes the consciousness of reality... the real is never beautiful. Beauty is a value applicable only to the imaginary and which means the negation of the world in its essential structure.
—Sartre, The Psychology of the Imagination (p.225)

All art is quite useless. —Oscar Wilde, preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray

Similarities 7 and 8 — that these experiences are useless and can provide us with a kind of escape from reality — go hand in hand. The idea that art is useless is fundamental in our modern conception of art. Art exists not for some utilitarian purpose but exists for its own sake. In this respect, art is distinct from most objects and activities in our worlds of every day life. These objects and activities are intended for gain and for advantage. Art is to be enjoyed in and of itself, and the moment it is given a utilitarian function, it loses its value as an aesthetic object. "Of these [aesthetic] activities, we do not ask what they are for; they are sufficient in themselves." (Scruton 1997, 457, emphasis his) For Scruton, endeavors in art (and similar activities) do afford advantages to us, but only insofar as we treat them as activities as ends in themselves.

Since these activities exist apart from utilitarian purpose in this world, they have the ability to transcend such worlds. They can transport us into fictional worlds that are detached from real life implications. It is for this reason that art can provide a kind of "emotional education." When transfixed by great art, we are freed from the drudgery of life for but a brief moment, and we are grateful to the artist for the momentary freedom. Sport is quite similar in this respect. In his book The Social Animal, David Brooks describes the experience of sport [specifically tennis] this way: "Off the court is for thinking about the past and future; on the court is for thinking about the present. When [a tennis player] was about to serve, she thought about three things: spin, location, and velocity. If she found herself thinking about something else, she would step back, bounce the ball, and then resume." (Brooks 2011, 130) In engaging in sport, the concerns of past and future dissipate, and we are allowed to live in the moment focusing, along with fellow participants, on the present task of the game. When coming out of these transfixing experiences we may be either "nauseated [by the] disgust that characterizes the consciousness of reality" (Sartre ,225) or we may be restored and renewed in our vocational stations in God’s creation. The nature of our exit will depend both on our attitudes and on the kinds of non–utilitarian activities in which we engage.

In the religious sphere, our worship experiences are in a significant way useless. This point has been made by Andy Crouch who suggests that grave errors occur when religion comes to be seen as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. "[Religion can become] a way to cajole the gods into propitious attitudes, to bend the mysterious forces of the cosmos a little bit toward our needs by the right mixture of supplication and praise. [...] What we do in our churches, when we do what we should be doing, is unuseful! It is better than useful. The economy of grace overflows with the unuseful. [...] We stake our worship every Sundy on the belief that we do not need to convince God to be useful to us, and he does not require us to be useful to him." (Crouch 2010, 38–39) This is not to say that we do not stand to gain through our worship. We are needy people who are not merely disinterested bystanders in the act of worship. Our salvation depends upon our God, so as we understand our grave position, we are given every more reason to engage in true adoration for the manner in which our personal God graciously stoops to us. In our position of need, we cannot approach worship with a utilitarian attitude, for in doing so, we seek to ensure that the ends of our worship (and our God) must justify the means. Such is the antithesis of faith.

As we engage in these useless acts of worship, we are given Sabbath. Our sensibilities and sympathies are redeemed and aligned. Our souls find peace in these acts of worship and rite. Yet while these activities provide rest from our weekly work and trials, they also point us forward and ready us for exercising our faith and enacting the shalom in our world.

9) Both aesthetic experiences and religious experiences are endlessly renewable.

Not only are the meanings of both types of experiences found in the experience themselves, both are also endlessly renewable—we can approach again and again and again, each time having a fresh and meaningful experience. Great works of art possess a certain richness that rewards (and even at times requires) multiple experiences which lead to a deeper appreciation and understanding. Certain masterpieces, such as Bach’s St. Matthew Passion or Handel’s Messiah, can even compel a lifetime of study. The inexhaustible richness found in meaningful acts of worship that are directed toward the character of God is even deeper. The one who partakes in communion once and says, "Oh, so now I understand what it’s all about!" never to return to the Lord’s Table has failed to grasp the very meaning of communion. Religious devotion ("kindled piety") and faithful living necessitate renewed worshipful experiences.

Musical worship constitutes a combining of these two kinds of experience. The act of the musical worship of God is a wonderful, useless, endlessly renewable experience that provides deep, emotionally engaged expression of faith and that shapes individual lives and the communities in which they reside, unifying them with a "shared vision" of God and the world.

Art as Religious

Because of these affinities between the aesthetic and the religious experience, there is an inherent danger in the arts of allowing the aesthetic experience to function as a kind of substitute for the religious experience. If music can provide solace, can create a strong sense of community, can provide a respite, a pseudo–Sabbath escape from the realities of life, if it can fill our minds with deep wonder, appreciation and gratitude, if it can do all these things, then why is the experience of religious worship needed? Indeed, music does function as a kind of religion for many, as is evidenced by the frequent use of religious and spiritual language on the part of artists.

A recent interview with Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, the sensational young conductor whose meteoric rise has led him to his current position as principal conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, is telling. Dudamel’s training began as a child musician in El Sistema, a Venezuelan music program that brings children out of poverty through the study of music. El Sistema was founded in 1975 by Dudamel’s mentor, José Antonio Abreu. For Dudamel, a professing Catholic, music’s power is transformative, even salvific:

Dudamel: One thing is to be poor in the material things, but to be rich in your soul, to be rich in your mind [is a different thing]. When you change that conception of poorness, that it’s not about the material elements that you need to have, your ambition about life changes completely, and then you start to be successful in your life. I always talk about beauty because our children don’t have access to beauty, in general. Beauty, for me, is art. Beauty is the access to have creativity. Through music, that is what is happening in Venezuela. You really get a transformation in the life of the children, and they can live in the same place where they were born—it’s a very humble place. But they change completely the life of their family and their community. That is amazing, because it’s not an individual change. It’s a change of the community... It’s incredible how [José Antonio Abreu] works. He works the double of what I work, or the triple. It’s really amazing. And he really has faith. That is something that also we are missing in our times.
Interviewer: What kind of faith?
Dudamel: He really believes that music can be a key to change. We are talking about something really huge—hundreds of thousands of children. You have to be a priest. You have to really work, and Maestro Abreu is the head of all of that.

The religious language here is striking. Substitute the word "God" for each instance of "music" or "art" and much of the passage reads almost as if coming from one of the Gospels. Music transforms lives, having a power that even requires our "faith", and those artists who serve in leadership capacities are ordained as "priests"—as administers of this music gospel.(55)

Music no doubt changes lives, as evidenced at El Sistema in Venezuela. And music should be used to change lives. But it is easy to see how this life–changing experience of music can be used as a substitute for experiencing the life–changing gospel of Christ. For many, music satisfies, all too easily, the "restless heart" of which Augustine spoke in the opening sentences of his Confessions, a restlessness that can ultimately only be satisfied by the God for whom we are made.(56)

In another recent interview, the great pianist and pedagogue Menahem Pressler made such a substitution even more explicitly:

I have said once, and I believe that, that my religion is music—is the composer. My bible is the work—I open a Beethoven sonata, a Schubert sonata, [a] Chopin piece. And my temple is the concert hall. That is where I feel that that which I believe (indiscernible word(s)) should be translated and brought out.(57)

For Pressler and other music lovers, music provides them everything they need for a rich, meaningful life—a community, a sense of wonder, an escape from reality (a Sabbath), a personal identity, a temple, and even a god. It is sad to think that the experience of music in the concert hall is, in the recent words of a music critic, "as close as most of us [in a secular society] get to the sacred, to that meditative stillness and sense of community our ancestors took for granted."(58)

Because of the similarities between artistic and religious experience, we can fall into the trap of letting aesthetic experience substitute for religious experience, even as believers. We must guard against this. We must remember, too, that for all of the similarities between the two kinds of experience, there are also differences. Our level of participation in the religious experience is key. We are no mere disinterested bystanders in worship, detached from the experience. We, our very selves, are implicated in worship. It marks us and it serves to orient our desires, sympathies and emotions not only for this present life but also for the life to come, at which time we will engage in the perfect worship of God. In the meantime, we strive to worship well being thankful that our imperfect offerings are graciously received.



One of the most affective expressive devices in tonal music is the transformation of a single tone from being consonant and stable to being dissonant and unstable, at which point the tone seeks to move to a new position of stability. Such a transformation is eventuated by a change in the tone’s immediate surrounding, and through this transformation, the tone becomes activated. This basic concept is referred to as the prepared dissonance in music theory terms, and the paradigmatic exemplification of this device is the suspension figure, which contains three parts: the consonant preparation, the dissonant suspension, and the consonant downward resolution. The dissonance is further emphasized by being accented metrically, being placed on a strong beat relative to its resolution.


Such a figure might appear in a fuller musical context, perhaps in the key of C minor:


The "surface" dissonances featured in musical devices such as the suspension often fall under the umbrella term "non–chord tones" (NCTs). The label is an unfortunate one because of its suggestion that these dissonances are largely inessential or inconsequential. "Textural reduction" is a frequently used analytical strategy that involves stripping a musical passage of all of its non–chord tones. If, as I am suggesting, that significant affective power rests in these surface dissonances, the stripping a piece of music of these dissonances equates to stripping the piece of its full expressive content.(59) For these reasons, some theorists use the much–preferred label "embellishments" over "non–chord tones."

I want to demonstrate a color–coded method for analyzing prepared dissonances like the suspension figure and other surface features. I want to do so for two primary reasons. First, I want to develop a methodology that focuses on elements that are often neglected in analysis. As suggested above, these surface musical devices carry significant expressive power, disproportionate to their transience. They are expressively charged, we might say. Such surface features are often sacrificed by music theorists at the altar of architectonic relationships, of music’s deep structure. While analysts in the field of music on a whole have tended to marginalize surface events in the enterprise of exploring music’s content, there are notable exceptions. Robert Fink has critiqued the standard hierarchical methodologies that purposively seek to justify musical works by identifying their underlying organic unity deep below their surfaces in an essay entitled "Going Flat: Post–Hierarchical Music Theory and the Musical Surface."(60) Fink attacks the highly influential Schenkerian approach to analysis as the "paradigmatic depth theory of music." Robert Hatten, a theorist who have developed a nuanced theory of musical gesture, attempts to give "full weight to what [he has] described as ’the irreducible significance of the surface.’" As theorist and performer, he declares his "commitment ... to the deep expressive import of these [surface] events, whichin purely structural analyses might be too quickly bracketed off by formulations that might unwittingly depreciate nonharmonic notes as mere ornaments or diminutions elaborating a more fundamental structure." (Hatten 2010, 86). On the side of philosophy, Jerrold Levinson has described such hierarchical approaches as a "phantasm of the architectonicist’s mind" (Levinson 1997, 59). While I think Fink and Levinson overstate their arguments a bit, I believe all three are right in suggesting that our analytical approaches, on the whole, marginalize those surface features that account for so much of music’s expressiveness.

I believe that it is these surface features that we are very often responding to when moved to "heightened emotions." If music analysis on the whole has tended to marginalize surface features, it has also tended to leave to one side entirely the role of the emotions. The rather scientific–minded enterprise of music theory gravitates toward the exposing of more objective pitch relationships and broader structures in the music, disregarding their connection to experiential emotions. Lawrence Zbikowski, another example of an exception to the general rule, has made the following charge:

Although analytical studies which explore ways that musical syntax can be deformed and reformed only rarely consider the emotions that might be associated with such disruptions, and although most of the recent studies of musical emotion have little if anything to say about musical syntax, in what follows I shall argue that this reflects methodology, rather than necessity. How music is organized — or disorganized — has everything to do with music’s emotional effects." (Zbikowski 2010, 39)

This color-coded method, then, focuses on pitch relationships and devices on the music’s surface that are obvious—these relationships and devices are heard and experienced by the most musically untrained listeners.

The second reason for proposing an approach focused on these surface expressive devices is because such devices so effectively demonstrate the nature of aural spatiality, as discussed in Section 1, and the potential that spatiality has in imaging unity. In music, rather than being isolated independent units, pitches have relationships with one another, and through these relationships, pitches push and pull one another in various directions, especially if their relationship is a dissonant one, or pitches may lock into place in perfect stable harmony with one another. Hearing these gravitational and relational pulls in the pitches equates to hearing musical spatiality.

The Color–Coded Method Described

In the color-coded model I wish to demonstrate, four surface elements or characteristics will be treated, one of which is the prepared dissonance (given the label "P") that has already been briefly described in this section’s introduction. The other three are these: a newly appearing tone ("N"), a harmonic dissonance ("H"), and a tone whose scale–degree function has been reoriented (via tonicizing chromaticism) ("S"). Further explication of these four labels is forthcoming. Here it will suffice to say a few words about the labels in general. These four characteristics are chosen because of their expressive and affective potency. Like the prepared dissonance as exemplified by the suspension, a newly appearing note is usually a marked musical event that carries expressive weight. Some tones can carry more than one of these characteristics, and when such doubling and tripling happens, the expressive force is increased, generally speaking. For example, a prepared dissonance can also be a harmonic dissonance (such a tone receiving a "PH" label). And a prepared harmonic dissonance can also be one that involves a scale-degree reorientation (receiving a "PHS" label). However, P and N are mutually exclusive, since no tone can be both prepared and newly appearing at the same time.

P — Prepared Dissonance

As described above, the prepared dissonance involves a tone undergoing a transformation, being consonant (and therefore stable) until a change in its immediate surroundings makes it dissonant (and therefore unstable). This tone involved in the prepared dissonance becomes activated as it seeks restoration by moving to a place of consonant stability.

N — Newly Appearing Tone

A tone that emerges anew carries with is affective significance. If a piece of music moves along in a particular key (say, C major), that home key consists of a limited collection of diatonic notes (in C major, all the white notes of the piano). If suddenly an F–sharp appears, its appearance as a new chromatic tone carries a significant that outweighs the diatonic tones that surround it (all other affective factors being equal).

H — Harmonic Dissonance

A harmonic dissonance represents a tension between two notes that stand in an unstable relationship to each other. All unstable dissonances seek stable consonances; therefore, dissonances are activated to movement towards resolution. Dissonances that are harmonic possess a palpability that is not as present with melodic dissonances — the tones involved in the harmonic dissonance interpenetrate the same aural space, highlighting their tension.

S — Scale–degree Reorientation

Any time a change in tonal center occurs, however briefly, a reorientation of all the pitches is involved. If a musical passage begins in C major, the pitch C is scale degree 1 (do in solfège speak) and B is scale–degree 7 (ti). Scale degree 1 is the most stable of all scale–degrees, while scale–degree 7 is the least stable—it gravitates to the C, to scale–degree 1 (do). If the passage then modulates to G major, the dominant of C, then the pitches C and B are reoriented: C, now in G major, functions as the unstable scale-degree 4 and gravitates toward scale–degree 3, the B. The B, then has undergone the inverse transformation from an unstable scale–degree 7 to the more stable scale–degree 3. As in the prepared dissonance, here a single pitch is transformed through the scale–degree reorientation process from a stable standing to an unstable one, or vice versa. The pitch, however, need not necessarily be prepared. In other words, it will be possible to have a "PS" label but also an "NS" label.

The color–coded method consists of ten labels (and colors), eight of which represent combinations of the four labels above. Four colors are devoted to prepared dissonances (P) and four are devoted to newly appearing tones (N). Two additional colors, Gold and Gray, have been added to account for musical affects not adequately covered by the eight categories. The ten categories are explained below and examples are provided.

OrangeP — A prepared dissonance (P) whose dissonance is of the non-chord variety and/or a dissonance whose resolution is achieved not by its resolving into a stable relationship with the surrounding harmony but rather by the resolution of the surrounding harmonies to it.
Light BluePH — A prepared dissonance (P) whose dissonance is harmonic (H) (as opposed to a non–chord tone dissonance).
Dark BluePS — A prepared tone (P) that undergoes a transformation to a less stable scale–degree function (S) by way of a tonicization.
PinkPHS — A prepared dissonance (P) whose dissonance is harmonic (H) and which undergoes a transformation to a less stable scale–degree function (S) by way of a tonicization.

Light GreenN — A newly appearing tone (N) which is not harmonically dissonant (e.g. a chromatic passing tone or a mode mixture tone (e.g. Picardy third)).
MaroonNH — A newly appearing tone (N) that is harmonically dissonant (H).
Light PurpleNS — A newly appearing tone (N) that carries with it an unstable scale–degree function (S) (within the key tonicized by the new tone).
Bright RedNHS — A newly appearing tone (N) that is harmonically dissonant (H) and that carries with it an unstable scale–degree function (S) (within the key tonicized by the new tone).

GoldD — A tone that is considered to a deviation (D) from stylistically informed expectations. Such a tone is rendered gold only if the expressive weight is judged to rest on the deviation rather than on other characteristics (e.g. its scale–degree reorientation effect (S))
GrayA — A tone or, as is more likely, a group of tones that generate tonal ambiguity (A) and that are not otherwise labeled/colored.

OrangeP — A prepared dissonance (P) whose dissonance is of the non-chord variety and/or a dissonance whose resolution is achieved not by its resolving into a stable relationship with the surrounding harmony but rather by the resolution of the surrounding harmonies to it.


Both varieties of the P dissonance described above are found in this passage. A suspension figure, which falls in this orange category, appears in the soprano in the first measure. The prepared C becomes dissonant against its fellow voice parts. This dissonance is not harmonic or chordal, but rather of the non–chord tone (NCT) variety. The C must resolve downward (as all suspensions do) to a place of stability—the B. The suspension figure can also be described as a rhythmic device, one in which a voice (the soprano in this case) is suspended temporally, arrive at its destination late. It provides the needed B in our G major chord, and the delay of that needed B (the third of the chord) helps heighten the affective weight of this device.

The second variety of P, the one whose dissonance is resolved not by its own movement to a position of stability but by the remaining voices resolving to it, appears in the second measure of the above example. The C pedal tone begins as the root of the tonic C minor chord and remains through the rest of the musical excerpt. Above it, a viio7 chord emerges creating tension with the C. Dissonances abound at this moment, increasing the satisfaction of the final resolution.

Light BluePH — A prepared dissonance (P) whose dissonance is harmonic (H) (as opposed to a non–chord tone dissonance).


Like the suspension figure, the PH dissonance is prepared. The soprano’s C begins its life as a consonance with the other tones that share its aural space. The C’s initial stability is doubly ensured by its being not only scale–degree 1 (do) in the key of c minor but also by being the root of the C minor chord. It is at rest. However, upon moving into the next measure the soprano’s partner voices move away from their C minor chord to produce a D diminished chord. The soprano C, which does not comply with the move to D diminished, then becomes dissonant with its fellow chord members and therefore becomes activated as it gravitates toward a new position of stability. The dissonance here is harmonic, unlike the suspension figure, in that it adds to the D diminished chord a chord seventh. The dissonant interval of the seventh appears between the C and the alto’s D, the latter of which pulls the former to itself. The C then slides to the B–natural accordingly, and all instability, all dissonance, is restored. Stability and instability, consonance and dissonance, is then determined by the relationships between tones in aural space.

Dark BluePS — A prepared tone (P) that undergoes a transformation to a less stable scale–degree function (S) by way of a tonicization.


In the passage above, the opening C minor chord represents the tonic triad in the prevailing key of C minor. However, the alto’s D–flat, a newly appearing tone, reorients things in its immediate surroundings (though only briefly). The D–flat suggests the key of A–flat major, and the V7/VI—VI progression can simply be thought of as a fundamental V7–I progression in that key. The progression, it is said, tonicizes the key of A–flat major—it treats A–flat as tonic for just a brief moment. Because of its affective significance, the D–flat is colored bright red (NHS) for reasons that will be discussed shortly. Our present focus is on the tenor’s dark blue G. It is a prepared tone that, in the previous, held the stable scale–degree function of being scale–degree 5, the dominant (sol). With the reorientation caused by the alto’s D–flat, the G then occupies a less stable scale-degree function; that is, it becomes ti in the briefly tonicized world of A–flat major. Because of its new function, it becomes activated, gravitating to do, to which is resolves in the following chord, an activation that is caused not by harmonic dissonance but by scale-degree reorientation. The D–flat, the game–changer so to speak, does create a highly dissonant relationship with the G (a tritone) further strengthening the need for resolution. But from a harmonic standpoint, it is the D–flat (the seventh of the chord) and not the G (the third of the chord) that is dissonant, thus the reason for the dark blue PS label rather than a pink PHS label.

PinkPHS — A prepared dissonance (P) whose dissonance is harmonic (H) and which undergoes a transformation to a less stable scale-degree function (S) by way of a tonicization.


The PHS figure is similar to the PS figure demonstrated above, the only difference being the PHS is also a harmonic dissonance. In the above passage, the bass’s C in the second chord is a PHS dissonance. The C undergoes a transformation from a highly stable function (do in the key of C minor) to a highly unstable function—it becomes fa in the tonicized key of G minor, and it becomes the dissonant seventh chord member of the V42/v chord. The tenor’s F# and the alto’s D, both now dissonant with the bass’s C, push against it, strengthening the gravitational pull toward its normative downward resolution.

Light GreenN — A newly appearing tone (N) which is not harmonically dissonant (e.g. a chromatic passing tone or a mode mixture tone (e.g. Picardy third)).

MaroonNH — A newly appearing tone (N) that is harmonically dissonant (H).


Here, a German augmented sixth chord appears which includes a raised fourth scale-degree (fi), or F#, in the tenor’s part. The newly appearing F#, labeled maroon (NH), is a harmonic dissonance in tension with all three other chordal voices—an augmented sixth with the bass’s A–flat, a diminished seventh with the alto’s E–flat, and a tritone with the soprano’s C. The E–natural at the end of the tenor’s line creates a "Picardy third" resolution, altering the tonic triad from minor to major. While not a dissonance, this newly appearing E–natural has affective import, and in this case, this import is heightened through the delayed arrive via a suspension figure.

Light PurpleNS — A newly appearing tone (N) that carries with it an unstable scale–degree function (S) (within the key tonicized by the new tone).

Bright RedNHS — A newly appearing tone (N) that is harmonically dissonant (H) and that carries with it an unstable scale–degree function (S) (within the key tonicized by the new tone).


The alto’s E–natural is a good example of the NS category. It is a newly appearing note that generates a scale–degree reorientation in which it occupies an unstable function. In the tonicized key of F minor (iv of C minor), the E–natural is the leading tone, leading to F in the next chord. Perhaps the most affectively saturated dissonance is the NHS, exemplified here by the soprano’s D–flat in the first measure. The newly appearing D–flat sparks the reorientation (in conjunction with the E–natural), and also stands in harmonic dissonance being the seventh of the chord. It also stands in a dissonant tritone relationship with the tenor’s G. The NHS dissonance is, generally speaking, the most expressively charged of all eight categories.

It should be noted here that when S (scale–degree reorientation) is involved with N (new note)—that is, with NS and NHS—the S works slightly differently than when paired with P (prepared note). When coupled with P, S refers to the transformation of the prepared note from a stable scale–degree function to a relatively less stable scale–degree function. When coupled with N, however, S is assigned to a new note that generates scale degree reorientation. In other words, a new note (N) may receive an "S" label even if it occupies a stable scale–degree function in the new key area. The "S" label is still necessary in such cases in order to account for its affective weight and to distinguish new notes that generate scale–degree reorientation from less significant new notes that merely decorate (e.g. chromatic passing tone).

GoldD — A tone that is considered to a deviation (D) from stylistically informed expectations. Such a tone is rendered gold only if the expressive weight is judged to rest on the deviation rather than on other characteristics (e.g. its scale–degree reorientation effect (S))

One of the most affective devices in all of music is the forestalling of a musical event that is highly predicted within a given stylistic context. Such a "deviant" event is expressively charged. In his influential 1956 work, Emotion and Meaning in Music, Leonard B. Meyer, drawing upon Gestalt psychology and information theory, presents an account of musical expression in which the affective weight of a musical event is measured by the extent to which the event is anticipated (Meyer 1956). Events that are entirely predicted carry very little "information" while totally unexpected ones are expressively charged. Since affect is determined by listener expectancies, stylistic competency is essential for a listener’s proper understanding of the music. In other words, each piece of music must be situated within a stylistic context in order for the listener to appropriately place musical events on an expected—unexpected continuum. Meyer’s account then can also be considered an account of musical style: style is defined as a system of probability relationships between a limited number of possible musical events (45, 54).

While the first eight labels in our color-coded method are certainly prominent features of the language of Western tonality (and of non–tonal stylistic languages to varying degrees), they are not informed by the constraints of particular styles that utilize traditional tonality. This gold "Deviation" label provides us with a way to mark expressively charged events that are so charged due to stylistic deviation. Such events may be otherwise uncolored entirely, or they may be colored otherwise but are not since the expressive charge from stylistic deviation is judged to outweigh any other lesser expressive charges. Because of this, the analyst is forced to make more evaluative decisions when applying this D label (compared to the previous eight labels) and therefore must be stylistically competent since, as Meyer has pointed out, what counts as deviance for one composer or period of time may be more normative for another.


The viio65 chord in the passage above is a deviation from the expected. The D major–minor seventh chord (V7/V) tonicizes the dominant key of G minor, and the expected resolution is to a G chord of some sort (either major or minor would have sufficed). Instead, three of the tones unexpectedly slide down chromatically to form a viio65 chord. Two of the tones in the viio65 chord could have been rendered differently: The F-natural could have been colored light purple (NS) since it is a newly appearing tone that retonicizes the home key of c minor, and the A–flat could have been rendered red (NHS) since it is a newly appearing tone that also contributes to the tonicization back to c and that serves as the harmonically dissonant seventh in the viio65 chord. However, the deviation of the chord is judged to add more expressive weight than these other characteristics. (If physical space was anything like aural space, we could color single notes with multiple colors. If only!)

If the expected G chord had appeared, the passage could have been thought of as a V7—i progression, the most fundamental progression governing Western tonality, in the key area of the dominant G minor. Consider now one other scenario. What if the D7 (V7/V) chord resolved "deceptively" to an E–flat major chord (III)? The E–flat major chord might not actually be rendered gold even though the expected G chord does not appear and here is why: If we consider such a progression as being in the world of the tonicized G minor, we would essentially have a V7—VI progression (with the E–flat major chord being G minor’s VI chord). While the V7—VI progression is called the "deceptive" progression, the effect of its deception has been long worn through common usage to the extent that it is no longer considered deviant. In terms of probability, the E–flat chord, while not the most probable, is certainly not improbable.(61) Therefore, the analyst may very well judge that the E–flat chord in such an alternate progression not to be charged sufficiently to warrant a gold Deviation label.

GrayA — A tone or, as is more likely, a group of tones that generate tonal ambiguity (A) and that are not otherwise labeled/colored.

In a sense, the Ambiguity (A) label is the converse of the Scale–Reorientation (S) label. Where S tones serve to orient the listener in a (new) tonal key area, A tones disorient the listener tonally by obscuring a single tonal center. Such ambiguous passages have affective charge because of the way in which they obfuscate probability outcomes, to use Meyer’s terminology. The ambiguity prevents the listener from anticipating potential outcomes with any certainty, and the listener’s mind "looks forward to and expects a return to the certainty of regularity and clarity." (Meyer 1956, 26) Thus, while tonal ambiguity certainly has some expressive affect in and of itself, it chiefly heightens the charge of those reorienting tones that follow—those tones that pull the music out of its state of disorientation back into a state of tonal clarity.


Example 4.j begins like the previous example, moving to the viio65 chord, still in C minor. But here, the downward slide that led into the Gold viio65 chord continues—the fully–diminished seventh chord cascades downward and spins out of tonal clarity. The fully–diminished chord with its symmetrical structure in dividing the octave evenly in four has the potential for multiple "outlets," so to speak, exacerbating the tonal uncertainty of the passage. Ultimately the slide ends—the tenor’s E–flat slides along down to D, creating a dominant seventh chord sonority signaling a new tonal center on G. The chords colored gray here obviously feature newly appearing tones and harmonic dissonances, but the sense of ambiguity overrides other affective charges. Without tonal orientation, all tonal relationships are suspended or disoriented.

A few comments about the color–coded model are in order before applying it to a real piece of music. With NHS, PHS, and NS being assigned bright red, pink, and light purple respectively, the brighter the color, the more expressively charged the tone (all other contextual factors being equal). All three of these are S tones and therefore appear close together on the color spectrum. These colors indicate shifts of tonal center, whether temporary or not.

It may have become obvious that such a color–coded strategy is rather limited in scope. While such a model may be well–suited for tonal music governed by the traditional rules of voice–leading, it seems poorly–suited for those not so governed. After all, it has been well over a century since composers like Debussy began writing such music. This color–coded method fails to take into consideration any contextual factors, both historical context and the context within a given piece. Even among composers employing traditional tonality, what counts as dissonant for one composer or period of time may count as consonant with another. Also, contextual factors are not considered within a given piece. The affect of any given dissonance may be conditioned, for example, by any number of musical factors including metric placement, articulation, agogic accent, duration of a prepared dissonance’s preparation, instrumentation, register, frequency of that particular dissonance, etc.

Not all newly appearing tones are equal either. Since the majority of major–key pieces written prior to the nineteenth century modulated to the dominant key area (say, from C major to G major), then a newly appearing raised fourth scale–degree in the home key of such a piece (F#) would be less surprising and therefore less expressively charged than other newly appearing tones. A newly appearing tone that provides a new melodic peak, stretching the tessitura of a piece, would also have more expressive significance than one that does not. A newly appearing tone that has disappeared for only a few measures (e.g. a diatonic tone being restored after a brief tonicization) has far less affective weight than a new tone appearing for the first time. The latter should be colored a more vivid and brighter green tint than the former if the color–code is to accurately indicate affective significance. In an ideal world, the color–code model would have shadings of all ten colors accounting for all possible contextual factors. The limitations do not stop there. Nothing is said about rhythm, large–scale melodic trajectory or even small-scale melodic inter-play, form, instrumentation, etc., and all of these musical parameters certainly come into play in our affective experience of music.

To add to these limitations one might suggest that the method is rather unwieldy and cumbersome for pointing out features on the musical surface that are rather obvious. After all, nothing that has been said here is the least bit groundbreaking, and to suggest that a prepared dissonance or a newly appearing tone has expressive weight is hardly a brilliantly perceptive insight.

To all such concerns I can only concede. It is true that the model fails to touch on a number of musical factors that contribute to our affective experience of music. It is true that the applicability of the model, as described so far, is also limited to those works governed by traditional tonality. But just like Roman numeral analysis, which also carries very little explanatory breadth, this color–coded model is merely a tool. Like Roman numeral analysis, it stops at the level of description and short of significant analysis, and therefore both require accompanying explication. However, my color model does have advantages. It has an advantage over Roman numeral analysis in its highlighting (literally!) of those tensional elements embedded within the surface texture, elements which I believe account for a significant part of music’s expressiveness. In addition, it also accentuates linear aspects that are left untouched by roman numeral analysis, which is limited by its exclusively vertical focus. Furthermore, it can provide a window into stylistic analysis. Which types of surface dissonances does Bach prefer? Or Beethoven? What about Brahms?

The color model may merely be a tool, but it is an effective one if we remember its purpose. In highlighting the expressively charged elements in the musical texture, it also demonstrates aural spatiality. And if it focuses on surface features that are rather obvious, then it does precisely what I hoped it would do—demonstrate the aural spatiality that is heard by listeners of all kinds and backgrounds.

Application: J.S. Bach’s Prelude in D–flat major (first half only), Well–Tempered Clavier, Book 2

Bach’s D–flat major prelude is an ideal piece to use as a demonstration for the color–coded model because it is a piece that is particularly driven by the expressively charged surface features just described and because its patterned texture allows us to see quite clearly how these surface features behave. The texture is simple, though Bach’s rich harmonic palette is far from simple. The harmonies complex enough here that the assigning of colors is not always so straightforward. Even at the beginning stages of using this color–coded method, analytical decisions must be made, as comments below will demonstrate. While the piece is strategically chosen for a demonstration of the color–coded method, all the features that are highlighted here are at play in any work that uses traditional tonal harmony. Following the color–coded score below are some analytical thoughts, which, as mentioned before, are essential for true analysis since the color–coded score is rather limited as a tool by itself. The written analysis that follows will be far from exhaustive but will give the reader an idea of the kind of analysis that is possible. In order to fully appreciate and understand a music analysis, especially one that attempts to focus on those musical features that elicit emotional response as this one does, readers are strongly encouraged to listen to and familiarize themselves with the piece.

Measures 1–2. Bach establishes the home key of D–flat major with a root position D–flat major chord at the opening. But by the end of the first measure, we already get an indication of the chromatic saturation that is to pervade the piece. The red C–flat is an expressively charged note, being a newly appearing one (N) that tonicizes the key of G–flat major and therefore generates scale–degree reorientation (S) and one that creates a harmonic dissonance with the D–flat being heard in the bass. The blue F–natural becomes activated by the C–flat—its stable position as mi in the home key of D–flat major and as the third of the previous D–flat major chord is altered as it becomes ti in the tonicized key of G–flat major. As ti, it seeks upward resolution to the G–flat, or do of the tonicized key. The F’s movement to G–flat is further pressured by the its dissonant tritone relationship with the red C–flat—the C–flat pushes against the F until both slide in opposite directions into the next chord, restoring stability. In measure 2, the light purple C–natural restores the home key by reorienting the surrounding notes out of the briefly tonicized G–flat major back into the home D–flat major key. The D–flat pedal tone is rendered orange because is stands in dissonance to the chord appearing above it (A–flat seventh chord).

The detailed analysis offered in the paragraph above becomes unnecessary once the reader and analyst becomes familiar with the color code. The reader can begin to think in colors, and analytical comments can be reserved for those interesting aspects of the music that are not simply shown by the colors. Rather than providing further detailed "play–by–play" analysis, what follows are comments directed toward several of the more interesting passages in this piece (or half of a piece).

Measure 4. The pink Db in measure 4 (prepared harmonic dissonance involved with reorientation) is especially charged due to the length of its preparation (three full bars of tonic pedal), to the extent of both the harmonic transformation (from the most stable root of the D–flat major chord in measure 3b to the least stable seventh of the E–flat seventh) and the scale–degree reorientation (from the most stable tonic scale degree to the activated scale–degree 4) that it undergoes. In an ideal world, the pink of this note would be more vivid than other PHS notes.

Measures 15a and 23b. The chord is measure 15a is identical to the one in measure 23b, yet the application of this analysis renders them very differently colored, due to factors in each of their surrounding contexts. In measure 15, the Eb3 in the bass is rendered black because it is the expected resolution of the ascending bass line from the previous measure (C–D–Eb) and is heard as tonic. In measure 23, the same Eb3 is rendered orange because it is heard as a dominant pedal tone in an A–flat tonality (even though the immediate chord is one that tonicizes A–flat’s dominant, E–flat). The measure 15 C–flat is maroon for being a new note that is harmonically dissonant (the seventh of the D fully–diminished chord it creates with the tones above, but also an unusual "dissonant 6th" above the bass which resolves downward to a P5 with the bass in the second half of the measure). The C–flat in measure 23, however, is pink because it is prepared in the preceding chord (though in another voice), it is a harmonic dissonance in the same way the measure 15 C–flat was, and it undergoes a scale-degree reorientation since its function as scale–degree 6 (in the tonicized key of E–flat) is relatively less stable than the scale–degree 3 function it held in the previous measure (in the A–flat tonality). The measure 15 upper notes are light blue because all are prepared and none undergo scale–degree reorientation. In measure 23, the purple D4 and the pink A–flat4 would be light green and light blue respectively if the harmony did not involve scale–degree reorientation. The fact that one or more of these notes may have been analyzed differently, with different color renderings indicates that decisions must still be made within this color–code method.

Measure 12. The first chord in measure 12 gives an indication of the limits of the color code. The E–flat minor seventh chord looks relatively black with only one light blue D–flat5, suggesting that the chord is relatively uncharged expressively. The color code fails to show that the chord is actually an unexpected resolution of the D–flat major–minor seventh chord immediately preceding it. G–flat major is most likely expected, especially given the fact that all six dominant seventh sonorities heard prior to measure 12 resolve normally to the expected chords they tonicize. The E–flat minor seventh is not extremely far afield from the expected G-flat major (especially since all the latter’s tones are embedded in the former), yet the deceptive resolution of the D–flat major–minor seventh is clouded by its being in first inversion putting the temporary leading tone in the bass and by both the E–flat minor chord’s containing a chord seventh and its appearing in first inversion. In other words, we often hear V7—vi deceptive progressions but hearing a V65—vi65 deceptive progression is much less common. (A similar unexpected resolution occurs in measure 16, though the color–code marks it as more highly charged. More on this measure later.) In sum, in this color–coded system there is the possibility of failing to highlight certain syntactical divergences such as unusual chord progressions.

Measure 16. The first chord in measure 16 is quite interesting. Is it simply a simultaneity (that is, an embellishing chord) produced by the linear voice–leading driven by the two descending chromatic lines—Ab–G–Gb–F in the soprano; D–Db–C–Cb–Bb in the lower alto register? That answer (or non–answer) does not do justice to the sequential progression embedded here. The issue is the F3 in the bass at measure 16. Why did Bach choose F? Without it, the progression is much clearer. There are a number of parallels between this prelude and the C major prelude from the Well–Tempered Clavier, book 1. This measure 16 of the D–flat major corresponds to the infamously ambiguous measure 23 in the C major prelude.

Application to Hymn Composition

Recently, I composed for my home congregation a new hymn tune for version of Luther’s of Psalm 130 (Aus tiefer not schrei ich zu dir), and I composed it with the color–coded method in mind. As with the setting any strophic hymn text, but particularly when setting one as theologically rich as Luther’s, the composer has the difficult challenge to composing music that appropriately fits every verse. To give an indication of this difficulty, the first musical phrase ends in the first verse with the text "the voice of lamentation," while the same phrase ends in the fifth verse with "His grace much more aboundeth." How does write music that captures both sentiments? The task of hymn composition is indeed challenging if the music is to enable the EHP. The best hymn tunes, in these textually rich instances, create an overall musical trajectory that matches the overall trajectory of the hymn as a whole. This is what I attempted to do with my setting of Luther’s hymn.

In order to apply the color–coded method in the actual compositional process, I set out to analyze first a few Bach chorales, which I consider to be the pinnacle of setting hymn texts. Below is Bach’s Chorale 251.

The plethora of light green notes is noticeable, but given the minor mode here (G minor) their high number can be explained by the naturally appearing inflections of the 6th and 7th scale degrees. In addition, we notice a number of colored notes throughout. We see a few highlighted "hot spots," and as is very common with Bach chorales, the penultimate phrase is most expressively charged. Without burdening the reader with more detailed treatment of each passage, we now turn to my version of Psalm 130.(62)

I wanted with my chorale to facilitate just the type of worship described in Section 3, and I want to describe some of the decisions made in the compositional process. I particularly wanted to compose a setting that facilitated good singing of parts, and to this end, Bach’s chorales serve as an exemplary model. Not only are Bach’s inner parts very singable, the provide interesting melodic contours in and of themselves rather than being mere chordal filler (which is so often the case). The principal melody in particular must always be very singable, so that even the untrained in the congregation can easily learn it.(63) Therefore, the principal melody is predominantly stepwise.

There are seven phrases in total, and like Luther’s own musical setting of his paraphrase, mine takes an ABABCDE structure. The first and third phrases have identical melodies. However, I wished to harmonize phrase 3 differently since textually, phrase 3 marks a kind of emotional juncture, becoming more optimistic ("Lord, turn a gracious ear to me," "His helping love no limit knows"). Musically the phrase ends with a turn toward F major (indicated by the light purple C in the bass), the brightness of which suggests an optimistic ray of hope. Phrase 4 images phrase 2, though its end features a melodic inversion of that of phrase 2, providing harmonic closure that prepares the ascent of Phrase 5. In that fifth phrase, the principal emerges out of the dregs of the low register. The elevation of tone serves a dual function. In verses 1 and 2, it provides heightened emotion to express the direness of the situation ("if thou iniquities dost mark," "no man can glory in thy sight"). In verses 3 and 5, it serves to amplify our declaration of thankfulness ("His promised mercy is my fort" "Our Shepherd good and true is He"). The turn once again to F major, an elevation of key from D minor to match the elevation in melodic contour, is signaled by the light purple Cs. Phrase 6 is where the most saturated expressive action takes place. If Phrase 5 initiates the elevation of emotional stress, Phrase 6 is the culmination, the climax. Melodically, it features peak notes in all four voice parts (E in the soprano, B in the alto, E in the tenor, A in the bass), thereby allowing all voices to participate in expressing this heightened emotion. Phrase 6, like its predecessor, serves a dual function of deep angst ("our secret sins and misdeeds dark") and sincere thankfulness ("my comfort, and my sweet support"). Musically, following a brief return to the home D minor key, the passage shifts to A minor, an elevation beyond F major. Phrase 7 brings us back down to earth and to D minor, with a point of imitation between soprano and tenor to close.


1. C4 is middle C. E4–C5 is then the E two steps above middle C combined with the C one octave higher than middle C. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

2. The question as to why we call pitches with higher frequency "higher" than ones with lower frequency is a fascinating one, and its best explanation does not necessarily appeal to pitch frequency, as some see the reference to be arbitrary. Wavelength for example would be lower for pitches that are "higher," and vice versa. Furthermore, it seems odd to consider the color violet "higher" than red since the frequency of the former is larger than the latter. A wide variety of explanations have been given to the concept of "higher" and "lower" pitches, ranging from references to the physiological body movement when producing "higher" and "lower" notes to references to music notation. Incidentally, Zbikowski identifies Balinese and Javanese cultures as referring to pitch as "small" and "large" rather than "high" or "low," a "conception that reflects accurately the norms of acoustic production — small things typically vibrate more rapidly than large things." (Zbikowski 2008, p.516). BACK TO PARAGRAPH

3. It is certainly possible for one note to be played so loudly that the other is no longer heard. It is the fact that hearing two tones simultaneously is even possible that we are contemplating. It is that fact that makes musical spatiality special. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

4. Zuckerkandl 1956. See particularly sections XVI. "A Placeless, Flowing Space of Tones," and XVII. "The Order of Auditory Space." BACK TO PARAGRAPH

5. This relationship is heard in "tones" but not (typically) in sounds. The distinction between sounds, purely acoustical objects, and tones, intentional objects, is emphasized as being a crucial distinction by Scruton. We hear things in tones that we do not in sounds: direction, energy, together "with relations of attraction and repulsion towards other tones." (Scruton 2009, 46; See also Scruton 1997, ch.2) People do not normally hear consonance and dissonance in the squeak of a door, the whistle of a train, or even a two–toned car horn or doorbell. (Only abnormal music theory geeks seem to do this!) BACK TO PARAGRAPH

6. Palisca, Claude V. and Brian C.J. Moore. "Consonance." In Groves Music Online. Oxford Music Online, (accessed October 3, 2012). "Roughness" refers to the quality of the acoustical phenomenon of tones being combined whereas "tonal tension" is a contextually and stylistically informed concept. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

7. Begbie 2007, 293. Begbie also cites Zuckerkandl. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

8. This is certainly a simplification as concepts of consonance and dissonance are shaped by stylistic conventions. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

9. Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, p.303. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

10. This general tendency by no means suggests that there have not been exceptional music theorists who have remained concerned with the emotional experience of music. Leonard Meyer warned of the "dangers of concentrating too much attention upon the structure of the musical work as a single sound term interpreted as a stable whole." (Meyer 1956, 52) More on this in the Excursus. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

11. Cited in Cook 1990, 2. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

12. This is referred to as the "cognitivist" view of the emotions, a view by no means universally accepted. Addis, for example, sees no problem and "nothing ’unscientific’" in the concept of objectless emotions and suggests that such objectless emotions are a common occurrence: "In point of fact, objectless emotions, often blending into moods, are quite common and are provoked or occasioned by all sorts of things one experiences, whether by the outer senses or by inner imagination or by the food one eats." (Addis 1999, 118) BACK TO PARAGRAPH

13. Hanslick 1986 [1854]. Prior to Hanslick, Schopenhauer was also partly responsible for beginning to see the emotion in music as expressive properties of the music itself rather than being a projection of emotion from the listener into the music. His writings in the early 19th century elevated music among the arts, and music eventually gained the status of "the Romantic art." See Kivy 2001, Ch.2 "A Little History". BACK TO PARAGRAPH

14. "Only on the basis of a number of ideas and judgments can our state of mind congeal into this or that specific feeling... A specific feeling never exists as such without an actual historical content, which can only be precisely set forth in concepts. Music cannot render concepts." (Hanslick 1986 [1854], 9) BACK TO PARAGRAPH

15. Cohen 2008, 47. This is known in philosophy as "the problem of tragedy." Cohen’s own input on the matter is less than enlightening: "Is this an enigma awaiting a solution, or is it just one more fact about human beings and what they do? I have no answer to that question." (48) BACK TO PARAGRAPH

16. Kivy is one who acknowledges this possibility. "Why, however, can’t we say that, although music is expressive of the garden–variety emotions in virtue of our recognizing them in the music, as heard properties of it, there is not a second step in the process, in which recognizing the emotions in the music somehow serves to arouse them in us. In other words, we can have our cake and eat it too." (Kivy 2001, 112-13) Kivy then proceeds punch holes in the idea, but he at least acknowledges this possibility. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

17. This is not to say that theorists espousing the expression theory may not look elsewhere for an explanation of the how–it–is–that of it all. As with the arousal theory, it is conceivable that an expression theory can also be combined with a resemblance theory, since they can each be used to explain different things within this emotion–and–music enterprise. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

18. Also called the "contour theory," most notably by Peter Kivy. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

19. I say "primarily" here because there are secondary factors at play such as conventionally-established associations embedded within the grammar of various musical styles. Perhaps the paradigmatic example of this is the conventionally–established association of the minor mode with sadness. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

20. There are resemblance theories that are based on resemblances to things other than the physiological and behavioral manifestations of emotions, but they tend to be rather esoteric and, while having had some influence, have not gained much traction. Suzanne Langer (1942) suggested that music is an iconic symbol of the emotions, while Laird Addis (1999), picking up from Langer, suggests that music resembles emotion’s phenomenological profiles. Addis criticizes the resemblance theories that tie into behavioral manifestations for being a "weak and superficial" connection—they resemble the expression of emotions rather than resembling the emotions themselves. Similar to these ideas is the often cited quip made by psychologist Carroll Pratt that "music sounds the way emotions feel." As pithy as that sounds, just what it means is difficult to say. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

21. Hanslick 1986 [1854], 3. There is some disagreement on whether Hanslick allowed for the arousal of any emotion by music, but what is generally agreed upon is that, for Hanslick, music cannot arouse emotions in any aesthetically relevant way. (Cook and Dibben 2001, 49–50; Kivy 2002, 22–23) He seems to imply that the arousal of emotions is inversely proportional to aesthetic merit when he states that "the more powerfully an effect from a work of art overwhelms us physically, the more negligible is its aesthetic component." (Hanslick 1986 [1854], 57) BACK TO PARAGRAPH

22. Hanslick made a point similar to the one made a few paragraphs earlier that untrained lay listeners listen differently than trained musicians. His tone was rather disparaging: "The person who wallows in feeling is in most instances untrained in the aesthetical comprehension of the musically beautiful. The layman is most likely to ’feel’ when he listens to music; the trained artist is least likely to do so... The lay enthusiast likes to ask whether a piece of music is cheerful or sad; the musician, whether it is good or bad." (Hanslick 1891, 65) While I do not equate the "emotion heightening" phenomenon I am describing with Hanslick’s "wallowing in feeling," I do leave aside the question of the extent to which this emotion heightening phenomenon falls inside the criteria of aesthetic merit. The phenomenon could be considered more a byproduct in the aesthetic listening experience, but I believe the occurrence is a common enough that an investigation may shed light on the listening experience and on music’s power to move us. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

23. While listeners may hear the music as some kind of projection of a fictitious persona other than themselves, I do not see that this is at all the normative way people listen. Nor do I see even the persona–as–self approach, or the heightened emotions approach with which it resonates, as necessary for either an emotionally engaged experience of music or a proper understanding of music. I see the heightening of emotions more as a byproduct in the proper listening of music, though a byproduct that has powerful potential and a byproduct that is so common as to be quasi–normative at least. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

24. I prefer "factor" over "requirement" since it seems to condition the emotion–heightening phenomenon on a more gradual scale. Our aesthetic evaluations do not usually bring us to a bad–or–good position as if a yes–or–no question. We arrive at more nuanced evaluations (e.g. decent in features x,y; fantastic for feature z; but not very good for features c, d). BACK TO PARAGRAPH

25. The phrase "music alone," coined by Kivy (1990), has come to refer to what I am calling primary music. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

26. It may be true that many contrasting views of musical expression turn on a particular definition of "aesthetic." It is difficult to know the extent to which secondary music would be considered inside the realm of aesthetic relevance because of the paucity of literature dealing with secondary music. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

27. Nicholas Cook has put it this way: "What I find perplexing, and stimulating, about music is the way in which people—most people—can gain intense enjoyment from it even though they know little or nothing about it in technical terms." (Cook 1990, 1–2). Cook also points out that it is not just the layperson who has difficulty in assessing what it is in music that moves us. Music’s power to move us baffles even the most learned musicians and philosophers. I believe this fact also helps explain why the arousal theory has held so much cache: the EHP works on us without us knowing much at all about what is going on. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

28. Scruton 1997, 354. Much of this description of sympathy owes to Scruton. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

29. Rabinowitch, Cross and Burnard, 2012, 1. This article includes an extensive bibliography of like studies. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

30. All Scripture references are the English Standard Version. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

31. A number of writers have written about the quasi–sacramental nature of music, including Sherrard 1990, Blackwell 1999, and Jones 1959. For a critique of the art–as–sacrament view, especially of Jones 1959, see Wolterstorff 1988. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

32. Here we have been exploring music’s spatiality allows for the imaging of unity. For a thorough exploration in the ways in which music’s temporality allows for the imaging of unity, see Begbie 2011 and especially Begbie 2000. "Especially crucial to the power of rhythm to bind people together through synchronization: it has long been known that one of the most powerful ways to unite a group is through rhythmic music. And, given rhythm’s connection with emotion, it is one of the quickest ways in which emotion is spread and shared." (Begbie 2011, 344) BACK TO PARAGRAPH

33. Colossians 3:14–15, ESV. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

34. This is not at all to say that theology is unimportant. But many of our churches, especially within the brand of Reformed Protestantism in which I find myself, overemphasize doctrine and neglect affective practices in the formation of worldviews. James K. A. Smith has made this point forcefully: "[T]oo many Protestant churches continue to offer a (very modern) style of worship that is dominated by quite abstract, heady forms, centering on a sermon that communicates only on a cognitive level (often difficult even for those without college degrees)—rather than adopting historic forms of Christian liturgy that enact the whole person and thus reach those without such cognitive capacities with the story of the gospel." (Smith 2009, 136n) "Before Christians had systematic theologies and worldviews, they were singing hymns and psalms, saying prayers, celebrating the Eucharist, sharing their property, and becoming a people marked by a desire for God’s kingdom—a desire that constituted them as a peculiar people in the present." (Smith 2009, 139) BACK TO PARAGRAPH

35. Ibid., 90. Smith suggests that the Church should learn from those public spheres, specifically the consumerist mall culture, that attempt to shape our loves and our image of the self by viscerally "captur[ing] our imaginations through the senses of sight, and sound, touch and taste, even smell." (95) The mall is no neutral space but rather forms a liturgical space, with its "visual icons of success, happiness, pleasure, and fulfillment [that results in] is a stabbing albeit unarticulated recognition that that’s not me." (96) BACK TO PARAGRAPH

36. St. Augustine. Exposition on the Book of Psalms. Tr. Philip Schaff (1819-1893). (Accessed 10/3/12) BACK TO PARAGRAPH

37. 2 Samuel, chapter 12 BACK TO PARAGRAPH

38. Cohen 2008, 3. This talent for seeing oneself as other is certainly central to the liberal arts project. "I think this ability to tell stories that promise to secure human understanding is nothing more or less than one of the powers of art. [...] I am myself persuaded that there is a superabundance of evidence showing that a refined appreciation of art does not lead to any discernable improvement in the morality of such appreciators. And yet there is a connection, as I see it, between the ability to fully appreciate narrative fiction and the ability to participate in the morality of life, precisely because the ability to imagine oneself to be someone else is a prerequisite for both." (72-73) BACK TO PARAGRAPH

39. Ibid., 21–23. Reading Cohen’s insightful and delightful account of metaphor can lead to fresh readings of Scripture. The New Testament is replete with metaphoric language in the Gospel writers, in Jesus’s teachings, and in Paul’s letters. One is reminded of the disciples’ asking Jesus why he spoke in parables in Matthew 13:10, as if to say, "Just give us the boiled–down doctrines." There is an indispensable import provided by story and metaphor. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

40. Leaver 2007, 99. Luther did not share the ambivalence and suspicion of music that is found in so many other great Christians thinkers like Augustine, Calvin and especially Zwingli. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

41. Augustine 1991 [397–400], section 10.xxxiii.50, page 208. For a concise treatment of the contemporary views of music and the senses that played into Augustine’s ambivalence, see Harrison 2011. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

42. Best 2003. 140. In the same chapter, Best makes acute observations regarding how static both the traditional and contemporary worship camps and repertoires have become. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

43. Wesley 1761. "Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually." BACK TO PARAGRAPH

44. It often goes unnoticed just how often we are commanded to sing loudly and how often worship is described as being loud. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

45. Begbie 2011, 337. Emphasis his. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

46. It often goes unnoticed just how often the Scriptures command to sing and play instruments "loudly." But these commands are directed towards all worshipers. Our corporate worship should be loud! My concern here with amplification refers to proper balance. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

47. James K. A. Smith 2012. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

48. Of course, I would hope that all such trained musicians would be on the front lines of leading worship. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

49. By "religious experience" I particularly have in mind corporate worship and practices of rite or sacrament, but other religious experiences outside this paradigm may also apply in the following comparisons to varying degrees. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

50. My personal reflections on these matters were particularly stimulated by the writings on music, culture and religion by Roger Scruton, and several of the specific resemblances between religious and aesthetic experience come directly from his observations in The Aesthetics of Music (Oxford, 1997), pp.458ff. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

51. Written in a letter to a minister. "The new liturgy is appalling... Preaching, of course, is another matter: there the language must be contemporary. But one of the great functions of the liturgy is to keep us in touch with the past and the dead." (Underlining is Auden’s.) Copy of letter is available on the web at: Last accessed 9/21/12. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

52. Granted, this is a rather simplistic account of things. Some composers who were influential in shaping new modes of expression are now neglected in broad historical accounts of Western music. This is particularly true of influential transitional figures. The sons of J.S. Bach, for example, helped shape the style that would become prominent in the Classical Period, a style that was refined later by those that followed such "greats" as Haydn and Mozart. Still, such transitional figures were significant in their own day because of their influence on newly established means of expression. The test of time has not been kind to these transitional figures, especially as they stand next to others who refined their efforts. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

53. Continuing: "...If you ask me what I was thinking of when I wrote it, I would say: just the song as it stands. And if I happen to have had certain words in mind for one or another of these songs, I would never want to tell them to anyone because the same words never mean the same things to different people. Only the song can say the same thing, can arouse the same feelings in one person as in another, a feeling that is not expressed, however, by the same words." Written in a letter to Marc–André Souchay, cited in Josiah Fisk, ed. Composers on Music, New and Expanded revision (1997, Pantheon books) p.84 BACK TO PARAGRAPH

54. Interview found here: Quotation occurs near the 4’06" and 13’58" marks. (Last accessed on July 28, 2012.) BACK TO PARAGRAPH

55. For a fascinating and inspiring TED talk given by El Sistema founder José Antonio Abreu, a talk that is saturated with this kind of religious language referencing music’s redemptive power, go to: (Last accessed on July 28, 2012.) BACK TO PARAGRAPH

56. "You are great, Lord, and highly to be praised. Great is your power and your wisdom is immeasurable. Man, a little piece of your creation desires to praise you, a human being bearing his own mortality. You stir man to take pleasure in praising You have made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless till it rests in You." Confessions, Book I, par. I. Translation by Chadwick. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

57. Interview found here: Quotation occurs near the 38’48" mark. (Last accessed on July 28, 2012.) BACK TO PARAGRAPH

58. "Live concert–going, an anachronism in the digital age, is surely an act of communion — not just between musician and audience member, but among ourselves as listeners too. There’s something about the collective listening experience, the shared moment, that can intensify as well as blot the musical canvass." Alexandra Coghian, "How much noise is too much noise in the classical concert–hall?" the arts desk, July 31, 2012. Last accessed August 1, 2012. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

59. Textural reduction, the process of reducing a musical passage to its fundamental framework, is a useful and sometimes essential procedure. It is important for the theorist to understand what is gained and lost in the process. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

60. In Rethinking Music. (p.107). Fink’s characterization of Schenkerianism is something of a straw man image. With Schenker always being the chosen easy target, one might sometimes wonder if Schenkerianism is the only methodology occupying this paradigm. Disingenuous as Fink’s may be in his attack, his primary thesis that music’s surface features are "the last thing our theoretical tools equip us to value and explore" is forceful. (p.120) BACK TO PARAGRAPH

61. In the nomenclature established in Hepokoski and Darcy’s important new book on sonata form, "first–level defaults" represent the most expected outcomes, "second–level defaults" represent the next most expected outcomes, and so on and so on. Outcomes that fall outside all default levels are labeled "deformations." Elements of Sonata Theory, Oxford 2006, p.10. BACK TO PARAGRAPH

62. A black and white copy can be found here: BACK TO PARAGRAPH

63. Bach’s chorales consist of reharmonization of preexisting hymn tunes from the Lutheran tradition. The congregation would have known the tunes already. BACK TO PARAGRAPH


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