An Examination of Sovereign Grace Ministries and Getty-Townend For Use in Fundamental Christian Churches (Part 2)

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GregH's picture

When I saw this series and book being touted, I was interested. The first article hints at a rational, balanced approach to this topic that we are finally starting to see from the conservative side of the debate. But after reading this, I feel hoodwinked. This is not serious stuff. It is just a regurgitation of the errors that have been taught for decades.

Those who believe like the authors can sound credible while they talk about general principles. However, they fall apart and look silly when they get specific. And while the wheels stayed on the wagon in that first article, the wagon has now exploded.

For those who are not familiar with the technical side of music, don't be fooled by the fact that the authors appear to understand music theory. While some of their observations are fairly accurate about styles, their applications are indefensible and not serious.

Here are the things I strongly question:

1) I have no idea why SGM and Gettys are linked together here in the first place. Their styles are vastly different. I wonder why the conservatives always do hit jobs on the two of them together. Do they not understand the musical differences?

2) This quote from the section on beat anticipation:

Because there seems to be a strong, if subconscious, expectation for a melodic phrase to cadence or finish on a strong beat the body tends to ‘fill the gap’ with suggestive movements when it does not.

This is not serious. What movements and why are those movements suggestive? I have listened to and performed with beat anticipations my entire life and have no clue what the authors are talking about.

3) The discussion of harmony. The authors mention the non-traditional endings. SG songs tend to end on IV and even V chords. I am not a fan either; I think it is cliche and a modern little fad.

They mention the SG use of harmony elsewhere in the songs as seeming to convey a sense of static motion – moving, but not moving anywhere. I actually agree with that. Their harmony is non-traditional (not a problem in itself) and not always as functional as it could be (in my opinion).

So, I am with the authors in that I agree that SG harmony could be better written. But while not great, SG harmony is still better than a large percentage of beloved gospel songs. And what does it have to do with a discussion of what is appropriate in worship? The authors seem to imply that these harmony decisions are moral in nature. Not hardly...

4) Under the use of repetition section, the authors mention excessive use of 7th chords and unresolved dissonance as examples of things that weaken sound. I would love to see a defense for that.

Using 7th chords strengthens functional harmony rather than weakens it. This kind of rhetoric from the authors is a holdout from the 1970's when conservatives were attacking jazz in its use of extended harmony. The idea that people in the 2012 are still preaching against excessive 7th chords is just bewildering.

The same goes for dissonance, though I cannot really know what the authors consider dissonance or unresolved dissonance. I see very little dissonance in SGM music anyway unless you consider suspensions. I think that it could use some more dissonance actually.

5) Under the performance style section, there is the predicted and tired references to breathy, inappropriately intimate, even sensual vocalizations. Sorry, but I am not buying it. It is possible to express yourself in music in a non-classical way without it being about sex. I don't deny that many pop performers are selling sex. But the conservative obsession with making all these musical elements about sex makes me want to suggest they throw away their Sigmund Freud books. Sex is the last thing in SGM performers minds when they sing. It is the last thing in the mind of most secular performers that use all these musical elements that are supposedly about sex. I have talked about this with many professional musicians and they look at me like I have two heads when I bring this up.

When you use the authors' kind of logic to attack this music, you end up with their conclusions, and I obviously disagree with them too.

Frankly, I am not going to listen to SG music very much if at all. It is not my cup of tea. But they deserve to be defended from attacks like this.

 

[Comment: Edited for corrections at the request of the author (Jim P)]

handerson's picture

I wonder if that makes it easier to see the forest for the trees. This approach really surprised me as it seemed to reduce the whole conversation to a question a musical grammar and what chords are "secular" and which are "worldly." I haven't heard that argument in over twenty years.

As more of a "word" person, I am not a fan of SGM music for mainly lyrical reasons--the writing often seems overwrought, complicated, and not well-married to the melodies such as they are. My husband and I joke (in private under our breath, of course) that singing SGM songs is like opening a systematic theology text and singing directly from that. While hymns must be rich in doctrine and truth, they must also translate that truth into beautiful phrasing--for all the emphasis on musical rhythm and melody, we seem to have forgotten that spoken language has it's own rhythm and melody. Writing peotry is not simply a matter of  rhyming the last words of phrases.

And I agree with GregH: SGM and Gettys are very different entities when it comes to congregational hymnody. Certainly there is a subcultural overlap and perhaps even some collaboration, but they represent distinct styles and musical expressions.

 

dharristx's picture

The source of sin is from within. Sin cannot be "caught" from "unique syncopation", an "expectation for a melodic phrase to cadence", "melodic anticipation", "heavy use of consecutive 7th chords", or even (I know this is hard to believe) "excessive unresolved dissonance".

 

James 1:14 (ESV) — But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

 

David Harris is the Pastor of Faith Baptist Church of Palmhurst, TX (www.faithbaptistministries.org)

dgszweda's picture

I found the whole article to be reminiscent of the flawed approach from the 1970's that is still, unfortunately, pervasive in many churches.  The first part, did hint at a more balanced approach, but the second part of this series clearly shows that it is the same old arguments that are neither valid nor defendable.  I won't go into all the details because I think GregH has clearly outlined them, and I think he is well versed to converse on this topic anyway, but I am disturbed by the groupings.  This is a classic approach taken too music.  Lets just group everyone together, and attack the whole lot of them.  Instead of really looking at a true application.  To group all of SGM together (let along Getty or anyone else) is pretty naive.  SGM is a conglomerate of lots of artists, singing all types of songs, both musically and textually.  There are some songs that are superior musically to anything out of a current hymnals, and some songs that have a significantly better message both theologically and doctrinally than some of the junk that is in our current hymnals.  At the same time there is some significantly weak stuff that comes out of SGM both musically and textually.  I find this concept of just grouping everyone together and blasting the lot out of them to be just misguided and naive, and we really need to get past this point, because at the end of the day it is no longer defensible.

Mike Harding's picture

Scott Aniol, who will soon be finishing his Ph.D. in music, has written a helpful overview of SGM music and GTM music.  One can read it on his Religious Affections website.  Scott is reasonable and objective in his analysis.  This article on SI has some valid points; however, I didn't comprehend the arguments about melodic anticipation.  My personal assessment has been that if a song is well-written theologically, poetically, coupled with a well-crafted melody and appropriate performance style, then is could be used in congregational hymnody.  The SGM or GTM songs properly arranged by Sound Forth and/or that reside in the Rejoice Hymnal appear to meet this criteria. 

Pastor Mike Harding

DavidO's picture

dgszweda wrote:
There are some songs that are superior musically to anything out of a current hymnals . . .

(emphasis mine)

Seriously?  An SGM artist has outdone Bach?  Who and what song?

Mike Durning's picture

Well, here we go again!    Somebody should write a study called “An Examination of Channeling Frank Garlock for use in Articles for Fundamentalists” (Is Frank Garlock still alive?).

Once again, I ask the vital questions I and others have asked again and again:  Where are the Bible verses?   Where is the developed theology of music in worship?    How can we defend articles like this in light of our understanding of sufficiency of Scripture?   Does our doctrine of sufficiency of Scripture really require a degree in musicology (or any other non-theological discipline) to discern?      While I admit that men who have studied something extensively have more to say and ought to be heard on a topic within their area of study, I reject the idea that men and women of God can’t discern the rightness or wrongness of things purely through application of the Word under the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.    

Why is Scripture so silent on this issue of burning importance?   Perhaps it is not so important as some think.

Years ago, I heard teen pregnancy and drug use tied to rock music being pumped into public school hallways during breaks.   Now we are told that there is an inherent sensuality to certain beat patterns used commonly in worship music in churches.   Such things become self-fulfilling prophecies to a sector of the movement that essentially accepts the monastic interpretation that “the world” we are to shun means everything that isn’t inside our movement.   Once a person leaves the fold and hears such “sensuous” musical patterns, any failure in their life will be connected to the music – while every moral failure of the staunch traditional fundamentalist will be explained away as an aberration.  

Leaders in churches other than the traditional fundamentalist model don’t choose other music because of a lack of discernment or a lack of understanding. They choose it because they are communicating something with the music and attaining certain goals with it.   The mainstream evangelical church where they sing the same lines endlessly, repetitively, tediously (for me, at least) is creating an atmosphere deliberately with the music – just like the traditional church is creating an atmosphere when they sing songs from the 1950’s.    One is saying “We like the kool-aid of Charismatic Worship within certain limits, so loose yourself in the music”, while the other is saying “Ward and June are welcome here, with Wally and the Beav.  You, with the tattoo, will probably be more comfortable elsewhere.”    One is saying “We embrace the culture”, the other “We distrust the culture.”    It means little more than that.

As for the question of appropriateness for worship, I leave a few reflections:
1).  Where is the vigorous theology of worship music that we need?   If anyone has troubled themselves to prepare such, I suspect the criteria for good worship music lies entirely elsewhere than part two of this article is looking.    And please don’t send me Scott Aniol links.   I know about him already.
2). Music communicates different things in different cultures and sub-cultures, and those change.   The breathy music that said “torch song by a singer laying on a piano in a bar” in 1953 says “intimacy” now – which is NOT necessarily the same as sexual.   It’s just “closeness”.
3). More analysis of the concept of “worldliness” needs to happen in Fundamentalism.   While the article does not focus on this aspect, the spectre of “worldliness” hangs over discussions like this throughout the movement.   The word “worldliness” in English simply means “like the world”.   But the several words used in the Greek New Testament for the concept of “worldliness”, along with their descriptions in the New Testament, denote something different than our English word suggests.
4).  The observation has been made that Fundamentalist ministry educations face a great divide:  the missions students are told “plant the churches within your cultural context” while the pastoral students are told “deplore you culture and dig in your feet and resist it.”    But it’s clear that you can’t hate your mission field.   And pastors (home missionaries) need to at least understand their culture and know what on earth it means by what it says and does.    While this culture is sex-obsessed, every beat pattern is not about sensual indulgence.   It’s just music to them.   And they’re not so sure Homer Rodeheaver is music, just as we’re not sure Rap is.

Until we do our homework on issues like this (the implications of sufficiency of Scripture for the discernment issue, underlying theology, defining worldliness, and what on earth is culture and how does it fit into the whole “world” picture) we will never reach a truly Christian conclusion on these issues.

None of this is in praise of SGM music, of which I know little, or the Getty’s, whom I alternately adore and tolerate, depending on the song.   It’s simply a plea for us to do our homework on the core issues before we deal with the peripherals.
 

dgszweda's picture

DavidO wrote:

dgszweda wrote:
There are some songs that are superior musically to anything out of a current hymnals . . .

(emphasis mine)

Seriously?  An SGM artist has outdone Bach?  Who and what song?

 

sorry, poor writing on my part.  I meant to say "some of the songs" instead of anything.

Joel Tetreau's picture

Hey Ed,

I'd be curious what % of the SI readership agrees with this presentation. What would really be cool is for you to do one of your poll's. You might get these guys to in a sentence or two explain their use/non-use of Getty & company. Then for a position a little to the left of them you might get the Beethoven guys (Harding, Bauder, Aniol) to write their view. Then maybe find another position or two - and let's take a poll of the SI group. Without being mean here - I really think Durning here is right - I think we could call this first view the "Neo-Garlock" view of SGM.

If I'm right - almost no one Type B or left would agree with this first presentation. Frankly even Harding here wiggles a little away from these guys. That's interesting! One takes note when Harding wiggles from away from a conservative position on music - that doesn't happen every day (of course to be fair - Harding only clearly wiggles away from "melodic anticipation." What's interesting here is that I also did not agree with the stated view of "melodic anticipation." This is a good sign! Perhaps Mike and I can build on this agreement! Ah - warm fellowship in Troy!). Again to articulate four or five different views and then do a poll would be classic SI!?

Just a thought - Straight Ahead & Merry Christmas everyone!

jt

ps - for the record I'm loving listening to Handle's Messiah this time of year - I think it's my favorite!

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

DavidO's picture

Joel Tetreau wrote:
Frankly even Harding here wiggles a little away from these guys.

So much so that he tries to place blame for the article on SI rather than the FBFI blog on which it appears. Biggrin

Dr. Mike Harding wrote:
This article on SI has some valid points; however, I didn't comprehend the arguments about melodic anticipation.

GregH's picture

Can someone answer a question for me? Why is it that SGM and the Gettys are often grouped together in this context?  I see little in common really. Is there some connection I am missing?

dgszweda's picture

GregH wrote:

Can someone answer a question for me? Why is it that SGM and the Gettys are often grouped together in this context?  I see little in common really. Is there some connection I am missing?

 

My non-educated guess is that 1) they are new, 2) people in churches either like their music at home or use their music at church, so there is talk going on 3) anything that is new should at the least be treated skeptically, and at most is probably evil, and should be addressed immediately and 4) anything that meets these first three items and falls under a single key fundamentalist standards (music), are by default grouped together.  In the 70's or 80's these would have also been grouped together with bat eating Ozzy Osborne and Black Sabbath, but in this new century we are enlightened, so we don't make these same mistakes.

handerson's picture

Can someone answer a question for me? Why is it that SGM and the Gettys are often grouped together in this context?  I see little in common really. Is there some connection I am missing?

I think it's a matter of them both being commonly used by conservative evangelicals. Both are the conservative evangelical "reponse" to the shallower offerings of mainstream CCM. Consequently they are both popular in the emerging middle of conservative evangelicals and type b/c fundamentalists. Eventually what happens there influences historically fundamental congregations. It's not so much that SGM and the Gettys have a musical commonality as they have a subculture commonality.    Also SGM musicians have covered several Stuart Townend (who partners regularly with the Gettys) songs.  When second degree separation is a significant part of your paradigm for interpreting reality, it's natural that the you would home in on these cultural links rather than actual stylistic commonalities. 

GregH's picture

Joel Tetreau wrote:

If I'm right - almost no one Type B or left would agree with this first presentation. Frankly even Harding here wiggles a little away from these guys. That's interesting! One takes note when Harding wiggles from away from a conservative position on music - that doesn't happen every day (of course to be fair - Harding only clearly wiggles away from "melodic anticipation." What's interesting here is that I also did not agree with the stated view of "melodic anticipation." This is a good sign! Perhaps Mike and I can build on this agreement! Ah - warm fellowship in Troy!). 

Can't believe it! I don't agree with the article's view of "melodic anticipation" either. At least I don't believe that it makes the body want to ‘fill the gap’ with suggestive movements. Who would have ever thought that we could find three people in the world who disagreed with that?!?

Dave Doran's picture

I don't think putting the two together has anything to do with "second degree separation" paradigms. They are sources which represent a perceived threat, so they're addressed (improperly) together. While I agree that they shouldn't be examined as if they are the same thing (and I'd add that it really isn't that workable to speak of either SGM or GT music in monolithic terms), it also doesn't seem reasonable to say that they are no commonalities that might cause people to see them as the main representatives of the new music (whatever that means).

Dragging "second degree" separation (whatever that means for the writer) doesn't make sense. Perhaps you meant something like guilt by association (i.e., SGM and GT do touch at some points therefore can be lumped together), but that is not what secondary separation means.

For the record, we use SGM and GT songs for our worship and find them very profitable, so I'm not taking the side of the article at all. I think it fails precisely because it assumes things which it needs to prove. It works for the convinced, therefore, but fails for the rest.

DMD

Matthew J's picture

I appreciate Dr. Doran's response. Especially when he says that the article of the FBFI assumes what it needs to prove. This kind of writing does not engage the Spirit-impacted mind of the student of Scripture, but rather looks for ways to increase the "Amens" from a certain crowd, and tends to leave the unconvinced...unimpressed to say the least. Personally, this frustrates me on several levels. One because it is just poor study and rhetoric. We ought to begin with the Scripture and examine everything in light of Holy writ. Instead of beginning with the assumption something is wrong and finding x number of reasons as to why it is wrong. I was troubled reading one of the end notes in the article that of course presented good music (for purchase of course) "produced" by our "kind." (my words not theirs). We use Church Works Media music and find it similar to a degree to Getty and SGM. Why was Church Works Media not lumped together with these two? I appreciate the work of Church Works Media very much. It is articles like this that gives credence to the accusation that there is a "fundamentalist" hierarchy. Frankly, I am tired of the attitude, 'If it is not of us (whatever that means) it must be bad, now we just need to prove it." 

I was raised in a very IFB strict musical environment, yet the first time I heard Frank Garlock try to use these same shenanigans, It bothered me then. The absolute and obvious lack of Scriptural reasoning irritated me. I had heard in my IFB upbringing, "The Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice" over and over again. Then when I heard these so called arguments with no Scripture and the Scripture that may be presented was proof-texting ignoring historical exegesis, it turned my stomach. . . and it still does. Frankly, a lot of SGM music I don't appreciate that much (seems kind of forced, not very poetic). I enjoy a lot more Getty stuff (the Celtic sound can be a bit too much at times). I enjoy Church Works Media (gets a bit redundant in melodies and harmonies though), greatly enjoy classic hymns (some need an updated melody line), don't have much used for the Gospel songs of the 19th century (sometimes the lyrics are fine, but the waltzes and polka sound reminds me of the Lawrence Welk  show). But firmly believe that we are free in Christ to use his Word wisely and carefully to determine what is and what is not appropriate for musical worship within the local church. I have said too much.

 

Mike Harding's picture

Mike,

 

There is a website available entitled "The Artistic Theologian" that contains a great deal of information about worship, song, philosophy, and the technical aspects of music theory.  You may disagree with them, but they have done their homework.  None of the contributors have anything to do with Frank Garlock.  By the way, he is very much alive and knows where you live!

 

Dave O,

I meant nothing by saying the "article on SI" other than referencing the current article.  The source is obvious to all.

 

Joel,

 

I am to the left of Kevin and Scott on this particular subject.  Yet, I still enjoy what they write and benefit from it.  I understood Scott's article on SGM much better than the current one.  This article is much more technical.  I am use to discussing music with my daughters, all of whom have undergrad and grad degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music.  My wife also has two degrees in music.  I personally played in symphonic orchestras for many years; and yet I had a difficult time comprehending some of the ideas in the FBFI article.

 

 

 

 

 

Pastor Mike Harding

handerson's picture

I brought up the issue of second degree separation, not to disparage the concept, but as a short-hand explanation for how many type A fundamentalists process information. Because connections are so strongly emphasized in this paradigm, it's tempting for them to look for them everywhere--even when they are not present. In the case of SGM and GT music, there is certainly a cultural connection but not a strong stylistic one, despite the fact that style was the basis of the article's concern. I was simply suggesting that the authors were led by ecclesiastical associations first rather than by musical ones. Certainly both SGM and GT have a strong presence in conservative evangelicalism and are filtering back to fundamentalism via the emerging middle; honestly I tend to believe that this is the underlying concern and ultimately why they grouped the two.

Believe me, I was in no way trying to undermine the concept of a properly nuanced and biblically applied secondary separation, but you must agree that this is not how many fundamentalists practice it. Instead, it is often reduced to an issue of who's connected to who, and when it does, linking groups will by necessity be part of their rhetorical structure--whether it holds up logically or not.

 

Joel Tetreau's picture

Mike,

That's great that your family has been blessed with that kind of music. I remember hearing your wife and your girls play years ago. They were a rich blessing then. They have to be fantastic today! All three of my sons play multiple instruments and my wife teaches about 40 + students. We also love music. I pray that we'll be able to have impact you all have made. God bless you my man! For the record I"m not bothered at all how you are compared to Kevin and Scott. You're all good guys,....making really good music! Whatever you do......just don't strum your guitar! Smile

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Bob Hayton's picture

Why SGM and GTM?

I think it was mentioned already, but for many, these are the only two groups or types of *conservative* evangelical music they know of, outside of mainstream CCM.  When I first started listening to such music with an open mind and freedom of conscience, I appreciated SGM and GTM immensely. I loved their message, the lyrics, the Scripture-packed songs. And I sensed that the lyrics and songs sung there could have been sung in some of the fundamentalist churches I was once a part of. I even wrote a blog article on the Rise of the Modern Hymn Movement based largely on those two ministries.

Since then, I have grown in my appreciation of other Christian artists and musicians, and I find that only some GTM and SGM songs are the enduring ones, that really should be sung in corporate worship. And some Chris Tomlin songs, for example, also make my cut - but not all. One has to be choosy since so much is being made and there still is a lot that isn't of sufficient Scriptural depth and musical quality for my desires. But there is a lot that is really good.

Repetition

I haven't seen anyone point out the lament this article has for the "excessive repetition." That point in the debate always bothered me. Yes in the 80s there were excessively repetitive and trite worship songs. But that is less common now. And I could never sing "Blessed be the Name of the Lord" without hearing that weak argument go through my head. How is this not repetitive, and excessively so at that? Furthermore, the wholesale insertion of choruses and refrains into older hymns was a means of encouraging repetition - shouldn't these be taken out and the original song lyrics sung without the chorus?

Of course, Psalm 136 is the definitive Scriptural argument that says repetition is not ungodly. It is hard to be more repetitive than Ps. 136.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

GregH's picture

Bob Hayton wrote:

Repetition

I haven't seen anyone point out the lament this article has for the "excessive repetition." That point in the debate always bothered me. Yes in the 80s there were excessively repetitive and trite worship songs. But that is less common now. And I could never sing "Blessed be the Name of the Lord" without hearing that weak argument go through my head. How is this not repetitive, and excessively so at that? Furthermore, the wholesale insertion of choruses and refrains into older hymns was a means of encouraging repetition - shouldn't these be taken out and the original song lyrics sung without the chorus?

Of course, Psalm 136 is the definitive Scriptural argument that says repetition is not ungodly. It is hard to be more repetitive than Ps. 136.

Yes, besides the Biblical example, there are a few problems with the repetition argument. First, as you pointed out, conservatives tend to be a bit inconsistent with that "rule" and secondly, good music will always have repetition built into it. Always. Always. Always. Always..........

SBashoor's picture

I, too, felt the first article sounded somewhat promising, though I admit I had my doubts as to where the discussion would go. But the second installment was disappointing. It was couched in credible language but suffers many of the same argumentative errors made by the Garlock school.

I am somewhat happy, though, for the somewhat irenic tone especially in the first piece.

(Sorry for all the somewhats.)

 

 

 

M. Scott Bashoor Happy Slave of Christ

Mark Snoeberger's picture

This was an interesting article, and one I had a hard time wrapping my hands around. I'm not a trained musician, so the technicalities of the post were beyond my paygrade. It's the conversation that ensued, though, that was interesting to me. Let me summarize my thoughts.

 

(1) Most (but not all) here would agree that values are at least indirectly communicated in musical forms, whether intrinsically or by dominant associations. As a result some tunes are more appropriate than others as media for theological truth. Whether it's rock and rap on one edge of the spectrum or opera and a rollicking Hammond organ on the other, there are some forms of music that just don't effectively accomplish what church music is supposed to accomplish. 

(2) The criteria for identifying psychologically, artistically, culturally, and associationally what is appropriate and inappropriate are extremely difficult to identify, and may not even be universal.

(3) But as I read through the comments, a very interesting sentiment seems to emerge from some, viz., that anyone who actually TRIES to navigate that complex maze of factors and come to a conclusion is an idiot worthy only of vitriol, ridicule, and motive-bashing: 

 

At the end of the day, I add my voice to those who plead ignorance about "melodic anticipation" and the like. I don't understand it, and as the axiom goes, I distrust what I don't understand. But I have to give credit to the article for trying to supply an answer to the myriad demands for objective criteria for adjudicating the psychological effects and artistic appropriateness of musical forms.

Perhaps the article is, in the end, an example of begging the question. I grant that possibility. It is very easy to assume that something is wrong and only then begin to selectively gather data to support that assumption. It is also possible, though, to assume that something is right and only then begin to selectively gather data to support that assumption.

The article may fall flat, but it's the start of a conversation that evangelicals really need to have.

MAS

handerson's picture

Mark Snoeberger wrote:

(3) But as I read through the comments, a very interesting sentiment seems to emerge from some, viz., that anyone who actually TRIES to navigate that complex maze of factors and come to a conclusion is an idiot worthy only of vitriol, ridicule, and motive-bashing: 

For my part, I respect the authors' ability to analyze a piece of music as thoroughly as they did and I respect their documentation and attempt to present "objective criteria." But where I take issue, and I believe were others take issue, is when their analysis devolves to something less than objective, when the science turns to assumption about how to interpret the data. At this point, the authors are not honestly trying to navigate a complex maze of factors; they are using their musical knowledge to bolster their prior beliefs about the appropriateness of pop music. 

It's one thing to be able to prove that a certain musical style prompts a physical or emotional response (you can do that with a march or a waltz just as easily), but it is an entirely different thing to argue that this response is intrinsically inappropriate (which they state that they believe).  Instead of integrating sociological, theological, or cultural data, they rely exclusively on musical form to answer the question; and in the end, the larger issue of whether or not a specific style is appropriate in a given context remains unanswered.

It's not that they included musical analysis--it's that the entire argument was based on musical analysis alone.

GregH's picture

Mark Snoeberger wrote:

(3) But as I read through the comments, a very interesting sentiment seems to emerge from some, viz., that anyone who actually TRIES to navigate that complex maze of factors and come to a conclusion is an idiot worthy only of vitriol, ridicule, and motive-bashing: 

No, I don't think that anybody who tries to do what these authors did is an idiot. But I think this particular article is a very bad try. I do understand the technical things they discuss and I would challenge their technical analysis in some cases. In other cases, I would challenge their conclusions they draw from that technical data.

As an example, they are technically correct that SG and Getty music is heavy with anticipations (beat and melodic). But their conclusion that anticipations lead the body to "fill the gap with suggestive movements" is just well, not very defensible.

On the other hand, their statements about 7th chords and unresolved dissonance are not even defensible on a technical level.

 

Brenda T's picture

. . . seems to be this line from the article:

Because there seems to be a strong, if subconscious, expectation for a melodic phrase to cadence or finish on a strong beat the body tends to ‘fill the gap’ with suggestive movements when it does not.

It would have been helpful if the author had explained what he meant by "sensual" and "suggestive" so that we knew if he meant something negative or simply was referring to sensory responses. But, the series of articles is to be continued, so perhaps that will come in time.

However, a professor of music at Ohio State defines "gap fill" as

    A general psychological principle, proposed by Leonard Meyer, that listeners expect a stimulus sequence to return to any states that have been omitted in some sequence. For example, if a melody ascends along some scale and skips one of the scale tones, Meyer suggested that there would arise a psychological craving to return at some point and "fill" the gap that had been created. Meyer proposed that gap fill constituted a formerly overlooked Gestalt principle

Also, a Ph.D. student wrote in a paper in 2010

. . . the body determines the cognitive processing of information pertaining to the perception of metrical structure. For both start from an ambiguous stimulus and show how the body resolves the ambiguity.In the first case, bodily movements determines whether the stimulus is heard as a duple rhythm or a as triple rhythm. In the second case, anthropometric features determine in part how the pulse will be placed on an unaccented anapest rhythm. . . . bodily events or properties fill a gap in the full explanation of the considered cognitive phenomena

 

GregH's picture

Brenda T wrote:

. . . seems to be this line from the article:

Because there seems to be a strong, if subconscious, expectation for a melodic phrase to cadence or finish on a strong beat the body tends to ‘fill the gap’ with suggestive movements when it does not.

It would have been helpful if the author had explained what he meant by "sensual" and "suggestive" so that we knew if he meant something negative or simply was referring to sensory responses. But, the series of articles is to be continued, so perhaps that will come in time.

I don't think there is any doubt as to the answer to that one. "Sensual" and "suggestive" are code words for "sexual" in this context. If the authors want to come on SI and tell me that is not what they meant, I will apologize. But I have heard this argumentation enough to be 99% sure what they meant. No one will deny that music often creates a physical response (which is not a bad thing by the way). The question is whether those movements are sexual. 

Don Johnson's picture

GregH wrote:

Brenda T wrote:

It would have been helpful if the author had explained what he meant by "sensual" and "suggestive" so that we knew if he meant something negative or simply was referring to sensory responses. ...

I don't think there is any doubt as to the answer to that one. "Sensual" and "suggestive" are code words for "sexual" in this context. If the authors want to come on SI and tell me that is not what they meant, I will apologize. But I have heard this argumentation enough to be 99% sure what they meant. No one will deny that music often creates a physical response (which is not a bad thing by the way). The question is whether those movements are sexual. 

Greg,

I think you may be trying to prove too much by equating 'sensual' with 'sexual'. Here are the definitions from Dictionary.com:

sensual

 

1. pertaining to, inclined to, or preoccupied with the gratification of the senses or appetites; carnal; fleshly.
2. lacking in moral restraints; lewd or unchaste.
3. arousing or exciting the senses or appetites.
4. worldly; materialistic; irreligious.
5. of or pertaining to the senses or physical sensation; sensory.

sexual

 

1. of, pertaining to, or for sex: sexual matters; sexual aids.
2. occurring between or involving the sexes: sexual relations.
3. having sexual organs or reproducing by processes involving both sexes.

 

While there is some overlap, the terms don't mean exactly the same thing. It would be better to take the terms at face value without evidence to the contrary.

Doug is a member of SI and may respond here. I am sure he is aware of the discussion.

And, to Mark Snoeberger, I very much appreciated your comments, especially this one:

But as I read through the comments, a very interesting sentiment seems to emerge from some, viz., that anyone who actually TRIES to navigate that complex maze of factors and come to a conclusion is an idiot worthy only of vitriol, ridicule, and motive-bashing:

If we ever get anywhere with this debate, we need to tone down the rhetoric and talk to one another.

It is fair enough to criticize specific points of an argument. GregH has done some of that, and it is possible that he is correct. I don't have the expertise to judge. He has said that some of the arguments made are correct on the technical side of the question, but has disagreed with the conclusions. That's fair.

I am uncertain what to make of technical arguments. I have listened to many teachers make arguments of this sort before, but then comes someone else with some technical ability with a rebuttal. How is the layman to know which is correct? It isn't enough to give credence to the guy who agrees with your own conclusion, and accept his technical arguments over the other guy.

So I agree that the technical argument, no matter what side of the debate you are on, has limited value. It usually breaks down into the claims of dueling experts.

But really, since the problem with music is essentially a spiritual one, it can only be answered with finality with spiritual arguments either directly taught in the Scriptures or legitimately derived from them. Even then, there will still be controversy, because not all walk in the Spirit.

Finally, part 3 will be out next week, probably Thursday. You'll be able to evaluate the whole argument then.

Have a merry Christmas in the meantime.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

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