Arbitrary Song Categories for hymnal comparison revisited

I started a discussion on the "old" SI, HERE (http://20.sharperiron.org/showthread.php?t=8721)
about arbitrary music categories for a hymnal review project that I am working on.
The purpose of these categories will be to create a data set from which I can then create a pie chart in order to get a quick, "at-a-glance" overview of a hymnals content. This will be subjective, but once again the point is to get a general idea of the contents.
Here are the 8 categories to date:

Standard Repertoire
Traditional hymns
Gospel Songs
Contemporary Songs
Editorial Preference
Psalter
Christmas
Other--Choruses, Patriotic, Latin, Amens, etc.

I would appreciate some feedback on these particular categories: Do they make sense? Which would you change? Why? Additions, etc.
Feel free to use example songs, however please avoid debating the correct categorization of one specific songs
Remember: General and Arbitrary

FYI, I completed a title comparison spreadsheet of the following 10 hymnals and plan to make pie charts for each one:
1. Great Hymns of the Faith 2. Soul-Stirring Songs and Hymns 3. Living Hymns 4. Trinity Hymnal: Baptist ed. 5. Majesty Hymnal 6.Hymns of Grace and Glory
7. The Worshiping church 8. The Celebration Hymnal 9. The Christian Life Hymnal 10. Baptist Hymnal (2008)

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Eric R.'s picture

Anthony,

This is an interesting approach. I like the pie-chart idea for a quick overview of a hymnal's balance.

Just a few clarifying questions:

1) What do you mean by "Standard Repertoire?" Would those be selections familiar to your particular congregation? Would they be something distinct from either a "hymn" or "gospel song?"
2) What time period defines a contemporary song?
3) Does "editorial preference" mean how many John Peterson songs are in GHOF, Garlock/Hamilton songs in Majesty, etc.?

Since labels are sometimes tricky (one man's "hymn" can be another man's "gospel song") one category system I often think in is:
A) Texts that are addressed to God
Cool Texts that are addressed to others about God
C) Texts that are addressed to others about my Christian experience

Obviously not every song in a hymnal will fit neatly into one of those category, but many do. Don't know if that applies to your current project at all, but for what it's worth...

Thanks for the post. I'll be interested to hear others' input and the final results.

Grace and peace,
Eric

Anthony Hayden's picture

In order to clarify and keep discussion rolling, let me define my categories
Remembering the key word is arbitrary

Standard Repertoire - basically, the "classic" hymns/songs that were found in the majority of hymnals reviewed
e.g. "Holy, Holy, Holy" "When I Survey"

Traditional Hymns - Non-"classic"; Formal over "Fun"; Pre-2nd Great Awakening (@ 1800); Oxford Mvt.
e.g. Watts, Wesley, etc.

Gospel Songs - Post-2nd Great Awakening; Revivalistic; Sunday School Songs
e.g. Sankey, Crosby, etc.

Contemporary Songs - 1960's to present; Artist and Publisher Associations
e.g. Michael W. Smith; Maranatha Music; P & W

Editorial Preference - Editorial bias; Personal copyright; The "Greenville" sound
e.g. Wilds, Majesty, Al Smith

Psalter - Psalms and Scripture songs

Christmas - Obviously Smile

Other - Choruses, Patriotic, Latin, Amens, etc.

Once again, these are arbitrary categories. As a music director, I was trying to think what would quickly give a general sense of the content of a hymnal. The dates in the actual song categories are just general as well. I realize this will not make a good outline for a thorough study of hymnology, nor will it make a satisfactory judge of a specific song.
My plan is to assign each song one general category to establish a very general set of data. It won't be neat, but it will provide a useful tool.
FYI, My definitions of contemporary and traditional come from a very conservative, revivalistic musical background (i.e. Bill Gaither was out). I got a music degree from a traditional conservative fundamental university (BJU). I know that skews my opinions for some of you, but I hope this help to clarify the discussion.

Any and All feedback is appreciated

Keep us little and unknown, Prized and loved by God alone. ~Charles Wesley

Dave Stertzbach II's picture

OK. I just re-read my post and I fear it comes across as rather snarky. I really don't mean to rain on your hymnological party. Read below with lots of smilies.

**************
But since you're kind of arbitrarily assigning categories, won't you only "prove" what you already know to be true? At best your results will be only anecdotal. Seems to me that your only other choice is to narrowly define each category so that you arrive at an objective conclusion.

Oh. What if you set aside any songs you thought were "murky" and only used those that were clearly one category? Again: Hmmmm.

WARNING: If you take your job seriously, you will drive yourself buggy trying to categorize the hymnal. My wife sighs every semester I teach Hymnology because she knows it means endless hours of second guessing myself as to which hymns are taught in which sequence. And I have an even narrower objective than you do. I'm just trying to teach chronologically.

Perhaps that's why Paul didn't try to define "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs"? He recognized that there are general categories, but to try to pigeon hole every song is impossible.

Did you realize that your example of "When I Survey" fits into at least three categories?

Dave

Anthony Hayden's picture

Dave,
Thanks for the smilies. I understand the "subjective" nature of this, but once again my goal is to get a "birds-eye-view" of each hymnal: i.e. What's the content difference between the "Trinity Hymnal" and "Soul-Stirring Songs and Hymns"? Without using either one in your church you probably have an opinion as a music pastor about both of them. As a hymnology teacher, your opinion is probably even stronger about them.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is a subjective endeavor, and that may make it useless to many. Thus, my search for feedback and constructive criticism to potentially make it more useful for more individuals.

This is not a tool for the hymnology teacher. The pigeon-holing of a particular song is simply to get a data set. Of course, the categorization is always going to be debatable. While Paul did make general categories they are categories none the less in some sense of the word.

Just for sake of discussion: What 3 categories would you put "When I Survey" in? and Why? Then I'll Explain where I categorized it and why.

Thanks for the feed back. PM me your email and I'll send you some of What I have been doing, if you have time to check it out.

Keep us little and unknown, Prized and loved by God alone. ~Charles Wesley

Daniel's picture

Anthony, not particularly related to categorizing songs, but there may be an easier less objective? way of doing it. But it may take a bit longer to develop and some resources. I would purchase a domain and install mediawiki on it. Then 'upload' all the songs and let others categorize them.(Web 2.0) This would allow you to get many responses (as long as many people do it) for you to wade through. Perhaps you may think a song is a gospel while the vast majority think it is something different. (no point you categorizing something that the majority of the people disagree with)

Not to mention, this sort of thing is a lot easier to access and share with others. As well as pulling up all songs in a category etc etc.

Anthony Hayden's picture

Daniel,
Thanks for the suggestion. Sounds like it would be a bit of work to get it set up, but it certainly makes sense.
I think that this may be the type of project that never gets fully set in stone and takes a lot of tweaking. Church background, educational background, etc. will certainly affect a persons category choice. Again, I am striving for an overall picture not a line-by-line exact replica.

Keep us little and unknown, Prized and loved by God alone. ~Charles Wesley

Dave Stertzbach II's picture

The tune of "When I Survey" is from plain chant, so it could go in "Latin." You listed Watts in "Traditional Hymns" and "When I Survey" in "Standard Rep."

FWIW, this is one thing I love about my "job." Each hymn can be approached from so many different directions. Using just "When I Survey", here are some ways I have approached it:

1. History of Watts (personal life, introduction of English hymnody, etc.)
2. Scriptural allusion
3. Specific application to the passion week
4. Introduction to Medieval music (specifically how the music of the church attempted to avoid secularism)
5. Devotional material--defining words, unraveling hymnic syntax, etc.
6. Introduction to part singing
7. Introduction to basic music theory (specifically rhythmic notation)
8. I use the melody to introduce healthy singing that is "on the breath"

OK. Back on topic. Again, I'm not trying to be a pain. But what will you learn from a bird's eye view that you don't already know? Soul-Stirring has more gospel songs than the Trinity Hymnal, as well as an editorial preference toward Dr. Rice's songs. We already know that denominational hymnals will reflect their history. PCA hymnal will have more psalmody, Methodist more Wesley, Lutheran more German Choral tunes, Catholic more Latin tradition, etc. And every editor will reflect his own preferences. Unless he is deliberately producing a historical record hymnal (Routley's Rejoice in the Lord, for instance). But I suppose even that choice is an editorial preference to include "unknown" songs over yet-another in an already represented category.

Yet, I also understand that any narrowing of categories subverts your purpose. So if you chose to categorize hymns, say, by only the date of the text (or date of the tune, or whatever), you would be limiting your scope. Hmmmmm.

Dave

Anthony Hayden's picture

"When I Survey"
- Simple Answer = "Standard Repertoire" when used with HAMBURG; It was all ten of the hymnals compared
- A little more explanation = "Editorial Preference" when used with HAMPTON PARK (by Gustafson; in HOGG); "Traditional Hymn" when wedded with ROCKINGHAM (in The Christian Life Hymnal, 2006 by Hendrikson); "Contemporary Song" when used in THE WONDERFUL CROSS (Baptist Hymnal, 2008).

I guess it depends more on the wed of text and tune rather than one specific aspect of a song.

As far as "How will this help?",
--here is one example: people are constantly mentioning the Editorial Preference of Majesty Hymns. What percentage of the hymns are actually Garlock/Hamilton? Is that hymnal worth considering for purchase based on that information?
--Another example, I want a hymnal to teach hymnology from do I chose one with more "Traditional Hymns" to potentially expand my exposure to more hymnody or do I chose one with more Psalmody or one with a heavy bent toward "Contemporary songs"

We can say we already know the general feel of hymnal, but is that just your educational and ecclesiastical background speaking or have you sat down and considered all the content of every hymnal

I would add smilies, because I greatly appreciate your input, but I am still figuring out "new" SI

Keep us little and unknown, Prized and loved by God alone. ~Charles Wesley

Dave Stertzbach II's picture

Anthony Hayden wrote:
"When I Survey"
- Simple Answer = "Standard Repertoire" when used with HAMBURG; It was all ten of the hymnals compared
- A little more explanation = "Editorial Preference" when used with HAMPTON PARK (by Gustafson; in HOGG); "Traditional Hymn" when wedded with ROCKINGHAM (in The Christian Life Hymnal, 2006 by Hendrikson); "Contemporary Song" when used in THE WONDERFUL CROSS (Baptist Hymnal, 2008).

I guess it depends more on the wed of text and tune rather than one specific aspect of a song.

I see. "Chorus" when wedded with the tune for "The Water is Wide"? Or folk song?

Anthony Hayden wrote:

As far as "How will this help?",
--here is one example: people are constantly mentioning the Editorial Preference of Majesty Hymns. What percentage of the hymns are actually Garlock/Hamilton? Is that hymnal worth considering for purchase based on that information? ".

Now there's objective information that could be useful. And also, "How do the percentages of editorial preferences in MH compare with other hymnals?" Although even that is tricky. Mrs. Pinkston obviously had an editorial preference to Horatius Bonar in her hymnal. But he's probably going to be listed under "Traditional" because he's dead?

Anthony Hayden wrote:
We can say we already know the general feel of hymnal, but is that just your educational and ecclesiastical background speaking or have you sat down and considered all the content of every hymnal

Well, not EVERY hymnal. [smiley ] But any one that I am interested in. But then I know that I'm a hymn geek. When Stockton's hymnal came out I couldn't stop myself from spending two hours looking at every page.

I guess the truth is anybody who would waste bandwidth quibbling with you over categories of hymns is gonig to already have strong opinions about hymnals. And folks who would be surprised by the statistical information won't fuss about where you put "As the Deer", right?

Anthony Hayden wrote:
I would add smilies, because I greatly appreciate your input, but I am still figuring out "new" SI

Me, too! I'm technologically challenged, so it will be a while before I catch on!

Dave

Anthony Hayden's picture

I hear you on the hymn geek part. Often when I go into a used book store, I'll ask the clerk if they have any hymnals. They usually look at me like I have four heads and with a shrug of their shoulders lazily point at the religious section.

The impetus for this project actually came when I noticed that the new "Baptist Hymnal" came out last year, and in my online search to buy one I found a chart comparing titles in the all the previous "Baptist Hymnals." The hymn geek in me said "That's cool".

This eventually led to me creating a Title comparison spreadsheet of the ten hymnals in post #1.
The categories are an attempt to make my work with the hymnals useful to non-hymn geeks.

A totally different thread that I plan to post in time is a 2-3 page review of each of the hymnals. I plan to include the content pie chart on those reviews.

Keep us little and unknown, Prized and loved by God alone. ~Charles Wesley