Music Of The Royal Family
Music Standards
Meaux_Vitrail

I am just a plain fellow doing this as a hobby. There are some great, learned men of music, and I know and respect several of them. Nevertheless, I intend to keep things simple here, and I think my learned friends will bear with me as I do this. The ultimate in simplicity is found in the understanding of a small child, so I will begin with one of the things I remember longest ago from my childhood, that is, when I was about three years old, the firstborn of four siblings, living in a four room house on Sitgreaves Street in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, about 1947 or so.

My father and I were riding in our Chevrolet to the ice house at Green's Bridge, to get a block of ice for our ice box. As we rode along South Main Street, I asked my father a question:

"Daddy, what's that?"

"There was a house there, and it burned down. That is a foundation."

"Could they put up a tent over that, and live in it, under the tent?"

"Yes, they could. But it would be a shame if they had to live in a foundation."

A house consists of a foundation, beams/rafters, and rooms. All three are necessary. The people live in the rooms. Music consists of melody, harmony, and rhythm. All three are necessary, or it isn't music.

Music, of course, is art. The painter's art must be connected to a canvas, the sculptor's must be connected to stone, and the music maker's must be connected to time. That connection to time is rhythm, which is music's foundation.

The living quarters of music is its melody.  Therefore, it is a shame if people live in its foundation (rhythm). 

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; (Ephesians 5:19)

You might ask about music such as plainsong, or the song of a cantor in a synagogue. Doesn't this lack harmony and rhythm? No, these are both present. The mind of the listener discerns these things that seem missing but are invisibly present. Otherwise one would hear the singing of the cantor as noise and not music.

He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: (Psalms 40:2, 3a)

In this verse, the Hebrew word translated horrible means noise. So, God rescued from noise and replaced this with music. The standard here is that music should be music, not noise, and should live in its melody, not in its rhythm. God looks upon our hearts, and He sees if melody is there. So, music is a kind of worship.

O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth. (Psalms 96:9)

Melody in our hearts is before God at all times. There should be beauty in it. Singing that strays around many pitches, so that the melody is lost, cannot be truly beautiful. Here is a good place to bring in the matter of harmony, which is the sounding of two or more tones at the same time:

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (1 Corinthians 14:33)

Beautiful harmony is not accidental. It obeys laws of physics which God created. I will try to make this simple: any note, when sounding, is not the only note you hear, that is, there are other notes higher than the note you are hearing, sounding fainter than the main note. These are known as overtones. God created these, and they are in an orderly structure. This is what causes "sour notes," that is, notes that depart from the God-created order of overtones. It is also called dissonance. Dissonance can be beautiful in its proper place. For example, the melody which is the main title music of Walt Disney's Alice In Wonderland is one of the most beautiful ever composed, but the very first note in that melody is a fierce dissonance. But, that note belongs there to launch the remainder of the melody.

I enjoy eating a hamburger with a slice of raw onion on it. But I like to have onion on my hamburger, not hamburger on my onion, if you know what I mean.  Likewise, dissonances should be used sparingly. If a melody consists mainly of dissonance, it has strayed from being music toward being noise. The horn of a diesel-electric train locomotive is a true chord of harmony, a diminished seventh chord, but this is noise, no?

Just because a sound is noise and not music doesn't necessarily mean it is unpleasant. The sound of a brook swirling around rocks in it, the sound of waves rolling up onto a sea shore, the sounds of leaves on a tree rustling in the wind, and many others can be pleasant.  Sometimes a composer can "hear" music in noise. George Gershwin, who wrote five melodies which would become his Rhapsody In Blue, was a busy man who had trouble finding time to complete it, so he wrote it on the train riding from New York City to Boston. When you listen to that composition, you will notice that it is loaded with the rhythms of the laboring steam locomotive, complete with a blast of its whistle!

Recently I was eating in a fast food restaurant, and I was hearing two sounds happening at the same time. A small child was wailing, and the sound system was playing "music." The sounds from the sound system were rhythm-intensive, that is, as most music is today. The wailing child was more musical! Her cries were certainly more melodic than the emissions of the sound system.

As I think of more things to say here, I will add them to this page.

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