Music, according to some, is considered man’s fourth material want. First we have food, clothing, shelter, and then music. It seems there may be some truth to this statement. Everyone has the desire in him to hear music. What would man do without it? It seems to be a sense of relaxation for man. To some music means very little simply because people are afraid they won’t understand it. But music can be enjoyed without possessing any special technical knowledge of it. One doesn’t have to know how to play or sing to be musical. It one simply loves and appreciates hearing music, he may be more musical than many pianists or singers. Music is an art, and even if one hasn’t studied music, his feeling and curiosity for it can be proper guides to enjoying music. Therefore we have three groups of Musicians: Composer, Performer, and Listener.
Notice the next time you listen to a beautiful choir how that the music intensifies the emotional significance of the words. Music expresses at different moments serenity or exuberance, regret or triumph, fury or delight. It has an expressive power behind its notes which gives to the listener the meaning and message of the piece or song. It is woven out of all sorts of beautiful sounds, therefore music becomes a language of sounds. Music gives a feeling of beauty and arouses our emotions and therefore also becomes a sense of refuge from the troubles of life. Many works of music convey ideas and ideas do transform the life of a human being therefore changing his emotional life.
I hope that you, as readers, can recognize that I am speaking throughout this article of music which is an art. I don’t believe that I could classify most of the stuff heard on our popular radio stations today as music. Is this long haired, jazzy stuff an art? Is it relaxing to listen to, and does it give us a feeling of beauty? And one more question—can we glorify God by listening to this stuff? To all these questions I must answer emphatically, NO! What is more relaxing than listening to a beautiful choir, orchestra, organ, or other instrumental talents wherein we can praise God? Don’t you recall how David praised God for all the manifold blessings bestowed upon him in the Psalms? We could all take to heart the last verse of Psalm 21 “Be thou exalted, Lord, in thine own strength; so will we sing and praise thy power.” Music is given to us to use in order to praise and glorify God. Do you and I use it to that end? Luther once wrote “Next to theology I give to music the highest place and honor. And we see how David and all the saints have wrought their Godly thoughts into verse, rhyme and song.”
We could now take a look at music as it is related to our churches, whether in our church service or choirs. Are our church services sufficient in their music? DO we show great interest in music and singing, so that we attend faithfully church choir and rehearsals? And what about music in our schools, both Elementary and high Schools? Are our children encouraged in music and taught how and what kind of music to appreciate? I will, for the present, only touch on one of these phases, namely, is music a necessity in a High School curriculum, particularly our own Protestant Reformed High School?
Certainly we are very concerned about our Protestant Reformed High School, and more particularly a curriculum to begin it on. And then we hear remarks as “Oh well, we can get along for the first few years without a Music Department or Choir.” Can we leave this out and still maintain a decent curriculum? I hardly think so. Pupils or Teen-Agers are at this time of their life in a complex, mental developing stage. Besides those who at this time of their life appreciate good music, we have “rock-and-roll fans, jazz devotees, the long hairs, and many stages of in-betweens.” These young people must now learn how to appreciate and pick out good music. There is no lack of evidence that they are interested in music and any curriculum should evolve from the needs and interests of the students it is designed to serve. When free from studies and even while studying we find young people listening to music or singing. A soft musical background during study hours can be very relaxing and effective. The function of music is somewhat the same as of art or science—to extend to man a knowledge of himself and deepen his insight into the conditions of the environment in which God has placed him. Besides this, a student of music will learn that worthy results depend on what he himself puts into it plus his ability to participate actively with others in a group. Notice how we can apply this not only to music, but to sports and many other areas of life. Then too, once we have taught “individual responsibility plus group participation” can we enjoy music together, and the more people we work with, the greater is the joy of the results. Let us never underestimate music, but always remember that we must use our God-given talents to praise Him, and also by listening to others perform we can appreciate the beauty of this Great Art.
“There is something very wonderful in music. Words are wonderful enough; but music is even more wonderful. It speaks not to our thoughts as words do! It speaks straight to our hearts and spirits, to the very core and roots of our souls. Music soothes us, stirs us up; it puts noble feelings in us; it melts us to tears, we know not how; –it is a language by itself, just as perfect, in its way, as speech, as words; just as divine, just as blessed.
“Music has been called the speech of angels; I will go further, and call it the speech of God Himself.” –Charles Kingsley