Music Through the Eyes of Faith, Chapter 7

Music Through the Eyes of Faith, by Harold Best, is a book I re-read every few years. Dr. Best is Dean Emeritus of the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music and his book should be required reading for every Christian musician.

I'm embarking on another reading of Music Through the Eyes of Faith and over the coming weeks will be sharing some thoughts. These posts won't be a formal review and will not attempt to be comprehensive. I'll just be sharing items that stand out to me as I read - quotes, ideas, insights, and wisdom.

Previous posts in this series: IntroChapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5, Chapter 6.


Favorite Quotes from Chapter 7

...the whole world, Christian and non-Christian, worships. Everyone bows down before something; everyone adores someone or something to the point of surrendering to it and being mastered by it. Sticks, stones, totem poles, jobs, circumstances, spirits, and angels—in fact, nearly all creatures—have at some time or in some place succeeded in mastering people.
— p. 144
If they [worshipers on Sunday morning] can’t worship until the right music comes by (and what if it doesn’t?), then they are essentially preferring the gift to the giver, or making God’s presence contingent on the quality or effect of the gift.
— p. 150
Music and art are not messiah. They are not Holy Spirit. They are not means and they are not end. Only God is means; only God is end. It is our responsibility to take faithful action and to continue our worship at all times and in all places.
— p. 150
Faith also makes strange things near and familiar. To live by faith is to learn to welcome the unseen and the unknown, to weave it into the commonplace. Christians are the only ones on earth truly equipped to encounter the unfamiliar and to do so with rejoicing, without confusion, without bafflement, or without worshiping newness for its own sake.
— p. 154

Music Through the Eyes of Faith, Chapter 6

Music Through the Eyes of Faith, by Harold Best, is a book I re-read every few years. Dr. Best is Dean Emeritus of the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music and his book should be required reading for every Christian musician.

I'm embarking on another reading of Music Through the Eyes of Faith and over the coming weeks will be sharing some thoughts. These posts won't be a formal review and will not attempt to be comprehensive. I'll just be sharing items that stand out to me as I read - quotes, ideas, insights, and wisdom.

Previous posts in this series: IntroChapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4, Chapter 5.


Favorite Quotes from Chapter 6

[speaking of musical quality] While it is true that God can speak through the mouth of a jackass (Numbers 22:21ff) or allow the gospel to be preached out of envy (Philippians 1:15), it is not true that these are God’s preferred ways of speaking. Even so, there are those who might assume that because God chooses to speak these ways at times and seemingly allows positive results to come about, they should either use, or become, jackasses themselves.
— p. 117
This overuse of electronic “steroids” [technological devices] is not only aesthetically duplicit but also unethical. It reinforces the romantic and pagan notion that artists not only are better than most people, they are Other than most.
— p. 121
One of the aesthetic tenants of pluralism is that while quality is always an issue, it can be found in many kinds of music. The same is true of profundity. Many kinds of music can be profound, as long as we understand that there is more than one kind of profundity.
— p. 122
Something can be vulgar, common, or coarse and still have integrity, worth, and aesthetic winsomeness. If we connect the three in their positive sense, we thing of peasant folk, laborers, hopsacking, stews and porridges, carpenter’s tools, things made with deep insight and little schooling, artifacts that show the mystery of simplicity and economy, works of art that possess dialectical and vernacular eloquence, expressions in which poetic spirit validates grammatical propriety, handiwork that shows the union of beauty, coarseness, and eloquence.
Catsup is common or coarse or vulgar, as are hash browns and onions, bratwurst, scrapple, shoofly pie, whole-grain bread, “I Wonder as I Wander,” bluegrass, the blues, a cobbler’s bench, thatched roofing, quilting, polkas, jigs, pie safes, Grandma Moses, hand-hewn timbers, shaped-note hymnody, and mountain dulcimers.
Béarnaise is high—haute cuisine, part of a larger elegance and finesse—as are pâté, Mozart operas, Dutch realism, silk, cloisonné, crystal, baroque pipe organs, sonnets, Shakespearian drama, Debussy, George Shearing, marquetry, L’arc de Triomphe, the cathedral of Notre Dame, ballet, classical rhetoric, and Andrew Wyeth.
— p 126

Music Through the Eyes of Faith, Chapter 5

Harold Best.jpg

Music Through the Eyes of Faith, by Harold Best, is a book I re-read every few years. Dr. Best is Dean Emeritus of the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music and his book should be required reading for every Christian musician.

I'm embarking on another reading of Music Through the Eyes of Faith and over the coming weeks will be sharing some thoughts. These posts won't be a formal review and will not attempt to be comprehensive. I'll just be sharing items that stand out to me as I read - quotes, ideas, insights, and wisdom.

Previous posts in this series: IntroChapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3, Chapter 4.


Favorite Quotes from Chapter 5

Now let’s try for a definition of excellence—the simpler the better—that is faithful to these Scriptures. Excellence is the process—note that word process—of becoming better than I once was. I am not to become better than someone else is or even like someone else. Excelling is simply—and radically—the process of improving over yesterday or, in the apostle Paul’s words, “pressing on” (Philippians 3:14, NIV). Whatever the standards or conditions are, I am to strive to better them and to seek higher ones. In fact, I might even be able to raise ones that exist.
— p. 108
In this absolute sense, excellence is directly connected to stewardship. Perhaps it can be better stated this way: Since we are to be good stewards and since we are commanded to press on and become better than we once were, excellence is the norm of stewardship. There are no exceptions. It is commanded of everyone. Excelling is to be normal. It is not reserved for the elite, the bright, the culturally advanced, the rich, the powerful, the beautiful people, or those with biological, intellectual, musical, or socio-economic head starts. Nor does the pursuit of excellence necessarily signify how any of these people got this way.
— p. 109
1. Excellence is not perfection.
2. Excellence is not being better than somebody else, nor is it even being like him, her, or them.
3. Excellence is not winning, although it may include it.
4. Excellence is not on-again-off-againism.
5. Excellence is not assuming that my way of doing things is automatically excellent simply because I intellectually agree that I need excellence.
6. Excellence is not just practicality and favorable results.
— p. 109-113
Ministry and fame have become so equated with each other that it is nearly impossible to think of anything but fame if one contemplates a ministry in music. But for the dedicated Christian, music making has to begin and continue in the same way all other activities do. Personal excelling, competing, and succeeding are intensely personal and, in the most fundamental sense, disconnected from what has happened to someone else or what the culture’s definitions, standards, behaviors, and expectations might be.
— p. 116

Music Through the Eyes of Faith, Chapter 4

After a summer-long blogging hiatus, I'm resuming right where I left off a few months ago.


Music Through the Eyes of Faith, by Harold Best, is a book I re-read every few years. Dr. Best is Dean Emeritus of the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music and his book should be required reading for every Christian musician.

I'm embarking on another reading of Music Through the Eyes of Faith and over the coming weeks will be sharing some thoughts. These posts won't be a formal review and will not attempt to be comprehensive. I'll just be sharing items that stand out to me as I read - quotes, ideas, insights, and wisdom.

Previous posts in this series: IntroChapter 1Chapter 2, Chapter 3.


Favorite Quotes from Chapter 4

...aesthetic laws cannot be applied from the outside. Well-meaning but legalistic aesthetes cannot try to raise musical standards by applying aesthetic canons or assuming that people “ought to have enough common sense” to change once they hear the aesthetic canons... Aesthetic laws must be lived from the inside out... Aesthetic principles do not cause great music to happen, but great music keeps aesthetic principles alive.
— p. 88
The following principle will guide us from here on: The seeking out of quality must take place within musical categories, not between them. In the creational model of contrasting kinds, one does not judge the aesthetic quality of a cactus by talking about an orchid; in the narrower sense of species and species, pine trees and eucalyptus trees cannot be similarly compared. It makes sense, then, to apply these analogies to musical evaluation.
— p. 92
This principle [evaluating quality within, rather than between, musical categories] helps us avoid the trap of aesthetic universalism—applying a single aesthetic to multiple musical practices. We wouldn’t question the beauty of the German language because it does not sound like Portuguese, without inquiring into the capabilities for beautiful expression within German. By the same token, we shouldn’t judge the quality of a particular kind of music by comparing it to another kind. For instance, Cajun should not be considered inferior just because it does not use the same materials, structures, or idioms as progressive jazz does. This principle can also be extended into specific areas of performance styles, tone production, and instrumental timbre. We cannot, for example, criticize the practice of sliding from one pitch to another in pop and jazz just because it is undertaken in a stylistically different manner than in certain kinds of classical vocal and instrumental music. The vocal and instrumental stylings of a gifted pop or jazz musician would be out of place in a classical concert, just as those of a classical musician would in a jazz setting, unless we want to make the mistake of classicizing popular music or popularizing classical.
— p. 92-93

Music Through the Eyes of Faith, Chapter 3

Music Through the Eyes of Faith, by Harold Best, is a book I re-read every few years. Dr. Best is Dean Emeritus of the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music and his book should be required reading for every Christian musician.

I'm embarking on another reading of Music Through the Eyes of Faith and over the coming weeks will be sharing some thoughts. These posts won't be a formal review and will not attempt to be comprehensive. I'll just be sharing items that stand out to me as I read - quotes, ideas, insights, and wisdom.

Previous posts in this series: IntroChapter 1, Chapter 2.


Favorite Quotes from Chapter 3

Within this huge array of worldwide music making, the church is arguably the most musically diverse body in human history. Over its chronological life and throughout its nearly numberless multicultural practices, it has thought up, borrowed, imitated, stolen, adapted, and paraphrased more kinds of music than any other collection of people.
— p. 64
We should cherish diversity because God does. God not only imagines and creates with endless variety, God calls good everything in the creation. Everything has its uniqueness, its place, its meaning, usefulness, and its interdependence. Thus unity and diversity are aspects of each other.
— p. 65
Some things are more beautiful, more complex, or more advanced than others, but this fact does not undo the principle of completeness and integrity with which each thing is made. Thus while some things may be said to be more beautiful, more useful, or more advanced than others, this does not mean that the lesser things have no right to exist or in God’s view are unworthy. God notes every sparrow’s fall and numbers every hair on our heads.
— p. 66
The story of Pentecost goes further than its historical reality. It is also a parable that urges us into the knowledge that the gospel is comfortable in any culture and its message finds easy residence in the languages, cultural ways, and thought styles (but not thought systems) of countless societies. In other words, whoever seeks to move a culture towards transformation by Christ must join it, participating in the transformation from within.
— p. 66-67
Thus God does not want to hear only Beethoven and Ken Medema or see just Renoirs, Vermeers, and Wyeths. God does not want to be limited to Christian rap or Pakistani chant. God wants to hear the whole world in its countless tongues and amazingly diverse musics making praise after praise. God accepts not only the offerings of a highly trained choir, but also the song of the arrow maker in Brazil. Furthermore, with more patience than we can imagine, God awaits entirely new songs sung for the first time from a tribe in Cambodia, a Mexican barrio, and a Scottish hamlet.
— p. 67
The people who have taken the time to look deeply into a huge assortment of musics, along with the people who make them, are the only ones who have earned the right to talk about standards, because they have already experienced unity and are in the process of keeping their brothers and sisters. In this sense, the entire musical world becomes one huge, mixed, and motley outcry — of joy, nearly unbearable brokenness, and fervent hope. For the Christian music maker, the task is quite simple: diversity and love and, only then, quality. This order will not dilute standards or dull critique. Instead it will position the most perceptive music making and the wisest teaching in a way that will comport with the very gospel that all music making is meant to celebrate.
— p.82

Music Through the Eyes of Faith, Chapter 2

Music Through the Eyes of Faith, by Harold Best, is a book I re-read every few years. Dr. Best is Dean Emeritus of the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music and his book should be required reading for every Christian musician.

I'm embarking on another reading of Music Through the Eyes of Faith and over the coming weeks will be sharing some thoughts. These posts won't be a formal review and will not attempt to be comprehensive. I'll just be sharing items that stand out to me as I read - quotes, ideas, insights, and wisdom.

Previous posts in this series: Intro, Chapter 1.


Favorite Quotes from Chapter 2

The church has for centuries waged one brush war after another over the question of whether or how art and music “mean” — what it means to borrow styles, forms, processes, tunes, techniques, textures, shapes, gestures, and instruments from secular sources. Presently the debate centers around rock and New Age music. A few decades ago it was about jazz and popular ballads.
And so it goes and has gone, back through the decades and centuries, across cultures, and clean through denominational, sectarian, and doctrinal practices. Despite the numberless instances and their seeming diversity, one common thread runs throughout. At the time of the borrowing, the war rages, often quite bitterly and divisively. Then as time passes, the war dies down. The previously condemned become merely questionable, if not outright sacred. After all, what about pipe organs? (Or today is it synthesizers?) Now considered to be a churchly instrument, who would dare secularize it?
— p. 41
THE RELATION BETWEEN MUSICAL CONTENT AND MUSICAL CONTEXT

1. Music has no interior beacon that guarantees permanent meaning. Unlike truth, which is transcultural, absolute, and unchangeable, music can shift in meaning from place to place and time to time.
2. Even though music is wordless and deedless, the people making it and the contexts in which it is made are not. The more a piece of music is repeated in the same context, the more it will begin to “mean” that context.
3. There is a difference between being moved by music and being morally directed or changed by it.
— p. 54-56