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