Posted by: rcottrill | July 22, 2009

Strong Words About Music

Music has always been a subject that elicits strong feelings and outspoken debate. Here are three examples that are worth considering.

1) Many centuries ago, Augustine wrote the following about the sacred music of his day. Overstatement? Perhaps. But definitely food for thought in the entertainment mind-set of so many churches today.

When I am moved by the voice of him that sings more than by the words sung, I confess I have sinned.”

2) From eighteenth century pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards comes this stern statement:

As it is the command of God that all should sing [cf. Col. 3:16], so all should make conscience of learning to sing, as it is a thing which cannot be decently performed without learning. Those, therefore, who neglect to learn to sing live in sin as they neglect what is necessary in order to their attending to one of the ordinances of worship.

3) And we have this prophetic note from church musician Sir Arthur Sullivan, after Thomas Edison demonstrated for him his latest invention, the phonograph.

Dear Mr. Edison:
For myself I can only say that I am astonished and somewhat terrified at the result of this evening’s experiments. Astonished at the wonderful power you have developed, and terrified at the thought that so much hideous and bad music will be put on record forever!

If you would like to hear Sir Arthur Sullivan in person, making this comment (in a recording made in 1888), you can do so. The recording begins with a coronet and piano rendering of Sullivan’s music for The Lost Chord (unfortunately cut off before the ending). Then Sir Arthur is introduced and speaks. Here is Arthur Sullivan.

And what do you think? Are these men right?


  1. […] STRONG WORDS ABOUT MUSIC. Over the years, many statements have been made about music that are worth thinking about–even when we may have some reservations about them. Check out some “strong words about music.” […]


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