Tag Archives: meaning

The Unexamined Life

The Unexamined Life

“The unexamined life is not worth living”, said Socrates. Socrates was teaching the need to live a life where all things are parsed for their meaning. A life lived on auto-pilot, following the great mass of humanity, takes most of life for granted. It is a life lived without reflection, without much meditation, and consequently,… Continue Reading

Ten Mangled Words: Conclusion

Ten Mangled Words: Conclusion

This entry is part 63 of 63 in the series Ten Mangled Words You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Words are not just names. If they were, we’d have no problem swapping out one label for another. No, words are things. Yes, they are man-made things, concatenations of syllables created by human cultures, and their particular meanings have been shaped through convention and association. But they are things that have meaning in themselves, and… Continue Reading

Using Song to Shape Hearts of Repentence

Using Song to Shape Hearts of Repentence

This entry is part 11 of 13 in the series Out of the Depths You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Up to this point in our study of Psalm 130, we have talked only about the poetic part of a song, but Psalm 130 wasn’t read; Psalm 130 was sung. So I’d like to address the music side of things. Clearly the music—the melody, the harmony, and the rhythm—doesn’t make a clear statement like words… Continue Reading

Worship forms regulated by Scripture

Worship forms regulated by Scripture

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Biblical Authority and the Aesthetics of Scripture You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

This is the final post in a series I’ve been writing over the past couple months in order to more thoroughly develop an idea I presented in By the Waters of Babylon, namely, that the aesthetic forms in our corporate worship should be regulated by the aesthetic forms of Scripture. In this series, I have argued… Continue Reading

The Sound of Metaphysics

The Sound of Metaphysics

This is a really interesting look at how changes in musical form represent, not simply just “change,” but rather changes in the underlying metaphysical grasp of reality. The introduction: Despite the popular Romantic conception of creative artists as inspired madmen, composers are not idiots savants, distilling their musical inspiration from the ether. Rather, in their… Continue Reading

An illustration of how a simple tune can communicate

An illustration of how a simple tune can communicate

James K. A. Smith provides a nice little example of how the rhythm of a simple hymn tune can communicate a message consistent with the message of the lyrics and the ocasion of its use. In discussing the hymn tune used for the Advent hymn, “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” (ALTE CATHOLISCHE KIRCHENGESANG), he… Continue Reading

How Music Naturally Carries Meaning

How Music Naturally Carries Meaning

It is important in any discussions about music to understand how music carries meaning naturally. I highly recommend Stephen Davies’ Musical Meaning and Expression, which clearly articulates where the most basic meaning does and does not lie: It is not a system of conventional symbols, like a language. It is not depictive, like representational paintings. It is… Continue Reading

Is music a neutral “thing”?

Is music a neutral “thing”?

One argument I regularly hear in defense of the notion that music is neutral is that it is just a “thing,” and “things” are neutral. A few thoughts in response: First, saying music is a “thing” is like saying tone of voice is a “thing.” They’re not; they are human communication, and human communication is… Continue Reading

The Unproven Premise

The Unproven Premise

I’ve heard the argument many times; it goes something like this: We shouldn’t divide over mere preferences; therefore, we shouldn’t divide over music. It’s admittedly a clever argument. Who would disagree with the first premise? Who would defend dividing over mere preferences? No one would. So, the argument gets the listen to immediately agree–of course… Continue Reading

On Texas heat and musical meaning

On Texas heat and musical meaning

I grew up in Michigan. I now live in Texas. Texas is hot. Really hot. And it stays hot for a long, long time. However, as I was working on some yard projects Monday, I noticed that after four years of living in Texas, I’ve grown accustomed to the heat. I found myself observing that… Continue Reading

Reading recommendations on musical meaning

Reading recommendations on musical meaning

I received some good feeback from my post last week briefly explaining musical meaning. Several were on Twitter: “@ScottAniol: Meaning in music is a tricky thing. http://t.co/0jyftIC025” This is the best article I’ve read on this topic! — Daniel Wilson (@NinjaDan4287) May 29, 2014 Excellent article “@ScottAniol: Received some good feedback on this simple article… Continue Reading

Meaning in Music

Meaning in Music

This entry is part 9 of 10 in the series Back to Basics You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Meaning in music is a tricky thing. Most people think it’s tricky because music is so abstract and lacks specificity such that describing its meaning with words is nearly impossible. On the contrary, meaning in music is tricky for exactly the opposite reason. As Felix Mendelssohn once noted, “What music expresses its not too indefinite to… Continue Reading

Harold Best vs. Ken Myers on Musical Meaning

Harold Best vs. Ken Myers on Musical Meaning

This is an excellent illustration of where Evangelicalism is on issues related to music and worship. I’m thankful to 9Marks for doing this. It’s very instructive. The folks at 9Marks asked three questions to two individuals who have written and spoken on the subject of musical meaning: Can God employ any musical form for redemptive… Continue Reading

Article 10: On Meaning

Article 10: On Meaning

This entry is part 11 of 16 in the series A Conservative Christian Declaration You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

  This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” . We affirm that expressions toward God, be they prayers, preached sermons, poems, or music, may be parsed for their meaning and judged for their appropriateness for worship. We affirm that understanding of meanings is gained both from Scripture and from… Continue Reading

Is musical meaning subjective?

Is musical meaning subjective?

One of the most difficult matters when engaging in a philosophy of music is the terms we employ. For example, the following terms often lack precision in discussion and thus cause confusion: relative subjective objective universal The first two terms are often equated with each other, as are the final two terms. In other words,… Continue Reading

Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: Musical Analysis

Discussion about Christian rap with Shai Linne: Musical Analysis

This entry is part 14 of 18 in the series Discussion about Christian Rap with Shai Linne You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Shai Linne and I are having a conversation between Christian brothers about Christian rap. This post will not make sense unless you start at the beginning of this discussion and read through all the posts. You can find the other posts in this discussion on this page or on the right hand side of this post. This is Shai’s fourth question to… Continue Reading

More on Musical Meaning

More on Musical Meaning

Scott’s article on Monday seemed a good occasion to make (finally) a brief post that had occurred to me some time ago. Scott wrote the following: [M]usical communication occurs because of . . . natural associations. Combinations of dynamics, tone colors, rhythms, and tempos can combine to mimic the natural way we feel inwardly or… Continue Reading

How does music mean?

How does music mean?

One of the most difficult matters to explain when dealing with issues of music in worship is how music communicates. I think most people intuitively understand that music communicates, but they have a hard time understanding how it does. Here is an excerpt from Sound Worship that succinctly summarizes how I explain it: Music is a medium of communication.… Continue Reading

What music does

What music does

In my last post, I had shared a brief argument that, at least for me, undergirds my conservatism in worship, without forsaking the principle of sola scriptura. I noted in the post that it originated as a letter to a friend of mine, so I was taken aback a bit when some of the comments said… Continue Reading

Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne

Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne

This entry is part 13 of 18 in the series Books Every Conservative (and Liberal) Christian Should Read You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Yes, I mean it. You need to read this book. Not only that, you need to read it in a particular way, which is, out loud and to your children—or grandchildren or nieces and nephews or babysitting kids or whatever children you have within earshot. If you are so old and crotchety that you cannot… Continue Reading