Music versus Song
This semester, I was assigned to write a fairly extensive research paper on early fourth and fifth century music. After a couple of brain explosions and mental breakdowns, I had a breakthrough when I discovered the writings of a philosopher we know as Boethius.
Boethius was a philosopher, mathematician, musician, and a consultant for the Gothic king Theodoric. He wrote many works in his time, but the foremost influential one was “Fundamentals of Music,” where he broke down the concept of music and the effects it has on the world around it.
Don’t go anywhere yet—I promise I’m not re-writing a twelve page research paper for you. One of the most impacting points he made in his book was, “It appears clear and certain that music is so much a part of our nature that we cannot do without it even if we wish to do so.” (Fundamentals of Music).
Boethius broke music into three parts. First is the music of the universe. This is the motion of the Earth moving in a cadence with the stars, the planets, and the moons spinning together; all these making a perfect symphony that seems directed towards something bigger than itself, as if it were worshipping something. Does this remind you of a verse? “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament sheweth His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). The heavens worship by their mere existence.
Second is human music. This is the music our human hearts, bodies, and souls make. It’s the combination of our emotions and intentions, our knowledge and our desires playing out throughout our lifetimes and our choices. This music is driven by our hearts directive—what we prioritize or worship in our life.
The third is the most familiar to us; it’s the instrumental music. This is the music we play on an instrument or tool such as piano, guitar, drums, and the list goes on. In our modern world, a musician in considered being the third in the list, but the others are rarely considered. Boethius pointed out the third has the talent to use a tool, which is important and respectable, but can play the tool with no intention if so desired.
Have you picked up the idea yet? Let me clarify a little more. We are all musicians. We are all worshippers. Yes, even you out there who can’t carry a tune in a sealed bag. We were designed in such a way that we cannot separate ourselves from the melody if we tried. It’s easy to get caught up in the things in which we find ourselves inadequate. We compare ourselves to the ones who can get up and lead a song of worship or play the instrument with perfection, but when we consider worship in that way, we are boxing ourselves in and limiting the power in which we were created.
If God defined worship as the third type of music alone, would He not have created us all with perfect pitch? It’s time for us to let go of our shallow concept of worship and realize that our daily lives, our conversations, our social media, our moments of anger, and our deep love all sing our song louder than a microphone ever could carry it.
You are a musician, what will your melody be?
Olivia Dummer is a student in Blue Springs, Missouri where Scott Smith is her pastor. She writes and keeps an inspirational blog hoping to encourage others and share what she’s learned about God.