A half dozen or so practical questions about Psalm singing

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by austinbrown2, Oct 12, 2006.

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  1. austinbrown2

    austinbrown2 Puritan Board Freshman

    Starting Point: Let's assume the truth of the Psalms only no instrument position.

    What should regulate how the Psalms are sung? I'm a lover of music. In fact, there is hardly a form of music that I don't appreciate and enjoy in some respect. As such, when I think about our modern Psalters and Psalm singing in general, I often wonder why there isn’t more variety of style to how they are put together. A good number adopt the tunes from popular hymns, and almost all of them have a certain ethno centered, well, a kind of straight laced Anglo styled form to them. Some will split and create two voiced textures, but for the most part they are cyclical and fairly hymn like.

    Questions for my EP no instrument brothers:

    1. Would you object to singing the Psalms in all kinds of musical styles? Why not flare up certain Psalms by utilizing different musical techniques- contra-pontel, echo, linear structure to the song, pauses, gradual introduction of more people singing, volume envelopes, etc., to create specific styles of music? I am often disappointed at how poor certain tunes match up with certain Psalms. We will be singing about warfare or whatever and the tune is almost a kind of waltz. Huh??? :sing:

    2. Would you object to creating a distinct Afro-beat, or even a rap like movement, by combining the time signature with a certain syncopation and vocal emphasis? :cool:

    3. Would it be wrong to use our voices to create sound effects for the song?

    4. Does the Psalms only no instrument position rule out the use of clapping?

    5. What about the command in Scripture to sing the Psalms to a certain tune? For example, Psalm 9 says “To the tune of Death of a Son.” Does this make the RPW EP guy nervous? How can we fulfill this command?

    6. What is an acceptable amount of “Psalmic alteration?” We will change the Psalms around so that they will fit a certain meter or rhyme. How much of this is acceptable?

    7. In light of question (1), do missionaries seek to construct the Psalms or allow the natives to construct the Psalms in such a musical fashion that the sound of the Psalm reflects their particular cultural milieu?

    Thanks,
    Austin
     
  2. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Austin, I hope your move went well.

    I personally think metrication is already a compromise -- bearable, but a compromise nonetheless. The line structure of the psalms can only be duplicated by chant; but it is so foreign to us that it would create an unnecessary hindrance to introduce it.

    That being my attitude, I would not like to see the Psalms compromised any further by the introduction of "light" melodies. The Psalms themselves speak of "grave sweet melody," and the existing tunes fit that description.

    The above rules out Afro-beat as well, which also has the added disadvantage of an overriding beat, which incites physical movement in contrast to melody.

    Sound effects and clapping are simply unnecessary. Who are we singing to please? God, or man.

    Concerning the mention of tunes in the Psalms, it is merely conjecture that they are speaking about tunes. Hence no great weight should be laid on it. The apostle's command to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs does not tie us to the tunes, even if the conjecture is correct.
     
  3. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    Good questions Austin. I am waiting for the EP replys to this. I think you really got to the heart of the matter in a few places.
     
  4. jaybird0827

    jaybird0827 PuritanBoard Honor Roll

    There has already been one EP reply. Here is the 2nd one.

    The Scottish Psalmody, published by the authority of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, 1992, is an excellent source. In my opinion, it is the best choice for suggesting tunes that are appropriate to the Psalm to be sung. It is available through the Psalms 4 U website, but you have to go looking for it under "International Psalters".

    One reason I really like that Psalm book is because it is musically simple. It doesn't require a musical background to be able to sing it (exception, St. George's Edinburgh); and it allows the precentor to be a precentor as opposed to a music director.

    Metrical Psalter websites abound. I found this one that has the words and the same tunes that The Scottish Psalmody suggests, by individual Psalm.

    Another resource can be found right here on the Puritanboard, on the Daily Devotional Forum. I am in the process of posting the metrical Psalms in order, with appropriate tunes. You can click on the download link to play the tune. You can practice the tune, and when you think you're comfortable with it, you sing the Psalm passage to that tune.

    Most of the music I post closely parallels what is recommended by The Scottish Psalmody. After some experience, you get the idea of what works and what doesn't. For example, major key tunes tend to work with Psalms that emphasize praise (e.g. 65, 96); minor key tunes are more appropriate to plaintive Psalms (38, 88) or a penitent Psalm such as 51.

    You might find the post for Psalm 67 (I) interesting. Psalm 67 has been called "the missionary Psalm". Back in the 1950's, a tune called "Zenka" was written for that Psalm in conjunction with a Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland mission in Africa.
     
  5. austinbrown2

    austinbrown2 Puritan Board Freshman

    Jaybird

    Thanks for the comments. I'll check out your links and listen. I might comment further aftering doing that.

    Austin
     
  6. austinbrown2

    austinbrown2 Puritan Board Freshman

    Armourbearer

    Actually I haven't moved quite yet, though we are gearing up for it. But anyway, I thank you preemptively ;)

    >>>>>>>>I personally think metrication is already a compromise -- bearable, but a compromise nonetheless. The line structure of the psalms can only be duplicated by chant; but it is so foreign to us that it would create an unnecessary hindrance to introduce it.

    That being my attitude, I would not like to see the Psalms compromised any further by the introduction of "light" melodies. The Psalms themselves speak of "grave sweet melody," and the existing tunes fit that description.<<<<<<<<<<<

    I guess I need to study this issue more, but I was under the impression that many of the Psalms were songs with distinct tunes and melody. Or are you saying that for us to duplicate the lines of the Psalms it would require chant?

    I don't know Hebrew, but when it says, in say, Psalm 9 that the song should be played to the tune of... what does tune mean? And what does "grace sweet melody" mean?

    Austin
     
  7. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Austin,

    This is one of the disadvantages of reading modern versions. There is no "tune of" in the Hebrew, or the AV. In fact, the title of Ps. 9 could be regarded as an historical allusion. The death of the son brings to a conclusion the threat mentioned in the title of Ps. 3.

    The chant enables the singer to complete a line of singing wherever the line happens to stop, and therefore can sing in accord with the Psalm's own metre. However, it is only an ideal. I know how difficult it would be to learn it.
     
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