EP justification for melody

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seajayrice

Puritan Board Sophomore
Comments from EP adherents are most appreciated. When considering the RPW, how do we assign melodies, keys, meters etc. to psalm singing? Is there biblical warrant for assigning such? Is this an inconsistency in the EP position relative to the RPW? Thank you.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Is this an inconsistency in the EP position relative to the RPW?
Obviously EPers do not believe it is an 'inconsistency' or they wouldn't be EP. Perhaps what you meant to say was, "Please explain how this is not an inconsistency relative to the RPW."
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
The justification is that singing requires them.
Singing does not really require melody. In the early church, and still today in some Orthodox churches and some western monastic orders, services are conducted in a monotone chant. In fact, the justification for that practice is very similar to the RPW. They do not wish to impose through melody an interpretation on the text. So, historically speaking, the use of melody in singing is an innovation. Thus, the RPW needs to reckon with it, not just assume it.
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
Let's go to the scriptures:

Eph 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
We are all familiar with this verse. Now, I am not a trained exegete, but I see the word melody. But, we need to go to the Greek (Strong's):

G5567
ψάλλω
psallō
psal'-lo
Probably strengthened from ψάω psaō (to rub or touch the surface; compare G5597); to twitch or twang, that is, to play on a stringed instrument (celebrate the divine worship with music and accompanying odes): - make melody, sing (psalms).
The word seems to be connected with the plucking on a harp-like instrument. But the Ephesians verse says that we are to do this with our heart. Because a stringed instrument allows one to change the pitch by altering the length of string that vibrates, it seems reasonable that our voice is now the instrument that offers different pitches (as opposed to what we would term "monotone chant"). Singing in different pitches would be consistent with the modern understanding of the English word melody.
 

seajayrice

Puritan Board Sophomore
The justification is that singing requires them.
Singing does not really require melody. In the early church, and still today in some Orthodox churches and some western monastic orders, services are conducted in a monotone chant. In fact, the justification for that practice is very similar to the RPW. They do not wish to impose through melody an interpretation on the text. So, historically speaking, the use of melody in singing is an innovation. Thus, the RPW needs to reckon with it, not just assume it.
Somehow I always seem to come up with Carl Orff or something weird when I think of chanting. [video=youtube_share;xSZkVsEkQ9M]http://youtu.be/xSZkVsEkQ9M[/video]
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
The justification is that singing requires them.
Singing does not really require melody. In the early church, and still today in some Orthodox churches and some western monastic orders, services are conducted in a monotone chant. In fact, the justification for that practice is very similar to the RPW. They do not wish to impose through melody an interpretation on the text. So, historically speaking, the use of melody in singing is an innovation. Thus, the RPW needs to reckon with it, not just assume it.
We seem to have different definitions of melody. I understand melody to be a sequence of musical notes. It is part of the definition of singing. Requiring specific warrant for one sequence of notes (a modern melody) but not another (monotonous chant) seems arbitrary to me. The same kind of questions come up for monotonous chant. Which pitch? In what timing?

Under the RPW, if something is not specified but is still necessary to perform an element, we call it a circumstance. The form of singing is not specified, but some form is necessary for singing; therefore, the form of singing is a circumstance.

Finally, I don't understand how this question is unique to EP. Don't non-EPers who subscribe to the RPW use melody too? Isn't it likely, then, that the defense for melody is the same in both camps? What makes this a problem specifically for EP but not for non-EP? It seems like this is an area where we are united.
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
Now, you also asked a few other things:

Q. How do we assign melodies?
A. With a tune that is appropriate with the mood of the Psalm, such as joyful vs. solemn. Tip: this website provides suggested tunes for the 1650 Psalter selections

Q. How do we assign the key?
A. Find the highest and lowest note in the tune and make sure that both the men and women can reasonably achieve both.

Q. How do we assign a meter?
A. If you want the Psalm to have the same number of syllables in each line or verse, assign a meter. A common meter (such as the meter known as "Common Meter") will allow you to use many tunes for the same Psalm. You can also sing an irregular meter, but it is more difficult to do so, although it may allow you to sing directly from the Bible if you compose a tune/meter that allows you to do so.

I see all of these above principles as a matter of prudence. If we conclude that melody is necessary, all of the above are needed.
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
I'm speaking historically. Most scholars agree (though I'm not at home and do not have references on hand right now) that Jewish synagogue worship utilized monotone chanting. They also agree that early Christians adapted the same. Melodious singing, in which the voice moves higher and lower on the scale, is a distinct form, and probably did not enter Christian worship until the 3rd or 4th centuries. Even then, polyphony (different voices singing different notes in harmony) took several more centuries. Both melody and polyphony have been resisted by some within Christianity, and I find the arguments against them to be quite similar to arguments against musical instruments.

Also, Tim, the verbs in Eph. 5:19 are pretty irrelevant. The translation "make melody" is very loose and cannot seriously be brought to bear on the discussion of chant vs. moving melody, especially since the other verb, αδω, often means to chant.
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I'm speaking historically. Most scholars agree (though I'm not at home and do not have references on hand right now) that Jewish synagogue worship utilized monotone chanting. They also agree that early Christians adapted the same. Melodious singing, in which the voice moves higher and lower on the scale, is a distinct form, and probably did not enter Christian worship until the 3rd or 4th centuries. Even then, polyphony (different voices singing different notes in harmony) took several more centuries. Both melody and polyphony have been resisted by some within Christianity, and I find the arguments against them to be quite similar to arguments against musical instruments.
The arguments I have seen against harmony are based on prudence (such as Calvin's argument), which is the realm of circumstance. Circumstances are not "untouchable." They are governed by prudence. We might decide that a circumstance is imprudent. For instance, it is a bad idea to have worship at 3 am. That doesn't mean we need positive warrant to meet at 10 am; it just means it's not a very good idea to meet at 3 am. Calvin's argument against harmony seems similar to me. Whether he is right or wrong about the prudence of harmony (or lack thereof), the form of singing is still a circumstance. Some arguments against instruments are also from prudence, but they are not the primary arguments, just the icing on the cake. The primary arguments stem from the cessation of an OT element.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Also, Tim, the verbs in Eph. 5:19 are pretty irrelevant. The translation "make melody" is very loose and cannot seriously be brought to bear on the discussion of chant vs. moving melody, especially since the other verb, αδω, often means to chant.
I think psalming, or melodising, would fit the desideratum, but I see the apostle confines it to the heart, so it probably can't be relied upon independently of other considerations. I would say, though, in answer to the case you have raised, that chanting itself is already a mode of singing and cannot be taken as the mode of singing. As there is no prescription for chanting, it must be deemed a prudential accommodation (or circumstance) of singing. If this prudential accommodation is justified on the basis that it was orderly and decent in the context in which it was practised, there should be no objection to following a different prudential accommodation that is deemed to be decent and orderly in a different context.

I should add, the case is relevant to the mode of singing in worship regardless of one's views on the matter to be sung, so it shouldn't be posed to the advocate for inspired psalmody as if it only concerned that position.
 
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