30 January 2007

On Psalm Singing

"I don't like it." That's my wife. She doesn't like the Psalm tones in LSB at all. "They're just boring."

Actually, I agree. They ARE boring. But they are also easy. Goes hand in hand, perhaps?

Hang with me here, though. There is something about the simple tone that achieves a noble end. When I am singing the Psalms for Matins or Vespers, it doesn't take long before the Psalm tone itself has completely receded from consciousness. It's the words that take hold and pull you in. And there's always the regret when the Gloria comes along that the Psalm itself is over.

I think that in this instance, boring is good. Excellent even. Because the tones need to be transparent - it's not about beautiful music "moving" you, but the Word of God seizing hold and informing the Church's praying.

Don't get me wrong: I believe we COULD have learned the Gregorian psalm tones. They're not that difficult (and with a teacher like Ben Mayes chanting them all for you at the Lutheran Prayer Brotherhood website, they're that much easier!). But the ones in LSB suit the purpose well enough - they let us sing the Word of God and that's the big thing. So there.


Sam said...

Yes! At the seminary I have found joy in the chanting of Psalms. My Hebrew professor commented that as we do Matins more and more.... it just becomes a part of you and thus you can take more joy in chanting the Psalms.

Beautiful... just beautiful...

Past Elder said...

Your wife is on to something. As music, chant should be boring, and, if it is drawing attention to itself as music, something is wrong.

Chant is meant to highlight the text. The text is the only important thing. It should be as you describe the text that pulls you in, not the music. Other music isn't like that. Chant Gregorian or otherwise is different. One could say it isn't music at all, it's a musical highlighting of the text.

It's an older form of hooping. Now wouldn't that be something -- chanted psalms and a hooped sermon. I'd run a hundred miles, to borrow a phrase, for that! And they say we confessional types miss out on all the fun.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I liked the way we formerly did it much better. There's more music in the old way, AND it just seemed to be more dynamic.