In the Baroque Period a theory became prominent among composers and theorists commonly known as "The Affections". This doctrine, influenced by ancient theories of rhetoric and oratory, considered that through the use of different musical techniques, a composer could create a piece of music capable of producing a particular involuntary emotional response in the audience. In other words, they realised that music has this unique ability to provoke different emotions in the listener, and so they set about trying to figure out which compositional techniques (chords, cadences and keys) would invoke particular emotions.
I particularly love this concept because it so freely accepts the reality of emotions and embraces the power of music to stir these very real emotions. I've often heard atheists try and boil everything down to scientific responses in an effort to explain away any spiritual reality - particularly in congregational worship. But here's the thing: we are emotional beings. See, if a young husband were to write a romantic letter to his new wife explaining his love for her as mere 'chemical reactions in his brain due to the innate desire to pro-create for the continuing of the human species', he wouldn't even be describing half of what's actually happening! No, to fully explain the sensations he is experiencing he must colourful describe his feelings of love and affection, that would be a far more authentic depiction of reality than just a scientific analysis. We are emotional beings, and I think that few things express an emotion in its colourful reality as truly as poetic verse does.
So emotions are real and are so effectively articulated through poetic verse, but how much more expressive is it when poetic verse rides the powerful vehicle of music! When a vocal melody is given lyrics and set to a chordal landscape, that is what we call a song; and I don't think there is anything that expresses one's inner feelings more accurately than that! So that is why worship is so often performed through the avenue of song, simply because songs articulate our emotions in the most powerfully expressive way, helping us to communicate such extravagant feelings of adoration in a fittingly extravagant way.
Few things do justice to an emotion better than music. The world knows the power of music to portray and evoke these important emotions that are so integral to us as humans, and it has wasted no time writing songs of romance, heartache, fun, and other things. But I believe we as the church should be at the fore-front of this, we should be the true masters of musical expression because worshipping the creator far surpasses anything else. I can't think of another subject matter that can be sung with such fervent passion and conviction, believed so strongly, or felt so deeply. I believe there is no emotion stronger than that of worship to the creator. Therefore, if what we believe is the truth then we should be writing the best songs to do our incomparably powerful emotions justice. The Church should bring forth the best musicians and songwriters, because worshipping God is the epitome of passionate human expression, and artistic creativity is crucial to humanity expressing the full reality of its feelings.
I believe 2012 will be something special in the history of creativity. I'm not sure why, but I have a feeling that something fresh will arise that will be vastly different to all that has gone before it. In the wars of old, armies would be led out by musicians, worshippers and prophets; in like manner I believe this new wave of (spiritually) armed forces, this new generation will be led by a unique sound that will differentiate it from all generations previous. And so to all creative artists, musicians, and prophets: refine your skill, train your art and perfect your practice; for a new song will arise, a fresh sound that will lead this next generation. For we are young and free.
Psalm 33:3 (NIV) "Sing to him a new song; play skilfully, and shout for joy."
Daniel J. Mathew is studying a Bachelor of Music at Sydney's Wesley Institute and serves as a volunteer for the senior high youth ministry of Hillsong Church, City Campus.
Daniel Mathew's archive of articles may be found at www.pressserviceinternational.org/daniel-mathew.html