Sunday, January 30, 2011

Music for the Pastor's Study: Part XVIII. The Psalms! The Psalms!

Hopefully it is clear that with this little series of entries on music that sets the tone for devotional study in the pastorate, I do not intend to "rank" these suggestions; rather, these are simply posted as they occur to me and as time allows. Were they ranked, the Psalms would, of course, have to stand in a list of their own for their qualitative distinction as Scripture itself. That they have not been mentioned so far is simply that one can easily take them for granted, they are so obviously essential and indeed stand far and away above everything we have said so far. It should go without saying, right? But just in case anyone stands in the need of the reminder ...

Meanwhile, the staggeringly diverse cultural styles and modes in which the Psalms have been rendered is a topic far beyond the scope of this modest post and ever further beyond my own expertise. From the rich cantorial art of synagogue worship to Gregorian chant and plainsong to the Genevan Psalter and on and on, down to fresh settings in CCM and the Jewish messianic strains of Paul WIlbur, the Psalms are truly enduring, an endless source of inspiration!

Perhaps the most intriguing and moving record I have run across in this area recently is Days of Majesty (below), where the letters of the Hebrew text of the psalms (and canticles) have been encoded or translated into the notes of music, i.e., the melody, itself; hence, the delightful and breathtaking designation: "Music from God." Who would have imagined the beautiful order of the text would lend such beautiful order in the musical dimension as well. Peculiar, but inspired and inspiring. Listen and select with reverence and wonder and care.

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