#374: Christian Instrumental Music

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #374, on the subject of Christian Instrumental Music.

Quite a few years back my wife and I picked up a pair of soprano recorders, and within a few days were playing a duet of the hymn Glorious Things to Thee Are Spoken.  One night a gamer friend, Bob Schretzman, visited, and we played it for him.  He thanked us for playing one of his favorite songs, Deutschland Uber Alles, the German national anthem.

That came back to me this morning as the local Christian radio station played an instrumental version of a spiritual song, and it being familiar to me I had the words to the first verse running through my head–but I only remembered the first verse, so when the music repeated, so did those words.  That got me wondering.

I’ve previously noted that Christian record producer and recording artist Chris Christian (who discovered Amy Grant) disdained Christian instrumental music, challenging that what makes music Christian is the words.  He would sit on stage and play Alley Cat, and at the end of each line speak a word related to Christianity, and suggest that made it a Christian song.  I have a hard time disagreeing with that.  I know that when I hear instrumental versions of What Child Is This, particularly around Christmas, those words are in my head–but I won’t swear that at other times of the year I don’t hear the words to Greensleeves, and I’m sure there are many out there for whom those are the first lyrics that come to mind for that melody.  The Reformers often put Christian words to bawdy bar songs, because their converts knew the music; at what point did those become Christian melodies?  It certainly seems that what makes music Christian is the words.

On the other hand, Johann Sebastian Bach expressed the view that all of his music was written to glorify God.  We can certainly see that in the hundreds of chorales, the B Minor Mass, and other choral works–but how many of us are moved to worship by the Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor or the wealth of other fugues he wrote for organ or orchestra or chamber ensembles?  Does the fact that he says it is Christian music make it so?  Someone has written words celebrating Christmas to fit Pachelbel’s Canon; does that make the original song Christian?  What of Christian bands that do what would be called parodies of secular hits, replacing the original lyrics with Christian words?  In my 1970s band The Last Psalm our soprano sang the words to Amazing Grace to the music of The House of the Rising Sun (although I heard someone else do that first, and stole the idea from them); does that sanctify the music such that a folk song about life in a brothel becomes suitable as a Christian instrumental?

Perhaps we would like to claim that all music is ultimately Christian, and we might do that by asserting that all creative efforts are imitations of the image of God and so glorify Him to the degree that they in their greatness reflect His.  If music is a medium of communication, perhaps it can communicate something about God without being bound to words.  Yet Tubal-cain, father of all who played the pipe, was a descendant of Cain, not Seth, and so we might argue that all music is inherently secular unless it is somehow redeemed.

I lack the answer to this question.  I know musicians who perform instrumental music they assert is Christian, and it is usually arrangements of familiar hymns or other songs of faith.  I even have a collection of midi instrumental recordings of nine Christmas songs I arranged that I often play around the holidays.  Yet it still seems to me that for music to be Christian it must inspire thoughts of faith, and that seems to require words.

But then I come back to Bach, and wonder whether there is Christian instrumental music which inspires us to faith without using words.

#373: Nervous Characters

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #373, on the subject of Nervous Characters.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first six novels, Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, Old Verses New, For Better or Verse, Spy Verses, Garden of Versers, and Versers Versus Versers, in serialized form on the web (those links will take you to the table of contents for each book).  Along with each book there was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as I am posting the seventh, Re Verse All,  I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look may contain spoilers because it sometimes talks about my expectations for the futures of the characters and stories–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued, as being written partially concurrently with the story it sometimes discusses where I thought it was headed.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

There is also a section of the site, Multiverser Novel Support Pages, in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

This is the tenth mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 55 through 60.  It was suggested that more shorter posts were a better choice than fewer longer ones, so there will be posts every six chapters, that is, every other week, for this book.  Previous entries were:

  1. #354:  Versers Reorienting, covering chapters 1 through 6;
  2. #355:  Versers Resettling, for chapters 7 through 12.
  3. #357:  Characters Connect, for chapters 13 through 18.
  4. #359:  Characters Engage, for chapters 19 through 24.
  5. #361:  Characters Explore, for chapters 25 through 30.
  6. #364:  Characters Learn, for chapters 31 through 36.
  7. #365:  Characters Travel, for chapters 37 through 42.
  8. #367:  Versers Encounter, for chapters 43 through 48.
  9. #370:  Characters Confront, for chapters 49 through 54.

History of the series, including the reason it started, the origins of character names and details, and many of the ideas, are in earlier posts, and won’t be repeated here.

Chapter 55, Hastings 204

I knew this was going to be a sort of non-encounter situation, but still thought I could bring out some tension through Lauren’s reaction to spiders.  I think this is unlike me, but I’m not entirely comfortable with the larger members of the genus, and would have trouble with giant ones.  I’m not sure whether knowing they were intelligent would make me more comfortable or less.

The hood was a last minute realization, and specifically that it was known that they had one but there was no indication they had more than one.  I thought the mules might have trouble getting through, so I decided that the most skittish of them would have to be gentled.

Chapter 56, Takano 31

My knowledge of camping gear goes back to the mid-to-late sixties, but I remember that some things were thought new by scouts, who weren’t much older than I, so I attempted to extrapolate what would be available at a good camping store.

I actually paused to debate what to call Tommy’s equipment, with “equipment” and “gear” going through my head as words that Clark might use, but settling on “stuff” as much more like Tommy.

It’s been decades since I was camping, and I was trying to remember a lot of stuff from those times.  I hope I managed.  It occurs to me that I might have included water purification tablets, but I never carried them myself and don’t know whether iodine or chlorine was preferred back then.

Chapter 57, Beam 74

I almost removed the attack up the ramp, which had been part of my original notion before I included the grenade, but I wanted more action in this and wanted Bron to be useful.

Chapter 58, Hastings 205

I decided that it was time to end the quest and reach the drow lands; I had begun working on what would happen when they got there.  I also decided that Lauren’s fear of spiders would be useful in a confrontation with the traditional AD&D drow guards, the driders.

Chapter 59, Takano 32

I realized I had set up the beginning of school and couldn’t put it off much longer.  I checked Labor Day on a 1959 calendar to make sure my recollections of the holiday back then were correct, and modelled a lot of the commute on aspects of my own childhood elementary school experience, but extended the escorting several days because this was a girl and I was a boy, and I have the impression that parents were more protective of girls then (unless it was only that I had three younger siblings so my mother thought it safer to let me walk alone than to leave them alone at the house).

I wanted to create stuff for Tommy to do that would justify her being paid to care for Tammy beyond merely that someone had to be there.

The elementary school is very much designed like my own.  We had two or maybe three kindergarten classes in different partitioned sections of a “gymnatorium” with a cafeteria kitchen at the opposite end from the stage.  The band practiced on the stage during the period that the kindergarten was changing from morning to afternoon session, but I made that the school lunch period as I didn’t have to worry about the band.  My own walk to school left the road to follow a wide paved path down a long probably two-block hill to a bridge over a brook, up three steps, and onto the paved playground at the rear of the school, but there was a path to the side which was as described in the story which I only took a few times when I was going to my cousins’ house after school.

The bus thing was how it was when my kids were in school, but I’m not sure how much of that was because the school system had reorganized so that each school building held all the classes for two consecutive years and the busses all did a circuit of picking up all the students in an area then delivering them to each of the schools.

Chapter 60, Beam 75

I spent some time thinking about this chapter, and then when I wrote it I omitted a number of details–mostly where the other members of the group were standing during the talks.  I decided not to bother with them, as they wouldn’t really add anything.

I wanted Beam to feed the entire tribe, separately from the delegation, and I thought a bit about how much he had to order for roughly a hundred people.  It’s not a lot, but it’s enough for everyone to have some.

I ended the chapter mostly because I wasn’t sure how it turned next.  I had spent twelve days in the hospital and in that time had thought only a little about where the story was going, but coming out I wrote the previous Takano chapter and then this one, and I had a fairly solid idea about the next Hastings chapter but opted to go to bed and sleep on it overnight.

This has been the tenth behind the writings look at Re Verse All.  If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue with another novel and more behind the writings posts for it.

#372: The Song “Heavenly Kingdom”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #372, on the subject of The Song “Heavenly Kingdom”.

This song is tied for nineteenth on the list; I ranked it number eight for the overall quality of the song, and Tristan included it on his list, albeit at the bottom, tied for fifteenth.  The problem pulling it down was although there is a decent recording of it on Collision: Of Worlds, I don’t sing it, and I am still reluctant to use versions of songs I don’t sing.  Thus I had to do a recording in my living room on a digital recorder, with all the same “mistakes” I made when I recorded Still, Small Voice–automatic level control picking up room noise when the song got quiet (which this one does quite a bit), breathing difficulties because I had just gotten out of the hospital.  Add to that that the song was written for three vocals and never performed with fewer than two, and that at the ends of the lines there were always instrumental frills (lead guitar, keyboard, bass, and drums), and it’s a very disappointing rendition of the song.  However, it is a good song.  (The ranking system is explained in connection with the first song, linked below.)

The song was written during the 7dB days, and performed then.  It arose out of musings that I knew I was a teacher but I wasn’t sure how much of my music was teaching.  I had long had this idea in my head, but never as a song, and I decided it could work set to music, so I tackled it.

The idea arose from Jesus’ teaching about cutting off your hand and plucking out your eye if they caused you to sin, which for many years bothered and upset me until I realized that our body parts don’t cause us to sin–it is that inner person that does so.  This was such a relief to me, and ranks high in my list of great realizations.  I thus thought that a song that taught this, that it’s not your body parts of which you must rid yourself but that selfish person inside, would work.

My wife, not seeing it quite as I did, thought the song much too upbeat and happy for the message–that you have to die to yourself–but then, I found the happiness in the fact that I didn’t have to remove body parts.  Mohammed got it wrong, I would say.  Get rid of what really causes you to sin.

As mentioned, we started doing the song with 7dB and continued with CollisionThis recording is none of the above, and I tripped over several words and a few guitar strums, but it does give the flavor of the song.

Heavenly Kingdom.

So here are the words:

If your hand caused you to sin,
Would you cut it off to enter in
To the Heavenly Kingdom?
If your eye caused you to doubt,
To save your soul, would you pluck it out
For the Heavenly Kingdom?
If it’s not your hand and it’s not your eye,
Would you give your life, lie down and die?
Would you let yourself be crucified
For the Heavenly Kingdom?

If your feet caused you to stray,
Would you give them up, or walk away
From the Heavenly Kingdom?
If your tongue caused you to lie,
Would you bite it off–would you even try
For the Heavenly Kingdom?
But your feet don’t stray and your tongue won’t lie;
It’s your selfish self that has to die.
Would you let yourself be crucified
For the Heavenly Kingdom?
For the Heavenly Kingdom?

Would you be crucified with Christ,
Baptized and buried in His death,
Raised up and living in His life,
Breathing Him in with ev’ry breath?

If your heart is filled with strife,
Would you let it die to give you life
In the Heavenly Kingdom?
If your soul is filled with pride,
Would you let yourself be crucified
For the Heavenly Kingdom?
Give up your soul, give up your life,
Give up your pride, give up your strife,
Come and let yourself be crucified
For the Heavenly Kingdom.
For the Heavenly Kingdom.
For the Heavenly Kingdom.

I can only hope you benefit from the song in some way.  I will continue with additional songs in the future.


Previous web log song posts:

#301:  The Song “Holocaust” | #307:  The Song “Time Bomb” | #311:  The Song “Passing Through the Portal” | #314:  The Song “Walkin’ In the Woods” | #317:  The Song “That’s When I’ll Believe” | #320:  The Song “Free” | #322:  The Song “Voices” | #326:  The Song “Mountain, Mountain” | #328:  The Song “Still Small Voice” | #334:  The Song “Convinced” | #337:  The Song “Selfish Love” | #340:  The Song “A Man Like Paul” | #341:  The Song “Joined Together” | #346:  The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them” | #349: The Song “I Can’t Resist You’re Love” | #353:  The Song “I Use to Think” | #356:  The Song “God Said It Is Good” | #362:  My Life to You | #366:  The Song “Sometimes”

#371: The Twenty-Twenty Twenty/Twenty

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #371, on the subject of The Twenty-Twenty Twenty/Twenty.

I believe the correct greeting is Happy New Year, as we enter 2021.  That means it is time for us to look back at everything that we published in 2020.

The big deal is the book, in paperback and Kindle format, Why I Believe, a compilation of evidence on the basis of which intelligent people believe in God and in Jesus Christ.  I’m told the hardcover version is out, joining the paperback and Kindle versions, but haven’t seen it yet.

The year began, appropriately, on January 1st with a look back at the previous year, web log post #325:  The 2019 Recap, doing then what we are doing now, providing a quick look at everything from the previous dozen months.

On the first of the year I also published a song, the first of a dozen continuing from the seven of the previous year:

  1. web log post #326:  The Song “Mountain Mountain”;
  2. web log post #328:  The Song “Still Small Voice”;
  3. web log post #334:  The Song “Convinced”;
  4. web log post #337:  The Song “Selfish Love”;
  5. web log post #340:  The Song “A Man Like Paul”;
  6. web log post #341:  The Song “Joined Together”;
  7. web log post #346:  The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them”;
  8. web log post #349:  The Song “I Can’t Resist Your Love”;
  9. web log post #353:  The Song “I Use to Think”;
  10. web log post #356:  The Song “God Said It Is Good”;
  11. web log post #362:  The Song “My Life to You”; and
  12. web log post #366:  The Song “Sometimes”.

That series continues with another song later today.

On the subject of series, there are several others, including both the Faith in Play and RPG-ology monthly series at the Christian Gamers Guild.  These are both indexed, along with other excellent material from other contributing authors, at 2020 at the Christian Gamers Guild Reviewed, posted yesterday.  Thanks to the editorial staff of the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, a large collection of the original Game Ideas Unlimited articles, thought to be lost when Gaming Outpost closed, have been recovered and are now appearing slightly repolished in these series.  (Quite a few of them plus other articles have been translated into French for their site.) We also finished posting the rest of the novel Versers Versus Versers, along with updated character sheets in the Multiverser Novel Support Pages, and started on the seventh, Re Verse All, which will continue well into the new year.  There were quite a few behind-the-writings web log posts connected to those, but they are indexed in the novel table of contents pages so we won’t burden this entry with them.

There was also the continuation of another series, reminiscences on the history of Christian contemporary and rock music from the early 1980s, which picked up with:

  1. web log post #329:  CCM Guys at the Beginning, a conglomerate of artists from Randy Matthews and Randy Stonehill through Michael W. Smith;
  2. web log post #332:  The Wish of Scott Wesley Brown;
  3. web log post #335:  Bob Bennett’s First Matters;
  4. web log post #342:  Fireworks Times Five, one of the best rock bands of the era;
  5. web log post #345:  Be Ye Glad, one of the best vocal bands of the era;
  6. web log post #358:  DeGarmo and Key, Not a Country Band, another excellent early rock ensemble.

I should mention for the time travel fans that there is indeed a book in the works, possibly with a sequel, but it’s still in the early stages so that’s on the list for the coming year.  Meanwhile, temporal anomalies were not ignored, as we had several posts and pages.

Among the miscellaneous posts this year is one about the fact that my work appears under several slightly different names–Mark, Mark J., M. Joseph, M. J., and Mark Joseph–and the story behind that is explained in web log post #331:  What’s With the Names?  A musician asked a question on a Facebook group, which I answered in web log post #352:  Why No One Cares About Your Songs.

Giving extra confusion to the year, in February my second grandchild, my first grandson, was born, roughly a decade or so after his half-sister.  That was the beginning of a saga that still is not completely resolved, but it was several months before he came home, in time for Halloween.

My book reading slowed drastically, due largely to the fact that my Kindle was smashed and I’ve been trying to get it repaired, but there are a few book reviews (one of a book on writing) at Goodreads.  Also appearing are two republished book reviews, as web log posts #351:  In re:  Evil Star and #368:  In re:  Cry of the Icemark, recovered from the lost Gaming Outpost archives.

We were quiet on the political front until June, when events related to Black Lives Matter prompted the writing of web log post #344:  Is It O.K. Not to Make a Statement?  Some argued that it was not.  We later explained the mail-in ballot system adopted by our home state in web log post #360:  Voting in 2020 in New Jersey, with a follow-up a couple weeks later in web log post #363:  The 2020 Election in New Jersey.

The year ahead looks promising.  There should be another song posted today, with Faith in Play and RPG-ology articles already queued for publication later this month and well into the year ahead, chapters of the novel Re Verse All with their accompanying behind-the-writings peeks standing by, more CCM history, some time travel movies awaiting my attention, and–well, we’ll have to see what appears.  Meanwhile, this is your opportunity to catch anything you missed or re-read anything you forgot.

I would be remiss if I did not thank those who have supported me through Patreon and PayPal.me, and to invite and encourage others to do so.  The Patreon web log is the first place where all new pages are announced, and the place to go for glimpses of what is to come, and even as little as a dollar a month helps me immensely and gets you that information delivered several times a week.  Thank you.