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Author Topic: Questions on Orthodoxy and music  (Read 4979 times) Average Rating: 0
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Protestant seeker
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« on: October 14, 2002, 02:00:31 PM »

  O.k., I know I ask a lot of questions, but I do have
a few more today.

1) Why is singing during the Divine Liturgy always
a capella? It is beautiful, but are instruments ever
used? If they are not permitted, why not?

2) Why is basically the same liturgy used for the
Divine Liturgy? Is there not any variation on prayers
and singing? If not why not?

3) Does anyone know where I can get or if there
are any good CDs of choirs/singing from the Divine
Liturgy in English? I have seen some in Russian,
but am interested in a CD in English, but haven't
found one.

4) What is the general Orthodox view of contemporary
christian (read: Protestant pop and rock) music?
Is it o.k. to be a christian rock musician with spiritual
lyrics that present the gospel and are uplifting/inspiring?

  That is all I can think of for the moment. I am still
reading, praying and attending the Divine Liturgy
every Sunday-and enjoying it I might add! Talk
about giving glory to God! Anyway, thanks for your
earlier answers and I look forward to more.

God bless,

the Protestant seeker
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« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2002, 02:16:06 PM »

1. I think once upon a time, like in the first millennium, both Catholics and Orthodox sang a cappella (remember, Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony are voice-only, too!) - using instruments such as an organ was a postschism western innovation. Technically, only the human voice may be used in Orthodox church music but in practice the Greeks in America have adopted the protestantization of using an organ, at least to give the note for the choir to song.

2. Well, that is the essence of liturgical worship - much of it does stay the same. The parts that change, besides the readings, are the tropar' (troparion), kondak (kontakion), prokimen (prokeimenon) before the epistle, the alleluia verse before the Gospel and sometimes the Communion verse sung before Communion.

3. I'm sure they're out there!

4. AFAIK there's no problem with doing that. Of course such music doesn't belong IN church! Check out the link 'Free Monks' on my site: with some controversy, some Greek Orthodox monks have a pop band to try to spread the faith to today's secularized Greek youth.
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« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2002, 02:52:45 PM »

Protestant seeker

Quote
O.k., I know I ask a lot of questions, but I do have
a few more today.

Questions are great, just remember that in Orthodox epistemological thought, you learn much more by experience than by question asking Wink (I am not, of course, trying to discourage question asking). Btw, if you wanted to know more about the Orthodox position regarding how we attain knowledge, I'd highly suggest Justin Popovich's essay "The Theory of Knolwedge of Saint Isaac the Syrian," which has been translated into English and is in the book "Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ". Or if you wanted to take a look before you'd consider buying the book, there is a short excerpt of the essay at this page

Quote
1) Why is singing during the Divine Liturgy always
a capella? It is beautiful, but are instruments ever
used? If they are not permitted, why not?

I was thinking about this same thing during Orthros this past Sunday when I heard them singing the Psalms: "Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals" (Ps. 150). Why don't we have cymbals, or any instruments at all?  I'm not positive, but I'll give three possible answers. The first reason I'll mention has at least some patristic support, that reason being that some thought instruments would be a distraction. It was thought, at least by some, that using just our voices--our person--we could focus on God more, while bringing in other objects would take away our attention from God. Second, the human voice, or voices joined, might be seen as a "sacrifice of praise" and/or "common intercession" to God. In other words, worship is direct prayer between us and God, and so it is possibly harmful to start adding other things in, especially if they are unneeded additions. The third answer I would give would involve the usage of prayers/songs in the home. Songs are not just sung in the Church, but can be sung anywhere, and especially should be sung at home if possible. In this way, while we Americans might typically think of music as having instruments, we should try as Orthodox to think of Church Music as being without instruments, that way we will have no hang-ups or excuses about singing wherever we might find ourselves. (E.g., we can't say "gee, I'd like to sing that hymn that's running around in my haed, but there's no guitar here to sing with, and I can't sing well, so I won't sing it at all.")

Quote
2) Why is basically the same liturgy used for the
Divine Liturgy? Is there not any variation on prayers
and singing? If not why not?

There are many variations through the year, and some from week to week, but it is true that the Liturgy is largely fixed in it's language. The idea is to get people to understand their faith, and more importantly to participate in their faith, so that's the approach Orthodox worship takes. Have you ever heard anyone say "It's wrong to have the Bible fixed because people will get bored"? Have you ever heard anyone say "Let's change the 'Our Father,' it's getting boring"? And how about David in some of those Psalms? (cf Ps. 136) The point is, repitition is not bad, and doing/reading the same thing isn't bad, unless you allow it to become dry and dead. The idea is to learn the liturgy well enough so that you can follow along and focus strictly on God. After a while you learn the "form," and that allows you to focus more on the substance. You aren't looking at the words of a contemporary chorus on a viewscreen, and you aren't reading along in a hymnal, you're instead--hopefully!--singing along what you honestly believe "We have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly Spirit; We have found the truth faith, worshipping the undivided trinity: Which have saved us." It doesn't matter that you sang it the last 300 sundays, all that matters is what you make of it this Sunday. Much like the Bible, you get from it only if you put into it, and as long as you are in communion with God and are sincere, you could read/sing it 3,000 times and it wouldn't become "boring" or "stale". Having said that, while the main part of the service is fixed so that we can follow along wholly, the Orthodox do include just enough variation each service (from service to service) to teach us something new. When taken over the whole year (especially if all services are attended, and not just Sundays), this becomes quite an extensive theological education. You'll find out about everything from the missionary activities of the Apostles to the affirmations of the Ecumenical Councils.

It's also note worthy that just about every Church repeats itself anyway, the Orthodox are just a bit more up front. In the Wesleyan Church I attended, for instance, we (I do not mean myself, but the Church as a whole) were very proud that we weren't dead and repetitive like the Catholics Church down the street (some of the animosity came from our eschatological views). In reality though, we were on a fixed pattern as well, it was just that our pattern changed every few months, while the Catholics kept their pattern. During that few-month period though, I could have told you, with probably 90% accuracy, what would happen in the service, what order it would happen in, and what songs (well, choruses) would be sung. We tend to be creatures of habit, sometimes this can be a good thing (e.g., having the habit of reading the Bible every morning).

Quote
4) What is the general Orthodox view of contemporary
christian (read: Protestant pop and rock) music?
Is it o.k. to be a christian rock musician with spiritual
lyrics that present the gospel and are uplifting/inspiring?

I've never ran into any problems with this, and I use to listen to Christian Heavy Metal and Rock (while I was Orthodox). I will be so bold as to say that I think you would, if you became Orthodox, eventually stop listening to the groups by your own free choice. I could be wrong on that, but that was my own personal experience. It's not about the rightness or wrongness of the action, it's just about what the best thing is to do in the situation you find yourself. If, however, you went on listening to such music, I don't see that you would run into any problems.

Quote
That is all I can think of for the moment. I am still
reading, praying and attending the Divine Liturgy
every Sunday-and enjoying it I might add!

I'm glad! Grin  I'm sure many on here are praying for you.
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« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2002, 03:46:40 PM »

[4) What is the general Orthodox view of contemporary
christian (read: Protestant pop and rock) music?
Is it o.k. to be a christian rock musician with spiritual
lyrics that present the gospel and are uplifting/inspiring?]

Would suggest you access the Concilliar Press Bookstore for the following  CD's of contemporay Orthodox music.  The first, Living in an Orthodox World is my favorite.  It is comprised of various hymns of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy, Vespers, etc. services sung by a chior of Orthodox kids (the youngest is 6 years old).  It contains various hymns sung in a contemporary style.  I bought this CD for my nephews seven year old Lutheran son and he knows all the hymns by heat.  He puts it on and goes around the house singing for all he's worth!  
You can click on a section to get a sample of the hymns


http://www.store.yahoo.com/conciliarpress/music.html


An educational "sing along" for Orthodox young people that will capture the imagination of your child and bring the vocabulary of the Church's liturgy into your home.

-----------

The Seraphim Six Orthodox Children's Choir sings a joyful collection of 2- and 3-part music for the Divine Liturgy and Feast Days. Conducted by Alice Hughes and Anne Schoepp.




Conciliar Press and Peter Jon Gillquist are proud to announce the release of Peter Jon's newest CD, Live at the Village. Live at the Village is a concert recorded live on location at the Antiochian Village Camp, Ligonier, PA on August 7, 2000. The concert features a selection of Peter Jon's most requested music.

Conciliar Press is now the exclusive distributor for Peter Jon Gillquist's music.

Peter Jon Gillquist writes and performs acoustic folk rock from the perspective of an Orthodox college student. His music appeals to teens, college students, and parents, too. Peter Jon tours the U.S. and has now released five albums.




ááá



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« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2002, 11:02:52 PM »

If I may take this moment to respond to question #2, regarding why the Liturgy does not have the 'major' changes observed in other churches from Sunday to Sunday:

First off, one of the many purposes of the Liturgy is to mystically transport the worshippers to Heaven--parts of the Liturgy are developed from the descriptions of Heaven revealed to us in Scripture, such as in the OT prophetical literature as well as St. John's vision of the worship in Heaven. As far as we know, this is what is occurring in Heaven right now, and so we want to 'blend in' by worshipping in the same way.

Secondly, the Liturgy does not need to change because it speaks to worshippers in different ways as the worshipper experiences his or her life. I know that different parts of the Liturgy 'speak' to me now that previously these same parts did not gain as much attention from me. This is because with the grace of God I have changed from the time I first converted so long ago, and hopefully I will continue to change, in so experiencing a different Liturgy over the years even though the wording and actions are mostly the same.

Not to be mean spirited, but it could be argued that some people crave change in their worship because they themselves are not being changed by their worship. This innate spritual hunger given us by God is not being satisfied by what they are doing, but they do not yet know that they can be fully spiritually fed through the Liturgy.

Regarding CD's of Orthodox Liturgical music, I think St. Vlad's bookstore (through www.svots.edu -- this is from memory) has various selections of music in English as well as the group Eikona (in English as well as Greek on the same tape, though. However, their chanting and singing is beautiful so that you may be able to 'endure' the non-English parts).

Finally, please continue to ask questions. The Spirit is placing this desire in you to find Truth, who is the Lord.



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« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2002, 10:04:10 PM »

I have been taught that the reason we do not use intruments is that Orthodox worship is the worship of the inner court where only the human voice is appropriate.

The OT musical instruments were used in the outer court.

I have also been told by one old monk that he thinks even in OT days musical instruments were an economy, a concession to man's weakness and not what was best.      
     
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« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2002, 10:25:43 PM »

What is the general Orthodox view of contemporary Christian (read: Protestant pop and rock) music?

We have different words for it all together. Music, like secular pop music, is called Zefin while spiritual music is called Mezmur. Orthodox consider Ethiopian “Gospel Music” to be nothing but zefin and thus music and not spiritual songs. The Protestants complain that the traditional Orthodox mezmur is boring. That makes sense because the Protestant style is totally rock band oriented and unless I listen closely and hear “BeYesus Sem” (In Jesus Name) being sung I can not tell if it is Church related or not. It sounds like any modern Ethiopian pop singer.

When Orthodox mezmur starts it is clear that it is Orthodox. Our hymnography is based on St. Yared's revelation (as well as his interaction with Syrian Saints) over 1,500 years ago and it can not diverge from three distinct styles and the drum has something like 3 or 4 styles that must be followed. Other instruments similar to the violin and harp are used as well.

I once asked my spiritual father if I could write a rap so long as it was focused on God. He looked at me like I should go somewhere and spank myself and I haven’t brought it up since.

The basic rule is that if it makes you want to dance and takes your mind anywhere other than what is Holy then it does not belong in the Church.
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« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2002, 03:28:22 PM »

A comical use of a musical instrument would be the harmonica that is sometimes used by some cantors before they chant in order to get on key.  Its sound is humourously out of place.  After listening to it, you would next expect a violing to kick and someone to shout, "Ooooh, grab yer partner, swing'er 'rawnd..."

I hear mazameer (plural) played in our house by an Ethiopian friend, and I can't quite remember how she put it, but I was told that if a woman sings ecclesiastical music (makes a recording), she cannot sing from now on what I suppose you would call zefin.  She was very worried when she found out that the Lebanese Fairuz was doing something she seemed to find very wrong: she released a recording of her singing Sad Friday hymns (for a contemporary Greek counterpart, I recommend Petros Gaitanos; he has a voice for ecclesiastical music) and of course has many recordings (and has sung many times in theater) singing about many things such as poetry, love, nationalism, even verses from Jubran's "Prophet".  Could you explain this taboo, Aklie?

Also, does mazmoor literally translate to "psalm"?  The word is identical to ours.

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« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2002, 05:02:08 PM »

Also protestant Seeker,

Here is a link that has a number of Othodox hymns in ENGLISH that are great.

http://www.reginaorthodoxpress.com/musiccds.html

I will also post a response in a short while about the use of instruments in the Orthodox Church. Keep in mind that the Coptic Orthodox Churches uses the cymbals and the triangle during the liturgy in accordance with pslam 150.

Here is a sample of those sounds:

http://www.saintmina-holmdel.org/Multimedia/index.php

The Greek Orthodox in central Africa, use drums and during the hymns also. Basically, the Church incorportaes the culture and allows the local population to express their Orthodox spirituality using their own customs. This applies mostly to lands that have been evangelized by the Orthodox.

I will post greater detail when I have time.
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« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2002, 05:50:32 PM »

Oh yes, Aklie, glad to see Abouna knocked some sense into your head, my friend......no, seriously......<grin>

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« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2002, 06:09:37 PM »

A comical use of a musical instrument would be the harmonica that is sometimes used by some cantors before they chant in order to get on key.  
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Personally, I have *never* heard the harmonica used in the Eastern Orthodox Church, irrespective of recension, either by cantors (Romanian, Greek or Antiochian) before they chant or by a choir director to give their notes to choristers.  But that doesn't mean that an innovative cantor or choir director doesn't use one somewhere.  However, I have heard, and quite frequently too, choir directors--even in churches following a strict Russian recension-- use pitch pipes to give choristers their notes, particularly before beginning a difficult hymn.  Nothing wrong with that in my POV.

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« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2002, 06:18:30 PM »

Also, does mazmoor literally translate to "psalm"?  The word is identical to ours.


I know that in Syriac, Mazmoor means "psalm", and the connection to "Mezmur" was one that I noted to myself and wondered about.
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« Reply #12 on: December 04, 2002, 01:11:28 AM »

Samer,

does mazmoor literally translate to "psalm"? The word is identical to ours.

Yes it does, the Psalms of David is called Mezmura Dawit, a stronger reason that we should refuse to refer to Protestant music as Mezmur.

I was told that if a woman sings ecclesiastical music (makes a recording), she cannot sing from now on what I suppose you would call zefin.

Oh that...just imagine seeing a priest break dancing on the corner with teenagers; that is how it looks when someone starts singing music after they have already earned the reputation of singing mezmur. Being a mezmuran, while not an ordained status and not even an official status, is still like being a deacon or something. You just have to behave in a Christian manner, and you never, never sing secular music again.  

the Lebanese Fairuz was doing something she seemed to find very wrong: she released a recording of her singing Sad Friday hymns...and of course has many recordings (and has sung many times in theater) singing about many things such as poetry, love, nationalism, even verses from Jubran's "Prophet".

Was this a woman who usually sings secular music just deciding to release an album of Sad Friday hymns (kind of like Whitney Houston singing “Jesus loves me”) or was this someone who is primarily known as an ecclesiastical musician and then started singing secular music?

Ethiopian Christians worry about the latter especially since modern secular music is getting way out of hand (the songs that Americanized Ethiopians are singing and then exporting back to Ethiopia are noteworthy for their filth).

Maybe in Lebanon the worry is not great since the people are still cultured in the traditional sense. Secular music is probably safe from going into the wild extremes of pop culture. I know I have read the lyrics for an entire album of one Arab secular musician and he primarily sung love songs to his wife, it was very respectable and totally family oriented. But then, that is precisely  the type of music that is not commercially viable in centers of pop culture. You rarely hear that kind of music in this country and the little that exist I am sure is not paying  it’s performer well. Here we have songs like the disgusting adulterers anthem of the 1970’s “If loving you is wrong, girl I don’t wanna be right.” When a Church musician starts to sing ‘worldly music’ what are they getting involved in?  

Once I was watching a panel of famous Gospel singers on BET (Black Entertainment Television); a couple of them sang ‘worldly music’ as well as gospel. Some of the secular music that these musicians sang was outrageous. They would go from “Jesus you shake me up” to “girl, shake your booty” in the matter of seconds. That’s because this is the stuff of modern pop music, there is no respectability so any Christian who wants to participate in it usually has to conform or go out of show business.

America has the longest experience in this Protestant tradition of  ‘modernizing’ Church music. Therefore if there is a way to try to see the road this tradition ultimately leads to it is by looking at the state of today’s American Gospel music; if that is the future then the future does not look good.

Let me also mention that Ethiopian mezmur is innovative, different things can be sung about but they have to revolve around the Church and God. I have heard what could be called nationalism a few times. For one, you always encounter the name “Qidist Ethiopia” (Qidist = femenine for saint) being sung in Church songs. As you know Ethiopia is considered Maryam’s fief so there is sometimes reference to Ethiopia in mezmur about Mary. The strongest I ever heard was a solo by a female and she started singing “Ethiopiawan bahel alacho, Ethiopiawan tarik alacho” (Ethiopians we have culture, Ethiopians we have history).  This is in the Church.

Oh yes, Aklie, glad to see Abouna knocked some sense into your head, my friend......no, seriously......<grin>

sniff  Cry sniff  Cry I know but the Protestants do it why can’t I? Baba is being mean to me.
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« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2002, 03:58:36 AM »

Something else to add to the pot. I don't know if any of you have had the experience of listening to the chanting in the orthodox church in Georgia (Iberia). They sing in three part harmony and it is hauntingly beautiful. There is a movement within the church, however, to revert back to the Byzantine tradition. The reasons are basically these:

The chanting is beautiful and the Georgians have become very "proud" of their tradition. Pride = not good.
The very beauty of the chanting can be a distraction from the content.
Most importantly, the Georgian tradition lacks the sense of repentance inherant in the Byzantine tradition.

Who knows, in heaven we may be singing like the Georgians, when we have nothing but joy to express, but I do agree that there is great benefit in the Byzantine tradition. Anything that aids us in turning to repentance is a good thing IMO  Smiley

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« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2002, 01:42:44 PM »

Most importantly, the Georgian tradition lacks the sense of repentance inherant in the Byzantine tradition.

Dear John,

This is a very interesting statement.  Why do you think this is so?  Why does the Byzantine musical tradition have a sense of repentance that is absent from the Georgian musical tradition (which, being ignorant for the most part about the subject of music, I am not sure, but assume is more in tune with the various "Slavic" musical traditions)?
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« Reply #15 on: December 06, 2002, 06:12:28 AM »

The Byzantine tradition is filled with the same paradox expressed in orthodox iconography, that of joyful sorrow. I really couldn't explain it in any other way. I guess "repentance" is not really the best expression except that we experience the same joyful sorrow in our own daily (hourly?) repentance. Sorrow over having failed yet again to live holy lives and joy over God's forgiveness of our sins.
I currently live in Thessaloniki, Greece, so I am blessed with being deeply immersed in orthodoxy. Seriously, if you throw a stone in any direction in Thessaloniki, you are bound to hit a church, there are that many! Plus I can think of at least twelve monasteries off the top of my head within an hours drive and they are only the ones that I know of. I'm sure there are many more.
Anyway, one of the things that really made an impression on me was the chanting and how it seemed to express both joy and sorrow at the same time. To the western ear it sounds like they are singing a bit flat or sharp at times and indeed they are as they do not use the same musical scales as Western music. A good description can be found in this PDF:
http://www.church-music.co.uk/Byz1a.pdf
found at this address:
[url]http://www.church-music.co.uk/reading.htm/url]

Now I can't speak with authority on the Georgian tradition as I have only heard a small amount of Georgian chanting myself, however I did meet Davit (David), a Georgian chanter who had come to Greece to study the Byzantine tradition. He spent 10 days in one of the monasteries on Mt. Athos (can't remember which) learning as much as he could and will be coming again for more instruction. Eventually they intend opening a school in Georgia for any chanters and priests wishing to learn the Byzantine tradition. Up until meeting Davit, I hadn't given much thought to the why's and wherefore's of chanting but I have since been forming something of an opinion on the matter.
Joyful singing can lift our souls temporarily but the effect is not long lasting as it does not reflect the true condition of our hearts and does not turn us to repentance. The combination of joy and sorrow in singing however, is more closely matched to the condition of our souls. We are reminded both of our unworthiness and of God's grace to us, receiving us while we are yet sinners. Because there is more "truth" conveyed in this manner, because it more closely resembles the reality of our situation, I believe the effects remain and help in turning us to repentance. The effect may be small, we may not even be concious of it, but every little bit helps in the hospital of souls which is the Church.

This is my opinion anyway FWIW Smiley
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