Friday, November 30, 2007

Why should the devil have all the good music?..

Growing up I was profoundly shaped by the Contemporary Christian Music movement of the seventies. I, and many just like me, adopted Larry Norman's song Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? as our anthem. To justify our desire to infuse popular music into Lord's Day worship we appealed to Martin Luther's use of "bar tunes" as an important historical precedent. And this we did feigning respect for how the Church has worshipped the LORD in ages past.

I intend to write more on this. But for starters, consider this quote from Leonard Peyton:

"Many Christians who appropriate the goods of popular culture cite Luther as a precedent. A common claim is that Luther used tunes “from the bar.” However, musicological research since 1923 is weighing in heavily for Luther as the composer of his own melodies. Luther did use a musical form called a “bar” form. But this is a technical term referring to the architecture of music, not, as would normally be expected, a place where alcoholic beverages are consumed. Others mistakenly cite Luther’s famous question, “Why should the devil have all the good tunes?” When Luther spoke of the devil metaphorically, it was directed at the pope, not the pub. To rephrase what Luther was saying, “Why should we leave the great old hymns to the Roman Catholics?” It was an apology for the traditional, not the contemporary!"


1 comment:

Derek said...

I am looking forward to your thoughts on this subject. As fellow guitar players and music/worship leaders, you and I have followed very similar paths to get to where we are. I'm sure that I will learn a great deal from your upcoming posts on this topic.

BTW...Peyton is spot on in his critique of the Protestant misunderstanding of Luther's use of "bar" form. My music history prof in college (a highly respect doctor in the field of musicology) used to mock Protestants regularly for their naive confusion on this topic.