“O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Ps. 96:9) is a complex injunction for anyone who takes it seriously; it requires the practice of quietness, contemplation, meditation, and aesthetic awareness—qualities that seem rather foreign to this generation.

Since God is a Spirit, what are possibly some areas in which he wishes us to behold his beauty? Among them are: beauty in creation; beauty in the image of creation as seen through the heart and mind of man—as art has been defined; beauty in his Word; beauty in music, an art which especially reflects the warmth, orderliness, and exaltation which the Word teaches us to associate with the mind of God.

From the very beginning Judaeo-Christian worship has been saturated with music; a comparison of the instruments mentioned in the Bible with those shown in Sumerian and Egyptian art strengthens the hypothesis that Abraham brought music from his native land, and that Moses and the people learned about music in the land of slavery. Already, then, God was allowing his children to use, transform, and amalgamate musical materials from extraneous sources in the worship of his name, even as centuries later folk song was to find its way into church music again and again. Just as the words of that great song of thanksgiving given to Asaph and his brethren were Spirit-filled, so undoubtedly the music of their antiphonal choir and orchestra was inspired from above (1 Chron. 16). The sound of this music we can only surmise today.

Fed by Hebrew and Greek sources, the first known sizable musical literature to emerge was the Gregorian chant, admirable in its organic freedom, spiritual fervor, and unsentimental purity. On it was based the creation of polyphonic music, one of the great achievements ...

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