Volume. XIX, No. 47
Sunday, 05 June 2005

From the pastors heart: Christian rock

Having written a few articles about CCM, I am compelled to write something about Christian rock again. I have mentioned about Christian rock before. However, one of my friends told me that he had listened to Christian rock and did not know why it was not good to listen to it. I want to share some of my studies with him. I must begin with the definition of rock music from Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary: “Popular music of the late 20th century, especially among the younger population. Rock music originated in the 1950's in America, but swiftly became popular in Europe and throughout the world. In the late sixties and seventies, many British rock composers and performers became popular in the United States as well as in Europe. This style of music is characterized by a driving backbeat, electric guitar, and vocals. Rock music has been associated in the past with youth rebellion and protesting, but has developed into a more accepted form of entertainment among most age groups.” (http://www.music.vt.edu/musicdictionary/). From this definition of rock music, we must recognize the origin of this music. The reason that this style of music has been accepted more today than before is not because this music style has been changed, but the society as a whole has been changed. Since its inception, rock music is not fit for worship music.

Rock music is often lacking of melody. We have studied that melody, rhythm and harmony are three important components of music. Especially, melody is the most important part of music. Melody consists of horizontal arrangement of notes. Aaron Copland, who is regarded as the dean of American composers, makes this observation about a good melody: “Why a good melody should have the power to move us has thus far defied all analysis . . . Though we may not be able to define what a good melody is in advance, we certainly can make some generalizations about melodies that we already know to be good” (What to Listen for Music, New York, 1957, 40). He also spoke about a few characteristics of a good melody: (1) “It must have rise and fall (i.e., pitches going up and down). A melody that remains static (on the same pitch) can through repetition produce a hypnotic effect.” (2) “It must have satisfying proportions (i. e., a beginning, middle, and ending) and give a sense of completeness. The melody tells the story of the piece.” (3) “It must at some point (usually near the end) come to a climax and then a resolution. All good art will have a climax.” (4) “It will be written in such a way to elicit an emotional response by the listener” (Ibid., p. 46). Rock music lacks several of these essential characteristics of good music.

Rock music has beats on different places. As we know, rhythm makes the music go. Music without rhythm becomes continuous and boring sound. Rhythm makes music move through time by orderly manner. As the heartbeat is the life of the body, rhythm is the life of music. In any good music, there is good rhythm, too. In any good music, the strongest beat falls on the first, and the second strongest on the third. Thus, it becomes ONE, Two, THREE, Four. However, rock music often reverses this common order by emphasizing on the offbeat (syncopation). Thus, it becomes One, TWO, Three, FOUR.

Rock music has too much emphasis on beat. The fundamental problem with rock music is its relentless beat which dominates the music and produces an hypnotic effect. Bob Larson points out that "the major issue for consideration from a moral and spiritual standpoint is the extent to which a pulsated or syncopated beat overrides the other musical elements in a song so that the level of communication is primarily sexual and physically arousing" (The Day Music Died, Carol Stream, IL, 1972, 15). Tim Fisher explains good music in the following way: “the correct order is a good melody, supported by balanced harmony, undergirded with a firm and consistent rhythm. Concert music (i. e., a symphony or another instrumental piece of music) will sometimes vary from this order because of a desire to showcase the talents of the composer or the dexterity of the performer. However, our topic here is Christian music as it relates to communicating the spoken word. If you desire to communicate a text with music, the order is clear: melody, harmony, then rhythm” (Battle for Christian Music, Greenville, SC, 1992, 68).” The following comment from Bob Larson will help us understand the role of rhythm in rock music: “Unlike other forms of music which may reveal melodic inventiveness, the focus of rock is usually on the beat. It is a drummer’s holiday. . . . Jazz has a rhythmic swing. It flows with an exciting yet ultimately releasing feeling. But rock is built from a hard, straight-up-and-down pounding rhythm that produces frustrated energy. Some rock sounds emphasize alternating beats, while other rock tunes in part or whole hammer every beat home. Though he may add fills (short percussion outburst), it is the drummer’s job to keep the force of rock moving with the incessant pulsating and syncopated beat” (The Day Music Died, 16).

Rock is full of beat. Quentin Schultze notes: "The heart of rock and roll is rhythm and beat–those twin forces give rock its energy and propel its intentional simple harmony and melody. The appeal does not lie in harmony, because most rock and roll music consists of no more than four or five very simple cords in a very clearly defined key. Nor does the attraction lie in melody, since the rock and roll vocalist does not so much sing as shout and wail” (Dancing in the Dark, Grand Rapids,MI, 1991, 151).
Gene Grier says, “rhythm is the most important and basic element of rock music because of the way in which we relate to it” (A Conceptual Approach to Rock Music, Valley Forge, PA, 1976, 30). He suggests four steps to write a rock music: (1) Decide on a time signature, (2) Decide on a chord progression, (3) Write the melody, (4) Write the lyrics (Ibid, 61). It shows that rock music makes rhythm more important than melody and other components of music. As we have seen from the definition of rock music in the beginning of this article, the relentless beat is in the centre of rock music. Charles Brown says, “"Perhaps the most important defining quality of rock and roll is the beat, . . . Rock and roll is different from other music primarily because of the beat” (Art of Rock and Roll, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1983, 42).

Daniel and Bernadette Skubik said in Neurophysiology of Rock, which was published separately as an appendix in John Blanchard, Pop Goes the Gospel: Rock in the Church (Durham, England, 1991, 191): “The conclusion of these studies is twofold. First, lyrics are of minor importance here. Whether the words are evil, innocuous, or based in Holy Scripture, the overall neurophysiological effects generated by rock music remain the same. There is simply no such thing as Christian rock that is substantively different in its impact. Second, short-term implications involve a decrease in receptivity in discursive communication, while long-term implications pose serious questions for rehabilitation of degraded left-hemisphere cognitive skills. In less technical jargon and in specific context, we should expect that abilities to receive and deliver the gospel, to pray discursively, and to study Scripture are compromised [by rock music].” Will you listen to rock music continually?

Lovingly, Your pastor

More Lively Hope



Shorter Catechism Question 105: What do we pray for in the fifth petition? In the fifth petition, [which is, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,] we pray, That God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others.

Please pray for God’s healing for Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren, Rev Peter Clements; Bro Kevin Tye; Sisters Wendy Gong, Myung Ki, Michiko Law, Luan Price, Aranka Rejtoe, Susan Veradi, Melissa & Anna Wong, Angie Yuen & Giok Yeo’s sister-in-law, and all others who have been afflicted with winter illness. “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (Ps 55:22).

Please pray for – a) Pastor Ki - as he ministers God’s Word in Korea; b) Cambodia Missions: Rev & Mrs Luke Kim & ministry (Veal Renh), Bro Phannith & family & ministry in Paillin c) Bro Hai Seng Lim – ministry in S’pore, & family in Melb; d) Bro Surish Dharmalingam – exams, health and ministry in Laos, & travelling mercies as he prepares to go to S’pore; e) Expectant mothers – good health for Sisters Michiko and Katie; f) Provision of job – Bro Simon Yeo; g) Journey mercies – Dn Edwin D’Mello (Qld), Bro Joseph Lo & team (Ebenezer BPC - Cambodia); Sisters Susim Toh & Serene Wong (Adl), Peng Ha & Purdee Yeo (Korea), & all participants in the ICCC conference; h) God’s guidance & blessings on ICCC conference in Korea; i) Bro Chris Budiman’s wife and child to join him soon in Adelaide from Indonesia; j) High school and Uni students - assignments & exams; k) Deacon Tony Law - speaker for next Lord’s Day; l) Drought in Australia to end and for good rain to come.
Praise and Thank God for – a) Blessed BSAG & YAF/Teens meetings on Wednesday & Friday respectively; b) Journey mercies - Sisters Serene Wong & Su Sim Toh (Canberra); Bro Chee Chong & Sis Wendy Wong (Sydney), and others who have travelled; c) New premises found for Faith Presbyterian Church - Perth.

Church Budget for 2005-6 is being prepared. All leaders, please submit proposals to Dn Chiew Tan by 12 June.

Brothers Surish Dharmalingam (Laos) and Hai Seng Lim (S’pore) thank all Hopefuls for their prayer support and encouragement.

Special thanks from Bro David Paauwe to Hope Church for allowing him to reside in the Stone Mansion for the past few years.

Greetings to all Hopefuls from Sisters Mee Foon and Kyra (Melb).

Preparations for 20th Anniversary Thanksgiving to start soon. Help needed - if you can, please see Dn David Yeo to assist in starting an organising committee.

Please note: computer/printer in the main office will be restricted to Session and committee members, but that on the Treasurer’s desk is for all other users.



© Hope Bible-Presbyterian Church
14 Bedford Square, Colonel Light Gardens, South Australia 5041