Volume. XIX, No. 46
Sunday, 29 May 2005

From the Pastors Heart: Music Components 3Syncopation

I need to talk about syncopation a bit more. I do not believe that syncopation is bad per se, if there is moderation, but syncopated music is not suitable for worship. The problem is that moderation is not being maintained in CCM but using it quite heavily. Syncopated music comes into worship. Before I’ll talk more about syncopation, I believe that the following quotation is helpful. It was written by Louis and Kimberly Schuler (“A Review of the New Trinity Hymnal,” in Rite Reasons Studies in Worship, no. 18, December 1991: Biblical Horizons):

We are also afflicted with another James Ward hymn, "Morning Sun" (NTH #287), which is nothing more than a jumpy version of the hymn tune TOPLADY. This is the perfect example of how not to use rhythm in hymn literature. There are sixteen measures in the melody and only in two of those measures does a text syllable fall on beat one. The technical term for this misplaced beat is syncopation, a very good device when used in moderation. . . . It's like trying to walk with one leg about six inches longer than the other. Syncopation used in this way breaks the principle of tension and release; the over use of syncopation creates tension because the accented syllables rarely fall on the accent of the meter (the first beat). This device, which is a big part of popular music, leaves the listener unsettled because we naturally want to have accented syllables correspond to the accent of the meter. There is an expectation set up with the accent of the meter. When it is denied over and over again, tension results and there is no rest from that tension--there is no sabbath. The rhythm also breaks the principle of unity and diversity. In this case the rhythm is unified to an extreme. Fourteen of the sixteen measures open with the same rhythm. We realize that some hymns may have straight quarter notes throughout (not our favourite either). But the constant quarter note rhythm is not as noticeable because it is not as strong in character as this syncopated rhythm. This overly unified rhythm becomes boring very shortly. It is not good artistry. (http://www.biblicalhorizons.com/rr/rr018.htm)

Carol L. Krumhansl wrote an article, “An Exploratory Study of Musical Emotions and Psychophysiology,” in Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, Dec 1997. She explains about her experiment and some results in her abstract:

A basic issue about musical emotions concerns whether music elicits emotional responses in listeners (the `emotivist' position) or simply expresses emotions that listeners recognize in the music (the 'cognitivist' position). To address this, psychophysiological measures were recorded while listeners heard two excerpts chosen to represent each of three emotions: sad, fear, and happy. The measures covered a fairly wide spectrum of cardiac, vascular, electrodermal, and respiratory functions. Other subjects indicated dynamic changes in emotions they experienced while listening to the music on one of four scales: sad, fear, happy, and tension. Both physiological and emotion judgments were made on a second-by-second basis. The physiological measures all showed a significant effect of music compared to the pre-music interval. A number of analyses, including correlations between physiology and emotion judgments, found significant differences among the excerpts. The sad excerpts produced the largest changes in heart rate, blood pressure, skin conductance and temperature. The fear excerpts produced the largest changes in blood transit time and amplitude. The happy excerpts produced the largest changes in the measures of respiration. These emotion-specific physiological changes only partially replicated those found for nonmusical emotions. The physiological effects of music observed generally support the emotivist view of musical emotions.

Sloboda (1991) reported responses to a questionnaire on musical emotions and examined the music for structural properties corresponding to the reported emotions. A large percentage of the respondents, ranging widely in musical expertise, reported strong physical responses to music. These included tears, shivers down the spine, and heart racing. Instrumental selections were analyzed for musical content. Different structural features were fairly consistently associated with different physical responses. For example, tears were associated with harmony descending on the cycle of fifths to the tonic and melodic appogiaturas. Shivers were associated with enharmonic changes, new or unprepared harmony, and sudden changes of dynamics and texture. Heart racing was associated with repeated syncopation and instances when a prominent event occurred earlier than expected.

It is very clear again that music influences on our mind and, in particular, syncopation is related to heartbeat that excites us. However, we must understand that the effects of syncopation are not natural. We, by nature, tend to return to synchronized fashion of music, not syncopated. Human Brain Mapping reports the following in its volume 14, issue 2: Wiley-Liss Inc., 2001:

For low rhythmic rates (1.0 to ?2.0 Hz), subjects are able to successfully coordinate finger flexion with an external metronome in either a syncopated (between the beats) or synchronized (on each beat) fashion. Beyond this rate, however, syncopation becomes unstable and subjects spontaneously switch to synchronization to maintain a 1:1 stimulus/response relationship. . . .

Linda Cobler says of syncopation. “There are many ways to make a syncopation. A syncopated rhythm can be the only thing happening, as in the first example; or it can be played against a more regular rhythm, as in the second example. Syncopations can happen anywhere: in the melody, the bass, the rhythm section, the chordal accompaniment. Any spot in the rhythm that is normally weak (a weak beat, an upbeat, a sixteenth of a beat, a part of a triplet) can be given emphasis by a syncopation. It can suddenly be made important by a long or high note in the melody, a change in direction of the melody, a chord change, or a written accent. Depending on the speed of the music and the type of syncopation, a syncopated rhythm can make the music sound jaunty, jazzy, unsteady, surprising, uncertain, exciting, or just more interesting” (http://www.omnidisc.com/MUSIC/Lecture1.html). As we can see here, syncopation is not to make music more spiritual but to make it appeal to our flesh. CCM uses syncopation too often and too much.

Lovingly, Your Pastor

More Lively Hope



Shorter Catechism Question 104: What do we pray for in the fourth petition? In the fourth petition, [which is, Give us this day our daily bread,] we pray, That of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy His blessing with them.

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 illness. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).

Please pray for – a) Pastor Ki - as he ministers God’s Word in Korea; b) Cambodia Missions: Rev & Mrs Moses Hahn & ministry in Sihanoukville, Paillin, Battambang, Stung Treng & Kracheh provinces; Preacher Chang & Mandarin ministry in Sihanoukville, & for provision of a van; Khmer pastors and congregations in the provincial cities, towns & villages; Bro Joseph Lo (Ebenezer BPC) & his team as they prepare for Cambodia missions in June; c) Bro Hai Seng Lim – his ministry in S’pore, Malaysia, Thailand & China; d) Bro Surish Dharmalingam – for his exams, health and ministry in Laos; e) Expectant mothers – Sisters Michiko and Katie; f) Provision of job – for Bro Simon Yeo; g) Journey mercies – Sisters Susim Toh & Serene Wong (Canberra), Peng Ha & Purdee Yeo (Korea); h) God’s guidance on ICCC conference in Korea in June; i) Bro Chris Budiman’s Family in Indonesia that they may be able to join him soon in Adelaide; j) High school and Uni students preparing their assignments and exams; k) Faith Presbyterian Church- Perth, for new location for worship; l) Cootamundra Bible Fellowship in Cootamundra (NSW); m) Deacons Tony Law & Edwin D’Mello as they prepare their messages; n) Drought in Australia to end and for good rain to come.

Praise and Thank God for – a) Blessed YAF/Teens Bible Study on Friday; b) AFG meeting yesterday evening; c) Journey mercies - Pastor Ki (S’pore/Korea), & Sis Maureen Tan & family (KI); c) Working bees who came and assisted in yesterday’s clean up in the Stone Mansion.

Church Budget for 2005-6 is being prepared. All fellowship, ministry, & committee group leaders to present their requests for funds to Treasurer, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan, as soon as possible.

Greetings & thanks to all Hopefuls from Bro Joseph and Chrisanthi Selvanayagam & family.



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