Meditations on Singing a New Song

Nature is the one song of praise that never stops singing. — Richard Rohr
 
A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song. — Joan Walsh Anglund

Bless the poets, the workers for justice, the dancers of ceremony, the singers of heartache, the visionaries, all makers and carriers of fresh meaning—We will all make it through, despite politics and wars, despite failures and misunderstandings. There is only love.― Joy Harjo
 
Let people catch something from your heart that will cause no discomfort, but help them to sing. — Rumi

“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!” ― J.K. Rowling

Music can change the world because it can change people.― Bono

SONGS about SINGING & MAKING MUSIC:

I WILL SING a NEW SONG Howard Thurman

The old song of my spirit has wearied itself out.
It has long ago been learned by my heart;
It repeats itself over and over,
bringing no added joy to my days or lift to my spirit.

I will sing a new song.

I must learn the new song for the new needs.
I must fashion new words born of all the new growth
of my life – of my mind – of my spirit.
I must prepare for new melodies that have never been mine before,
that all that is within me may lift my voice unto God.
Therefore, I shall rejoice with each new day
and delight my spirit in each fresh unfolding.
I will sing, this day, a new song unto the Lord.

Singing in the midst of evil is what it means to be disciples. … we, like Mary, are bearers of resurrection, we are made new. … To sing to God amidst sorrow is to defiantly proclaim, like Mary Magdalene did to the apostles, …that death is not the final word. To defiantly say, once again, that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot, will not, shall not overcome it. And so, evil be damned, because even as we go to the grave, we still make our song alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia — Nadia Bolz-Weber

LET IT BE — Paul McCartney

When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer. let it be.

Let it be, let it be …

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light, that shines on me,
shine until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be …

Meditations on MUSIC & SONG

I have the opportunity, once more to right some wrongs, to pray for peace, to plant some trees, and sing more joyful songs. — William Arthur Ward

Because Music is a language that lives in the spiritual realms, we can hear it, we can notate it and create it, but we cannot hold it in our hands. ― Joy Harjo
 
We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives. — Toni Morrison

Who hears music, feels his solitude Peopled at once. ― Robert Browning
 
I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things. ― Tom Waits

Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio. ― Hunter S. Thompson

Adversity in life does not rob your heart of beauty. It simply teaches it a new song to sing. — Karen White

Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without. ― Confucius
 
And could love free me from the shadows? Can a caged bird sing only the song it knows or can it learn a new song? —Angela Carter
 
It’s a new day, it’s a new season, it’s time to sing a new song and it’s time to put on the dancing shoes. – — Euginia Herlihy
 
Music is the great uniter. An incredible force. Something that people who differ on everything and anything else can have in common. ― Sarah Dessen

The poets of each generation seldom sing a new song. They turn to themes men always have loved, and sing them in the mode of their times.—Clarence Day

Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies. ― Edward Bulwer Lytton
 
Sing me a new song; the world is transfigured; all the Heavens are rejoicing.— Friedrich Nietzsche
 
The heart is sometimes tainted with the songs of yesterday. Sing a new song today.— Steven Aitchison
 
It’s nice to play new songs, but it’s nerve-wracking. — Samuel Ervin Beam

It was the moment I realized what music can do to people, how it can make you hurt and feel so good all at once. ― Nina LaCour

Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens. ― Maria von Trapp

Beethoven tells you what it’s like to be Beethoven and Mozart tells you what it’s like to be human. Bach tells you what it’s like to be the universe. ― Douglas Adams
 
I’m self-deprecating, but I’m an artist, too. I have to write new songs to chronicle stuff for myself. I write a song like ‘Middle Age’ or ‘Responsibility’ or ‘I Just Work Here,’ and it’s about how bleak life can be. But it’s real. — Steve Forbert

When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest. — Henry David Thoreau

Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music. ― George Eliot
 

I have no reason to sit home and write songs all day without going out and playing for the folks. And I have no reason to go play for the folks unless I’m writing new songs so they can sort of feed off one another. And I just try to do the best I can. — Guy Clark
 
Where words leave off, music begins.― Heinrich Heine

My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary. ― Martin Luther

He took his pain and turned it into something beautiful. Into something that people connect to. And that’s what good music does. It speaks to you. It changes you. ― Hannah Harrington

Where words fail, music speaks. ― Hans Christian Andersen

I do feel most at home playing live, but the feeling of getting into the studio to see the new songs take shape was really incredible. — Jason Mraz

Music is the universal language of mankind. ― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

HISTORY of MUSIC — wikipedia.org, article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_music

Although definitions of music vary wildly throughout the world, every known culture partakes in it, and music is thus considered a cultural universal. The origins of music remain highly contentious; commentators often relate it to the origin of language, with much disagreement surrounding whether music arose before, after or simultaneously with language. Many theories have been proposed by scholars from a wide range of disciplines, though none have achieved wide approval. Most cultures have their own mythical origins concerning the invention of music, generally rooted in their respective mythological, religious or philosophical beliefs.

The music of prehistoric cultures is first firmly dated to c. 40,000 BP of the Upper Paleolithic by evidence of bone flutes, though it remains unclear whether or not the actual origins lie in the earlier Middle Paleolithic period (300,000 to 50,000 BP). There is little known about prehistoric music, with traces mainly limited to some simple flutes and percussion instruments. However, such evidence indicates that music existed to some extent in prehistoric societies such as the Xia dynasty and the Indus Valley civilisation. Upon the development of writing, the music of literate civilizations—ancient music—was present in the major Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Indian, Persian, Mesopotamian, and Middle Eastern societies. It is difficult to make many generalizations about ancient music as a whole, but from what is known it was often characterized by monophony and improvisation. In ancient song forms, the texts were closely aligned with music, and though the oldest extant musical notation survives from this period, many texts survive without their accompanying music, such as the Rigveda and the Shijing Classic of Poetry. The eventual emergence of the Silk Road and increasing contact between cultures led to the transmission and exchange of musical ideas, practices, and instruments. Such interaction led to the Tang dynasty‘s music being heavily influenced by Central Asian traditions, while the Tang dynasty’s music, the Japanese gagaku and Korean court music each influenced each other.

Historically, religions have often been catalysts for music. The Vedas of Hinduism immensely influenced Indian classical music, while the Five Classics of Confucianism laid the basis for subsequent Chinese music. Following the rapid spread of Islam in the 6th century, Islamic music dominated Persia and the Arab world, and the Islamic Golden Age saw the presence of numerous important music theorists. Music written for and by the early Christian Church properly inaugurates the Western classical music tradition,[1] which continues into medieval music where polyphony, staff notation and nascent forms of many modern instruments developed. In addition to religion or the lack thereof, a society’s music is influenced by all other aspects of its culture, including social and economic organization and experience, climate, and access to technology. Many cultures have coupled music with other art forms, such as the Chinese four arts and the medieval quadrivium. The emotions and ideas that music expresses, the situations in which music is played and listened to, and the attitudes toward musicians and composers all vary between regions and periods. Many cultures have or continue to distinguish between art music (or ‘classical music’), folk music, and popular music.

CAGED BIRD —  Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps

on the back of the wind   

and floats downstream   

till the current ends

and dips his wing

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and   

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   

with a fearful trill   

of things unknown   

but longed for still   

and his tune is heard   

on the distant hill   

for the caged bird   

sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn

and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   

with a fearful trill   

of things unknown   

but longed for still   

and his tune is heard   

on the distant hill   

for the caged bird   

sings of freedom.

FAITH-BASED COMMENTARY

There are many ways to the Divine. I have chosen the ways of song, dance, and laughter. — Rumi

… Thank you for the reminder that theology may divide but hymns always unite. — Randy Biery

Let us sing a new song, not with our lips, but with our lives. -— Saint Augustine
 
God is always working to make His children aware of a dream that remains alive beneath the rubble of every shattered dream, a new dream that when realized will release a new song, sung with tears, till God wipes them away and we sing with nothing but joy in our hearts. — Larry Crabb
 
      … Many of us may or may not intellectually assent to the same doctrinal and theological propositions we were taught, but the music that we made from our bodies, the vibrations of song created and shared in communal expression is still ours. And I believe that the sentiment these hymns can evoke from within us …that that is also faith. (These days, my idea of what constitutes “faith” keeps expanding!)
Sometimes hymns are my creeds, my first language, the texts of my faith which have formed me from even before I was born. If I grow to be an old woman whose mind softens at the edges of reality, I may not know my own name or the names of my children and grandchildren, but I am certain I will still know every single word to Great Is Thy Faithfulness. No matter what my mind holds, agrees to, or understands, I will always be standing on the promises of God, because the hymns I have sung throughout my life will never let me go. And for this I give thanks. — Nadia Bolz-Weber, full post: https://thecorners.substack.com/p/singing-hymns-alone

       It is a season of new songs. 
       It is a season of new people, new prayers, new questions. 
        At first, the liturgy of the Episcopal Church captured me with its novelty. The chants and collects, calls and responses were a refreshing departure from the contemporary evangelical worship I’d come to associate with all my evangelical baggage.  I liked confessing and receiving communion each week. I liked reciting the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed together in community. I liked the smells and bells. Each Sunday I’d stuff the sandy-colored bulletin in my purse so I could go home and study the rhythm of this worship, imbibing the poetry of those holy words. 
        We didn’t know many people then. I kept my eyes on the floor as I walked away from the Table on Sundays, afraid of exchanging too many warm smiles, afraid of becoming too familiar to these kind, religious people who, like all kind, religious people will inevitably disappoint and be disappointed. The melodies of the hymns remained largely inscrutable to my untrained ears, except for when the director of music, (raised Pentecostal),  threw in an “Amazing Grace” or “Rock of Ages” and I sang loud and badly just to hear my voice grip those solid words again.
       But we’ve been showing up for nearly six months now, and so it is a different sort of beauty I encounter on Sunday mornings these days—the beauty of familiarity, of sweet routine.
       I know the order of service now. I know it well enough to have favorite parts, to skim ahead when I’m hungry or restless, to get the songs stuck in my head. And we know the people too, not merely as strange faces gathered around the Table but as the Alabama fan, the new mom, the student who loves talking theology, the quilting club, the recovering fundamentalists, the friends. Yesterday, my eyes clouded with tears as the choir sang I Shall See,” somehow pulling every frantic, disparate prayer from the week into a single sweet plea. The music director told me  the song made her think of me. 
      It is a season of new songs.
      It is a season of receiving, of being loved just for showing up. 
I am holding all these gifts gingerly, like fragile blue eggs I’m afraid to break. I am holding them the way I hold that white wafer in my cupped, open hands—grateful, relieved, and still just a little bit frightened of what will happen when I take it and eat. — Rachel Held Evans, full post: https://rachelheldevans.com/blog/new-son

MUSIC in JUDAISM — My Jewish Learning.org

Music has been a part of Jewish life since biblical times, and remains integral to the Jewish religious and cultural experiences. At the moment of Israel’s birth as a nation — the Exodus from Egypt — the Bible tells us that Moses led the people of Israel in a song of divine praise. Music was part of the sacrificial worship in the Temple, and later became part of synagogue prayer services and at-home religious observance. Jewish music tends to blend unique elements with aspects that reflect the cultures in which Jews have lived, composed, played instruments, and sung…
     Jewish religious music includes cantorial music — the music of the professional prayer leader; nusah, the melodies to which traditional prayers are chanted, with different tunes used for different services; modern liturgical music, in which composers set excerpts of Jewish prayer to choral or other music that is not necessarily inherently “Jewish”; cantillation, which is the notes for chanting public readings of the Torah, haftarah(selections from Prophets), and other Jewish sacred texts, such as the Scroll of Ecclesiastes on the festival Sukkot; and nigunim, which are wordless melodies. Different Jewish communities throughout history have produced their own distinctive forms of these different Jewish religious expressions. However, as the global community has grown increasingly connected, so too have the different Jewish communities, resulting in a cross-fertilization of musical styles between Jews of different countries and different denominational affiliations.

JUDEO-CHRISTIAN MUSIC History

Worship with instruments in the Bible starts off in Genesis 4 with Jubal who “the first of all who play the harp and flute.” Moses mentions tamborines and dancing in Exodus as they celebrate the victory at the Red Sea. Then in the days of David and Solomon at the height of temple worship, they had choirs, ram horn (shofar) blowers, cymbal bangers, tamborines and various other percussionists and some stringed instruments (fore-runners to guitars like the lyre, ….) at the temple for celebrations of worship. It was probably very loud, and quite dissonant to our ears. And when people complain about the loud drums, besides the Psalm 150:5 “Praise him with the loud/clashing cymbals” you can check out 1 Chronicles 15 and 16 and notice that King David put Asaph in charge of the worship music and his instrument was… the cymbals? Why? Pragmatic of course: the cymbals are louder and more rhythmic of all the instruments, so it is the most logical for helping to keep the band in time! This orchestration lasted for many years, depending on the state of the temple. See Nehemiah 12 for a description and remember every time you read “trumpet” that you are talking about a shofar, not a modern finely tuned diatonic instrument. Psalm 150 makes it clear that we are free to use all the instruments we can find to worship God with. — musicacademy.com, full article: https://www.musicademy.com/history-worship-music-old-new-testament-to-rock-and-roll/

MUSIC and ISLAM — Hussein Rashid, Hofstra University, article: https://asiasociety.org/arts/music-and-islam-deeper-look

… The debate among Muslims is not about the permissibility of audio art, but about what kind of audio arts are permissible. The Qur’an, the first source of legal authority for Muslims, contains no direct references to music. Legal scholars use the hadith (saying and actions of Prophet Muhammad) as another source of authority, and have found conflicting evidence in it. The consensus that has emerged is that the audio arts fall into three broad categories: legitimate, controversial, and illegitimate. Qira’at, the call to prayer, religious chants and the like are all considered legitimate. Controversial audio arts include almost all other types of music. Illegitimate audio arts are considered to be those that take people away from the commandments of the faith. Music that leads to drinking or licentious behavior is considered illegitimate. Depending on the community of interpretation, one can find devotional music legitimate, controversial, or illegitimate.
    
Sufis, a broad category for a group of Muslims who generally take on a more personal and esoteric approach to the faith, argue that devotional audio arts must be bound by three things to be considered legitimate: time, place, and companions. Al-Ghazali, the famed 11th/12th century Sunni Muslim, argues that a good time is one that allows you to complete religious and societal obligations and no diversion should take time away from performing obligations. The place for the performance of audio art should be an appropriate setting– no concerts in masjids, and no performances in bars. Finally, the companions, the people surrounding the listener, should encourage the best in the listener.
    
The 10th century philosophical group, the Ikhwan as-Safa, argue that the truest audio art is the Voice of God, which the Prophet Moses heard at Sinai. When Moses heard the Voice, he moved beyond the need for earthly music. Based on this moment, the Ikhwan as-Safa believe that human audio arts are necessary echoes to remind us of the true music. The 15th century Persian mystical poet Jami says that in the Qur’an, when God says He is blowing life into the form of man (38:72) it should be understood that human beings are the first musical instrument. The famous Sufi poet Rumi (13th century) also plays with the idea of human beings as musical instruments. He opens his work the Mathnawi, perhaps one of his most famous poems, with the lines, “Listen to the reed as it tells a tale/ a tale of separation,” a statement on the human condition of removal from the Divine. It is also argued that the Prophet David (who authored the Psalms according to Muslims) and the Prophet Solomon both had beautiful voices and sang freely….

Reflections on the common table: who has a seat?

If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health.― Shauna Niequist

If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. — Michael Enzi

I feign fullness, but in reality I am achingly empty. And it is because I too often sit at the table of the world instead of the feet of God. ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

SONGS about SHARING FOOD & ENJOYING LIFE:

The Thanksgivings Harriet Maxwell Converse
We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here          
to praise Him. We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered          
that these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products          
to live on. We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs          
for our lands. We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming          
from them for us all. We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows          
for our shelter. We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder          
and lightning that water the earth.
We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun          
that works for our good. We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees and vines.
We thank Him for his goodness in making the forests, and thank          
all its trees. We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being          
of the darkness that gives us light, the moon.
We thank Him for the bright spots in the skies that give us signs,          
the stars. We give Him thanks for our supporters,
who had charge of our harvests.
We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard          
through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.
We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant          
occasion. We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit’s music,          
and hope they will be privileged to continue in his faith.
We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies          
on this occasion.

Table Blessing — Jan Richardson

To your table
you bid us come.
You have set the places,
you have poured the wine,
and there is always room,
you say,
for one more.

And so we come.
From the streets
and from the alleys
we come.

From the deserts
and from the hills
we come.

From the ravages of poverty
and from the palaces of privilege
we come.

Running,
limping,
carried,
we come.

We are bloodied with our wars,
we are wearied with our wounds,
we carry our dead within us,
and we reckon with their ghosts.

We hold the seeds of healing,
we dream of a new creation,
we know the things
that make for peace,
and we struggle to give them wings.

And yet, to your table
we come.
Hungering for your bread,
we come;
thirsting for your wine,
we come;
singing your song
in every language,
speaking your name
in every tongue,
in conflict and in communion,
in discord and in desire,
we come,
O God of Wisdom,
we come

SHARED MEAL: Commentary

Food feeds our souls. It is the single great unifier across all cultures. The table offers a sanctuary and a place to come together for unity and understanding. — Lidia Bastianich
 

The heart is cooking a pot of food for you. Be patient until it is cooked. — Rumi

The table is a meeting place, a gathering ground, the source of sustenance and nourishment, festivity, safety, and satisfaction. A person cooking is a person giving: Even the simplest food is a gift. — Laurie Colwin

There are times when wisdom cannot be found in the chambers of parliament or the halls of academia but at the unpretentious setting of the kitchen table. ― E.A. Bucchianeri

It’s around the table and in the preparation of food that we learn about ourselves and about the world. —Alice Waters

They all know the truth, that there are only three subjects worth talking about. At least here in these parts,” he says, “The weather, which, as they’re farmers, affects everything else. Dying and birthing, of both people and animals. And what we eat – this last item comprising what we ate the day before and what we’re planning to eat tomorrow. And all three of these major subjects encompass, in one way or another, philosophy, psychology, sociology, anthropology, the physical sciences, history, art, literature, and religion. We get around to sparring about all that counts in life but we usually do it while we’re talking about food, it being a subject inseparable from every other subject. It’s the table and the bed that count in life. And everything else we do, we do so we can get back to the table, back to the bed. ― Marlena De Blasi

Meals are significant because you are in close quarters with someone. Your hands are reaching into the same dishes. It is a clear act of welcoming, accepting, and befriending. It was the precise thing that you did not do with the social pariahs. It was the precise thing that the social outcast wanted: community. — Dave Dunham

You’ve spent the whole of your life filling your plate with the scraps that life has thrown your way. And even so, you feel horribly undeserving of these. But please understand that there is a glorious table generously spread with everything that you will ever need. And you might think about the fact that God sits at that very table staring at an empty chair that has your name on it. So, maybe you should step up and RSVP the God who is desperate to see you in that chair. ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

A SEAT at the TABLE: Including Stakeholders
 
I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights. — Desmond Tutu

To share a table with someone is to share everything. ― Paul Krueger

A good life does not mean just good food, good clothes, good shelter. These are not sufficient. A good motivation is what is needed—compassion, without dogmatism, without complicated philosophy—just understanding that others are human brothers and sisters and respecting their rights and human dignity. — Dalai Lama

No matter what message you are about to deliver somewhere, whether it is holding out a hand of friendship, or making clear that you disapprove of something, is the fact that the person sitting across the table is a human being, so the goal is to always establish common ground. — Madeleine Albright
 
All of your stakeholders have to have the right seat at the table, and they all have to be successful. It’s hard to do, but you have to keep your eye on developing a meaningful relationship where it is beneficial for them. Then you work backwards from there. —Brian France

If I am more fortunate than others I need to build a longer table not a taller fence. —Tamlyn Tomita

We don’t come to the table to fight or to defend. We don’t come to prove or to conquer, to draw lines in the sand or to stir up trouble. We come to the table because our hunger brings us there. We come with a need, with fragility, with an admission of our humanity. The table is the great equalizer, the level playing field many of us have been looking everywhere for. The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children. We allow someone else to meet our need. In a world that prides people on not having needs, on going longer and faster, on going without, on powering through, the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel. ― Shauna Niequist

It is not necessary that you leave the house. Remain at your table and listen. Do not even listen, only wait. Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone. The world will present itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, in ecstasy it will writhe at your feet. — Franz Kafka

The best thing we can do for the poor is offer them a place of welcome and community. Our first priority in social involvement is to be the church, a community of welcome to, and inclusion of, the marginalized. This needs to go deeper than a warm handshake at the door. People are often unaware of how much the culture of their church is shaped by their social class. Someone at the door of a church, for example, may hand a newcomer a hymnbook, Bible, service guide, and bulletin with a smile and greeting without realizing how intimidating these can be to someone from a nonliterate culture. The social activities to which the poor are invited, the decision-making processes of the church, the unwritten dress codes, the style of teaching can all be alien to the marginalized. As a result, however warm the welcome, the poor can feel marginalized within the church just as they are outside. (Total Church, 81-82) — Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

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