Not liking music?

“Sing lustily, and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.”

no-music-150x150A half dozen years ago, someone posted this to Yahoo! Answers:
“I don’t like music. At all. Any of it. Does this have a name? To me, music is an intrusive noise. It gets in the way of my thoughts and prevents my structuring a sentence.”

She goes on complaining that others try to share different types of music, but her reaction is the same. Some of the folks answering her find this either bizarre or else they too do suggest she hasn’t been exposed to the right kind of music.

But now, researchers say that some people lack the ability to get pleasure from music. There’s even a fancy phrase for it: “specific musical anhedonia.” Of course, I find it a little odd, but we’re all constructed differently.

There is even a musical reward questionnaire out there. I was slightly disappointed that all my answers were in the “normal” range for music enjoyment (40 to 60), with “social” being the highest, with a 59.

Jaquandor did one of his random Wednesday conversation starters a few weeks back: “How much do you sing? Publicly? In a choir, or solo? Only at home amongst friends? Only in the car or the shower?” I was really sad to read one response:

Never. When I was 10 years old I was told not to sing in church. We were doing some kind of Christmas thing and each Sunday school class was going to sing in front of the church. The Sunday school teacher kept trying coach me and finally gave up and told me to just move my lips. I guess that warped me for life because it’s been many years since I’ve even felt like singing.

I thought this was terrible! Someone sucked the joy of singing right out of this person’s life, and at such an early age.

As a former Methodist and long-time choir member, I am well aware of John Wesley’s Rules for Singing (1761), my favorite of which is this:

“Sing lustily, and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of it being heard, then when you sing the songs of Satan.”

H is for (Methodist) Hymnals

I don’t know how many of those hymns were meant to be sung, because – I neglected to mention – there is no music in the book, only lyrics! Evidently, “everybody” already knew the tunes.


When I was growing up at Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church in Binghamton, NY in the 1960s, we used a hymnal that looked exactly like this. (A.M.E. stands for African Methodist Episcopal.) The first hymn was Holy, Holy, Holy [listen], and when I was younger, I mistakenly believed that the phrase “Blessed Trinity” was a reference to my church, rather than to the preceding phrase, “God in three persons.”

The Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) initiated the process of creating a new hymnal in 1928, with Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MEC,S) joining in 1930, and the Methodist Protestant Church (MPC) soon thereafter. The hymnal has a 1932 original copyright date. Not incidentally, “The Methodist Church was the name adopted by the Methodist denomination formed in the US by the reunion on May 10, 1939, of the northern and southern factions of the MEC with the MPC”, the three entities that had created the hymnal. Ironically, since the split within the MEC had arisen over 19th-century treatment of blacks, the newly-formed Methodist Church created a segregated entity known as the Central Jurisdiction as a compromise.

Still, the hymnal was of such quality that the black Methodist churches (A.M.E., A.M.E. Zion, C.M.E., and others) often adopted it.

But once the United Methodist Church was created in 1968 by the union of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, getting rid of the Central Jurisdiction, I suppose the powers that be decided that the UMC needed a hymnal of its own.

When I started attending the United Methodist Church in Albany in the mid-1980s, coincidentally also called Trinity, they were using a different hymnal (the red one). Still, many of the congregants at that time referred to the hymnal I grew up with as the “real Methodist hymnal,” such was the universality of its use, due to the quality of its structure of the Christian life.

Still, the black hymnal may not be my favorite. That title might fall to the one pictured below; the one to the left looks more like mine, in terms of condition. It has an 1849 copyright date. In the mid-1980s, my girlfriend at the time bought it for me for the handsome sum of $2.50. It has a LOT of hymns by Charles Wesley, many more than in subsequent iterations, starting with O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing [listen] on the first page, and including Hark! the Herald Angels Sing and Christ, the Lord, is Risen Today, plus a whole bunch with which I am not familiar.


And I don’t know how many of those hymns were meant to be sung, because – I neglected to mention – there is no music in the book, only lyrics! Evidently, “everybody” already knew the tunes.

It too had a structure, but in addition to those in the 1932 hymnal, it also included Duties & Trials, and Humiliation. Fun stuff!

ABC Wednesday – Round 9

Roger Answers Your Questions, Tom the Mayor and Jaquandor

Presbyterians are much more deliberative than Methodists.

Jaquandor, the Buffalo area’s finest blogger, asks:

1. Are there any words you dislike, just because of the sound of them and not necessarily the meaning?

Used to be that German words I tended to dislike as too guttural. The K sound would get stuck on the roof of my mouth. But I’ve mellowed, and nothing immediately comes to mind.

2. Are there any subjects you really want to know more about and yet never seem to get around to learning about?

Oh, yeah, dozens, everything from various sciences, such as astronomy and botany; to languages, which I do not seem to have a talent for, starting with Spanish and Latin. But I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I probably won’t do anything about it unless I give up something else, and evidently, I’m not willing to do that.

3. Are you surprised that gay marriage passed in New York? (I am, a little….)

Heck, yeah. It failed miserably some 600 days earlier when the State Senate was controlled by the Democrats. OK, “controlled” is probably an overstatement, since it was pretty chaotic. The last two governors supported it, and it didn’t matter. And it passes with a Republican-controlled Senate? More like shocked.
***
Tom the Mayor, once a mail order whiz at FantaCo, among other attributes, asks:

Are all the members of your church as Liberal as you are? could you be a good Christian, yet disagree with the beliefs of your church’s leaders?

Tom asks simple questions which I will complicate in answering.

Somehow, as a result of singing in my old church choir at my grandmother’s funeral in May 1983, it got me to decide to start attending church again, after more than a decade of mostly not going. But I couldn’t just go back to a church like the one from my childhood, which I loved then, but found that my theological development was not in tune with that church’s theological positions.

So I went church shopping.

When I first attended Trinity United Methodist Church, it was June 13, 1982. I remember this quite well because the day before, I was at an anti-nuke rally in New York City. The minister, the late Stan Moore, said something quite positive about the rally in his sermon, and this endeared him, and the church, to me. While the shopping continued for some months, I decided I wanted to be there by the end of the year, though I didn’t actually join until December 1984.

In that congregation, I did have leadership roles, first as vice-chair, then chair of the Administrative Board, which was the church’s meeting of the whole, then chair of the Council on Ministries, which was the chairs of the major service committees. I left, not because of theology, but autocracy, involving a change in church structure under a subsequent minister which made it less accountable to the congregation.

I started attending First Presbyterian in the spring of 2000 and joined in 2002. At some point, I was an elder there, but didn’t enjoy it; I think I’m all meetinged out.

So to your actual question: if by the church, you mean the congregation, most of them are as liberal as I am, though by no means all of them. I remember having a conversation with one of them at the (late) YMCA, where you used to work. He mentioned that one of the Clintons, Bill or Hillary, was having a book come out, and he, who reads the New York Post, a conservative tabloid, every day, said he was sure that I would be buying the book from that “liberal”. I surprised him by stating that I didn’t think the Clintons were liberal at all.

If you mean the Presbyterian Church USA, our congregation is definitely more liberal than some. But of course, this depends on your meaning of liberal. If feeding the hungry, clothing the needy is “liberal”, then it’s almost the whole denomination that is liberal. If it’s something such as the role of gays in the life of the church, the Albany Presbytery, which represents our church, is more progressive than others. But given the fact that the PCUSA denomination in 1997 created MORE restrictive language re participation of gays as ministers, elders, and deacons, then in May 2011 agreed to less restrictive language, not many people bolted the church when either event occurred.

Presbyterians are much more deliberative than Methodists. The fact that our Presbytery was at odds – no, too harsh, disagreed – with the PCUSA on gay ordination for over a decade was surprisingly not a big deal.

Oh, one other thing: I wanted Trinity UMC to take more of a stand on gay rights issues when I was involved there in the 1990s. It was downplayed because the church had “made a proclamation” back in 1979 or 1975, or whenever, which preceded my tenure there, and that seemed, to some, to be enough. So it’s not just a matter of beliefs; it’s acting on the beliefs, regularly. My current congregation participates in the Gay Pride parade annually, with our rainbow tapestry hanging from the bell tower as well as over the entrance, as an ongoing, living, breathing statement of faith.

Did I actually answer the question?

A Trifurcated Fourth

My wife’s been irritated by our new neighbors since she saw one of them empty her partially empty beer bottles from the third-story porch to the flower bed at ground level.

I really enjoyed the first part of July 4th; the second part, not so much.

We were getting ready for church. My wife seemed to be moving rather casually to get to the FOCUS joint worship service at 9:30. Apparently, she had it in her mind that the service was at 10:30. When I occasionally complain that my wife operates on assumptions not based on fact, this would be a good example.

Plan B: to go to Emmaus United Methodist Church in our neighborhood. As I have mentioned, I stopped going to the other Methodist Church, Trinity, a decade ago. This service started with an African choir of mostly teenagers. Continue reading “A Trifurcated Fourth”