I have decided to take a different tack when I talk to someone about music. Usually, I ask a person what he likes to listen to, or what artists he likes. Why do I ask this question?
Recently I heard a lecture on music and the arts by Dr. Jeremy Begbie. He said that when we focus on our tastes in music, we are inadvertently promoting the view that taste is all that matters—referring to music as if it is something that only follows subjective rules.
I do not believe that Dr. Begbie was saying that anyone who talks about their own tastes necessarily believes that music is subjective. However, he is saying that we should not confine our discussion to what we like. This shocked me. I know that taste is not all that matters, but it is often what I talk about. “What bands do you like?” Dr. Begbie is saying that we need a better question.
I know that I love conversations about music that are directed at my tastes, what I listen to, what I think is good music, and what I think is bad music. How many times did “I” appear in that sentence? Could it be that we just like talking about ourselves more than we like talking about the great and wonderful gift of music given to us by our Creator?
When it comes to listening to music, the most important question is not “Do I like this?” Rather, “What is going on here?” is the more significant inquiry. So much of art in America has been replaced by pure entertainment, which we often gobble up like candy without really examining it. Music is an omnipresent part of life that we cannot afford to ignore. As Christians, we need to understand that the music we listen to has an effect on our souls. We must strive to understand music in a way that brings us closer to God.
Our culture has forgotten to ask questions like this because we have forgotten classical education. We have forgotten the Quadrivium: the four liberal arts which provide a unified understanding of numbers as they appear throughout Creation. Music, mathematics, geometry, and astronomy are subjects that seem unrelated in the modern mindset, but were closely united in the ancient mind.
Whether we educate our children about music or not, they will inevitably receive music education from one source or another. Will it be through a biblical worldview or will it be through the worldview of our culture and media? We hope you attend Toward the Quadrivium, and join the discussion about the importance of music.