Throughout history, people from a variety of backgrounds have commented on the relationship between music and language. Several say that music transcends language; some refer to music as being another language; others believe music actually speaks. In spite of a diversity of responses, there is still a collective sense that music and language are intriguingly related—a profound, intuitive awareness of some type of bonding agent between the two. Music has also been perceived throughout history to possess meaning and power, both on a grand, cosmic level and an anthropic, human level. For the Greek philosopher Plato, music acted as something that “[implanted] cosmic harmony into the soul of humans,” while in the Old Testament of the Bible, “[w]henever the spirit from God troubled Saul, David would pick up his harp and play, and Saul would then be relieved, feel better.”
Music moves listeners powerfully and communicates meaning in ways that are often difficult or impossible to express in words. In this paper, I wish to explore the essence of these musical moments and attempt to articulate why they occur from a theological framework. This framework will consist of demonstrating a connection between language and music, discussing how music is able to possess meaning, and showing that throughout the Bible, people have responded to the transcendent and immanent presence of the Triune God working in and through creation musically. With this framework in place, I will conclude this paper by discussing how music has the capacity to reveal three essential qualities of what it means to be fully human in a world where God is fully present: hope, faith, and love.
Musicology, psychoacoustics, neurobiology, neuropsychology, neuromusicology, music cognition, neuroimaging, music philosophy, music semiology, linguistics, theology, musical meaning
Cates, Brian R., "He Started the Whole World Singing a Song" (2014). B.A. in Music Senior Capstone Projects. 12.
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