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WRITERS' SCHOOL
 INTRODUCTION      NEW!
 
ENRICHMENT
 CLASSICAL VOCAB
 WORLD CHRONOLOGY
 WORLD GEOGRAPHY  
 HISTORY OF MUSIC    
 LITERATURE
 SYMPOSIA
 
 
MUSIC & THE FAMILY
by Jared Haselbarth, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary
March 26th, 2010
St. Jerome (347-420) was both a holy man and a master of the classical liberal arts and for that reason equipped to teach the Bible to the Church.  He is responsible for the translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin, which we call the Vulgate.
 
THE ORIGIN AND PURPOSE OF MUSIC
     
   
     

One of the greatest gifts given to man in the creation of the world is music. There is no human being that is not influenced by music's mystical power. From the soft whispers of a mother's song for her newborn child to the monumental overtures that can unite nations and armies, music flourishes in all human cultures. We see this being the case from the beginning of man's existence until now.
 
But where did music come from? What is its purpose? Why did God create music? Can it help us? Can it hurt us?
 
These questions are important questions to the philosopher - and they should be for your family as well. The modern world does not take the time to seek answers to these questions. But the CLAA, beginning with its Music History course and continuing with music theory courses, will not leave these questions unanswered. If music is such a significant part of our lives, we ought to be concerned with the reasons for its existence and how to properly use music to serve God.
 
Unfortunately, most families today are not united when it comes to music. Mothers may be listening to the Oldies, fathers are listening to rock and roll, one child is listening to hip-hop, another is listening to the latest pop icon, another has memorized all the High School Musical songs, etc. It should not be so among CLAA families. Music should be that which unites your family - not divides it.
 
The best place to start to achieve this aim would be your commitment to praying the Liturgy of the Hours. This is a time when the whole family can join together in singing hymns and Psalms and experience the spiritual benefits that can come with music. Listen to what St. Basil (330-378 AD) says about the Psalms:

"A Psalm is the tranquility of souls, the arbitrator of peace, restraining the disorder and turbulence of thoughts...[it] drives away demons, summons the help of angels, furnishes arms against nightly terrors, and gives respite from daily toil."
I am sure you did not think the Psalms could do all this for us! St. Basil has this insight into the spiritual benefit of the Psalms because he knew the answers to those questions above concerning the origins and purpose of music. In the CLAA's Music History course, your student will study, as St. Basil did, those same origins and purposes, and discover the development of music through history as part of a great movement glorifying God and sanctifying men. Let us take a glimpse at some of the knowledge that edified a classical understanding of music.
 
THE MUSIC OF THE UNIVERSE
 
Scripture tells us that all the elements of creation are
"in harmony among themselves, like the strings of the harp".
St. Clement of Alexandria (d. 216 AD) reminds us that the Word of God through whom the universe was created
"composed the entire creation into melodious order, and tuned into concert the discord of the elements, that the whole universe might be in harmony with it."  
In these quotes we see our first glimpses into the origin of music. The music created by the Great Musician - God - is built right into creation. It is the silent harmony of the world.
 
Silent harmony?  How can harmony be silent?
 
This question touches upon a great difference in how modern man understands music and how the Catholic mind ought to understand music. The classical world teaches us that music is understood and studied through Reason and not necessarily through the senses. That means that music exists even before man creates audible harmonies. Music is not simply listening to sound.  Rather, music is the study of ratios (Mathematics) and harmonies. Human music ought to mirror God's music. This means that a proper understanding of audible music begins first in Mathematics, and in Natural Philosophy, and in Catechism - all of which contribute to our knowledge of the created world and the purpose of creation. For if in the beginning, God brought order to the chaos, we too ought to bring order to the chaos of our own lives and the world around us. We can achieve this through music.
 
MUSIC CAN MOVE AND HEAL THE SOUL
 
It is often forgotten that King David of Israel was a great musician. After all, he is the author of our Psalms and was a learned harp player. Scripture teaches us something about music when David aides the first King of Israel, Saul, with his musical abilities. Saul would often be afflicted by evil spirits, but in 1 Samuel 16 we read that whenever the evil spirit seized Saul,
"David would take the harp and play, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, for the evil spirit would leave him."
Music therefore, has the ability to affect our very souls.  We are not speaking simply of a stirring of emotions here, either. We are speaking of driving away demons and other spiritual feats!  With this kind of power - does it not make us question the kinds of music that we allow to enter our souls?  Should we not be much more aware of this power in music and do what we can to heal our souls with good music?
 
Look at what the Spanish composer, Christopher Morales (1500 - 1553) has to say on the subject:
"I despise all superficial, frivolous music, and never occupied myself with it. The object of music is to strengthen and ennoble the soul. If it does else, save honor God, and illustrate the thoughts and feelings of great men, it entirely misses its aim..."
Morales was composing at a time when Sacred Music was arriving at new and beautiful heights within history. His words here are strong and we must consider his admonition carefully.  If Morales despised "all superficial, frivolous music", what can we do to turn our hearts to the same disregard for music that cannot build us up?
 
It is important to remember that the music of today's popular culture is cultivated and promoted by a money-driven industry. There is a lot of fame and glamour. There is a lot of lights and noise. Popular musicians rise through the charts, and are forgotten in a generation, or decade, or sometimes a year or month. American Idol glamorizes music and creates a sensation. A sensation - through the senses. Remember what we said about trying to understand music merely through the senses?  It falls short of its original aim. American Idol does not move the soul. It may stir emotion - it may tickle the ear and flash for the eye - but in the end are we any better off in our souls from having listened to the popular music of the day? Especially when that music was created with the goal of increasing profits and glorifying "idols"?  What are we doing with God's gift of music to purify our hearts and rid them of worldly distractions, preparing ourselves for heaven?
 
These questions ought to drive us to discover the true origin and purpose of music and to listen to what the history of music offers us. Common knowledge of music history doesn't usually go back further than, perhaps, the roaring 20s and swing music. And then there was something before that...O, yes, classical music. What before that? Why is it that with a 3500 year heritage full of music, all we can recall is the last 200 years at most? The CLAA's History of Music course seeks to fill in the very large gap here and give students the foundation upon which music grew historically, rather than sending young musicians into the world of profit-driven music making with a limited knowledge of all that music has been, is and needs to be.  In fact, we believe that the next great Catholic musicians to "honor God" and to "strengthen and ennoble the souls" of men will be CLAA students. 
 
THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS 
 
CLAA families have the unique opportunity to recover a spirit of family unity through music with the gift of the LOTH.  Most of us do not know the hymns printed in the LOTH, nor do we know how to chant the Psalms. Well, the CLAA is working to remedy this.  In the meantime though, your family can begin praying the Psalms with St. Basil's description and King David's purposes in mind.  If you don't know the hymn suggested in the LOTH, choose one or two hymns that you already know, and begin singing them daily with your family.
 
Here are a few hymns to get you started:
 
 Holy Holy Holy Lord God Almighty

 Holy God We Praise Thy Name

 Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

 Sing With All The Sons of Glory

 All Creatures of Our God and King

 Now Thank We All Our God

 
 


ABOUT MR.  JARED HASELBARTH



Jared Haselbarth is the Assistant Dean of the Religious Studies Division of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Overbrook PA. He and his wife, Laura, have two young sons. He is happy to be contributing to the CLAA and looks forward to teaching his children the classical liberal arts.

 

Jared recorded his first music CD in 2003. It’s called “Every Color Blue”. You can order one by emailing jaredhaze@gmail.com with your name and address and he will send it to you by mail. Cost is $10 plus $3 shipping.   Click here for a sample:  In the Shade

 

"I love Jared's music and everyone I've ever shared it with has loved it.  It's contemporary, but not corny like so much contemporary music is.  The sounds are clean, the vocals great and it's always good to listen to.  Plus, it's Jared...come on...he writes for the CLAA."   -Mr. Michael

 

 
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