A Voice in the
Wilderness

site navigation

free newsletter

" Every Jot and Tittle "

Thoughts sparked from
Gunther Schuller interview on Public Radio

"For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 5:18-20)

This morning (Aug6,97) Conductor/arranger Maestro Gunther Schuller was guest during the classical music time on Public Radio; being interviewed, giving his views on music, promoting a book he has written. At first I was upset about all this "talking" going on. Just play the music, Vern! But here and there I was hearing little phrases which piqued my interest, so the rest of the morning I kept an ear tuned to what he was saying. Presumeably he is not a Christian? At least he made no claims to such during the morning. But had many thoughts about music, were we to make the parallels to the Christian life, he would make a "better Christian" than most who make the claim.

In the course of writing a piece of music a composer makes THOUSANDS of decisions/choices. Shall this phrase be resolved with an appoggiatura, or a simple leading tone? Should it end with a staccato'ed quarter note, or eighth note-eighth rest combination? Should the ritard begin on beat 2 or 3? Should the tempo be 90 or 95?

But by the time he is finished with the piece, the music is what the composer has written. Notes, expression marks; everything in great specificity. As a conductor and musicians perform the music, Maestro (M.)Schuller was suggesting that all the nuances of the composer should be understood, or they should not perform it. If I am to perform Mozart, "how DARE I QUESTION the composer's markings!" He put them there for specific reasons. And as a performer I should do what's written.

And yet, as Christians, we have something which dwarfs the genius of Mozart, Beethoven, Bach. God's Word, the Holy Scriptures. How carefully do we adhere to the specificities of "it is written?"(Mt4:4a) How often do we rather, "Oh, God doesn't really care. He's a loving and forgiving God. He knows I don't understand." Well...READ IT! Study it. Learn it. Come to an intimate knowledge of Christ!(Phil3:10)

If a conductor adds extra measures at the beginning of Beethoven's 5th, that is "bad interpretation." M.Schuller suggested that the conductor is either 1) ignorant or 2 arrogant. Either, in ignorance of how to conduct the complex nature of that opening, he adds time to compensate for his own lack of skills...or he feels, "it doesn't matter. I'm the conductor. I can do what I want. I have that liberty. People won't notice." The arrogance! And then, there's the implied..."the score is lying." The composer "couldn't possibly have meant that. I can't do it. Thus, it's not possible. Surely, the composer had something else in mind!"

e.g. What do you mean, we can't have a woman pastor or teacher of a mixed adult class? What? It says the women should "keep silent?" (1Cor14:34) That a woman shouldn't be "over" the man? (1Tim2:12) Well, It doesn't really mean that. That was for a different culture and a different time. Let's check some other translations...and see what they say. Like the serpent's claim to Eve that God had lied, "you shall not surely die...for God knows..."(Gen3:4~)

Another comment of M.Schuller. "Don't interpret music...REALIZE it." The music has been written clearly and plainly. Just do it as written.

"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation."(2Pt1:20) The origins of this word "interpretation" include several things. First of all, Scripture did not "originate" from private human sources/thoughts. Because, as vs21 says, "prophecy never came by the will of man.." The other understanding is that Scripture is "not difficult to explain" It is not "hard to understand."

How often have I not heard the expression of "looking for new truths" from God's Word. Or looking for "hidden truths." Well, as we seek to follow God faithfully, the "how to" is easy to find, because Scripture is really quite simple to understand as far as what It says plainly. All we need to to is "be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."(Jas1:22)

Finally, "the music is exciting...it is beautiful" as written. The composer of the music knows it better than any performers or interpreters. If it is performed as written and annotated, the MUSIC TAKES OVER...not the conductor or orchestra.

Our God, Who wrote the Scriptures, knows them better than any man. He knows it even better than the prophets whom He used to pen its words. e.g. "Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering..(1Pet1:10-12)

God's Word as written is a "lamp to our feet and light to our path.(Ps119:105) The Scriptures, alone, as spoken from His mouth, "shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."(Is55:11) "I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food. (Job23:12)

So, what ignorance and arrogance makes man decide that he must make God's Word "simpler" to understand by modifying it. Making it more politically correct and "user friendly" to accomodate "today's" liberated mentality. Make it "fit" our current society structure, so we don't offend anyone, nor require anyone to change (repent). Just make everybody "feel good" and "loved and accepted."

M.Schuller fully expects he will receive all sorts of reactions to his book which exposes the "liberties taken" by many conductors. His "message" is one that most will not want to hear.

They will Discredit the Messenger. "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.(Jn15:18~)

Discredit the messenger's credentials. You don't know what you're talking about. Don't criticize unless you've been there. M.Schuller performed under all the conductors he exposes. He's been there. He knows. He can say, "I know...I was there." As Christians we are "witnesses of these things."(Lk24:48)

But M.Schuller also recognizes that he is a relative "nobody." His "name" as a conductor is not up there with the greats. "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus."(Acts4:13)

Attacks will come from people whose toes are being stepped on. Jesus said in our opening passage, "Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees." Later, these same leaders "came upon [the disciples] being greatly disturbed that they taught..in Jesus [whom they had just crucified] the resurrection.."(Acts4:2)

But, there will also be those who will sigh, "Finally...Someone is saying it! This needed to be said." And will agree.

Now...back to the main theme. If Beethoven or Mozart wrote a piece of music, the performer/conductor cannot just add notes, bars, various interpretation willy nilly. Doing so makes it cease to be that composer's work. These composers were "geniuses."

The genius said, "This is what I wrote -- this is what you must do."

Thus says the Lord, "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.'"(Is46:9-10) "Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it."(Deut12:32)

The Son says, "till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled."(Mt5:18) You notice the one "who is called great" in the kingdom of heaven is the one who "does and teaches" God's Word...AS IT IS. "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, 'I know Him' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."(1Jn2:3-4)

And finally: to the one who wishes to tamper with God's Word, "If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written...and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the Holy City, and the things which are written in this book."(Rev22:18-19)

Amen!


Return to: Tidbits