The relationship between Music and Religion is closely linked and is known as being a “complex and diverse” one. Music is commonly known for being a universal part of religion in a pleasurable way. For centuries music has been a huge part of the religious culture and has helped to ‘promote’ and ‘influence’ religion by engaging and embracing people in religion. An important reason why music is used in religion is to promote religious values by associating music with religious texts such as singing songs in God/s or Prophet/s names. Singing also shows a great deal of respect and appreciation for life and what happens after death depending on what you believe. For example, if you are christian you may sing songs sung within a church and are mostly related to God, Jesus or are about passages inside the bible. Music has the ability to deepen the meaning of words that accompany it, both in a religious context or even on your local radio station on your way to work. Music so important in religious society because by teaching children at a young age they can experience what it is like to be humble and forgiving towards one another with respect and kindness. The reason I chose this question was because from a young age I was interested in understanding how music has made an impact on religion and I was curious as to how other beliefs and cultures view this subject in their worships, certain celebrations and traditions. I am also exploring how music helps us spiritually and what makes hymns so important.
Celebrations and Traditions
Different religious are celebrated in different ways. In most faiths, music is used to express worship during festivals such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, celebrations, as well as rites of passage. In the Christian and Jewish traditions, many songs have been written for children so they can be used in prayers or have been written to give reason for particular celebrations. It is important that we try to find similarities in how we celebrate certain festivals and holidays so we can learn to understand those that we perceive as being different. An example of this is celebrations such as Sukkot (Judaism) and the Harvest Festival (Christianity) share many similarities, the main one being God is being thanked for the food grown. However the method of celebrating the festivals differs. Music is also used in other parts of religion such as doing meditation, holidays and for mourning.
Imagining a world without music can be very difficult. Music plays an important part in all our lives and we may choose to listen to for our own personal enjoyment from many different kinds of backgrounds, culture and history. Music is all around us and sometimes we might not even be aware of how much we are truly influenced by it all. One of the ways we do this is music often communicates with our emotions, culture, thoughts, transcending race and religion playing a vital role in the spiritual and emotional well being of our lives in relation to religion. Whilst some religions might say that they use music for praying or for worship, other religions might believe that music is taking away the attention of followers away from their God/Prophet or even seen as a devils tool.
Why are Hymns so important?
Hymns are important and sometimes considered sacred with regards to worshiping God/s. They often show respect and may be a solemn form of music filled with lyrics that are often sacred but are created to lift your spirit towards the worship of God. Throughout most church services different types of music are produced in different parts of the ceremony. For example, most churches in Nigeria celebrate thanksgiving and during this time they encourage people to do what’s known as “Dance Praises”.The purpose of this is to worship, singing and dancing while feeling encouraged to stand up and have some fun; to really feel the beat of the music whilst they pray to the lord and show gratitude and kindness to others.
Another form of worshiping with music that thrives in the Nigerian church are hymns which mostly lack lyrical content and have shorter verses which are repeated. Hymns are considered to be more sacred than songs. Therefore, songs that are used to worship can’t take the place of hymns in church worship and hymns are to be considered the benchmark of proper church music. Many religious “texts” have been written to be sung in the form of a hymn and not read.
Music in Worship
Music plays a vital role in worship because often people believe that music helps them to feel safe and calm during worshiping. Soft, soothing music playing in the background helps encourage relaxation and tranquility as well as being a way of life. As part of the Islamic culture, music is incorporated into their worship however the meaning of the music differs. Islamic music is more about their experiences and emotions to music whereas Christian music is more related to bible passages. An example of this is ‘the call’ which is an art that uses 29 tonal patterns and different rythms in their voices to create unique and interesting sounds in their music. The Quran is not only the primarily written word but is first of all the recited word of “Allah”, sounded with precision and acuracy. A number of different styles have been traced all the way back to their origins, to the teaching of ‘Mohammed’ and have been passed down through generations.
Throughout human history some religous behaviors have been found in musical articulation in most religious tradition. The primary carriers of the Sinhala traditional religion are drummers and dancers and the Navajo priests are mostly singers. The Shamans of northern Eurasia and Inner Asia use music as their principal medium of contact with the spirit world. For centuries, monks, priests and other specialists have sung the Christian masses, Buddhist pūjā s, Islamic calls to prayer, Hindu sacrifices, and other ceremonies that form the basis of organised religious observances in the world’s major religions.
In conclusion, music is a universal medium used is almost all religions. There are many similarities in the ways it’s incorporated into the religion as well as many differences. It is an essential and powerful element that enables worshippers to express their beliefs, their innermost thoughts and emotions. Music, when used sensitively, can create an atmosphere of worship, though if it is used insensitively the atmosphere can be destroyed. Composing music, taking part in the performance or simply listening and reflecting evokes a sense of spirituality.