Heavenly Polyphony (or: Why I think angels sing in SATB)

I found this while going through my old writing files. The date on it was 23 Feb 2012. I wonder why I never published it; anyway, here it is. My views haven’t changed.

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Music is a strange thing. I would almost say it is a miracle. For it stands halfway between thought and phenomenon, between spirit and matter.
– Heinrich Heine, 1797 – 1856

Music is the only sensual pleasure without vice.
– Dr Samuel Johnson, 1709 – 1784

Alone, unaccompanied, the human voice is a divine thing. So many different spoken voices, so many different singing voices, all unique. Arrange them together a capella in SATB, and you get more than just a chorus, but something exponentially wondrous.

God spoke, and made the world. If we, made in God’s image, can shape our own worlds through speaking… what happens when we start singing? And how much more is that multiplied when you sing together?

I think the medieval believers struck onto this (consciously or not) when they developed plainchant, and then reached the epitome with polyphony. You can’t get “unity amidst diversity” much clearer than this. And I’m certain that the principles that God declared in Genesis 11 are in full force with choral music — in a heavenly way. Heavenly, even in the secularized songs — it doesn’t matter, the principles still function. It may just be me, but I get the shivers listening to ANY choral music, and they are the same shivers I get when I’m conscious of the presence of the Holy Spirit, or in worship. No other music has this quality; not even contemporary praise & worship has it innately. I mean, don’t you feel your heart soaring just listening to these? –Morten Lauridsen’s sacred and non-sacred music. Eric Whitacre’s amazing choral pieces. — I sure do, something fierce, like my inner being threatening to burst out of my chest. Spiritual ecstasy in every sense of the word.

I truly think that choral music is the highest form of worship there is — the medievals took it to the pinnacle, and it’s never quite reached those heights since. We’ll be singing this in heaven, surely. Doesn’t need to be always, but if there’s no choral music to sing in heaven, I’m not going. Srsly.

Or, all this ruminating simply means that I absolutely, totally adore choral music. Egads, absolutely itching to sing in a choir again. Now’s the time, I’m in the perfect place to do it.

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