Wednesday, April 16, 2008


This weekend I had an opportunity to hear a Wycliffe missionary couple speak regarding Ethnomusicology with tribal cultures. Their goal is to provide cultures meaningful music to interact with deeper thoughts and emotions (not just translating Western hymns/choruses). To do that they listen/record the local music that appeals to the people then help set scripture to music of that culture so that it will speak to the people’s hearts and truly minister (going along with Wycliffe’s goal of God’s word being accessible to all people in the language of their heart). They evaluate the local resources, instruments, etc. and see what they want to use. In some cases, certain instruments have been used for pagan ceremonies so they contemplate whether to use them, knowing that God can redeem instruments/elements of secular music, etc. They said that music is not the universal language in that it is not universally understood and reactions to it are not the same. They use local language and music traditions, the sounds of which may even seem odd or evil to us, but not to the nationals. He played some music for us—one song was in a minor key and sounded like a dirge, yet the lyrics talked about how it was God who makes them so happy. It seemed so ironic, yet he said that the music really did appeal to the local people and did lift their spirits. I found their talk fascinating and saw some parallels with some of the challenges I have selecting music for my Community Bible Study group trying to make the music and worship meaningful with a group coming from many different backgrounds.