Tuesday, 12 August 2008

A psalmic pop-group: The Sons of Korah

I'm currently trying to get through a translation of an essay on the relationship between the German Protestant church and the establishement of the State of Israel which has to be done by tonight. Hence, the paucity of posting. Here's one I drafted before rushing off to Italy. I soon hope to get back to my "mega" thread: principles of Christian exegesis (see the summary so far here).

Richard of תהלים links to a interesting band from Australia, The Sons of Korah. Their music consists in one thing only: singing the Psalms. And I don't think worship music can get any better than that. The leader singer has a PhD in theology/philosphy and has even written a commentary to every Psalm that has appeared on their various albums.

They have a great intro to the importance of the Psalms in worship here, with an interesting bit about the story of the Korah family as a story of God's grace.

You can listen to samples of their music here. I'm delighted to see that they've covered the two Psalms that will be busying me in the near future, Psalms 15 and 24 (click the link for an audio sample). Unfortunately, they are on two separate albums, but then it is my birthday soon ...


Esteban Vázquez said...

Hey, let's can the birthday talk, Sumpter! This is my year to shine, as I turn 30 in but a couple of weeks; you have two year two go to get your chance at the spotlight. But then you'll have to fight Jim West for it, who turns 50 that same year. ;-)

As for singing the Psalms, I listened to the samples and, though they're not my cup of tea, they're very nice--but I much prefer some good old-fashioned Reformed metrical psalm-singing!

c. jay crisostomo said...

Sons of Korah is the only "Christian" music I listen to. I was actually introduced to the group through a friend who is married to one of the former band members. Their blending of styles with the various cultic genres and moods of the individual psalms does the text good justice. Here's hoping many more people discover the group.

Anonymous said...

Well I certainly hope this doesn't turn into the war of the psalm singers, I quite like the stuff the band has done but my preference is some even more old fashioned plainsong.

Phil Sumpter said...

Thank you so much for the links, guys (and sorry for the late reply)!

Esteban, I bow before your advanced years! All the best for the 29th.

I have to say, those two Youtube clips were beautiful. I've been looking for ways to appropriate the Psalms in my own devotional life. They are practically non-existent, as far as the Free Churches that I know go. The one I'm at now is an exception, in that we read a Psalm about once a month.

Luckily, a Gregorian chant fanatic at the Protestant faculty here in Bonn has led a course on the subject over the past two semesters. I only had time to visit 3/4 of the first and the singing of the Divine Office to round of the second and I've since become a major fan myself. I'm not sure what it is, but that monotone somehow helps carry me through the endless text. I feel like I'm floating, observing the content of the Psalm from above. It's as if the "music" creates a space in which I can be alone with the Psalm. This was brought home to me as we chanted a particularly bloodthirsty psalm. On the one hand, the aesthetic of the chapel with the mellow candels, chilled atmosphere and gentle chant didn't gel well with a text about destroying our enemies and grinding their bones into dust. On the other hand, from that "chanting state," I was able to look down from above,as it were, and oberserve what was going on in a different dimension of realty.

I now do it everyday on my own and have managed to stick to it far more consistently than other projects I've tried ... so far. I find that it provides an especially healthy corrective to my otherwise intellectualized engagement with the text, which tends to rush over stuff that one normally thinks "one already understands." It also holds me back from my usual rush to extend my knowledge by reading more and more rather than reading deeper and deeper, which requires far more patience and a special disposition. Oh, and the last benefit of Gregorian chanting, it simply helps me remember the text better. I need less and less read the text and recite everything by heart, which also has the advantage that I can do it wherever I want.

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