Approaching Trinity through music

Posted: 21st April 2008 by ElShaddai Edwards in Uncategorized

Greg Willson recently posted some thoughts on whether it’s appropriate to represent the forms of Christ and/or the Trinity through music:

So, in relation to the humanity and deity in Christ- we can say they are completely 100% there and yet still compose one Person. It’s as if two violins playing in front of you, sometimes they are playing the same melody, sometimes they are each playing their own. In the world of sound, they are two complete sounds, yet one. Each violin is playing (100%) creating a sound by itself, but the resulting combination of these two is one distinct sound altogether. The same could be used for the Trinity- now we have a trio of violins instead of a duet. Sometimes it seems they are all playing the same melody, sometimes they have melodies of their own. And their combination of sounds becomes one sound, all occupying the same space, yet existing separately.

It’s a fascinating approach – that we can perceive the individual voices in any musical ensemble, yet the whole of the sound is greater than any one participant.

  1. Polycarp says:

    Poetic and Romantic, indeed, but is that biblical? How can your Trinity play different melodies if their is no separation?

  2. Greg says:

    Thanks for the link- doing theology through music is something that really interests me and glad that it does you! Hopefully there can be some good conversation out of this.
    @Polycarp: The metaphor is not so much about the substance of the Trinity as it is a metaphor for the relationship in the Trinity, the pactum salutis, and its implications for us. So it’s not really talking about who the persons of the Trinity are, but how the persons interact. And it’s pretty cool that you’re blogging beyond the grave.

  3. Greg says:

    Actually, now that I’ve thought a little about this, your question, Polycarp, is exactly what the metaphor is addressing- the one and the many. There is one overall sound (no separation) but many sounds (three distinct persons). It is definitely most biblical, and so happens to be poetic and romantic.

  4. I love it, Greg. Metaphors are some of the richest forms of expression that we have in language and I really appreciate how you’ve extended that into music, especially the basic blocks of timbre and rhythm — not the more common narrative elements of leitmotifs, tone painting and compositional structure, although those are equally fascinating to discuss.

  5. Greg says:

    Yeah, I think the church has a lot more to get into in this respect. People like Jeremy Begbie are the tip of what I hope to be a big iceberg.

  6. I noticed the link to his “Theology, Music and Time” book on your site and I’ve added it to my list of things to look at. Have you also looked at “Resounding Truth”?

  7. Greg says:

    No, I’ve not read “Resounding Truth,” but it’s definitely on my summer reading list. I’ve read “Beholding the Glory: Incarnation through the Arts” edited by him and most of the chapters are good, except the music chapter (not the one written by Begbie) interestingly enough. Do you have any favorite authors in this area?

  8. Actually I’ve been reading more on worship practice side of things. Currently I’m finishing up “Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts” by Harold Best (IVP, ISBN: 0830832297), with David Peterson’s “Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship” (IVP Academic, ISBN: 0830826971) next up.

  9. TC says:

    Elshaddai, I like the new look of your blog. Congrats!