Sacred Sounds is a collection of piano arrangements based on sacred hymns and choruses. The links below will take you to a page where you can listen to and view the music:
- They’ll Know we Are Christians
- Behold What Manner of Love
- I Will Sing of the Mercies
- Softly and Tenderly
- The Joy of the Shepherds (A Christmas Medley)
- Crown Him with Many Crowns
- O For a Thousand Tongues
- Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow
Throughout our culture’s musical history, composers have used music (i.e., notes, rhythms, harmonies, etc.) to symbolize something that is non-musical, such as the literal meaning of a word, or an idea, or a picture. When the music reflects words, the symbolism often is referred to as word painting. For example, the word “heaven” might be expressed with an ascending melody. Another type of musical symbolism is called tone painting, where the music expresses a literary or visual idea. Tone painting was used frequently by the nineteenth century composer Richard Strauss, who wrote entire symphonic pieces that told a story or expressed an idea. J.S. Bach also was known to have used musical symbolism in many of his compositions. One of the most famous is the “cross motive,” where a musical figure outlines the shape of the cross.
The arrangements in Sacred Sounds also use musical symbolism to express the meaning of the words from the hymn or chorus, or the idea behind the entire song. Some of the specific symbolism that occurs is explained below, yet, there is no intention to express symbolic meaning in every sound. These arrangements are first and foremost music. Any symbolism is always secondary to the inherent musical requirements of the arrangement.
The hymn tunes also are exploited for their musical possibilities much the way one would study a verse of Scripture to discover the many nuances of its meaning. For example, fragments of a melody are frequently used in a motivic fashion instead of the whole melody, for the sake of emphasizing that portion of the melody. Consequently, these arrangements are meant for listening more so than singing along. You are invited to listen, discover and be inspired by the many ways a familiar tune can flower into an expressive musical passage.
The links to each arrangement above have further notes, and you can listen to the arrangement and see the written music if you wish. I hope you enjoy Sacred Sounds.