Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Repetitions in Musical Lyrics

The liturgical-type folks often complain about the contemporary-worship folks having songs that repeat choruses over and over, or repeat the same lines again and again. Contrary to those "on my side of the argument," I don't necessarily see that as a problem. I very much like "God the Father, Be Our Stay" which repeats the same prayer, first to the Father, then to the Son, then to the Spirit.

I noticed too that Bach's and Handel's pieces are often very repetitious. It only takes a line or two to write out all the words from a 5-minute piece from the Messiah or from an aria. Similarly, it can be repetitious to pray the Our Father or the Hail Mary or the Jesus Prayer over and over. People may differ on opinions of whether this is good or bad, but it would be inconsistent to say that the meditative repetition is good for the one kind of music but bad for the other kind of music. Maybe we need to admit that there really is a difference in theology between the two kinds of music, and not claim that there's a problem with the style.


  1. Repetition isn't bad, as long as what you're repeating is something theologically significant and worth remembering or isn't some gateway mantra into a feeling without the word.

  2. I agree, Dan. But haven't you often heard the complaint about contemp worship, "Well, they just keep repeating the same thing over and over"? And I don't think that's a valid thing to disagree with.

  3. Re: your comments...Ha!

    I understand the 7-11 slam...the proper way to address that is usually those songs could be sung to about any god. Consider the songs that sing "I exalt Thee" with hands in the air over and over again. Also, the "holy, holy, holy" in Open the Eyes of My Heart. How many people unpack that holy, holy, holy and realize that it's the worship of angels and archangels? Or is it just supporting the "I want to see you"?

    But yeah, vain repetition in and of itself is a poorer argument than others to be made.