The Patch Factor
Before I begin my article, let me take just a moment to commend Kirk Brandenburg for his article. It was well-written and well thought out, and demonstrated his father’s diligent teaching at home. Kirk, you are a credit to your dad’s ministry, and I trust that you will continue to be.
That being said, throughout this month’s topic, we have alluded several times to the fact that some consider the piano to be an effeminate instrument. With apologies to Kirk and others, I am one of those who think that a large number of piano-playing males are effeminate. In this post, I intend to flesh that thought out a bit, so I hope you will “endure to the end.”
First, I do not believe that there is any such thing as an effeminate instrument. Piano included. For crying out loud, the piano is way too heavy to be effeminate. But I digress. I would also include the flute, the pennywhistle, the clarinet, and the harp in my list of instruments that are not effeminate. I will admit that I don’t have a verse on this… my opinion results from a simple observation that I have made. Instruments are gender neutral. They are neither male nor female. Neither masculine nor feminine.
That being said, although I can in no way claim to be a musician (I can’t even play an i-pod), I do think that some instruments are more suitable to women than men, and vice-versa. But since that is a topic for those more expert in musical instruments than myself (starting with Kermit the Frog), I’ll leave that one alone. I believe that any instrument can be played by a man (and no, I don’t believe that ‘like a man’ means either poorly or boorishly), and in a manly fashion, and I believe that the sooner we get that idea in our head, the better off we will be.
Secondly, I believe that a large number of piano-playing men are effeminate. And I believe that the percentage of effeminate piano-playing men increases in proportion with the amount of skill of the piano player. In other words, there is a higher percentage of effeminate male piano-players in the 90th percentile of skilled piano players than there is in the 50th percentile of skilled piano players. And in case the musicians aren’t all offended yet, I believe that this is as true amongst Fundamentalists as it is in the world.
Of course, I am entitled to my opinion, and you are entitled to yours. Admittedly, I haven’t any documentation for my opinion. It is based purely on my own subjective observations and experiences. Nevertheless, I believe that this perception is shared by many. Certainly, this perception is not an unusual one, or it would not have been mentioned so often in this month’s discussion.
Thirdly, I do not say that all piano-playing men are effeminate. My son has been playing the piano for over a year now, and is moving along just fine. Most of the boys in our church are playing some sort of instrument, and we certainly encourage our people to get the entire family to play and sing. So, I am not saying that musicians will turn effeminate. On the contrary, I am making an observation about what is, not a requirement for what must be.
Cause or Effect?
I do not say that music causes young men to become effeminate. I should make that clear from the outset. And yet, for some reason, young men who spend inordinate amounts of time in music tend towards effeminacy. Why is this?
I absolutely deny in no uncertain terms that the problem lies in the nature of music itself. God made music, and made it for men. We do not find very many women who were musicians in the Bible. That does not mean that women cannot be musicians (not to re-hash the regulative principle or anything), but it simply means that in Bible times, the men led in the musical aspects of worship, both instrumental and vocal. One of the manliest men in the Bible, David, is one of the most famous of those musicians. And the musical program in Israel was probably at its zenith during the reign of David, who appointed more than a few men to serve as singers, as players of instruments, as leaders in the musical parts of worship. I do not believe that music softened David, or limped his wrists, or turned him into a regular flaming pretty boy. Somehow, he managed to maintain his masculinity in spite of the hours spent with just him and his harp. The fact is that David’s music contributed to his masculinity, and did not strip him of it.
One reason that young men often turn into prissies when they get into music could be because of the predominate influence of women on music in our day and age. Since I have no experience outside of Fundamentalist churches in this realm, I will limit what I say in the following paragraphs to our circles. We don’t find very many men who teach music in our fundamentalist circles. When we do find one, he is often a little limp in the wrists. If a young man is to be manly in his playing, he will really need the influence of a masculine instrumentalist. Nothing against women teachers here (my son is learning from a lady in the church right now). But when he is older, he will need a man to teach him to play that way.
Another reason that male musicians often get soft could be the lack of sports. My observation would be that young men tend to do one or the other, but not both. In some ways, it makes sense. A piano teacher contracts to get paid, and if your son broke his wrist in a football game, you will lose that money, and he will lose his rhythm, in a manner of speaking. Despite the risks, however, I believe that it is vital to a young man’s future that he be involved in sports in addition to his music. And the further you intend for him to go in music, the more important it is that he be engaged in physically demanding sports. Our boys wrestled for two or three years before they started piano. I don’t intend for them to become professional wrestlers (I’m trying to get them to stop eating boogers already), and I want them to be better at piano (or another instrument) than they are at wrestling. But I want them to learn what it is to get their tail kicked, and to get back up, and to fight again. I believe that the lack of balance in the lives of many young men contributes to the effeminate tendencies.
Yet another reason could be the lack of masculine examples in the world of music. Today especially, there seems to be a great gulf fixed between the men who play sports and the men who play instruments. The manly men play basketball. The others play piano. I believe that this problem is affecting our young men. If we are to return to Biblical masculinity in music, we must work hard to change that perception.
But the biggest single contributor to the effeminacy problem amongst piano-playing men can be traced back to worship. The Bible teaches that we become what we worship (see Psalm 115:1-8 and Psalm 135:15-18). The way we worship also has a strong influence on our outcome. And in this day, effeminate worship plagues God’s people. For the sake of the reader, I will leave the ecumenicals and evangelicals alone. Contemporary music is fun to bash. But lets talk about our own churches for a few minutes. I’m not opposed to Fanny Crosby, and I can think of at least one Ron Hamilton song that I enjoy (Ten Thousand Hallelujahs). But in our churches today, we have replaced the Majestic Hymns of the Faith with “In the Garden” and “Softly and Tenderly.” It has been nearly two years since I wrote on the “In the Garden” thing. I am still amazed at how offended people get when you mention that it is the doctrinal equivalent of Twinkie the Kid. They LIKE that song. But that is just my point. It is nothing in comparison to the great hymns of conquest that churches once sang, back in the day when men were playing the organ for worship.
We have traded Isaac Watts for Francis Havergal. We’ve traded Charles Wesley for Fanny Crosby. We’ve traded “How Firm a Foundation” for “The Savior is Waiting.” We’ve traded “Immortal, Invisible” for “I’m So Happy, and Heeeeerrrres the reason wwwwhhhhhyyyy…” We’ve traded the majesty of our rich heritage of hymnody for little chorus diddies. We’ve traded William Cowper and John Dykes for Mac Lynch and Ron Hamilton. Do we wonder that our boys play like girls? All they’ve ever known is girly worship. They think that is the way it is supposed to be.
Until we return to Psalm-singing, until we restore the great old hymns of conquest, we will continue to produce piano-playing mamma’s boys. We can call it the Patch factor. So long as the predominate influence within fundamentalist-type churches is Ron Hamilton, we will continue to churn out pretty-boy piano players like Hershey churns out kisses or Willy Wonka churns out sweet tarts.