Thursday, September 8, 2011

The new song in heaven: going beyond the 12-tone scale

By Mark Ellis
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

NEWPORT BEACH, CALIFORNIA (ANS) -- Composers lament the same frustration as they attempt to avoid repetition in their music. After 2,000 years, the limits of the 12-tone scale leave musicologists with a hunger for something more.

Anne Ortlund
“They have come to a dead end,” observes Anne Ortlund, the popular Christian author and speaker. For 15 years, Anne was the organist for Dr. Charles Fuller's radio broadcasts. Her hymn "Macedonia" was chosen as the theme hymn at the World Congress on Evangelism in Berlin.

She believes the worship that Christians will experience in heaven will go beyond our imaginations – and outside the limits of our current musical scale.

In the ancient world, only five notes were used. “The earliest people groups all sang the same five-point scale. The slaves who came to America still sang five-note songs that came from their past,” Ortlund says. “The old Celtic songs and even some Chinese music still has five notes.” Because all these ancient cultures used the same five notes, she believes the five-note scale must have preceded Babel, going back perhaps to the Garden of Eden.

Then, something amazing happened in the first century A.D. “When Christ came and the church was born, they stepped up to a 12-tone scale that no ears had ever heard before,” she notes. “It was so exciting for them.”

“That’s the way it will be in heaven,” Ortlund continues. “We will step up to something new – a new song -- that we’ve never heard before, yet it will be based on something from the past.”

Mark Ellis is a senior correspondent for ASSIST News Service and the founder of  He is available to speak to groups about the plight of the church in restricted countries, to share stories and testimonies from the mission field, and to preach the gospel.

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