No Emotion

August 22, 2009 at 9:44 am 2 comments


This is an article by Peter Link from his blog Sparks From The Fire.  “No Emotion” is a response to one singer’s feelings about how music should (or should not) be performed  in a church worship service. Peter’s answer, written from the point of view  of a lyricist/composer of inspirational songs,  is an illuminating and even instructive  jumping off point for further discussion…

There is so much to explore on this subject!  At least that is true for me as I continue the journey of performing inspirational music in the church worship service.  I hope this article will spark ideas for you and your services.


No Emotion
Peter Link

A woman called several weeks ago to thank me for a sacred song I’d written that she sang as a solo in church. We had a most friendly talk and near the end of the conversation she said proudly, “I just want to assure you that I sing your songs with absolutely no emotion.”

This took me back a beat and so I asked her what she meant by that and she explained, “Well, I think there should be no personality in church singing whatsoever, that the solo should be performed emotionless.”

As we talked I discovered a real confusion in this poor soul about the art of sacred solo performance. She was essentially confusing bad acting with emotion; and since she basically did not understand the craft of acting through song and did not like it when other singers “hammed it up” in a church solo, she had made the wrong decision that all acting/emotion in a performance was bad. I tried to help her make sense of all this, but she would have none of it.  To her, ‘emotionalism’, as she called it, did not belong in the church service.

As a composer who has been thinking about this fascinating world of music for about 40 years now, I’ve come to think of music as essentially aural symbols of emotion. The drama of a song is hugely important to me as I write and governs its flow. Without emotion, what do you have? A passel of notes arranged by some intellectual method which most often results in a boring song – boring, because it does not go anywhere.

Devoid of emotion, you have a song devoid of interest.  It’s why people are not that attracted to computer written music. The computer is smart and can arrange music in lightening speed, creating millions of compositional patterns, but no computer has ever written a song that captures the public consciousness and probably never will unless somehow man is able to teach computers how to process with human emotion.

So I say to my friend, the soloist who sings with no emotion, please don’t sing my songs that way. Let the reality of your emotions be expressed through the lyrics and the melodies of the song. Touch people’s hearts with your feelings.  Tickle their imaginations with your deep understanding of the full range of emotion that plays through a song. Share your emotional insights of these sacred songs with your audience, your congregation, so that all may take advantage of your spiritual insight.

When you hide your emotion or lid it down, you simply cut off the real experiential possibilities of the song. Bring your own particular corner of life to the song through your true feelings so that I may see the truth through your eyes.

And if your personality, or better, your individuality, shines through the song, I say we’re all better off for it.  If you can bring a tear to my eye or a laugh to my heart in the course of the solo, that really means that you have touched me so deeply with the truth of the song that I am moved – moved from one point of understanding to another higher one. And that, my friend, is why I go to church.

Posted March 19, 2009 on Sparks From The Fire.

To read more about Peter’s thoughts on this subject,
read his posts The Act Of Singing and Sacred Song Writing.
He’ll open doors and windows of thought to for you to explore.


Entry filed under: Church Music, Inspiration, Inspirational Music, Inspiratus, Performance, Practice & Performance: Working It Out, Spiritual Thinkers. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

Interview with Composer Greg Granoff – Part 2 Interview with Visual Artist Marty Coleman – Part 1

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mary Lou Gustafson  |  August 28, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Julia, I am trying to recreate, somewhat, the hymn sing held at TMC at Annual Mtg. Also want to include Siyahamba and Peter’s comments among others about Capetown. Each time I try to reach that blog it tells me “Error 404” Is there any way you could send me a copy of that blog – the one where he mentions how much he enjoyed Capetown. I am having a ball putting this together and would like to have some “handouts” telling about how that project was accomplished. Thanks Mary Lou


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