If It Ain’t Baroque, Why Listen to It?

Ever since I first listened to Handel’s Water Music in December of 1992, I have been hopelessly hooked on classical music from the Baroque Period. Put simply, I’ll take Bach over Beethoven any day.


Anyway, this brings me to a question for you preachers out there: What do you most like to listen to while you study Scripture in preparation for Sunday’s messages? My personal favorite is something that was recommended to me about two years ago by my mentor in all things cultural, Paul Lamey, and that is Simply Baroque II. On this CD, cellist Yo-Yo Ma performs some brilliant pieces composed by Luigi Boccherini and Johann Sebastian Bach. I’ve never listened to the prequel Simply Baroque—also performed by Ma—but Paul assures me that the sequel is superior. So take up and listen!


And how about you? What kind of music accompanies you in your study as you seek to rightly divide the Word of God? Any recommendations?

9 responses to this post.

  1. Although I’m not preparing sermons week to week, my music of choice while I am studying and preparing papers / blog posts is Baroque.

    I’m going to have a look on iTunes for that album you recommend – but what I normally tune into is a Baroque online radio station that I’ve discovered.

  2. Posted by Spencer DeBurgh on August 25, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    I am always listening to:

    1. The Holy Spirit
    2. The echoed voices of all of my mentors telling me to work hard at the exegesis of the text.

    As far as the music goes, I sometimes listen to:

    1. Accuradio classical melange
    2. my pandora instrumental selections

  3. Usually have the ipod on an album shuffle so it varies greatly. Could be Jack Johnson, could be new Sovereign Grace – Psalms album, could be Matisyahu, could be Indelible Grace, could be Gershwin.

    Just not a classical all the time guy.

  4. Posted by Matt Waymeyer on August 26, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Nathan: Thanks for the link–I will definitely check it out.

    Spencer: Just other day the voice of one of my mentors (you) was echoing in my head in regards to my preaching. You probably don’t remember the conversation, but one night you gave me feedback on one of my very first sermons in fall of 1995 while were standing in the parking lot of the Empress. To this day, I still think about (and am helped by) specific things that you said. Thanks brother!

    Andy: Me neither on classical all the time, but it serves me well when I am studying. I think the shuffle might distract me when I’m digging in, but I guess we’re all different. For example, I don’t want to start a rumor, but I’ve heard that Jerry Wragg likes to crank up hip hop when he studies.

  5. Bach. Brandenburg Concertos.

  6. I am not weekly preparing for the “Sunday Morning” message but when I am studying I usually listen to The Devil Wears Prada, Demon Hunter, Living Sacrifice, Johnny Cash, Thrice, Caedmon’s Call, or Derek Webb. I find that the metal usually puts me in a good mood to bring the sword. Seriously.

  7. Posted by Gary on August 26, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Which reminds me:

    Q: Why did Beethoven sell all his chickens?

    A: Because they kept saying, “Bach, bach.”

  8. Bravo. I’d also take Bach over Beethoven any day. I’m convinced Western music reached its apex during the times of Bach and Handel, though I prefer Fireworks Music to Water Music. The greatest apologetic I’ve ever encountered for the existence of a holy and loving God is Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” At times in my life, even before knowing the name or subject of the work, that piece of music has literally been the light of Christ breaking through the darkness.

    At the risk of sounding sanctimonious, I have to say that I never willingly listen to music while reading or studying the Scriptures. When encountering the Word of God, there’s already way too much noise in my mind to introduce any other music, however beautiful it may be. As exalted and inspired as Bach and Handel’s best work may be, it simply can’t compare to the Bible. I don’t want anything interfering with or warping an encounter with the Word, even the best Johnny and Georgie have to offer.

    Actually crafting the sermon, pecking away on the keyboard, is a different matter. When I’m really nervous about sermon prep, when thoughts are swirling around in my mind, I’ll sometimes listen to straight-ahead rock and roll to function both as a steady backbeat that encourages me to think more linearly and a controlled distraction that forces me to focus my thinking.

    I also have no problem listening to music while reading blogs or other secondary literature. Right now, for example, I’m listening to Mr. Big’s “To Be With You.”

    But when it comes to Bible study, and even sustained reflection, it’s pretty essential, it seems to me, to enter into the silence where the Word is less encumbered in having its way with us.


  9. I like Yo-Yo Ma a lot but I’m not a blind follower to the extent that I can’t see some of his work as strained (what’s he doing playing bluegrass?).

    Nevertheless I would add:

    1. Simply Baroque by Ma
    2. Vivaldi’s Cello by Ma
    3. The Cello Suites by Ma
    4. Bach’s 6 Cello Suites by Maurice Gendron
    5. Goldberg Variations by Rachlin, Maisky, and Imai

    Other genres I like while studying:

    1. Saxophone Colossus by Sonny Rollins (you’ve probably heard “St. Thomas” in Starbucks)
    2. Time Out by Dave Brubeck Quartet (you’ve probably heard “Take Five” on a luxury car commercial).
    3. On the Road by Art Farmer
    4. Camp Meeting by Bruce Hornsby
    5. A Bite of the Apple by Beatle Jazz (the music of the Beatles played by a jazz trio). I saw them in LA and they are a lot of fun.

    Before elder meetings:

    1. The soundtrack from Braveheart.

    According to my Itunes I have 2,279 other items so this is about all I can fit in a comment.

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