About Music Nazis

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In recent wonderings through the Internet, I stumbled across this gem.

1. In the repertoire of light orchestras and dance bands, pieces in fox-trot rhythm (so-called swing) are not to exceed 20%.

2. In the repertoire of this so-called jazz type, preference is to be given to compositions in a major key and to lyrics expressing joy in life (‘Kraft durch Freude’), rather than Jewishly gloomy lyrics.

3. As to the tempo, too, preference is to be given to brisk compositions as opposed to slow ones (so-called blues); however, the pace must not exceed a certain degree of allegro commensurate with the Aryan sense for discipline and moderation. On no account will Negroid excesses in tempo (so-called hot jazz) be permitted, or in solo performances (so-called breaks).

4. So-called jazz compositions may contain at the most 10% syncopation; the remainder must form a natural legato movement devoid of hysterical rhythmic references characteristic of the music of the barbarian races and conducive to dark instincts alien to the German people so-called ‘riffs’).

5. Strictly forbidden is the use of instruments alien to the German spirit (e.g. so-called cowbells, flex-a-tone, brushes, etc.) as well as all mutes which turn the noble sound of brass-wind instruments into a Jewish-Freemasonic yell (so-called wa-wa, in hat, etc.).

6. Prohibited are so-called drum breaks longer than half a bar in four quarter beat (except in stylized military marches).

7. The double bass must be played solely with the bow in so-called jazz compositions; plucking of strings is prohibited, since it is damaging to the instrument and detrimental to Aryan musicality. If a so-called pizzicato effect is absolutely desirable for the character of the composition, let strict care be taken lest the string is allowed to patter on the sordine, which is henceforth forbidden.

8. Provocative rising to one’s feet during solo performance is forbidden.

9. Musicians are likewise forbidden to make vocal improvisations (so-called scat).

10. All light orchestras and dance bands are advised to restrict the use of saxophones of all keys and to substitute for them violin-celli, violas, or possibly a suitable folk instrument.


Baldur von Blodheim
Reichsmusicfuhrer und Oberscharfuhrer SS

These are alleged rules written and enforced by Nazis during the Third Reich.  I use the word “alleged” because while many people believe this document is authentic, these rules are fiction.  In fact, they were written by an author of a fiction novel.
That being said, the reason many people believe that these were actual Nazi rules is because they are very close to the truth.  Historical accounts as well as musicians who lived in Germany in that era have confirmed that these kinds of rules existed.
These particular rules are largely aimed at jazz.  Nazis did not like jazz mostly because in their way of thinking, it was written or at least heavily influenced by inferior people (Africans) and was therefore debased.
As a musician and a student of jazz, I understand the musical elements these kinds of rules were aimed at.  I also know why the Nazis objected to them.  In a twisted, perverse way, they make perfect sense.  At least they make perfect sense to an oppressive government that does not know anything about music but is trying to control the music of its citizens.
But to those who know anything about music and how it works, there is only one appropriate reaction to these rules: they are absurd.  Put them in joke books, put them in museums but they don’t belong in the world of music.
Here is something scary: in the ultra-conservative circles I grew up in, things were not much different. So-called music experts had their rules too and went around the country telling us what to do.  Don’t modulate, don’t use 7ths in chords, don’t use step chord progressions, don’t syncopate, don’t use guitars or drums, don’t use beat anticipations, don’t leave chords unresolved.  
Again, for those who know anything about music and how it works, there is only one appropriate reaction: those rules are absurd too.  
Enormous damage has been done by those rules.  Church music is hardly better as a result.  The generations who sat under that kind of teaching long ago rejected it as absurd.  They stopped respecting the people who taught it.  In many cases, they threw out the baby with the bath water.
And so those music experts lost influence.  But rather than honestly evaluating their message, they decided to blame the listener.  We started to hear nebulous claims about the power that ungodly music had over listeners, preventing them from accepting “truth.”  We heard that listeners who listened to music that broke their rules are desensitized to the world’s influences.  We heard about postmodernism and how it prevented people from accepting their “expert” conclusions.
What we did not hear from them was the truth: that music cannot be boiled down to simple rules that define right and wrong. We never heard an explanation as to why for example, God spent chapters and chapters in the OT law discussing minute details regarding the construction materials in the tabernacle but did not spend as much as one verse laying out rules for how the music should sound.
(I should mention here that I respect the right of churches or organizations to have rules for their music even when they can’t really be defended.  That is their right to do.  If you are in church leadership and want to have these kinds of rules, go for it. Just be honest that they are preferences rather than anything else.  If you are in a church with these kinds of rules, accept them or leave.)
But back to the music experts for a minute.  I am happy that kind of teaching is pretty much gone now. We still have a few trying to prescribe rules, but the majority of the music experts on the conservative side know better.  They talk in terms of principles but wouldn’t give you a iron-clad rule if you offered them $10,000.  They know deep down that any specific rule that they come up with would sound silly and would almost certainly be indefensible.  
So I give credit to many of those on the conservative side of the church music debate these days. Certainly their approach is better than what was typical a few decades ago.  We need to hear from them and I am glad they are out there.  I largely agree with them.
As long as they don’t become music Nazis.

13 thoughts on “About Music Nazis

  1. Sean K. says:

    Greg, here is the problem. I hear you about principles vs specific rules. But what good are principles if you cannot come up with specific rules based on them?

  2. Mary says:

    This is a very clever piece of writing. I read it twice and think I understand the point. Associating extreme conservatism with Nazis is a bit strong for my tastes. I notice that you did not come right out and do that but you sure did everything but connect the dots. I agree with you completely on your perspective but wonder if you had to use the Nazi angle to make your point. That is going to just get the conservatives furious and you know they are going to claim you are way overstating things.

  3. jtodd says:

    Got to love the idea of no rules music at church. I think ill do my solo piano rendition of the ac/dc classic Hells Bells for the offeratory this Sunday. After all it would be silly to have a concrete rule like no ac/dc songs at church. Oh and since the Bible remains silent on the use of crystal meth at church I should probably take a hit of that before I start. The fact is to live a Godly life at some point you have to come up with standards to live by that are based on Bible principles when you can’t find a specific verse on the subject. This is why you CAN and SHOULD have rules for your church music based on Biblical principles when there are no Bible verses.

  4. Sean K. says:

    jtodd, Greg did not say what you are implying he said. He specifically said that churches are free to come up with music rules even when they can’t justify them.

    There is a big difference between coming up with rules for a church and elevating those rules to a level where they supposedly define what is right and wrong. That is Greg’s beef I think. It is not that some church said no drums just because it is not what we think is best. It is that some music experts say that drums are wrong altogether.

  5. jtodd says:

    Greg said the truth is music can not be boiled down to simple rules that define right and wrong. It can. You could simply say at our church you cannot take a rock popular rock song and simply change words around to sing it at church. Example: you can’t take sweet home Alabama, change the words to sweet home up in Heaven and sing at our church. Simple enough right. If you are the leader of music at church you can take one of 3 approaches. 1 let anything go. 2 evaluate each song one by one and make a judgement call. 3 establish guidelines that are easily understood. I went to the Wilds when I was a teenager and that had one simple rule for their music. The song had to be from a wilds song book or you couldn’t play it or sing it. That is very simple and very strict. I found that rule out the hard way during a break I sat at the piano and was playing a song that is in the Baptist hymnal but not the wilds songbook. They told me I had to stop playing that song. I did so and did not get my feelings hurt the rule was simple and applied to everyone.

  6. John Kilgore says:

    jtodd, are you being serious? It is that simple huh? Where is your list of simple rules that define what is good and bad in music? We would all LOVE to see it.

    As others have mentioned, as silly as that Wilds rule is about only using music from their own book, that is THEIR RIGHT to make as many silly and even stupid rules as they want. No one here is disputing that. But those kinds of rules DO NOT define what is good and bad in music. Those are just operational rules for an organization.

    Understand the difference between the two kinds of rules. Greg is condemning manmade rules that are supposed to define what is universally right or wrong in music. He is not condemning organizations that have rules. He went out of his way to say that.

  7. Frank Cote says:

    Wow Greg, this is a bit stronger than normal. Folks, there is nothing here that Greg has not said before. I am just not sure he has used the word “Nazi” before 🙂

    The point about the O.T. law not discussing music at all is a very valid one. God seemed very concerned about tiny details in many areas but is silent completely on music styles.

  8. Daniel says:

    Greg, I think your connection is right on. I have seen true worship completely shut down in a church because the constituents are paralyzed by a fear of breaking someone’s imposed rules. I have seen people in a worship service roll their eyes in judgement at a song because it didn’t meet their “rules” of good music – never mind that the song was written by a Christian and declares the good news of Jesus’ death on the cross. How did so many sincere Bible believing churches get to the point where Christians refuse to worship God because of rules that have no basis in the Bible? How is it that music by an agnostic such as John Rutter can meet someone’s arbitrary rules of good music for worship, but sincere music about the Gospel by a strong Christian composer can’t? Do we worship someone’s arbitrary music rules or do we worship God?

  9. jtodd says:

    Kilgore I see the paragraph that greg put in saying its ok for churches or organizations to have their own indefensible rules, but I also see 5 paragraphs before that where in the circles he grew up in had such indefensible rules and he called that absurd, even though he says later accept these rules or leave. And we are talking about church music. A pastor CAN and SHOULD set standards for his church of what is right and wrong for his Church’s music. And if your church has standards for music and you get up and knowingly sing or play something that your pastor would preach against, you are the one that is wrong. If you read the scooping/ sliding debate we had another time I was on the side of I don’t think scooping and sliding is wrong. But if a pastor says I believe scooping and sliding is wrong and if you sing a special at our church you cannot do it. That is a SIMPLE RULE right or wrong. If he leaves it at that and says its just my preference well good for him. If he goes into this why he thinks it is wrong and actually gives the Bible principles he builds his convictions on, to me that is even better. You can disagree with him if you want to, but you won’t be singing at his Church.

  10. jtodd says:

    One more example. If you go to a Houston’s restaurant in Atlanta there is a sign on the door that says “proper attire required”. If you go to a McDonald’s a sign says “no shoes no shirt no service.” The McDonald’s sign is a lot more simple. Nobody knows exactly where the line is drawn for “proper attire” at Houston’s. I’ve seen people in there dressed every sort of way. I know exactly where McDonald’s stands on the issue. If someone walked into Houston’s with no shirt on they would probably be turned away, but who knows where the line is. If your church has no defined standards for music, then how far do you let it go before you say thats enough? I don’t think a group like Third Day would fit into the worship service at the first Baptist church in Hammond Indiana, so what is wrong with them setting standards somewhere between Hymns and Third Day so that it never gets to that point. The Pastor simply saying “its my preference” doesn’t quite cut it. Greg is saying it is wrong for The Pastor to decide what is right or wrong based on Biblical standards, so “its my preference” is his only option.

  11. Greg says:

    I am not sure how I can be clearer on this.

    To say that using 7th chords is universally morally wrong is absurd. That is true no matter who says it.

    If a pastor says we won’t use 7th chords in our church because we want to be stylistically different or want to avoid the appearance of evil or whatever, I have no problem with that.

    Todd, you are confused on the difference between these two scenarios.

  12. jtodd says:

    Greg.you and I both agree that it would he absurd for a pastor to say 7th chords are morally wrong. However, the appearance of evil is wrong, so if a pastor says that playing a 7th chord is not abstaining from the appearance of evil then he thinks playing it is wrong. And you are ok with that. You are comparing Nazis to conservative evangelists who are asked to teach to a conservative congregation. Nazis forced their views on people. Evangelists are asked by a pastor to come preach to his congregation and he probably knows what the evangelist is going to say when he gets there. Theres a big difference cause you can choose to disagree with an evangelist. You seem to think that a preacher is wrong for declaring something wrong that you don’t think is wrong. Read Romans 14. If you are not talking about evangelists and preachers teaching in Church then I misunderstood. If you are and you are comparing them with Nazis then I will continue to disagree with you.

  13. Dan Glidden says:

    Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    I have written the following thoughts praying that God might impress upon hearts the great need for purity in our worship, particularly in the area of music. I have included many scripture references to support my points. I hope you will prayerfully study and consider these passages with an open heart to God’s truth! These scripture references are not merely meant as “proof texts.” They, as well as others, are the sources from which my thoughts on the subject flow. You will have to decide whether or not I am “rightly dividing the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15).”

    In Christ’s Love,
    Dan Glidden

    Some things are sacred meaning they must be treated with the utmost respect, care and purity. They are holy meaning they are dedicated unto God. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we ourselves are consecrated unto God (Eph. 1:4; 5:25-27; Col. 1:21-22; I Pet. 2:5, 9; Tit. 2:14). This fact means that we must allow God to sanctify every area of our lives (I Pet. 1:14-16). We must “put (a) difference between the holy and profane” — between “the unclean and the clean” — in our lives that God Himself be not “profaned among (us)” (Ez. 22:26; Lev.10:10).
    This truth should impact our music as much as any other part of our lives. We must set apart our music unto God. We must “put (a) difference between the holy and the profane” in regards to this crucial area and, thereby, hallow God’s name (Lev. 22:2). Doing so may not be easy either individually or corporately. We may not agree about how it should be done in every detail. True believers in Christ, however, should be able to come to a consensus on the major issues facing us if we are truly open to the Holy Spirit’s leading (Rom. 8:1-14; Gal 5:1-18) and to the sanctifying power of the Word of God (Jn. 17:15-23).
    “Man’s wisdom” will not lead us to an understanding of God’s will in the matter. We need the “mind of the Lord” – “the wisdom of God.” God’s truth is spiritually discerned (I Cor. 2: 4-16). His Holy Spirit through the Word must illuminate our understanding.
    Over and over the Word of God urges believers to “sing unto the Lord” and to “sing praise(s)” to God. Clearly we should direct our music to God and glorify Him in the process. The Son of God came to earth to “declare (God’s) name unto (His) brethren, (and) in the midst of the church…(to) sing praise unto (God)” (Heb. 2:9-12; Ps. 22:22; Rom. 15:8-9). We see from Christ’s example, and from other passages of Scripture, that we should make music unto God, thereby proclaiming Him and His truth to our brothers and sisters.
    The Christian musician, both as an arranger/composer and as a performer (any participant in producing music by voice or by instrument) should aim, therefore, to exalt God the Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, (not man) and, thereby, to edify believers. As a result, unbelievers should hear our music and come to faith in God (Ps. 40:3). Our music should communicate the truth of the Word of God in such a way that it builds believers up in our faith and leads us to a life controlled by the Spirit of God rather than a fleshly, carnal one (Col. 3:16, Eph. 5:17-19).
    This fact leads to the question of the morality of music. Is absolute music (that is, music without the lyrics) in and of itself either good or evil, or is it simply either appropriate or inappropriate for the text and situation and either free from or contaminated by wrong associations? Certainly, music may or may not support the message of the words of the song. Certainly, music for worship should be free from wrong associations. However, there is more to the issue than these points.
    The Word of God infers that music is innately good or evil. God is a moral Being. He is good by nature (Mtt 19:17; I Jn. 1:5) meaning that what He does and wills is always good and right (Jas. 1:13, 17). God created mankind in His image to do His good will (Gen. 1:27). Man’s heart was pure and good, always in harmony with the will of God until, by disobedience to God in partaking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he fell (Gen. 2:17; 3:1-6). Since that time, man is evil by nature (Mtt. 7:11; Rom. 5:12) and that which proceeds out of his heart is either good or evil based on its conformity to the will and nature of God (Lk.6:45-46; Mk. 7:20-23). Man’s music is born in his heart, is meditated on in his heart and proceeds out of his heart. Therefore, it is either good or evil based on its conformity to God’s will and nature.
    There should be no question that music exerts power on us. We all have experienced its ability to move our hearts to sadness, joy, tranquility, turmoil, tenderness, resoluteness and numerous other thoughts and emotions. It impacts our intellect, emotions and will and usually leads to a physical response. The biblical account of David playing his harp for King Saul exemplifies the temporary influence of music on a person for good (I Sam.16:14-23).
    Music has the power to stir desires and passions. These desires and passions can be either pure and holy or impure and unholy. Proverbs 4:23 tells one to “keep (his) heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”
    When a person is born from above by faith in Christ, he partakes “of the divine nature,” “having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (II Pet. 1:4), and becomes a “new creature.” “Old things are passed away…all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:17). This regeneration includes our music. The Psalms repeatedly urge us to sing unto the Lord a “new” song (Ps.33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1). According to Strong’s Hebrew and Chaldee dictionary, this adjective “new” comes from a verb which means “to be new” and carries the meaning “to rebuild, renew, repair.” Our music in its composition and message should be “renewed” once we are saved.
    Our music as believers should produce holy passions and desires within (Rom. 13:14). It should lead us to walk in the Spirit and not to fulfill the lust of the flesh (Gal. 5:16-26). Why do you suppose some music is undeniably linked with the “works of the flesh,” namely, “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like?” Could the music be evil in its very composition, producing evil responses within the heart?
    When we take such music and link it with the truth of God’s Word in text, the result is confusion, at best, and blasphemy, at worst. Our worship becomes idolatrous, not communicating the truth of God in spirit (Jn. 4:23-24; I Cor. 14:15). Believers’ music should promote the “fruit of the Spirit,” namely, “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance,” in our hearts and lives. “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal. 5:22-24).
    Forgive me for using a personal example, but when I hear certain worldly music, whether or not I can decipher the words (and in many cases I can’t), it has a negative impact on me spiritually. It may direct my mind toward lustful and impure thoughts or rouse anger, rebellion or depression. I remember when I started working my first job as a teenager the negative impact that the ungodly music which was constantly playing in the workplace had on my heart.
    When this kind of sensual music is coupled with good lyrics expressing God’s truth, the music itself communicates a message which is in conflict with the lyrics. How can we sing about and worship God with carnal, fleshly music? Am I pushing my personal preference? To be honest with you, there is some music that, at times, greatly appeals to my flesh, and I am tempted to listen to it, but I must refuse to because of its evil influence!
    Some music clearly arises from devil worship. The composers themselves make this fact clear. The music is created specifically in and for the worship of Satan and his “ministers.” Professing Christians have even attempted to use the sound of this kind of music to worship God, putting biblical lyrics to it. The result is clearly blasphemous. By the way, the “Christian” musicians who create such music look and, at least in some ways, behave like their ungodly counterparts, who are involved, amongst other works of the flesh, in the worst kinds of sexual perversions.
    Is music that was created for the worship of Satan, or that which imitates it, really harmless? Is it meat offered to idols-meat which is neither good nor evil? Even if it were, we should have nothing to do with it according to I Corinthians 10:19-21 and I Corinthians 8:6-13! However, the music is itself an act of worship, not a lifeless object without moral value. It proceeds from and impacts our hearts. How much more, then, should we have nothing to do with it (Eph.5:5-11)!
    In conclusion, music is a powerful force, and it influences our hearts either for good or for evil. As believers we need to be sure that our music truly honors God and cultivates the “fruit of the Spirit” in our hearts and lives instead of encouraging the “works of the flesh.” Our music may never be everything that it should be in this life. It may not be perfectly holy and pure. However, Philippians 1:9-11 admonishes us to “approve things that are excellent.” We must rely on the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit through the Word to make good decisions about the music we compose, listen to and use for worship. We should aim to worship God “in spirit and in truth” through our music and to edify each other. The music we use, especially for corporate worship, should never cause a brother to stumble into sin! May God grant us hearts of obedience and love in this important matter!

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