Music makes the story come alive

In an extended trailer anticipating the latest remake of Les Miserables (coming out in December—can’t wait!), the director and actors talked about a unique technique used in the filming of this musical. Instead of the actors meeting in a studio to record the songs before the movie is shot, and then trying to match up their acting to the recorded music, the filmmakers utilized the opposite approach. Actors sung their lines as they acted the scenes, and a pianist off-site accompanied them (heard via an ear bud). Instead of being an add-on, the music helped them feel the heart of their character and enter into the story.

Music has a direct link to my heart and is central in my worship and relationship with God. Inspired by these actors’ enthusiasm for entering into a relationship with their characters through music, I thought I would try to read the Psalms that way—using music to echo and expand the written words of God. (Of course, I do it in my room with the door closed which provides the same feeling of freedom as singing in the shower.)

This morning I sang through Psalm 22. “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me? …” in a minor key, the music hesitating and mournful. Verse 3 begins “Yet you are holy … Our ancestors trusted in you, and you rescued them …” and a hopeful lilt wound through the minor scale. “But I am a worm and not a man …” moved even deeper into a dirge until the word “yet” brightened the song once again: “You have been my God from the moment I was born.”

The psalmist then is overcome by fear: … “roaring lions come at me with open mouths …” The music quickens with the beat of my heart, as with the psalmist, “my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth” in anticipation of the destruction heading straight toward me.

For the next three verses the psalmist describes a death, and it prophesies of the death of our Savior. (I don’t remember ever having noticed that before.)

Another forceful plea for rescue, but this plea is different from the earlier ones. The music is definite and sure as the psalmist looks at God rather than at the trouble he is in, and with this new focus on God he sings praises to the ruler of the nations. He ends with a promise to serve God and to tell his children about the wonders of the Lord, so future generations will hear about everything God has done. The notes are joyful and forward-looking in confidence, not in himself, but in God.

The actors were right—music brings you deeper into relationship and helps you live in the story.

(Photo courtesy of

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