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

Composers lament the same frustration as they attempt to avoid repetition in their music. After 2,000 years, the limits of the 12-tone

Anne Ortlund

scale leave musicologists with a hunger for something more.

“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 inBerlin.

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 toAmericastill 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 precededBabel, 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.”

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