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Postmodern Village
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Halleluiah Count Trends and Market Futures
By P.B. Wombat

Introduction

For half a decade now, this researcher has been calculating halleluiahs. The count has taken place primarily during Christmas and Easter, at his "home" congregation of St. Dyad-in-the-Wool Episcopal Church in Purewater, Kansas, but the severe mainstreamedness of this congregation could at one time have been comfortably seen as an accurate cross-section of American churches. Recent ballooning in evangelical charismaticism may skew overall results, however, especially with the resultant increase in so-called "contemporary praise and worship music" with its simplistic--even acephalic--repetition.


Methodology

The rules of the semi-annual halleluiah count are relatively straightforward: the halleluiah must be pronounced during the actual worship service proper, as demarcated by the Introit and the Postlude. A halleluiah may be either spoken or sung, but merely written halleluiahs not otherwise enunciated during the service may not be counted, their positions fixed, as it were, by the written word and therefore already outside the supply chain prior to the worship event. Any pronounced halleluiah counts regardless of spelling in the original source material. So "halleluiah," "alleluiah, and "alleluia" all count. "Allelu" is grandfathered in as it is recognized as a halleluiah that would have been fully pronounced but has been truncated to fit the meter, that meter typically implied by a particular tune. A full halleluiah is obviously intended, so "allelu" should clearly be counted. One would not think a lyricist meant anything less than "thunderous," for instance, if "thund'rous" were written instead in order to comport with the scansion of a line.

Both planned and spontaneous halleluiahs are counted, though spontaneity is a rarity at St. Dyad-in-the-Wool.

Generally, in traditional, mainstream congregations, Easter wins hands down due to the popularity of the "Halleluiah Chorus" from Handel's oratorio The Messiah, a work the quality and complexity of which would far surpass the capabilities of most of the single-chord bass-thumpers of the new school PowerPoint-driven megachurches.

Thus, in order to properly measure the ebb and flow of halleluiah use between any given Christmas and Easter, one must adjust for the disproportionate number delivered by Handel's classic work. This is made problematic by the difficulty in actually counting the number of halleluiahs in the "Halleluiah Chorus" in order to factor them out. Recall that proper methodology calls for a halleluiah to be pronounced for it to be counted. Handel, however, found it in his artistic interest to deliver the Messiah in four parts, parts not always delivering their lyrical goods, so to speak, in unison.

The rules would imply a solution: if the halleluiah is sung in unison, it may be counted as one; even though it is being delivered in four parts, it is being delivered simultaneously to the ear. The halleluiah in this case as heard is heard as a single, sung, halleluiah. It was therefore intended to be taken singly, albeit perhaps more loudly and majestically than a solo halleluiah or one, say, only comprised of sopranos. When the parts diverge, though, which is a frequent occurrence in The Messiah, the situation gets more complex. Each part, under the above rules, should be considered a single, distinct pronounced halleluiah. Even though several may be in the process of being sung simultaneously, if a halleluiah is begun or ended at a different time than another, it is theoretically distinct and must be counted as such. Having been written as divergent in the sheet music, one would assume they were meant to exist that way when sung. Handel's Baroque credentials get the better of the halleluiah tabulator, though: at several points many short halleluiahs are delivered during the singing of one long halleluiah by another musical part. Under the rules, each must be counted, however, no matter how long or short, provided they are not precisely in unison.

Given the repetitive nature of music, one could conceivably create an algorithm to predictably count the halleluiahs in the "Halleluiah Chorus" once the pattern of halleluiah delivery was established. That is beyond the scope of this paper, though, and the abilities of this researcher.

Past attempts to count the halleluiahs in the "Halleluiah Chorus" by hand have gathered between 275 and 278 depending on the interpretation of which certain parts actually sonically begin and end together. Since the human brain is limited in its ability to count each "Halleluiah Chorus" halleluiah as it is occurring, hand counts must be made from sheet music with the resultant inaccuracy in what is actually delivered during any given performance, a situation that brings up epistemologically serious problems. These quickly devolve into the question of the authenticity of aesthetic experiences themselves, problems, again, beyond the scope of this inquiry.

Results

This past Christmas at St. Dyad-in-the-Wool produced approximately 28 halleluiahs, up considerably from a paltry 13 the year before and 12 in 2004. The past Easter produced close to 300 halleluiahs when the "Halleluiah Chorus" is entered into the equation, but only 23 to 25 (again depending on how the "Halleluiah Chorus" halleluiah count is calculated). The Easter of 2004 produced a mere 17 non-"Halleluiah Chorus" halleluiahs roughly on par with that of the concomitant Christmas. Prior to that, non-"Halleluiah Chorus" halleluiahs held relatively steady, with Easter generally outpacing Christmas by between 5 and 10 halleluiahs until the recent spike.

Figure 1

Discussion

All this leads to difficult questions about the nature of halleluiah distribution, its fairness and competency, and poses interesting questions about global halleluiah supply should current trends continue. The trend in halleluiah spending is generally up, the steady overuse of halleluiahs during Easter notwithstanding. Provided the market has, over the years, adjusted to the normative halleluiah uptick just after Passover every year, any undue expansion of halleluiah use during Christmas or for non-"Halleluiah Chorus" uses during Easter or other times during the year could potentially put pressure on supply and even lead to tightness in the halleluiah market with resultant inflationary reaction on the part of speculators in same.

It may also indicate an increasing post-9/11 piety as Americans attempt to reassert a shaken faith. Trends, especially in charismatic evangelicalism, may simply be toward more praise and less reflection. Gone are the Quaker meetings in which silence may rule: all is now noise, and no noise speaks louder (aside from a Marshall stack) than a good, old-fashioned halleluiah. If this is the case, that the trend has now begun to reach St. Dyad-in-the-Wool would seem to imply increasing pressure on halleluiah markets as congregations compete to out-halleluiah one another.

More disturbing is the potential among charismatic sects such as Pentecostalism and American Idolism for spontaneous shouting and other forms of worshipful carrying-on to create inner-congregational competition on halleluiah use. These sects have a tendency to put unconscious pressure on individual members of congregations to appear more holy than others by their outspoken piety. Since the role of the halleluiah is well established among the pious, its use is common and quickly adopted by those not yet adept at speaking in tongues and celebratory backflips. As these sects gain in popularity, they may cause a further spike in halleluiah demand, leading to the potential of a worldwide halleluiah shortage as the popularity of these faiths extends across the globe.

Conclusions

This researcher suggests that the data, though limited, might to the ungodly, Socialistic eye imply a need for market controls on halleluiah use or, perhaps, halleluiah rationing. Such a course, however, would not be in the best interests of halleluiah investors, who would do well to encourage current trends. The market, of course, will have to adjust to a tighter halleluiah supply, as is natural, but investors should not worry that we are squandering our natural halleluiah resources: the market will create a miracle even here if we but believe, producing loaves and fishes, time out of mind, amen.