When congregations sing together unaccompanied, they often slow down and go flat.
I think the retardation they experience is the result of competing theological and acoustical phenomena: the desire to listen to others and sing "with one voice" versus the speed of sound.
But how can the flatness be explained? This is not a group phenomena, but it's interesting that a mutually accountable group of religious adherents cannot hold itself together pitch-wise.
Maybe it is because since modern society sings less than societies past, their undeveloped voices tire and go flat. I suspect, however, that this has always happened to the human singing voice.
The organ, historically the voice of God in worship (vox Dei), reveals the error of flatness by its unchanging pitch.
In short, the organ reveals fallenness, error, the brokenness of humankind, original sin.
A rewriting of Romans 7:18: "For I know that nothing in tune dwells within me, that is, in my ear. I can hear what is right, but I cannot sing it."
Isaac Watts sensed this same principle:
In vain we tune our formal songs,
in vain we strive to rise:
hosannas languish on our tongues,
and our devotion dies.
Watts, Isaac. "Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove"
We "strive to rise," to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, but we just can't do it ourselves.
Some would argue that if the community is singing at the same pitch, they are in tune with themselves. Sure, whatever, but they're flat -- under the true pitch.
Just because you're going the same speed as other cars on the road doesn't mean you are going the speed limit. Relativism doesn't lead to truth; it leads to discord. Perpetual compromise will never establish pure intonation.
The saints, however, are singing in tune. We say that we join "our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven," but to God, the combination must be some kind of cosmic celeste. We aren't singing quite at the same pitch. We are constantly in need of raising our pitch in order to attain their perfect in-tune-ness.
Give me the wings of faith to rise
within the veil, and see
the saints above, how great their joys,
how bright their glories be.
Watts, Isaac. "Give me the wings of faith."
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