Anatomy of the Soul is a project that provides new tunes and arrangements for singing the psalms of the Bible a cappella. The name “Anatomy of the Soul” comes from John Calvin’s custom of referring to the psalter by that title, as a way of expressing the scope of emotions contained in the psalms. My name is Brian Wright, and I started this project in 2020 when I began posting Youtube videos of original psalm tunes. I serve as the pastor of the Sterling Reformed Presbyterian Church in Sterling, Kansas.
I grew up singing a cappella psalms in family worship and at church. Our home was an environment where love for the Lord and love for music were intertwined. I was taught from a young age to strive for musical excellence as a way to give glory to God. As a college choir director would often remind us, just because it’s a joyful noise doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful.
In 2009 when Crown & Covenant’s Book of Psalms for Worship came out, I was glad to see many new tunes written in-house by pastors and members of our denomination. The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America has a rich history of its own members composing new tunes. I began to realize that if we wanted to keep singing the psalms in fitting ways, we needed to keep fostering that creativity. Instead of waiting until another psalter revision was initiated, continuing to compose in the interim would provide an even more excellent body of work from which a future revision could draw.
After taking basic music classes and participating in singing groups at Geneva College, I realized that I had the rudimentary knowledge needed to try composing, and I began writing tunes as a hobby in 2016. A sounding board of friends and family provided invaluable feedback over the next few years.
In the spring of 2020, I was looking for a way to encourage others during the COVID crisis, so I posted a video of one of my tunes and called the Youtube channel “Anatomy of the Soul.” The response was positive, and my wife and others encouraged me to keep posting. Over the next few months, I posted near-weekly videos until most of my collection was exhausted.
In the second half of 2020, I turned my focus to polishing recordings and putting together a sheet music booklet so that these psalms could be sung by others. The first Anatomy of the Soul album and psalms booklet were released in January of 2021.
There are many excellent arrangements of the psalms being produced right now. These are the self-imposed principles that have shaped this project:
Melodies should be singable with or without harmonies. They should be simple enough, and in a small enough range, that untrained singers can learn them easily.
Harmonies should follow current trends to evoke emotions fitting for the psalm. Though melodies should be simple, harmonies can have greater complexity because those singing them are often equipped to handle more musical difficulty.
The musical style should lend itself more to singing together than to performing. Rhythms, in particular, should be less complex than the dominant performance styles of our day.
Tunes should be metrical to lend themselves to memorability and to make use of the rich resources of metrical settings of the psalms in the English-speaking world.
My name is Brian Wright, and I am a follower of Christ who loves singing, the psalms, and singing the psalms. I grew up in Arlington, Massachusetts. I am married to my college sweetheart, and we live with our three children in Sterling, Kansas where I serve as the pastor of the Sterling Reformed Presbyterian Church. I first learned to sing next to my dad in family worship, and one of my passions is to see men in the church sing with power and conviction in worship.