The End of a Season

Music theory is ending. One. Last. Test.

 

In light of this reality, this final required post will likely be rather rambling so I can use all of the jumbled thoughts that are bumbling around in my head in a desperate attempt to make sense of what it is I’d like to say.

 

Hold onto your hats, folks.

 

First thought: We have spent the majority of this final semester looking at atonal, 20th century music (etc, etc) and nearly every class, we have laughed. I do enjoy a lot of music within that vein, but there comes a point wherein it is no longer what it ought to be. It is so twisted and jumbled and turned-on-it’s-head confused, that it feels rather like a book with it’s pages out of order and upside-down. Allow me to quote an old friend on the matter. “Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.” Thank you, Chesterton. That. Right there is what I have been trying to express for weeks. I am not so foolish as to believe that there is no beauty or point in much of the material to which we have listened, but just as I draw a line in “pop” music, visual art, and in every single day of my life, there is a line. A line that, yes, may still be disputed, but a line that in actuality exists with no blurring. I would rather not live a life influenced by blurring, adiaphorous terms. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am no extreme traditionalist, for I love to test boundaries and feel things as much, or more than, many a dramatic musician.

And another thing…. though still connected as all the best things are, here is a quote from Plato. “Music training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful.” Aha! Another reason I don’t like all the music of the modern movement! (Sorry I guess I’m not quite done with that) Music is not just something I put into my ears. Music physically changes you. Plato had no science on which to base this quote. He knew people, and he could tell what was influential without a host of scientific data. Music, no, more than that, the training in music is vastly important because it deepens who you are. It deepens your thought processes. Music changes the soul, and if it’s the right kind of education, it  makes us graceful…open, overflowing with thought and expression. I will not go so far as to tell you what is right or wrong music, but I wonder  when was the last time you opened your eyes and realized what an incredible thing we do every day. Do you not see? “The earth has music for those who listen” (anonymous) and we spend our lives learning to share it. Please, open your eyes.

And the last thing, brought in part by one of my dearest soul-friends J.R.R. Tolkein is this, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song over hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” None of you have hoarded gold; you are in college and look absolutely nothing remotely like a dragon, but it is nevertheless true. You may envy gold or may be hoarding a host of other things. Stop hoarding your time, your love, your talents, for some future day that seems to matter more. Pour yourself out in love, in service, in passion, right where you are because it’s right where you ought to be. And for pity’s sake, please don’t enjoy yourself. Enjoy everything you do immensely, but do not enjoy yourself. That is a slippery and dangerous path I would not wish on anyone. Instead, revel in every detail, and turn it back to the Father from whom it all came. After all, He gave us music, He gave us joy…He is joy and please don’t ever forget. That is why we create whether you know it or not. If you know it, I pray you never forget, and if you don’t, I pray you will soon see.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3: 20-21

Oh, and Merry Christmas!

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By God’s Overwhelming Grace

This past week, I spent a few days busy and stressing over something that I love and I hate. Something I’ve been working toward and anticipating for months…or years depending on how you look at it. My ears were ringing with girls high heels clacking down cold and busy hallways, intimidating voice poured from every door and even in my fluttery, nervous, twisty-insides state, I reveled in every moment. Competitions are a strange thing.

Sometimes we are given a much needed reminder that gives us no choice but to remember to feel..or fight..or delight again. I placed fifth in the final round of the Texoma division of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. I still don’t believe it and the last few days feel like a blur from a dream. I never dreamed of making finals..a much-longed for achievment. It’s as fickle as October in Texas and just about as frustrating..Something Caroline, my unendingly talented sister, never did. Do I think I deserve it? Nope. I honestly cannot fathom how I got there.

French Press Mornings Print - Psalm 95:1 #encouragingwednesdays #fcwednesdaywisdom #quotes

While there, I had a judge speak very encouraging words to me which have already meant more to me than the hazy, crazy-awesome honor I just received. Some of the words he spoke will stay with me for awhile..just with me, for I am not ready to give them to the world yet. It is enough to say that in all my doubt, worry, and sometimes rather desperate love of music, it is something that is not just me, but it is something uniquely given to me and only me. Who am I to fence it in with walls of doubt? Love and passion and oh my word God’s love are the reasons I do this. My doubt, my nerves are silly and self-centered. I was rewarded for something that I feel I hardly deserve, but I truly believe God worked despite my egotistical nerves and shadows to prove in a unique way that it is not for me to limit myself by holding myself to too low or high a standard. I am to sing for Jesus even in the most diva-ish song. Whatever comes from that is not only good, it is awesome and exciting in many ways. Why on earth was God gracious enough to teach me this lesson through success when it could have been taught through failure? I cannot say, but maybe I will actually listen to the lesson he’s been trying to teach for so long. Praise be to my gracious Father who continually holds my hand and gently opens my eyes time and time again. Lead me where you will, Lord.

 

To God be the Glory

all the nations shall Praise him. Oh how precious are His children over all the earth!

 

My whole life, I have been surrounded by true worship. Not only in music, but in life. There is not a time I can remember that I was not aware that life itself was worship. I have been immeasurable blessed in having such a beautiful picture of life and love painted for me. Though never perfect, I watched my parents live the beauty of an everyday life. Even before I personally understood worship, I knew and treasured that marked difference in my parents. Since becoming a follower of Christ, I have desired to strive for a life of worship as well, following in the beautiful example laid for me. As a very expressive person, and musician beside, music has always been present in the most pivotal or poignant moments regarding worship.  I have discussed music in worship before, and I still believe that music is  the meant to communicate praise and connect us to our heavenly father. In all of my life I cannot pin point one time, but ask what place and there I have an answer. Picture this if you will:

 

An old white, wooden building packed to bursting with people seated in old chairs with worn, blue hymnals in their hands. Ages six weeks to 97 are there wiping sweat from their faces as there are few fans, no AC, and all in mid-June. Then the singing begins….and as we’re all dissolved in sweat, so our troubles dissolve. Rich, four-part harmony swells expressively with rough and loving voices raised like you have never heard before. All united. There I sit..every year. As we sing one age-old hymn after another, my eyes search the room meeting everyone’s gaze. To see the worship on all those dear faces is inexpressible joy..to be so fully united in an utterly overwhelming love of God. Farmers, doctors, music students, mothers, veterans, cancer warriors, and choir directors all are gathered to the glory of one glorious Saviour. I am overwhelmed. Tears run down my crazy-beaming face..pain or joy it shall be fully felt and fully surrendered. By the grace of God, I have been given this haven. Acappella hymns that you, I promise, have never heard before shaking the rafters in a hot building with bugs flying and sweat dripping..There. There have I found true worship.

Practical Application of Music Theory

       Sometimes it is hard to see the usefulness of theory in everyday life. Recently however I was asked to play violin for the production of  You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. I was glad for the opportunity, but when I received the music the music, I was dismayed to find that the majority of was written for viola. Viola is notated in the alto clef which is a step down from the treble clef. Though all the music is within the range of a violin, it does require a great deal of tedious transposition. The music is just difficult enough for it to not be an on-spot transposition. I am having to write out all the music and double check it thoroughly to make sure my transcription is completely accurate.

 

Violin

During my search for colleges, one of the main reasons I did not want to consider UMHB was because there was no strings program. Especially in the last few years of high school, I was very dedicated to violin; practicing hours a day and involved ina minimum of two orchestras. Obviously, I ended up choosing UMHB after finally deciding to pursue a choral track music education degree. Because of this decision, formal violin study was pushed to the back burner.

<3

In February of last year, I was asked to join a traditional celtic band. I had been playing fiddle for years, but I never was comfortable with improve, to the point of refusing to ever try. My classical training, though incredibly beneficial and enjoyable, restrained me from many forms of freedom and creativity within violin. I joined the band and was forced to forget my reliance on written music and learned to throw myself out there and risk new things. I learned to turn off my over-analysis of the key, the time signature, etc. and found it surprisingly freeing. Because of the experience I gained, I was able for the first time to use my violin in a worship service. Because of my previous training, it was impossible to view violin as anything but a performance. I would  never have  agreed to play for a worship service, because I knew I could only view it as a concert. I have learned now to let go and truly not care about what comes out or I mess up. Though I can’t play my old caprices or Mozart sonatas, I have gained a freedom that has changed me as a musician and in my personal life. It has taught me that perfection isn’t the point but learning and enjoying yourself..and not taking others opinions (that they may or may not even have) to heart. Maybe someday I’ll get it all back, but for now, I am simply thankful.

Secondary Dominants in Pop Music

For this assigned topic, I had rather a difficult time at first hearing the secondary dominants. Often, I would hear a chord that I thought was a chromatic harmony but after closer examination, it would slip my grasp. Finally after much stress, listening, and questions I found two that I was interested in doing. I’m sure that there were plenty in some of my favourite artists, but I couldn’t quite pin them down.

My first song is I See the Light from Tangled in C# Major. The secondary dominant appears in the second repeat of the chorus when she says “and it’s like the sky is new” and it is V/vi. This chord seems to be trying to build and build towards a musical, and textually based, climax.

 

The second one is Winter Song by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson occurring in the phrase “this is my winter song, December never felt so wrong.” This song is in C# Major and the secondary dominant is also a V/vi. Contrary to the precious song, it is used to reflect the unsettled feeling expressed within the lyrics.

 

This assignment was rather difficult for me trying to pin down specific chromatic chords. Listening to songs repeatedly got overwhelming but I’m glad I was able to pull through. We should do a post on several of our favourite groups/composers/whatever so we can talk about specific artists that are meaningful and influential to us. 🙂

Music in Daily Life

There is no debating the fact that music is a powerful force that can, if not change really change internal balances, sway emotions and affect our lives. Music taste is frequently reflected in lifestyle, clothing choices, and speech. However, some believe that we should limit music to certain areas in our life. If someone wants to constrict the stage for music to worship only, than I think they are making a mistake. In the Bible, music is most often mentioned in regards to purposefully praising God like in Psalm 92:1-3
1″ It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
3 to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre. “

However, there are other times, when it is used simply in celebration of a joyous event such as in the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15  “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.” Also, we see in Psalm 49:4 that David uses music to soothe his mind and relax “I will incline my ear to a proverb;  I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre.”

I believe part of the issue with people constraining music to sacred settings, is that their definition of “worship” is too narrow. Worship is not only singing words in praise to God, but all things can become worship. Worship can be “presenting your bodies as a living sacrifice. This is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1) Worship is living to God’s glory, worshiping him in all we do. Rejoicing in the gifts he’s given us, the world we live in, the daily ways He loves us.

 

A Fountain of Joy

It’s the end of the semester. Finals start tomorrow, juries loom near, thousands of other worries are gnawing at your thoughts, and probably the last thought on our minds is our love for music. Let me just give you a few reminders, as much as for you as for me, as to why we do this; why we choose to be trained to share this thing.

Hans Christian Anderson, the father of our fairy tales, once said: “Where words fail, music speaks.” and through all of his wisdom, I don’t know if he said a truer word. In the heights of our joy or the depths of our sorrow, when all else fails music stands to express. Why do you think we have Songs Without Words? I’ve talked before about music being the great communicator, but what about communicating to ourselves. As humans, we have to express; we’re made to express. It has the power to open hearts. Maria Von Trapp (the real one :)) said: “Music acts like a magic key to which the most tightly closed heart opens.” It causes loneliness to evaporate like Robert Browning said: “Who hears music, feels his solitude peopled at once.” But perhaps greatest of all and said by the great and God-fearing warrior, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.

 

Thank you, Lord for such an incredible gift. To release our troubles, to express our tormented souls, to keep the fountain of joy alive in us….to keep.

I’ve been reading Biola University’s Advent Plan, and in today’s reading it said: “To fight with Christ is to foil the foe with a weapon not our own–with a joy that was always the Son’s and which Father has given to us in Immanuel, God with us.”

We have an everlasting fountain of joy because it doesn’t come from us. It is otherworldly. We don’t live in denial of the hardships and misery of this world but we can face them with strength because the battle is won! No grim faces, for a grim face is only needed when the outcome of conflict is unsure.

 

Rejoice in our fountain of joy, flowing from our Saviour, fed by His Word and also His music…for that’s who it all belongs to…that’s why we all do music.

 

 

What is it, really?

I’ve been thinking lately, what is music really? I mean, I know the dictionary definition “sounds that are sung by voices or played on musical instruments” but really, does that cover it? And whose is it really? I mean, a composer…it comes from them; the very depths of them, but after they die it’s left behind (even if unsung) still hanging somewhere. There has got to be some place where old forgotten songs go. They aren’t a physical thing nor are they spiritual but they are other-worldly, uncontainable things that evasively lead us on. Never has a beautiful rendition of a song been strictly as written… or even the same as the last earth shaking performance.

Music speaks to us all in wildly different ways, touching our souls, moving us in a myriad of variations. This being said, why do we jump to conclusions about someone’s music taste? How do we know what that song does for them? How do we know what is touched within them, what feeling it evokes? Personal taste doesn’t rank you higher or lower on a special to normal scale but puts you on your own personal scale of who you are and what you are made of.

I don’t know how to define music , but I wish you the deepest enjoyment that it can ever bring you.

Romualdas Rakauskas - From Le tourbillon de la vie

And that my friend is a joyous wish indeed.

Postscript: I do offer my most sincere apologies to anyone who has been subjected to me thumbing my nose at their musical taste.

Keep Pushing

“I got tired of pushing” “They just got tired of it” “They aren’t the best so I let them quit”

How often have you heard those words coming from a parent whose children have been in music lessons?

“I wish they had made me keep going.” “I always said I hated it, but I was just lazy.” “I wish I could still play but now it’s too late”

And that? How often have you heard that and seen the disappointed looks on someone’s face?

So often parents become tired of the stress and the frustration that the usually slow progress causes for their children. But, through the problems, people lose sight of the life benefits of music. It’s about overcoming frustration, learning your faults, your weaknesses and learning, and conquering them.

Parents, please realize that no one  wants to practice every day. No one  will always love it. But is that any reason to stop? Is that how we approach life? A little (or a lot) of frustration is no reason to give up on something…a job, an assignment, a friendship. So why music? Very few people enjoy the daily grind of scales and etudes but it’s the practice (and the joy through trials) that get’s you where you want to go.

 

Oh, and please don’t use the excuse that someone has “more talent.” In the end, it’s the willingness to work that is behind the progress; making the difference between the real musicians and those who rely on talent. (if you need to be reminded: Talent or Joy )

 

Please, please, please never give it up