Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ramblings on Music

This is choir night and I'm in Garden City, Kansas. I guess it seems strange that I look forward to choir practice the way that I do. I always try to get home in time to make it there on Wednesday nights. Church choir is what I'm talking about. I enjoy singing.

Our choir is very good. Not professional level of course, but very good. Don't tell him, but I attribute a lot of the high quality of our choir to the director. He is very demanding -- almost militaristic in his approach to practice and to performance. He brings a discipline to us that I've not experienced with other directors. It is a good thing. It brings out our best.

We sing a wide variety of pieces in choir ranging from arrangements of some of the more contemporary pieces to the very difficult "high church" music from several hundred years ago. We are always challenged.

I think some of my favorite pieces are the Southern Gospel pieces. We don't do a lot of them, but I especially like some of the Bill Gaither arrangements. However, I just as much like some of the arrangements of the Chris Tomlin pieces, or -- well, just about anything we attempt. It is just a joy to sing with a choir that can handle about anything that is thrown at it.

I also sing in a small group called BASIC. It stands for Brothers And Sisters In Christ. We do mostly contemporary pieces. The group is small enough and the members adept enough that we can do some difficult harmonies effectively. The hardest part of singing in BASIC is that we have to memorize everything. I have let my memory skills decline with age and it is sometimes difficult for me to achieve the confidence level necessary to perform the songs from memory. I always want a crutch of some kind. Fortunately (or, unfortunately), our director does not allow us to use a crutch. No notes, no music, nothing.

I have sung with self-accompaniment on the guitar for years. The guitar has become my memory crutch. As long as I am playing the guitar, it seems I can remember the songs. Without it, the words seem to evaporate. I don't know what that is telling me. Probably that my mental discipline has lapsed through the years.

Suffice it to say, I love music. I like all kinds of music. If you looked at the collection of CD's in the console of my pickup, you wouldn't know what my favorite kind of music was. There is everything from Rachmaninov to Stevie Ray Vaugh, The Eagles to Steven Curtis Chapman, and everything in between. I like any "good" music. I don't care for most Rap and I don't care for Pop (Madonna, Michael Jackson, etc.), but I like Blues, Jazz, Contemporary Christian, old Rock, Rock and Roll, Classical, Big Band, Choral, Instrumental, Country, Blue Grass -- and just about anything else you can think of . I like music. I like strong lyrics and I like great music even if the words are so-so. Strong lyrics combined with strong music are a rarity.

I've written a little music through the years. I'm not very good at it, but it is fun to make the attempt. Who knows, maybe someday, I'll write something that people will enjoy. My goal is just for them to not know that I wrote it, but ask, "who wrote that?!!"

Writing music and writing poetry aren't all that different. Many poems can be set to music. Most contemporary music is written to a formula. That's not my goal. I don't think that writing to a formula is true art. It is closer to mathematics. When I write, I want it to convey a specific message. Sure, the lure of selling a hit is always there, but the art itself should be pure. If the art is good (just like a painting that is well done) it should sell.

There is music everywhere. I think God "broadcasts" songs to the earth. Different artists hear it and therefore express it differently. I think that is why there are often multiple songs released on a common theme at about the same time. Have you ever noticed that? When some artist releases a song with a new theme, there are often multiple songs with similar themes released in the same relatively short time-frame. The time-frame is too short for them to have been created in response to the first release -- they had to have been created virtually simultaneously. To me, that's God supplying the theme and the creative impulse of man revealing it to their brothers. Who knows? Maybe I'm right and your belief that it is just coincidence is merely your way of denying the truth. Ok, so I'm on a soap box. My point is -- I like music. I believe it expresses our deepest feelings and reveals our inermost truths.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That was a really good post. I miss my music days. There just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day. And, when I want to play, there is not a piano readily available. It's a little discouraging.