Category Archives: Music

Life – as seen from “Music Theory for Beginners

Last September I drove to Nebraska to visit my parents.

As old people will do –and that includes all three of us now- we were reminiscing about the old days, including those days when I was a very poor piano student of a good lady named Mrs. O’Dell. Both my younger sister and I studied with her, which involved both a private lesson in actual playing, and a group theory lesson every week.

My mother recalled Mrs. O’Dell saying how unusual it was to have two children from the same family who both preferred theory to playing. We were always odd folk.

One of the things I remember is the idea that music is among other things, the management of tension and resolution. Yes, other arts work with this as well, good story-telling for example, but I never learned to do that. Stay with me.

There are a lot of ways to build and resolve tension in music.

  • You can start a pitch at “home” and raise it up (like stretching a rubber band between two points, and then pulling it up), then lower it back to home. “Amazing Grace” is like this, feeling very peaceful, and, well, resolved, when it gets back to its home note.
  • You can do it with rhythm. Think of three quick beats in a row, and repeat that cluster three times: “applepie – applepie – apple pie” Now release that tension (perhaps in your belt, caused by all that pie) by taking a nap: “applepie – applepie – applepie – Sleeeeep” (get a good LONG nap!) See how resolved and peaceful that is?
  • Or you can do tension and resolution by harmony.
    Think of the traditional ending in some church hymns, where everyone sings “A – MEN” on 2 chords.

Most music will combine all these techniques and more, all through the piece.

The management of tension and release is very close to the heart of music.

Life is like that, too. Seasons of tension and release, stress and resolution.

But here’s the thing… NOBODY goes to hear concerts of resolution. Or tension either.

They go to hear and wonder at the MUSIC. Life is filled with music, music is filled with life, with tension and release.

May your life be beautiful, filled with music.

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Church Shopping – and why I hate it!

I have announced and asked for prayers in too many places for me to pretend it is still a secret, at least a secret from anyone to whom It would matter. I am actively exploring the possibility of leaving my church of the last dozen or so years for another, yet to be discovered. And I hate the process. Continue reading

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Thoughts on the beginning of Advent; “O Come O Come Emmanuel!”

O come, O come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel;

that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny.

From depths of Hell Thy people save, and give them victory o’er the grave

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here.

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come, and open wide our heavenly home;

Make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might, who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,

 In ancient times did’st give the Law, in cloud, and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.

My favorite song of this season, Advent, and one I am full ready to proclaim this this year. I need the awareness of Emmanuel (“God with us”) now, as proclaimed in the third verse, to

“Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death dark shadows put to flight.” Continue reading

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Small Victories!

I have been more open to restorations lately. I think perhaps that can happen when one doesn’t try so hard to keep everything on the fence, balanced so that you can go for either opportunity that may present itself. Nothing wrong with staying open – I heartily encourage it – but one’s real life is lived in only one pasture at a time, not on the fence. (Damned uncomfortable place, anyway!)

My latest small victory is in rediscovering music. Continue reading

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