Vignette (for lever harp)

Here's a unique composition I wrote for my very talented wife who took up the lever harp little more than a year ago just for fun.  The interesting thing about a lever (or 'folk' harp) is that each note can be adjusted to sharp, flat, or natural.  I thought it would be interesting to write a piece that every note below Middle C was tuned to C Major, and every note above Middle C tuned to Ab Major. 

Here's what came out.

Vignette (for lever harp):

(performed by Katherine Hohstadt)

10 Lessons I've Learned from J.S. Bach (part 2)

The second lesson that J.S. Bach so wonderfully displays is that of passion.

He had a passion that drove him to create a vast amount of music, more than most composers would be able to create in two or three lifetimes.  So what drove him in this quantity and quality of output?  Was it fame?  Was it the hope of fortune?

No one knew of Bach like we know him today, until he was rediscovered many years later after his death.  He obviously was not motivated by fame.  His employers apparently had little understanding of the greatness of his work, criticizing him as having been unproductive, when in fact he had produced in a period of seven years what most composers would have been glad to produce in a lifetime.

His income was barely sufficient to meet the needs of his family.

His musical resources were comparatively limited to other musicians living in that same time-period.  When he asked for a few more hired musicians, he was scoffed at and ridiculed. 

By comparison, most of us music ministers today have it easy!

So what motivated him?  How did he keep going in the midst of the lack of appreciation and misunderstanding?

It was his vision and his faith.  He had a vision to bring to God in worship music of superior quality.  He wasn't content to give God second best in his creativity, and he wasn't content to just let church be average.  Along with this, his personal integrity and expectation of himself was commensurate with the godly Christian values of a work-ethic not based on pleasing man, but on pleasing God.  To him it didn't matter if man revered him or disdained him, because it wasn't man he was ultimately working for. 

As prayer and worship are integral to the Christian faith, so was the act of composing for Bach.  When he wrote, he wasn't just making something to get by for the next event, rather, it was prayer and worship for him.  When he wrote, he was touching his very relationship with God.  His creativity was prayer and worship, and he participated in it on a daily basis. 

Many scholars of his work are amazed by the complexity of pattern and design.  I believe the supernatural touch of God through this interaction of prayer and worship is key to the genius that is evident in his music.

In conclusion, the second lesson that I have for you is this: Don't be swayed by the opinions of man, but rather stay true to your inner convictions which, through a relationship with God, will give you passion and unshakeable vision for the future.

Why Does all the Music Sound the Same?

Why does all the music sound the same?  Have you ever asked that question?

How about spicing it up with some serialism, or some retrograde inversion…or maybe some augmentation or diminution?

If you’re in a rut musically and you’re looking for some ideas, check out how you might be able to use some Classical Music disciplines to spice up your creativity and sound like no other band out there.  (For more ideas, see my article What Is "Classical Music?")

I’m not saying you’re going to like this short song I wrote for a Christmas Eve service at my church, but it shows how Classical disciplines can be applied to make something completely different.

When I wrote “God of the Heavens” I sat down and asked myself, “What would it look like to write a song using a simple contemporary song-structure, but a fully orchestrated use of contemporary Classical techniques and motivic development…no holds barred ?”

Here’s what came out, it’s not with a real orchestra, since I don’t have one.  I used Apple Logic to build it.  Hopefully someday it could be performed with live players.  Nevertheless, I stated the theme with the opening instrumental section, then used it to develop Verse 1.  Verse 2 is an inversion of Verse 1, to portray the fact that Jesus came from Heaven to Earth, a mirror image, upside-down from heaven.  There are other motivically developed ideas that I used as well…so essentially, it’s a Christian/Pop-song/Contemporary Classical piece.

I guarantee you…you’ve never heard ANYTHING else like it!


The God of all eternity,

The God Who spread out all the heavenlies

has come to the earth as a tiny seed,

planted into the earth, just for you and me.


The God of all the life we see

has come into the very air we breathe,

and has given Himself to us

that we would be set free

from disease and inflicted poverty.


God of the heavens,

God of the miracles we see,

God of the true reality,

You came to earth,

You came through birth.




God of the heavens,

You came to earth.

You came to earth.

You came through birth.

Opposing Paradigms?

Should composers be performers, or performers composers?  Where in the world did improvisation go, when it comes to academic music training?  It seems that the longer a musical style is around, the more cemented it becomes, less flexible, less innovative.  Jazz, birthed in a highly innovative environment, is already starting to show signs of this.

What about new styles versus old there any common ground between Pop genres and Classical disciplines?  What would benefit popular styles from the Classical heritage, if anything?  What would J.S. Bach likely do, if he were alive in today's culture?

These are some paradigms that seem to be contradictory, but maybe these questions should be asked.

To find out more, see my article Opposing Paradigms.

What Is Classical Music, Anyway?

Is Classical Music violins and oboes?  Is it a conductor standing in front of an 80-piece orchestra?  Is it tradition and history, or is it somehow deeper than all of this?

Why is it that many of the songs we hear today are forgotten in just a few years, while music from the Classical past has been able to last through the centuries, many being so much a part of our lives that we don't even realize where they came from.  (Take for example 'Brahm's Lullaby' or 'Pachelbel's Canon')

What is it that has caused these materials to span the decades and even centuries?  Perhaps there is something beneath the surface that seems to resonate with our perception of truth and beauty.  Maybe, like hidden treasure, there are things that can be discovered and even applied in the creation of contemporary popular music, which could perhaps give greater depth and lasting resilience.

What are these hidden secrets that the Great Masters knew about, and how can they be used today?

Come see my article, What Is "Classical Music"?