7 Attributes of a Complete Contemporary Musician- Part 6

Attribute #6: In previous blogs, we have discussed the following points regarding the complete contemporary musician. 

He will have a meaningful purpose for his work (Attribute #1).  He is open to cultural influences, learning from those who have come before him (Attribute #2).  He is willing to embrace the creativity of other contemporary artists (Attribute #3), and he is able to both improvise as well as read music (Attribute #4).  He is willing to study and participate in new innovation (Attribute #5). 

In this blog, we will explore the need for the complete contemporary musician to be proficient in both practices of composition and performance.

The subjects are mutually beneficial to each other.  Without one, the other does not exist.  They blend together almost like the covenant of marriage.  The inter-relationship between the two subjects, at times, becomes so saturated that it is difficult to always tell when composition isn’t performance, and when performance isn’t composition.

In Attribute #4, we discussed the subject of improvisation.  This is one way the two worlds can simultaneously coexist.  Another example might be when a performer adds his ‘interpretation’ to the work, making it uniquely an expression of his own artistry.  Many who compose music will attest to the fact that at certain moments in the creative process, one feels as though he is performing while he is at work, even when he is the only one in the room.

There are times when the composer, with all of the specific instruction he can muster, must step aside to allow the performer ‘room’ to express the work in a way which sometimes even goes beyond the composer’s own original imagination.  It is futile for the composer to exert his authority over every tiny detail of performance, ultimately stifling the creativity that emanates from a mutual relationship with the performer.

I believe that the complete contemporary musician must be able to function both as a composer as well as a performer because, without the knowledge and experience gained on either side of the equation, he will be severely lacking in his ability to make meaningful music in either discipline.

For example, if a performer has no understanding of composition, or the process of creativity, his performances will tend towards a mechanical approach, simply robotically moving through a sequence of notes and pretending emotion.  However, when he sees himself as a composer, he will be more willing to take risks with the material, gaining insights into the mind of the composer himself, catching the ‘spirit’ of the material, and not the ‘letter’ of every ‘crossing of the t’ and ‘dotting of the i’.   I am not insinuating that the performer should become slack in his approach and respect for the creator’s original work, but rather encouraging a comprehensive approach to his interfacing with what the composer has given.  I would go so far as to say that the performer’s own unique ideas actually complete the process of creativity.

Many times, as a composer, I am elated to hear a performer bring my composition to life in an unusual and unexpected interpretation.  I believe many composers feel the same way.

Composers, on the other hand, if lacking in performance experience, tend to become cold, distant and irrelevant to their audience, hiding away in some castle of ideology and technical matrix they have created.  When a composer is also a performer, he intuitively knows what will work for a particular audience, and imagines that audience’s response while he is working.

Not every work is for every audience.  In a perfect world, it would be wonderful to believe it was true, but the world of performance simply isn’t perfect.  And that’s the beauty of it!  The composer needs to ‘get his hands soiled’ in the imperfect dirt of audience interaction.  When he is keenly aware of who he is writing for, he will know the boundaries he can push and those he must never cross.  The process of composition is simply about making good musical judgments along the creative path, judgments that work both for the audience as well as the performer.  I am not insisting that the composer must relinquish his idealism altogether, but rather that he ‘tailor’ the ideas to fit the needs of his audience.  According to Stravinsky, in his “Poetics of Music”, the narrower the boundaries, the greater the creativity.

The intermingling of these two disciplines, I believe, will yield the most successful results for both areas distinctly.  I am not advocating that an artist should relinquish his particular ‘bent’, his ‘gifting’, as some people have more creative leanings, while others have greater success in the art of performance; however, I want to encourage ‘both sides of the coin’ to expand their capacity to embrace the other side.  Doing so will ultimately create the best results for both worlds.

(For more on this subject, see “Opposing Paradigms”)



7 Attributes of a Complete Contemporary Musician- Part 5

Attribute #5: In earlier blogs, we have seen that a complete contemporary musician will have a meaningful purpose for his work (Attribute #1).  He is open to cultural influences, learning from those who have come before him (Attribute #2).  He is willing to embrace the creativity of other contemporary artists (Attribute #3), and he is able to both improvise as well as read music (Attribute #4).  In addition to these, the complete musician/artist must be willing to participate in new innovation, utilizing and expanding current tools available to him.

Every society and time period has its own ‘cutting edge’ innovation, whether it is artistic, philosophical, governmental or industrial.  Perhaps the greatest innovation in our modern day is the advent of electronic technology, i.e. the computer (and internet/communication possibilities).  It continues to shape not only the development of music and art, but also its dissemination around the world.

The ‘stage’ an artist performed upon didn’t change much from the Greek amphitheater to the Wagner opera house (representing about two-thousand years), but all of that rapidly changed just in the last (less than) one hundred years.  Music’s ‘stage’ has moved from the concert hall, to radio and television, then to the recording industry and finally to the home studio via You Tube and the internet.  With much of the world embracing technological interactivity, the Internet is now music’s stage, and its performers are the world’s population.  Talent and skills developed upon past ‘stage’ paradigms may or may not have a role in success.  Rather, it’s about innovation and creativity.

Here’s a short list of some of the areas easily available to the musician/artist today: 1) Multi-track recording, 2) MIDI Sequencing, 3) Sampling, 4) Looping, 5) Micro-tonality, 6) Synchronization to other media (lighting, video, etc.).  This is just on the creative side of things.  There’s another arsenal of tools on the distribution/marketing side: 1) Pod-casts, 2) Forums, 3) Blogs, 4) Facebook, 5) You Tube, 6) I-Tunes, 7) Personal web-sites, 8) Digital distribution in so many ways it’s almost ridiculous to try to enumerate them.

One can become so involved in the technological tools, however, that he can lose objectivity.  This is a real danger for today’s electronically savvy artist.  I believe it is critically important for the artist (as shown in Attribute #1) to have a firm grasp of history so that he can objectively navigate his future.

I had a conversation with a co-worker one day, as I was making a photocopied ‘archive’ of a report.  When he asked me what I was doing, I said, “I’m all about archiving.  If you don’t know where you’ve been, then you don’t know where you’re going.”  His smart reply to me was, “…unless you have a map.”  But a map does no good if one doesn’t know his location on it!

Knowing history, combined with a comprehensive knowledge of currently available tools will give the artist an awareness of ‘where he is on the map’. 

It’s not good to be stuck in the past, but it’s equally detrimental to be so immersed in contemporary ideologies that one loses objectivity.  When the artist loses objectivity, he also loses direction and motivation.  Objectivity, however, can be regained by reviewing history.

Here’s a simple example of what I’m trying to say.  When I begin writing a song, I generally have a ‘seed’ idea that just came to me.  It could be one short phrase, or a measure of music.  When I begin to think of that phrase over and over again, something miraculous happens: it grows out of itself!  I wonder what I will do next.  I might even get a little nervous that I don’t know what to do (there are so many possibilities).  But then I remember to go back to the beginning and think about the material that’s already there.  When I do this, yet another miracle happens: it grows out of itself again!

Through this process of ‘organic growth’, all of my creativity comes.  It comes by thinking about what has already been given to me.  The same is true for the artist, as he endeavors to discover his destiny and future.  If he feels lost or overwhelmed by all the possibilities, he should go back and review his artistic roots.  He should study historic examples of others, seeing how they overcame unique obstacles in their day, as this can directly relate to current struggles he may be facing.  (The tools of today are new, but human nature is the same!)

“The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way.” (Prov. 14:8)

Having a secure sense of artistic direction is the best foundation to stand upon as the artist forges ahead with the newest and latest technological tools, establishing new creativity and artistic paradigms.

Who knows, if he's successful, perhaps he too will one day be studied.



Crucifixion Song

As we approach the Easter season, here's a song from a musical I wrote called "Resurrection Power".  I just call it "Crucifixion Song".  It's set to the text of Isaiah 53.

Hope you enjoy!

As a lamb led to slaughter,

as a sheep before its shearers,

He opened not His mouth He was silent

He was despised and forsaken of men,

a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief

Surely our griefs He bore and our sorrows He carried,

but He was pierced through for our transgressions

He was crushed for our iniquities

The judgment for our peace fell upon Him

By His stripes we are healed

By His scourging we are healed

 

By His Blood

By His Blood

His sacrifice brought us freedom

His sacrifice made us whole

 

Bought by the Blood of the Lamb

Bought by the Blood of the Lamb

Purchased with nail-scarred hands by love

 

Washed in the Blood of the Lamb

Washed in the Blood of the Lamb

Bought with the price of love,

by love, by love,

by love, by love,

by love

 

 

7 Attributes of a Complete Contemporary Musician- Part 2

Attribute #2:  The Complete Contemporary Musician, in addition to having a meaningful purpose for his music and art (Attribute #1), will have a solid understanding of artists who have come before him, along with the ability to perform their works.

A “know-it-all” attitude is not a flattering characteristic in a world replete with opportunities in the acquisition of knowledge and understanding.  If an artist is unwilling to admit that he doesn’t “have it all together” in every aspect of his life and art, he ultimately is a shallow person, with a shallow future of productivity.  Only by realizing that there has always been, and will always be, someone else better at some skill or some knowledge, can the artist have enough hunger to grow in new areas.

“My son, if you will receive my saying, and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of God.” (Prov. 2:1-5)

Treasure is wealth, and the wealth we are talking about is: wisdom, knowledge and understanding.  Knowledge is the gaining of facts, understanding is the arranging of those facts, and wisdom is the proper application of the understanding gained.  (Many people have knowledge, but they are completely lost when it comes to applying that knowledge or even understanding what it means in a larger context.)

No matter what artistic genre the artist may be involved in, perhaps even having been skillfully involved for a number of years, there is still room for growth.  There is still time to ‘step out of the box’ to consider something never yet seen or experienced.

For example, a pop/rock drummer could set a goal to be able to read through a score of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, or to conduct through parts of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.  A classical musician could take some time to transcribe a Miles Davis or Led Zeppelin solo and practice it on his instrument.  There are numerous possible examples, but the main stream of thought here is: expand the normal borders of your art!  Don’t just stay in familiar territory, try something new to you.  Make personal history.  It may have already been done, but not by you!

There is a vast reservoir of knowledge just waiting for the taking in the history of Western Art Music (or Classical Music, as we have commonly called it).  The lessons we can learn, however, have somehow gotten buried by the glamour and glitter of our current-day pop-culture’s examples of quick fame and fortune (and ‘throw-away’ art). But the lessons are still there, nonetheless.

Many contemporary musicians, even if they have spent some time studying the Great Masters of old, have unfortunately been content to simply leave that history in the past, missing the opportunity to use the gained revelation as fuel for rich, dynamic creativity today.

History is a little like the dinosaurs of yesteryear, having decayed, yet now useful as fossil fuel for our modern-day automobiles.  The process of transforming the creativity of yesterday into fuel for today is what will bring meaningful richness to today’s art.  To put it bluntly, if the artist has no historical knowledge, his art will have no power.

Just studying history is not enough, though.  The artist must immerse himself in the best possible way: through performance.  There’s something profound about giving one’s time and energy into the recreation of historic art.  Through performance, the lessons get inside of the artist, becoming a part of his inner-consciousness.  As he goes through the process of bringing the art to life for today’s audience, he ultimately plants seeds of greatness into his own life, as well.

Honoring history is a little like the Scriptural admonition, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.” (Eph. 6:1-3)

If you want your art and creativity to live long and prosper, learn to honor those who have come before you, be willing to ‘go digging’ for hidden treasure in fields you haven’t yet seen.  Through the process you will discover riches beyond comparison, deep rivers of inspiration, when everyone else has run dry!

7 Attributes of a Complete Contemporary Musician- Part 1

To be an artist in today’s fast-paced, highly competitive society is a daunting challenge, to say the least.  The artist/musician must have a tenacity and inner strength that can withstand the criticism of his new ideas, the charisma to reach a new audience and the technique to rise above the average.

When considering ‘success’, an artist must grapple with the question as to what ‘success’ really is for his own life.  It’s a little like the Peanuts Cartoon of Charlie Brown shooting an arrow at the fence and subsequently drawing a circle around where the arrow stuck.  When asked by Lucy what he was doing, he replied that this was the way he knew he would always have a Bulls-eye.

As artists, instead of justifying our lives, living in a dream-world of ego-centrism and unrealistic expectations of an audience’s recognition just because we consider ourselves to be ‘great’, there should rather be some concrete and measurable standards to which we hold our lives and our art.

In this series of blogs, I am outlining what I believe are definitive characteristics of a successful contemporary musician/artist, attributes of ‘character’ (if you will) of a complete and mature artist, who will be truly beneficial to society.

 

Attribute #1:  The Complete Contemporary Musician/artist, before anything else, must have a meaningful purpose for his art.

If the artist has a purpose that is anything less than compelling, his art will suffer for it.  The motivation of the art defines the art itself.  The art emanates from within its purpose. 

For example, if the artist’s intention is to simply ‘make lots of money’, then his art will be crassly commercial, artificial and superficial.  This kind of art lasts long enough to titillate an immature and naïve audience, then quickly falls into obscurity and obsolescence.

If the artist’s purpose is to ‘become famous’, then his art will revolve around ‘self’ instead of anything of higher meaning.  Flamboyancy and a wide palette of extreme attention-getting techniques are typical to this kind of motivation.  Unfortunately, the self-made artist is, in the end, a disappointing object of worship.  Once the shock-value of the display wears off, his audience is acutely aware of his ordinary humanity, and even resents the fact that he spent more time on ‘marketing himself’ than on developing something of lasting value. 

Another unfortunate result of this kind of artistic purpose is the fact that men are simply unable to withstand the pressure of being ‘worshipped’.  They self-implode.  The psychology behind all of it is too much to bear when they find themselves living a lie. The subconscious awareness that they are not really able to live up to everyone’s expectations of ‘deity’ drives them to strange and various dissipations, which all end in further emptiness and un-fulfillment.

Having a purpose of ‘societal benefit’ is compelling to many artists.  Some find fulfillment in promoting a ‘Green Earth’, or to help raise funds to ‘Fight AIDS’ or some other societal ill.

Some artists simply like to ‘bring beauty’ into the world, or to ‘make people think’ about politics or societal dilemmas.

Every artist is on a journey to answer the question of meaning in his life and work.  It is not a stagnate, life-long rut that he endures, but rather a constantly evolving paradigm-changing awareness of ‘reality’.   What he was involved in a year ago may seem to be ‘silly’ to him today.  Most artists are adept at raising these questions, and are constantly searching for new answers to meaningful awareness.

In my journey, I have come to believe that the highest expression of music and art are in the worship of God. 

I’m not alone in this belief.  One of the greatest musicians to have ever lived believed that “Music’s only purpose should be for the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit.” (J.S. Bach) [for more on this, see 10 Lessons J.S. Bach Taught Me]

The Bible is replete with thousands of years of historical records showing the use of music in worship to God. 

In my personal experience, having lived through most of the above-mentioned examples of artistic purpose and motivation, I have come to sense a vastly greater peace and contentment in this pursuit, knowing that I don’t have to ‘measure up’ to society’s varied and ever-changing whims and ‘hoops’ to jump through.  I simply have ‘an audience of One’, and He is already pleased with me by the forgiveness He offers through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.  

Regardless as to where you might be in your pursuit of meaningful artistic creativity, I encourage you to continue to ask the question: “What is the purpose of my life and art?” 

When you ask it sincerely, you will undoubtedly be on course for a life of true meaning and authentic success.

 



The Three Uses of Music and Arts

Music is useful in our society in many ways, but I believe that there are three main functions of music and the arts in our lives: 1) Performance, 2) Worship, and 3) Prophetic.

The most common use of music and the arts in our lives is that of performance, in which the artist gives his art to another person or group of people.  This is certainly beneficial in many ways, especially when the artist and his audience have commonality in their likes, interests and goals.  Much of this kind of artistic endeavor centers around Man: what man can accomplish in skill, what styles man likes to hear or see, how popular the artist becomes, etc.   In essence, it's all about man’s performance and social acceptance.

A higher level of music and artistic involvement is that of worship.  Music and the arts do a wonderful job of ‘pointing’ the audience to a target.  The ‘pointing’ can draw an arrow to the Artist himself, or to a cause (like ‘saving the planet’), or to a consumer product (like Coca-Cola).  Whatever music and the arts point to will be ‘exalted’.  Another way of saying it is: whatever the ‘arrow’ is pointing to is lifted up and amplified, even worshiped.

There are many examples throughout history of how music has been used to ‘exalt’ that which it points towards.  Take for example the biblical story in the Book of Daniel. 

“Nebuchadnezzer the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.  (Dan. 3:1)  Then the herald loudly proclaimed: “To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language, that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up.  But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.”  Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.” (Dan. 3:4-7)

Throughout the ages, all cultures and religions have used music in some form or fashion to convey their worship.  The Bible is replete with the subject of musical expressions of worship in Judaism and Christianity.  As the God of the Bible is a creative God, Who made man in His image, it stands to reason that He put within man the ability to create in like manner.  Part of the response from those who worship God is, of necessity, a creative one.

Music and art that are brought to God in worship exist for a higher purpose than the pleasure of man.  This kind of activity seeks to ‘point the arrow’ towards the Creator of all things, amplifying Who He is, inspired and empowered by His worth.

There is actually a third, and even loftier functioning of music and the arts in which few people are ever involved, and that is the expression of the prophetic. 

This is where the purpose of the creativity is not for man’s pleasure, and not even to exalt God, but rather, it is when God Himself speaks through what is created.  This phenomenon is not initiated by man himself.  To do so would be ‘false-prophesy’.  That doesn’t mean that man is a ‘puppet’, however.  Man cooperates, in this instance, with God-breathed inspiration in the creative process.  Man, by supernatural inspiration, brings form to what is being spiritually conveyed by God Himself.

The message that results may or may not bring pleasure to those who hear it.  It may even run diametrically opposed to the culture’s desires.  But one thing is sure: it will always cut deeper into the audience’s conscience than anything produced for performance or worship.  It is a message that demands a response of action by those who hear it.  It can elicit dramatic cultural change and has the power to move history substantially down a new and different pathway.

Elements of prophetic music and art can be intertwined with performance and worship, but when those moments happen, it is in stark contrast to elements that are not prophetically motivated.  The artist is definitively aware of when ‘God steps into the picture’.  All who have tasted of this creative inspiration are forever marked.  Nothing less will ever suffice.

 

 



When Is a gift a Gift?

Does a gift become a gift when the giver gives it, or when it is received by the one given to?

Have you ever received a gift from a distant relative that meant well, but truly missed the mark?  You want to get rid of the 'gift' as fast as you received it!

A gift is something that is unique both to the giver as well as the recipient.  It's almost like a covenant or special place of agreement with one another.

In terms of the arts, people are called 'gifted' in certain areas of performance and creativity.  There have been many artists who have given highly crafted gifts to an unaccepting audience, while others with less creativity and ingenuity gave gifts to an audience that went 'crazy' over their mediocre production.

So what makes a gift a Gift?

Here are a few catagories of gifts to ponder:

1) The pre-mature gift.  The giver's gift may be highly creative and thoughtful, but the recipient simply isn't ready for it.  The giver sees the potential of what the recipient could do with the gift, how it would benefit them, but they can't yet see it for themselves.  These gifts may be received reluctantly and set on the shelf for a while. Then one day, the recipient has become mature enough to appreciate the gift and it becomes relevant to them, at which point they become truly grateful.

2) The late gift.  Here's a gift that is usually given out of reluctance, procrastination or obligation.  The giver knows that it would be appropriate to give, but lacks the motivation to get the job done 'on time'. Or maybe they were unaware of the due date, or had forgotten it, then hastily they scramble to put something together. It's truly a missed opportunity.  It's a failure to properly assess the potential of the moment.  A gift too late is like over-ripe and bruised fruit that's really only good for the trash can.

3) The timely gift.  This is one that uniquely perceives the recipient's desires and accurately assesses the time-frame of the moment to give it.  Enough time and insight went into the preparation and it just 'hit's the mark'. The giver, in this situation, has been willing to listen to the desires and needs of the recipient well before the gift's giving date.  It's a 'win win' situation, where the giver and the receiver are both rewarded.

4) The over-appreciated gift.  Here is a gift that is given to meet the fleshly, selfish desires of the recipient.  It's only goal is to get instant appreciation.  The one who gives this kind of gift usually doesn't care much about the gift itself and doesn't put a lot of thought, energy or time into the process.  He simply gives out of a prior knowledge that this is what the recipient wants.  In this case, the recipient is happy for a little while, but the lasting results of a mutual relationship in the gift was never there to begin with.

5) The under-appreciated gift.  This gift is given by the gift-giver with a great amount of thought, preparation and anticipation.  They endeavor to give what they would want for themselves, regardless as to whether or not the recipient is really at all interested.  Many times the recipient feels a little awkward in this situation, trying to 'gin up' a response to the giver's obvious sacrifice and love.  This gift may become more appreciated in a matter of time, and ultimately will last in the recipient's memory as a token of the giver's good-intentions.

6) The unanimously appreciated gift.  When both the giver and the recipient are 'on the same page' the gift becomes more than the gift itself.  It becomes a symbol of their relationship.  The gift opens a door to something higher than itself, a celebration of the mutual love and understanding of the giver and the receiver towards one another.

7) The unanimous and timely gift.  The best of all worlds.  It's a gift that hits the heart of the recipient at the right time and the right place.  It may be expensive, or it may be inexpensive, but if it 'hits the mark' it is never considered 'cheap'.  This gift brings mutual satisfaction to both the recipient as well as the giver and heightens their friendship, strengthens their love toward one another and unites them in commonality.

As an artist, there will be many different people who will be given the opportunity to receive your gift. Some will accept it, some will reject it.  Some will be overly enthusiastic and others only mildly.  The Carpenter's song, "Sing" from the 1970's, conveys the thought that "it doesn't matter if it's not good enough for anyone else to hear, just sing, sing a song."

The creative flow, like a river, must get to its destination.  If a rock or some other obstruction gets in its way, it just flows around it, moving on towards its goal.  

Let the creative flow move through you to benefit and bless those around you.  As you are sensitive to the needs, desires, gift 'arrival dates', and your own perception of what will be a lasting contribution to their lives, surely you will have success in a mutually enjoyed relationship.

Let's not forget the greatest example and role-model of giving: God through Jesus Christ.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." (Jn. 3:16)  

What Do Frequency and Spirit Have in Common?

What do frequency and spirit have to do with one another?

According to the most recent scientific studies of universal structure (i.e. quantum mechanics and string theory) everything that exists is vibrating energy.  Light, sound, even material objects have come to be known as various forms of frequency.

God is Spirit. (Jn. 4:24)  He spoke the worlds into existence. (Gen. 1:1; Jn. 1:1-3)  In other words, Spirit brought forth what was created.  According to Scripture, human beings are also spirit. (I Thess. 5:23)  The Bible instructs us to worship God on a spiritual level.  “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Jn. 4:24)

The Spirit, however, is unseen.  Jesus taught that it is like the wind.  (Jn. 3:8)  You can feel it and hear it, but you can’t see it.  You know it’s there, you can see the effects of it, but where did it come from and where is it going? 

It’s a lot like radio and television frequencies all around us that we don’t think about until we turn on the device that is receiving the signal.  These frequencies are invisible to us (in our natural awareness) but they are undoubtedly, and verifiably, present nonetheless.

The Bible is full of stories of people who had an encounter with beings that instantly appeared, bringing a message to them from God.  These beings, known as angels, apparently had the ability to make themselves visible in the physical realm, although they were present all the time.  Many Biblical passages talk about angels being present, yet not seen.  (Matt. 26:53; Ps. 91:11-12)  Angels are also referred to as ‘spirits’.

Dogs can hear frequencies much higher than humans, and though the frequencies are unrecognizable to the human, they are yet present.  Some animals can see colors that humans cannot.  Just because we cannot see, hear, or perceive a certain frequency doesn’t mean that it’s not there.

Similarly, just because we cannot see the frequencies of spirit beings doesn’t mean that they aren’t there.  People who live only by what they can see, hear, taste or touch (realists they call themselves) are missing out on a part of human life that is most exciting: the life of faith.

Faith is unseen, but the Bible calls it a substance. (Heb. 11:1)  Medical science has proven that certain chemicals are released into our bodies upon the choices of our thoughts and feelings.

Can thoughts be ‘seen’?  What about love, hope, vision…etc.?  These are all evidences that there is more than just a physical realm.  The life lived with an ‘eye’ for the spiritual is much more rewarding than one lived any other way.  Everything in the natural emanates from the unseen spiritual world.  That’s how it has been from the beginning.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth.” (Col. 3:1-2)

Perhaps frequency and spirit are subjects much more closely related than what we have considered.  Scientists, in their continuation to probe the natural realm, have now begun to touch upon things that require a measure of believing the ‘unseen’.

Even spiritual principles from the Bible parallel frequency studies.  Take for example the principle of agreement: “Two are better than one…and a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Eccl. 4:9-12)  “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by my Father who is in heaven.  For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.” (Matt. 18:19-20)  Agreement is the place of power.

In acoustics, when two manifestations of the same frequency, in phase with one another, come together, they double their amplitude.  In other words, when two sounds are ‘in agreement’ they create an exponential power.

Conversely, there is the principle of division: “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3)  “Can a throne of destruction be allied with Thee, one which devises mischief by decree?” (Ps. 94:20)  “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mk. 3:25)  Disagreement and division is the place of destruction.

In acoustics, again, when two similar frequencies come together, yet are out of phase with each other, they will cancel each other out.  This scientific knowledge has been used in military applications, such as the Stealth Bomber.  Sound system engineers are very careful to make sure all of the electrical signals to the speakers are ‘in phase’ so that ‘phase cancellation’ doesn’t happen in their system.

There are plentiful examples of spiritual and natural correlations to Spirit and Frequency.

A number of miracles that are recorded in the Bible may have something to do with this relationship.  How did Jesus walk on water, through walls, and pass through the midst of a mob that was proceeding to throw Him off a cliff?  How did Jesus, “with a loud voice” raise a man that had been dead for four days?  I am convinced that the manifestation of an unusual use of frequency had something to do these supernatural occurrences. 

Music and worship are manifestations of a use of Frequency that affects people internally.  All of us have experienced the sensation of exhilaration or being deeply moved by music.  The Bible even instructs people of faith to use music in their worship of God: “…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” (Eph. 5:18-19)

Perhaps, in the beginning, God Himself even ‘sang’ the creation into existence. 

In any event, the whole physical universe is still vibrating from His creative voice.



Did You Know That There's a Symphony in the Bible?

It’s not the New York Philharmonic, but it is filled with beauty and wonder.

It’s the unity of Christian believers in worship.

The Greek word sumphoneo, where we get our modern English word Symphony is used to describe being in agreement, in unison, in one accord, to speak together, to concur with one another.

Jesus said, “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.  For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.” (Matt.18:19-20)

Evidently, agreement creates power: the power of answered prayer, the power of the Presence of God.

The Greek word sumphonia, which is directly related to sumphoneo, means “to sound together, accordant, harmonious, Symphony, concert of instruments, music.”  Its synonyms are humnos (a hymn, a religious metrical composition), psallo (to make melody by the twitching and twanging of strings, to sing), and ode (a chant).

There are two Scriptures which use these exact words in sequence, written by the Apostle Paul, as he was encouraging the Church to participate in these activities when they came together.

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” (Eph. 5:18-21) 

And here’s the second one:

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col. 5:16)

Coming together with music is not only a spiritual command, but an opportunity to participate in something profound.  When we do this, we apparently tap into an extra dimension, something not at all ordinary, something unusual and powerful.

According to the Scriptures, we are encouraged to do this through the activity of singing and making music through composed and spontaneous songs and the use musical instruments.

“Yet You are holy, O Thou who art enthroned upon (literally, inhabit) the praises of Israel.” (Ps. 22:3)

God inhabits the praises of His people.

When you put Matthew 18:20 together with Psalm 22:3 you begin to see a pattern.  When God’s people come together in united praise, He says, “There I am in their midst.”  He “inhabits and is enthroned upon” their praises.

As this happens, there is not just earthly human power available.  According to Scripture, there is super-natural (or above natural) power which is present to heal, set free, deliver, fix what is broken, release what is bound, and set straight what is crooked.  Everything you know in your imagination that God can do, in this atmosphere He is present to do it.

It all happens when His people come together in united worship.  He is right there, ready to touch anyone who has faith to draw upon the power of His presence.

The woman with the issue of blood, who touched Jesus’ garment and was instantly healed, was surrounded by a multitude of people who experienced no miracle at all for themselves.  She was the only one who reached out in faith to touch Jesus.  He was physically being touched by people all around Him, but only one touched Him by faith. (Lk. 8:43-48)

When we are in the presence of God through united worship, we need to draw upon His available power to touch our lives, to do the things that natural man can never accomplish, inviting the power of a loving God to give us breakthrough.

It can and will happen in the Symphony of God, His manifested presence through corporate worship, the united gathering of those who draw near to Him by faith.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (Js. 4:8)

It’s a Symphony more powerful than anything this world can create, one that uses song, voices and instruments, but it’s a Symphony that goes much deeper than music, one that taps into the spiritual realm and touches the regenerative power that only God Himself can give.

Will you come to the concert?  The tickets are free.



Who Was the First Musician?

(We don’t know, for certain, that this was the very first musician to have ever lived, but he is the first person mentioned in the Bible who was highly influential in music.)

“And Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock.  And his brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.” (Gen. 4:20)

Jubal was the father of all the musicians in that day and age.

Jubal’s name is very interesting.  It means: “a stream, or watercourse, to carry.”  It fascinates me that the name of the father of the musicians had a name like this.   A name in the ancient Biblical world had meaning and carried a sense of the destiny of its recipient.

When I think of a river, I think of several things: 1) Nourishment, 2) Refreshment, 3) Flowing, and 4) Cleansing.

Those who either listen to or participate in music, to any degree, would attest to the fact that good music brings nourishment to our souls.  It refreshes us.  

As a musician, I am particularly interested in the flowing nature of the melodic lines and the general direction or flow of the composition.  As a worshiper, I am endeavoring to always be aware of where the flow of the service is going, what direction it’s taking.  The ability to ‘flow’ in music and worship may ultimately be the most important thing for the musician to learn.

The current of the river carries you.  You don’t manufacture it.  You can’t change its flow; it would futile to try.  You simply relax and allow yourself to be carried from one destination to another by the river’s pervasive power.

Sometimes the river is ‘wild’, impassioned and driving, while at other times it is peaceful, tranquil, and serene.  One who is traveling its path cannot dictate when or where these things might happen, he must simply ‘go with the flow’.

In creativity, whether spontaneous improvisation or meditative pre-planned composition and arranging, there is a flow that is already there, just waiting to be ‘tapped into’.  It is when we step into this River that we have the most rewarding times of bringing forth the new.  That which will be created flows out of that which already is.

Fourthly, a river brings cleansing.  We should be listening to and participating in the refreshing waters of music and worship, rather than the murky waters of stagnate pools.  If a music or worship experience leaves you feeling empty or dry, it’s probably because the River was not in it.  However, when you participate in the flow of the River, you always come out knowing it.  You feel refreshed, nourished and clean.

We should always endeavor to tap into the source of this flow, the flow that is already happening…a flow which cannot be controlled or manipulated.  (Oh, we can navigate, but we cannot ultimately control its onward momentum.)  We must simply ‘connect’ to it and participate, not fighting against the current, but relaxing in it, as we are carried to our next destination.

Perhaps Jubal is not only the father of ancient Biblical musicians, but also of all those who enjoy participating in the same River from which he himself flowed.

Current and Future Worship Trends- The Community

The artistic community of the Christian is the subject of a recent article, in which I explore the meaning of the word “community” as it relates to the arts and how they function within and through the Church most successfully.

The American College Dictionary defines community as “a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and have a cultural and historical heritage.” 

As “community” relates to the expression of the arts both within and through the Church, I believe there are several foundational traits that can be seen.  They are as follows: 1) Boundaries and Location, 2) Language, 3) History, 4) Destiny, 5) Beliefs, 6) Sacrifice, and 7) A Means of Exchange.

Come take a journey into the role of community in the life of a Christian artist in My Vision- The Community.

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

The tenth and final lesson that J.S. Bach taught me was to be devoted to God. 

He not only had the conviction that his music should be used in the service of the Church, but also deeply held the belief that (in his own words), “Music’s only purpose should be for the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit.”  He was not only employed by the community of the local church, but believed that anything and everything he would do in his life as a musician would be done to glorify God. 

Before he would create, he would write on the music “In Jesus’ Name” or “Jesus help me”.  Then, once he had finished a piece, he would write “To God be the glory”.  I don’t believe he was trying to be seen as a religious fanatic in doing this, but that he really meant these statements.  It had nothing to do with trying to impress the church leaders or his congregation with how ‘spiritual’ he was.  This was part of his personal devotional life.  His life of creativity was intertwined with his worship, his dialogue with the Creator of all things.

In his own Bible, on the pages of 2 Chronicles 5:13, he wrote a comment to himself, “Where there is devotional music, God is always at hand with his gracious presence.”  He knew the Presence of God in his own life, whether in the service of the local church or privately.  He had a relationship with God that went deeper than his occupation as a Music Minister or as a member of a church.

As I’ve shown in previous blogs, his interaction with the people of his community and congregation (who also considered themselves to be Christians) was at times tenuous, fraught with misunderstandings and disappointments.  If he had relied upon this situation to bring him spiritual and emotional strength, apart from his own personal devotional life, he most likely would have had reason to give up.  His conviction to serve God, whether or not his community ever accepted him, gave him reason to serve that community.  His strength to serve was not derived from that community, but from God Himself.  

His involvement with the spiritual went beyond that of natural human organization.  He lived and served in the local church community, but he spiritually lived to serve something beyond that, something more eternal.  “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.  And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.” (Heb. 11:13-16)

Here, on this earth, as wonderful as the community of the local church can be, we are yet human, with human hang-ups and differing viewpoints.  There is no perfect church, and no perfect music minister.  In the end, the only glue that holds the Church together is forgiveness. 

For those who are seeking a place that is above the natural failings of humanity (even in the Church), there can be a place of satisfaction, but it exists in a different place than the natural realm, it’s the place of the spirit.  Bach lived in this place.  He dialogued in this place, and derived strength from a divine relationship he had there with God Himself.

I have no doubt that he could have done well as a musician in any other occupational choice than that of a music minister, and that he could have given the world great music by the inspiration of God in a secular venue.  But he chose to identify himself with the One he served and had relationship with, by serving the local church community.  He was not ashamed to be identified with Jesus.  “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mk. 8:38)

Bach chose to be identified with the Gospel of Christ and to serve the Church community from the power of his own personal spiritual interaction with God.  It was a life-commitment that had far-reaching ramifications throughout history.  Not knowing about the massive impact he would wield on human artistic and spiritual history, unknown to most of his contemporary world, he dictated a final work from his bed: the chorale, “Before Thy Throne I Come”.

Application:  Never serve out of duty or obligation, trying to impress through good deeds a community that can never satisfy your deepest yearnings for success, appreciation and fame.  The only way true life-satisfaction and lasting creativity can be achieved is through a dynamic relationship with your Creator, found (as Bach did) through the grace of Jesus Christ.

 

 

10 Lessons I've Learned from J.S. Bach (part 8)

The eighth lesson J.S. Bach taught me is to give who you are to your family.

Bach had a very large family, and he included all of them in his musical vision.  Out of his family came two historically distinguished composers in their own right: Carl Phillipp Emanuel (C.P.E.) Bach and Johann Christian (J.C.) Bach.

As I wrote in the previous blog, father Bach may have taught and trained his family members musical skills simply out of necessity, so that he could keep pace with the needs of his ministry.  Copying music, rehearsing sections, etc. may have been done by his family members, much like a farmer and his family would work together as a team to keep things running.

Although this is probably part of the benefit that he gained by spending time with his family, as he gave them the musical skills he had acquired, I believe J.S. Bach's motivation was deeper than that. 

It's obvious that he had a passion for what he did, and this passion spilled over to every part of his life.  His passion and dream was to bring an offering to God of highly crafted music, the best that he could give.  This life-quest couldn't help but be influential to everyone he was around, especially his children.

When at the end of the day, instead of watching 5 hours of television, or playing video games, Bach would gather his family around the piano and sing together, each child contributing a musical part, perhaps playing an instrument, or taking turns on the piano.  This was their established routine, but it was also their recreation, their fun.

The test of greatness for any teacher is to take something that is complex and difficult and make it fun for the student.  I believe, even though his children showed him respect, that father Bach did his part to make this a fun time for them.   He couldn't separate his love for his family from his life's passion, nor did he have to.  He simply gave them who he was, in a fatherly way, and that was enough.

What were the other families doing?  Were they out playing games together?  Or maybe they weren't doing anything at all.  Maybe other families didn't have the rich times of enjoyment that the Bach family had.  Maybe the Bach family was the envy of the town, being able to come together and sing and worship together.  Undoubtedly, the material Bach must have used for these times was filled with spiritual lessons, through the lyrics.

Bach was never ashamed of who he was as a father, a Christian, a musician of the highest standards, and his heart was to give to his family who he was.  His interaction with his children was interwoven with his dream, and they picked up on it.  He was a man of truth, and for him to be one way 'at the office' and another way 'at home' wouldn't have worked for him.  He didn't compartmentalize his life.  Rather, he lived a vision and a dream big enough (like a big stretched-out tent) to include all of those he loved.

The test of a man's greatness is not how much money he has made or how famous he has become, but rather it's the favor and respect he has from those who are closest to him, his own family.  Respect cannot be demanded, but rather it must be earned through years of consistent love and sacrifice. 

Someone once said that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery".  His family both respected him and imitated him.  It was his greatest legacy.

Application: Don't worry about what you think you lack as a parent, just give who you are (who God has made you to be).  Give them your dream, a dream big enough for all of them to enter.  It's their greatest inheritance.

Opposing Paradigms Reconciled

Have you ever wondered what it would like to reconcile ideas that most people in society are content to 'leave well enough alone'?  I believe there are new areas of success in music and worship if these following concepts can be successfully integrated:

1) The artistic integrity and technique of the Great Masters versus the Contemporary relevant styles of current culture 

2) The Sacred ‘guardedness’ of style and procrastination of historic advances, versus Secular careless experimentation

3) The sense of community experienced on past ‘stages’, versus the technological advances of our day.

To see how this might be possible, come see my article: Current and Future Worship Trends- My Vision

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.

 

(repeat)

 

God of the heavens,

You came to earth.

You came to earth.

You came through birth.