Monday, July 25, 2011

A 4 Chord Life?

We spoke about singing a New Song in the Contemplative Service yesterday. You can read what Jerry said at this link here. The whole post is worth a read, but here is one quote that caught my attention.

You don't have to find the pre-ordained notes to the score God has written. As God lives within you, inhabits you, energizes you, you are the score. Your moment-by-moment life is the pattern of notes, the harmony to the song you are given to sing and to be.

I hope you can sense, then, that your new song is not something to figure out, to wrestle with and struggle over as you try to come to whatever your song is. Usually we think about the "will of God" as something difficult to find, something that takes great effort to discern. Rather, in this view, your new song is something to live, something to be. It is your everyday, ordinary life lived with God for the good of the world.

Your very life is a new song, non-repeatable, creative, expansive and uniquely your own.

Don't try to sing someone else's song. Sing your song. Live your life

There are infinite ways to combine melody and harmony. The danger is that we get stuck in a rut. Always singing the same safe song that sounds just like every body elses. The Australian Comedy Trio Axis of Awesome demonstrate the occurrence of this with a medley of songs all using the same chord progression.

(If you are offended by some off color language then please don't watch)

I could spend my life singing and playing the same four chords. A life lived that way would be embraced with open arms by most people. It is controlled, non-threatening, middle of the road and very cookie-cutter. However if you strip away the words, all the songs start to sound the same.

That sounds like many people I know. Their lives are all slight variations of one another. They may all speak with their own voice, but everything that is said is the same. The fear of branching out into new harmonies keeps them locked in the same 4 chords cycling over and over again.

At the other extreme we have the fantastic work The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky. Complex rhythmic Structures, creative use of harmonies and dissonance, unusual musical timbres all combine to make the composition of this piece one the seminal moments in music history. American composer Peter Schiekel said that ...The Rite of Spring had such a profound effect on composition that virtually all subsequent 20th century music could be said to be “The Rewrite of Spring”

Here is Michael Tilson Thomas discussing the work.

Michael Tilson Thomas talks about Stravinsky tapping into his unconscious in the creation of this piece. It is raw, passionate, violent, sensual and incredible.

In most works melodic phrases are quoted and developed, repeated and altered. Here, Stravinsky seems to continually throw out new phrases as if he is never afraid of becoming stale. There is rhythm and repetition, but just when you think you've grasped what is happening the who piece shifts once again.

4 chords stifle me...and Stravinsky scares me.

I want a life bursting with unique passion. A song that is mine and mine alone, but that means acknowledging the darkness as well as the light. It means confessing that there are times in my life where a curse word is a more honest truthful response than a Praise the Lord.

For me to sing my own unique song it means acknowledging that minor chords (sad chords as I was taught in Middle School) are necessary. Even the 4 chord progression quoted above contains one minor chord, but that chord always falls in the same place and is predictable.

My life isn't that predictable. Minor chords, dissonance and changes of tempo occur without warning. Sometimes it feels that multiple songs are all playing at the same time, conflicting melodies calling for my attention creating harmonic progressions that 4 chords could never cover.

It's scary, but I chose Stravinsky over Safety anytime.

1 comment:

Martha said...

Enjoyed this post, Peter. I have to agree with you about Stravinsky - that it is scary, but with so much color that one can hardly not appreciate it. And the safety of 4 chords, well they have been the basis of an amazing body of lovely music, but one could go stark raving mad if limited to those. Here's to a colorful life with God.