Friday, August 18, 2017

A Reminder


Thursday, August 17, 2017

NOT a Racist Symbol?

Many claim it is a sign of a heritage and that it is not racist. Going back to the "strict interpretation" of those who supported it and promoted it in the 1860s. They thought otherwise....

As a people, we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.… Such a flag…would soon take rank among the proudest ensigns of the nations, and be hailed by the civilized world as THE WHITE MAN'S FLAG [sic].
-Thompson, William T. (April 23 and 28, 1863). "Daily Morning News". Savannah, Georgia.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Tuning Slide: 3-8- Lifelong Learning

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Live as if you were to die tomorrow.
Learn as if you were to live forever.
-Mahatma Gandhi

Every year two things happen with education and learning. Every summer about this time we hear that “School’s Back.” Every spring we hear that “School’s Out.” And every spring I react the same way:
I hope not. I hope NEVER!

Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know.
-Daniel Boorstin

I had another good example of this recently. As many of you know, I have been playing trumpet for over 55 years. I have no memory of having learned how to play the trumpet. It happened in a different world to a person far different from the one writing this blog. In my mind I have always played trumpet even though I was in 8th grade when I started. Playing trumpet has been second nature. Or was until Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop in 2015 when in a few moments of instruction, Bob Baca, workshop director, taught me something I didn’t even know I needed to know. I started changing how I practiced and how I saw trumpet playing. An amazing transformation has been at work.

Fast forward two years to this year’s workshop. For a couple months I have been aware that perhaps my embouchure needed some fine-tuning. I seemed stuck on a couple things so maybe it was something about my embouchure. I had been working on that in my practicing. I need to point out that until then I didn’t know that it might be something I needed to do. I’ve “always” played like this. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I went to this year’s workshop with an openness to get some expert advice and instruction- to be “teachable” as I talked about last week. I signed up for a lesson with Bill Bergren whose opinions and approach to the trumpet have always impressed me as anyone who has read this blog before knows. So I went in for my lesson having previously told him what was going on.

We sat down and what did he do but start at the beginning. No, not the beginning of the lesson but the beginning of trumpet playing, just a few steps beyond “This is a trumpet.” I had watched Bill teaching a non-trumpet player how to play that morning. Here he was using THE SAME techniques on me, someone who has been playing for over 55 years. (Hear the arrogance? It was covering the lack of confidence I was feeling at that moment.)

At first I did everything but say “But, Bill, you don’t understand. My situation is different.” I started to get frustrated. “But Bill..”

“Just do it, Barry.”
“Breathe this way.”
“Blow like you’re cooling hot soup.”
“Sing it first.”

He wasn’t working directly on my embouchure, he was working on my breathing. He was working on how I put the trumpet to my lips. He was working on how I thought about playing this instrument that I thought I knew how to play. He was helping me set my embouchure.

Back to basics to learn what I didn’t know I didn’t know. It took a few minutes for me to relax and realize he was doing exactly what he knew I needed. I relaxed a little as I struggled with something I thought I knew how to do. I kept listening and attempting to do what he suggested. I worked on turning off Self One. That’s the part that wanted logical how-to instructions.

“But, Bill, how do I…?”

“Let Self Two just do it.”

We made a little progress, but time was up. I went back to the rehearsal room and tried some of Bill’s techniques. They sort of worked. I went back to my room and worked on it some more. The next morning as I started my daily routine I applied them some more. They began to happen- after some frustrated mumbling, of course.

They have a way to go yet, but now, a few weeks later, I am seeing the results.

Amazing.

We humans are not dogs! You can teach an old human new tricks. At one point I asked Bill, “How do you break a 55-year old habit?”

He quickly came back with the most common answer that has been around for the past 50 years. It comes from the book Psycho Cybernetics which says that it takes a minimum of 21 days! That’s how long the old mental images take to fade and to be replaced by something new. A lot of all this is changing how we see ourselves. If we believe we are too old to learn something new- we won’t learn anything new.

Whether you think you can or you think you can’t,
you are right.
-Henry Ford

More recent research emphasizes the “minimum” part of the 21-day rule. The more complex a habit, the longer it takes to replace it. It is meant to be more difficult to break a habit. It helps us run on autopilot when we need to. It is what Self Two runs on! In general, though, I know I have to be working on this for at least 21 days before it begins to become more habitual.

So far it’s been 14 days. And it is happening! Self Two is beginning to be in charge of how I set my lips to play- relaxed and ready to simply breathe out. I now believe I can do it differently. In fact I am at the point where I have to stop and think about how I used to do it. A sure sign that things are moving in a new direction.

It doesn’t matter what it is we are trying to do differently. Part of our success will be in our ability to visualize the new way. It may be getting the right note in our head before we play it; it might be in taking time to exercise or practice or eat healthier food. It isn’t willpower, it’s habit.

Learning is not a part-time experience nor is it simply what happens in schools. If that was the extent of learning, we would be a far poorer people and our individual lives would be quite dull. There are people who do stop trying to learn. They become satisfied with where they believe they are or that they have nothing new to learn. The past two years for me have shown that even in something as ingrained as my trumpet playing was, it can change and grow.

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.
Anyone who keeps learning stays young.
The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.
-Henry Ford

School’s Out?
No way. I have too much to learn.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Fine People- With No One to Blame?

Just when you think it has gotten as bad as it can, it goes on.

  • Fine people who have a bad attitude? 
  • Fine people who want to get rid of the Jews?
  • Fine people who are ready to beat up anyone who isn't white- and even some who are.
  • Fine people who wave a flag that by its very nature represents hatred and absolutely nothing that is part of the American tradition.
  • Fine people who aren't to blame when patriotic Americans want to stop their hatred and violence.
When we move into a relativistic morality where everyone is correct and has a right to their opinion, even when it's hateful, we have stepped over into a moral dilemma of epic proportions. It is what can undermine who we are as a nation.

In a free-speech decision, the Supreme Court prior to World War I (Schenck v. United States) made some interesting and still in force decisions. One is the classic- free speech does not give you the right to cry fire in a crowded theater. It said, in its unanimous decision, that freedom of speech does not protect dangerous speech. Freedom of speech protection afforded in the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment could be restricted, they said, if the words spoken or printed represented to society a “clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils which Congress has a right to prevent.” (-Link)

In my opinion, the Nazi/White Supremacist speech is, almost by definition, dangerous speech. By what it wants to do, it presents a clear and present danger to a civil American society and threatens those who they want to rid our society of with danger.

Yet those who protest them are as bad as they are? They are to blame. If the anti-Nazi protestor hadn't been there, she wouldn't have been killed by one of the Nazi sympathizers. If the anti-Nazi protestors hadn't shown up, there wouldn't have been a problem and no one would have gotten hurt. Of course that's true, but if the crime victim hadn't been walking down the street they wouldn't have been robbed.

Were there "fine people" on the white supremacist side in the demonstration? I would assume there were. Fine people can have horrendous opinions. That does not give their opinions more credence. It simply calls their decision-making skills into question.

If we have any doubts left about who Mr. Trump is aiming to please, David Duke, former leader of the KKK, took them away. As did Mr. Trump.

I pray I am not simply being a over-reacting alarmist, but we are facing the most clear and present danger to our American democracy that we have seen in a long time, maybe even since the 1860s. May saner heads and ideas prevail.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Words Don't Do Enough Today

When will we ever move beyond the racial issue? When will we realize that we need each other and our rich diversity to truly be the great people we like to think we are? One of the marks of what makes the United States so unique in our life is the great experiment that allows for ethnic diversity as a mark of being a citizen of the United States. It started when British and Germans and French started living side by side and began to break down barriers that separated them in Europe. Here- they were all Americans!

Then we struggled, of course. As each new wave of immigrants moved into the country they faced discrimination, prejudice, and variations of racism. Italians and Jews, Greeks and Irish were not considered part of the "white" culture, though all were as European as the British, French, and Germans. Roman Catholics were stereotyped as recently as the 1960s and their loyalty questioned because of their religion. We never faced the genocide we carried out against the native populations and kept kicking the can of slavery and racism down the road. But we did continue to evolve as a nation.

Asian immigrants joined Latinos (who had been here before some of the other immigrant groups) as the "color" of our national identity began to change. The richness of many colors and cultures added food and song, dress and language to our national psyche. So much has been assimilated, adopted, and cherished. More came from different religions, nations, and cultures. That wonderful bright beacon of freedom continued to shine, even if we periodically tarnished it or covered it up in fear. People kept wanting to come here because of who we say we are and what we have managed to accomplish. These are things that would never have been accomplished if we hadn't opened up our shores to the many immigrant groups, all of who have added new and exciting dimensions to our national character!

But there were those who disagreed and still do. The Jews and Italians would never be truly American to them. The Germans faced it again in the era of World War I. World War II saw citizens rounded up and put in detention centers because they were of Japanese descent. Even first generation American born individuals seem to want to disagree with the very openness that allowed their parents to come here in the first place. Through some incredible twisting of logic, citizenship- being a true American- is to them based on some ancestry that is not American. What crazy logic insists that someone whose family has been here for 75 years is more American than someone whose family came 175 years ago or even before the American Revolution?

Friends, that is insanity! It is also not part of the American spirit. It is not how we developed and grew into the nation we are.

And now I watch self-proclaimed "patriotic" [sic] individuals marching around Virginia waving the flag of the discredited and widely defeated enemy ideology of the Nazis!


That is where words come to a crashing halt. Emotions, deep emotions, come crashing in. Instead I have an image of my father standing somewhere in Germany or Austria at the end of World War II. As part of the victorious Allies he stands at the tail of a Nazi plane. That swastika over his shoulder is not a sign of white power. It is the sign of a defeated ideology of white supremacy- actually even more narrow than that- a specific type of white supremacy. One of the reasons the Nazis lost was specifically because of their hate-filled, racist, "Aryan"-based rhetoric. It was their inability to move beyond it in any way shape of form that led to their rerouting supplies and trains and personnel to make way for the trains taking non-Aryans to the death camps!

Dad and his fellow soldiers look satisfied. They have won. And they were about to do one of the most incredible actions by a winner in a war- they would help rebuild even those nations they had fought against! That is the American way! Not racism, revenge, and hate. The words of war had always been- "To the victor belong the spoils." We said, "No!" We didn't enter the war to gain territory, to overrun others, to take away their humanity. To us the spoils of World War II were a safer world for people to live in democratic ways!

And now, nearly 75 years later there are people waving that flag of hate and fear as if it was an American symbol.

Bullshit!

Over the past few weeks my daughter has been challenging me to be the person I have always been when it comes to this issue. Racism, based in slavery that we were unable and unwilling to truly work against in all segments of our society, remains our American Original Sin. I have been living with it, fighting it, speaking against it for most of my life. It was part of who I was in 1960 and 1963. It grew deeper as the 60s continued and I discovered my own elements of racism, bred into me by our culture. The work against racism is a deep part of who I am and what I believe.
  • White people flying Nazi flags will not make America great again. It will only defeat us as it did the Nazis in World War II.
  • Trying to ignore my own benefits of being white (and male!) in the midst of white supremacy makes me complicit.
  • Making excuses for silence will always lead to more silence- and my being as much a part of the problem as the alt-right Nazis in Virginia.
I could rant on. And I probably will again. But for today I make my statements as another declaration of my hopes for a better way of celebrating who we are and can be as patriotic citizens of the United States. I will not allow bigots, racists, and hate-filled Nazis to destroy my country- the one my Dad and his generation helped make great!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

“We Learned to Love”: August 13, 1727

The events of August 13, 1727, when at the conclusion of a Holy Communion service in Berthelsdorf the residents of Herrnhut united into the Renewed Brethren’s Church, are traditionally considered the spiritual birthday of the Moravian Church. - Moravian Archives
It was 290 years ago today. The Renewed Moravian Church was empowered through the Holy Spirit working on the refugees from the historic Moravian Church- The Unitas Fratrum. From that moment everything changed and they moved into a different world than they had been living in. They were never able to describe what happened in that service that was so powerful. They only knew that they had "learned to love." They discovered that they had a calling from God. They weren't sure what that would mean, but they were willing to begin the journey.

As a result of that one day, factions dissolved and, in but a few years, they were sending the first Protestant missionaries around the world. They started a rich musical heritage second to none. They had an important impact on the life and faith of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church. They started a 100-year long continuous prayer watch.

The world-wide Moravian Unity is still witnessing to the power of God to use all who follow to do amazing things. We have shown over and over that it does not need to be the large and famous churches that do the great things. It is in faithfulness and commitment that the Holy Spirit works.

Our motto continues to move and direct us:
In essentials, unity;
In non-essentials, liberty;
In all things, love.

Hymns That Move Me (Week 4)

This is the fourth in my series looking at thirty amazing hymns and songs of the Christian faith. I made three lists, one of my top 10 from the Moravian Church's tradition, one of my top 10 of the great classic hymns, and a top 10 of more "Gospel-type" hymns and songs. I am doing it alphabetically to be fair to all the songs. I hope you are both inspired by these words and learn a little about my own denomination's rich musical heritage.

When choosing videos to accompany the hymns I try to choose ones that best capture the spirit of the song as it has been important to me. I obviously stick to the traditional and best known tunes in the case where alternate tunes might be used.


Moravian Hymns
Jesus Still Lead On- Nicholas von Zinzendorf (1721)

Another hymn by Zinzendorf. He was 21 years old when he wrote this one and it shows the influence of the Pietist movement that he was steeped in. Even as a nobleman, he was willing to follow his faith and Lord. Spener, the father of Pietism, was his godfather; and Franke, the founder of the famous Orphan House, in Halle, was for several years his tutor. (Link) He wrote over 2000 hymns between age 12 and the day of his death just shy of his 60th birthday. Many of these are not noteworthy. But some, such as this one, are filled with a faith and hope beyond his years.

Jesus still lead on
Till our rest be won;
And although the way be cheerless,
We will follow calm and fearless;
Guide us by your hand
To our fatherland.

If the way be drear,
If the foe be near,
Let no faithless fears overtake us,
Let not faith and hope forsake us;
Safely past the foe
To our home we go.

When we seek relief
From a long felt grief,
When temptations come alluring,
Make us patient and enduring;
Show us that bright shore
Where we weep no more.

So I went looking for a video. I didn't find anything that attracted me. Then I saw a large number of versions under the original German title, Jesu Geh Voran including one from an Orthodox church as well as others. I chose this one since it captures the Moravian trombone choir aspect of how the hymn would be played chorale-style even though there are added flourishes between the phrases.



Great Hymns of the Church
How Great Thou Art- Carl Gustav Boberg (1885)

What is most likely the second best known and best loved hymn, How Great Thou Art started as a poem by Gustav Boberg in Swedish. It was first translated into English in 1925 with the title, O Mighty God. There have been various translations in different hymnals over the years, partly due to copyright and extremely high licensing fees. It became widely known and popular in the 1960s and 70s surpassing many older hymns in popularity. In my experience it became one of the most common hymns people requested at funerals.

To some degree based on Psalm 8, Boberg had this to say about it's composition:
It was that time of year when everything seemed to be in its richest colouring; the birds were singing in trees and everywhere. It was very warm; a thunderstorm appeared on the horizon and soon there was thunder and lightning. We had to hurry to shelter. But the storm was soon over and the clear sky appeared.

When I came home I opened my window toward the sea. There evidently had been a funeral and the bells were playing the tune of 'When eternity's clock calls my saved soul to its Sabbath rest.' That evening, I wrote the song, 'O Store Gud.' (Wikipedia)
I had the hymn sung as an anthem at my ordination in 1974 and it remains one of my favorite hymns, calling me to remember the wonders of the world around me- and the way I have been called into God's service and presence in all I do.

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Chorus:
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Chorus

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then shall I bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim, "My God, how great Thou art!"

I chose another instrumental for this hymn, too. It is a hymn that is way too easily made corny and schmaltzy (in my opinion, anyway.) This is a beautiful arrangement that avoids that, I think. Sing the words to yourself and enjoy.




Gospel-type Hymns and Songs
His Eye is on the Sparrow- Civilla D. Martin (1905)

According to Wikipedia, Civilla Martin, who wrote the lyrics, said about her inspiration to write the song based on the scriptures:
  • "Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:26) and "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:29–31):
Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheel chair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle's reply was simple: "His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me." The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" was the outcome of that experience.
Actress-singer Ethel Waters used the title for her autobiography and Mahalia Jackson's recording of the song was honored with the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 2010.

Why should I feel discouraged and why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely and long for heaven and home?
When Jesus is my portion, a constant Friend is He,
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

Chorus: I sing because I'm happy;
I sing because I'm free;
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.

Let not your heart be troubled; these tender words I hear;
And resting on his goodness I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

Chorus
Whenever I am tempted; whenever clouds arise;
When songs give place to sighing; when hope within me dies;
I draw the closer to Him; from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

Chorus


Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Tuning Slide: 3.7- Arrogant- or Confident?

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Arrogance requires advertising.
Confidence speaks for itself.
-The Good Vibe Company

I know I have talked before about the very unfair reputation trumpet players have. We are often portrayed as arrogant and self-absorbed. We are told that in spite of what we seem to think it is not all about us. Here’s a good example of the stereotype from the website The Band Advocate’s Resource: (http://insanerandomhobbit.tripod.com/thebandadvocatesresource/index.html)
Trumpets-They are the leaders of the band, the melody, to quote "Drumline", "The trumpets are the voice of the band!" This constant focus and attention has made them egocentric and fairly arrogant, but mainly to those within the section. They are in love with themselves, and they hate associating with the bottom or the top of the section, depending upon where they are. They're loud and their proud. Typical trumpet conversation with the band director; "I could have played that solo better than that." "Do you want it then." "No thanks." This laid back attitude carries throughout the section. Trumpets tend to be odd and offbeat with perverted senses of humor. They are the comic masterminds of the band. Trumpet sections are about half girls, half guys. You won't see many waltzing off to choir, and if you do, chances are they sit bottom of the section. Straight from a trumpet player to you, though, we're not really as bad as we sound (Ha ha, note our section is longer than yours. Yeah, thought so!).
It’s hard living up to that stereotype, but we’ll keep on trying!

Seriously I have met very few trumpet players that fit that image. In reality most of us are far shyer than we appear. When one plays one of the loudest and most aurally notable of instruments, it’s hard to hide, so we just go for it. If we stand out by virtue of the instrument, we better live up to that instrument’s place in the band.

Which often does look like arrogance. That and the fact that we find it hard to be serious for too long. If there is a disruption somewhere in the band, it is more often than not in the trumpet section. Then we yell at each other, put each other down, ignore the director and then have to ask “Where are we starting?” [Sidenote: This is why I admire Bob Baca’s patience with a room FULL of trumpet players at Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop! Scary, but he keeps doing it!]

Having finished with some “true confessions” let’s go back to reality and what this post is all about- the difference between arrogance and confidence. Any one of us can have either without the other. Or we can even have both. Those are the truly obnoxious one’s among us.

What then IS the difference between the two? Well, for one, if you were offended by that paragraph above, you may need to work on your sense of humor; if you believed it to be true… read on…

First, I found the following on the Womanitely website:
• Arrogance is usually the result of a defense mechanism used by subconscious mind in order to prevent further criticism. Confidence comes from positivity, optimism and mental steadiness.

• Superiority is the main quality of an arrogant person. Arrogant people are single-minded; … On the contrary, confident people are high-minded, because they can feel good without having a desire to offend others. They usually see people’s potential and can help them succeed in something.

• An arrogant person thinks they are better than others, while a confident person knows they are just as good as others. Confident people will rarely be found lecturing or preaching to others or how they are wrong. Furthermore, they usually show respect while listening to somebody. Arrogant people have difficulty listening to others.

• An arrogant person will always try to one-up everything you say. They mind only their own position and make others accept their ideas. Confident people don’t try to impose their vision of the situation on others. Their accomplishments do it for them.
Lots of good thoughts in those quotes. We can know confident people because they tend to be open to other people’s ideas and abilities without needing to put them down. They listen to others and don’t impose their vision on others, rather seeking to learn new things and new perspectives from others. You don’t get that type of vibe from arrogant people

Cody Brown at Medium.com adds the following two differences:
• Arrogance makes your world smaller and
• The difference between the two has a lot to do with empathy.
It is a small world if what you think is right is the only thing that is right. It is just as small if you think you are either so superior to others or so afraid of failing that you can’t enjoy what you are doing. And the difference really boils down to that wonderful word, empathy. Empathy simply means that in some ways you can understand or feel another person’s emotions and reactions from their perspective. It means caring about them and seeking what’s good for them and for you. It is not sympathy- feeling sorry- but being open to them and what they experience.

In spite of all those things we trumpet players may have been accused of, I have met far more empathetic musicians than arrogant ones. Sure, some may come across as arrogant. They have such great confidence in their skills that they don’t seem to need or want comments or advice. That is often more a product of the gap between their skill and mine. If Trumpet John Smith picks up the horn and just blows away- that can seem arrogant because I want so badly to be able to do that. But when he leans over to the me and gives me a helpful hint, we can begin to see the empathy.

So how can we combat the image of being arrogant musicians? Here are some suggestions I found helpful.

Seek humility. That does not mean striving for it so we can boast of how humble we are, but learning to live it. One way to describe humility is to be teachable. Always look to learn from whoever you are with. There is wisdom abounding in our world. We often miss it because we think we already know it.

Listen with an open mind. That goes along with the being teachable. None of us knows it all. None of us can ever know it all. Someone else’s experiences may give a whole new perspective to how we see ourselves and our world. Keep that inquisitiveness fresh and open.

Be rigorously honest with yourself. One way of describing this is to not thing either to highly OR too lowly of yourself. Know you strengths and your weaknesses and be willing to admit the weaknesses to yourself. That’s how we know where we are still needing to work and learn. Confidence comes from doing what you do well and working to improve what isn’t there yet. All os who have attended the Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop have heard story after story of the way some of the great trumpet players keep working on the early pages of Arban’s. They know they have to keep working on the basics and practice every day just to maintain where they are. That’s rigorous honesty with oneself.

Pay attention to Self Two. This comes from the Inner Game ideas which we will delve into again more deeply later this fall. But for now, just remember that Self One is logical and wants perfection. When Self One wants to criticize you let Self Two pick up the slack and give Self One what it wants, a plan to get better. Then do it.

Believe in yourself! That’s part of that honesty. Believe you can do what you can do and are willing and able to learn how to do what you are not yet able to do. This also means don’t put yourself down in negative language or negative attitudes. Admit where you need to grow, but don’t make it seem like it is a personal flaw. You just haven’t gotten there yet.

Look like you believe in yourself. How you dress, how you stand, how you smile (or don’t smile), goes a long way in how others perceive you.

Find a group of musicians to play with who are better than you. If you are the best player in your band, get yourself a group to be with where you aren’t a star and listen to them. Get into a group that is more advanced than you are and work with them. Find a teacher who will push you. Take new ideas as ways to grow and not as criticism.

Keep a Beginner's Mind! Don't lose your inquisitiveness or joy at discovering new things about your world or your instrument. That is a surefire way to keep from becoming arrogant. The more you learn while keeping a beginner's mind, the more you will realize how little you truly know.

In the end your music will tell your story. You don’t have to do it. If you are confident, it will show. If you aren’t, no amount of arrogant behavior will make a difference.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

I Don't Want to Ponder This

We all lived through the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

We heard about "shock and awe"from the Bush administration in 2003.

Now there's this:

“They will be met with the fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before,” President Trump said.
On many levels I hope this is just saber-rattling bluster and hyperbole. To think that such fire, fury, and power would be limited to a small area of eastern Asia might well be the height of suicidal folly.

Why all this now?

Well, among other things, Kim Jong Un is not sane. He is a bully who likes to do his own saber-rattling. And he has started doing that now because?

Six months from today the 2018 Winter Olympics begin...

in South Korea!

Might it just be he is jealous and angry at all the positive publicity that South Korea will be getting? Might it be that his goal is to embarrass the United States by preventing the Olympics from happening or using that as a stage for his bullying? Will he hold the world hostage through Olympic-centered actions?

No one knows, of course, but if I were the Olympic people and NBC which will broadcast the games, some very special precautions and arrangements should be made. This is not a safe and secure situation. Let us hope calmer minds prevail.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Hymns That Move Me (Week 3)

This is the third in my series looking at thirty amazing hymns and songs of the Christian faith. I made three lists, one of my top 10 from the Moravian Church's tradition, one of my top 10 of the great classic hymns, and a top 10 of more "Gospel-type" hymns and songs. I am doing it alphabetically to be fair to all the songs. I hope you are both inspired by these words and learn a little about my own denomination's rich musical heritage.

When choosing videos to accompany the hymns I try to choose ones that best capture the spirit of the song as it has been important to me. I obviously stick to the traditional and best known tunes in the case where alternate tunes might be used.


Moravian Hymns
Hosanna- Christian Gregor (1783)

For many Moravians it isn't Advent or Palm Sunday without the Hosanna Anthem. It is, of course, based on the call of the crowds as Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. We use it on the First Sunday in Advent as that is the beginning of the church year and the coming of Jesus into the world. The Moravian Church in the East West Indies Province describes the song this way:
The Hosanna Anthem can be sung at anytime during the year, however, it is on Advent Sunday or the season of Advent and Palm Sunday, that its real meaning and significance is borne out. Both seasons speak to the coming of Jesus.

The Hosanna Anthem is based on the phrase Hosanna and is a traditional Moravian Anthem written by Christian Gregor, a Moravian Bishop in 1765. It is sung Antiphonally or Alternately, and is, "a call and response song". Traditionally, it was sung between boys and girls, or the entire congregation between men and women, where the men would call and the women would respond. For example, the men would call: 'Hosanna, blessed is He that comes'. The women would respond 'Hosanna, blessed is He that comes'. [Note that in many congregations it may also be sung antiphonally between the right and left sides of the congregation.]
According to Wikipedia, Christian Gregor (1723-1801)
is credited with the Moravian liturgical development of the late 18th century and the introduction of concerted anthems into worship services. Gregor edited the 1779 hymnal and the 1784 chorale book of the Unitas Fratrum. He composed several hundred musical works which are preserved in American collections.
Hosanna! Blessed is He That comes!
Hosanna! Hosanna!
Blessed is He That comes in the Name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!

Here is a video of the Moravian College Choir performing the anthem as part of the 2009 Moravian Music Festival in Bethlehem, PA.



Great Hymns of the Church
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing- Robert Robison (1757)

An English Baptist, Robert Robinson penned the words at age 22 in the year 1757. It is one of the most heartfelt hymns of grace that I ever sing. Some of that may lie in the tune that we find in most American hymnals, Nettleton, written by John Wyeth. The best hymns are always a weaving of words and music into a whole that is greater than either part alone.

1. Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.


My favorite verse, one that always sends chills up my spine, is the last verse still in use in a number of hymnals.

4. O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.




Gospel-type Hymns and Songs
Blessed Assurance- Fanny Crosby (1873)
Fanny Crosby, 1820-1915, was an American mission worker, poet, lyricist, and composer. She was one of the most prolific hymnists in history, writing more than 8,000 hymns and gospel songs, with more than 100 million copies printed, despite being blind from shortly after birth. She is also known for her teaching and her rescue mission work. -Wikipedia

Crosby was visiting her friend Phoebe Knapp as the Knapp home was having a large pipe organ installed. The organ was incomplete, so Mrs. Knapp, using the piano, played a new melody she had just composed. When Knapp asked Crosby, "What do you think the tune says?", Crosby replied, "Blessed assurance; Jesus is mine." -Wikipedia
1. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.


Refrain:
This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long;
this is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long.

2. Perfect submission, perfect delight!
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.


Friday, August 04, 2017

On 8-4-2017

Wasn’t it just yesterday when
it was a palindromic date
8448

Now it’s pivoted on its head
and it doesn’t change.
69
Rotate it 180 upside down
69
Capsized

After all these years
Head up-
or rotate toes to the top
180 degrees- Bottoms up or down
It’s still 69.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

The Tuning Slide: 3.6- Bits and Pieces

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

With this year’s Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop in full swing this week, I put together a couple different bits and pieces that have been rumbling around in my life and music over the past few months.

The first bit is from a conversation I had with another trumpet player during a band rehearsal. One week I mentioned my basic routine of practicing between 90 minutes and two hours a day. The next week they came up to me at a break and said they had thought about me during the week and had thought about my routine. Then they asked, “But how do you play two to three sessions of that length? What do you find to play?” I realized that this is a question I might have asked a few years ago. But I have been fortunate since the summer of 2015 to have been introduced to some amazing trumpet instructors who have helped me make playing trumpet a full-time job (without pay, of course.) They have shown me the value of deliberate practice and how the investment in playing the basics every day makes a difference.
So here is what I described to my friend.

My first session of the day, usually up to an hour, is just the basics.
  • 10-15 minutes of long tones, including now some specific exercises on my upper register which moves into the second section.
  • 10-15 minutes of scale exercises of various types. Sometimes it’s just playing each major scale around the Circle of Fourths
  • 15-20 minutes of very basic exercises from Arban’s
  • 15-20 minutes of Clarke exercises and etudes, usually from # 3,4, or 5.
My second session also up to an hour is when I work on
  • Band, quintet and other performance pieces
  • Jazz improvisation
  • Charlier, Vannetelbosch, and Arban’s etudes and studies
  • Concone etudes can be a great way to come down and relax at the end
That’s it. If I only have time for one session, it is always a variation on the first one. As Matt Stock, one of the Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop faculty said one day in a post, record yourself playing one of the basic Arban’s exercises and you will see how much more work you can still do. By having a deliberate routine- and then adjusting, revising, and developing it will give you the chance to see your growth and improvement as well as what you need to be working on. It also reminds you that every piece of great music and every great performance is based on these basics.

My second “Bit” is another question I ran across somewhere recently. It deals with the famous admonition for practicing that we should rest as much as we play.
Why rest while you are practicing?
Let me start off by saying that I don’t always follow that advice. When I know I have 60 minutes to play, to take 30 minutes to sit around seems like a waste. I admit that it is better when I do; but I get impatient with sitting between each exercise. Boredom sets in and squirrels keep distracting me. That is one of the reasons why it is often suggested that we practice with another person so we have to rest while they play what we just played, or vice versa. But I do try to take 15 minutes out of every hour to rest. I have found two reasons for that- physical and psychological.

First the physical is just like when I am at the gym working out. It works far better if, for example I wait between repetitions on any given exercise. It has to do with how muscles and our body work. The short rest period relaxes them and begins the rebound and rebuilding process. It helps build muscle mass and muscle flexibility. If you keep it tight for an hour you are definitely more likely to do some damage that could prevent you from doing what you want to do.

As to the psychological, if you are learning something new or stretching your boundaries, there will be some tension and stress beyond the muscles ad physical.Your brain gets tired, too. Relax. Take a moment to get up and walk around. Go get a drink of water. Stretch some muscles.

One thing I am thinking about is taking a few minutes during the hour to do some stretching or even some Tai Chi/Qigong movements. It doesn’t need to be anything intense, just loosen the arms and shoulders, get the butt off the chair and let some blood flow. This is one of the ideas I want to explore some in the next year here on The Tuning Slide. I have a hunch it will have some positive impact.

The next two bits and pieces are in my notebook from this past April’s Eau Claire Jazz Fest. First is from one of the clinics. It was about improvisation, but is easily applied to practicing and performing in general. One of the best ways, we were told, was to cut out the perfectionism. Yes, we will make mistakes. Accept it. It’s the way life is. The advantage of that statement is that is can frees us from being uptight. Much of our fear and stress comes from not wanting to make mistakes and holding back from what we can truly accomplish. It slows us down. It keeps us away from our potential success. In essence it is permission to be human.

But, the leader said, that does not give us the okay to be sloppy. To know we will make mistakes is not the same as not trying to get better.

The last of my “bits” for this week is from Greg Keel, director of Shell Lake Arts Center’s jazz camps and an accomplished instructor and performer. He was one of the adjudicators in the room I was acting as host for. One of his clinician-type questions he asked every band was simple, What do you listen to?
Why do you listen?
Many reasons of course, and many are good.
  • Relaxation
  • Inspiration
  • Motivation
  • Being rooted in tradition
It will clearly have an impact on your own playing. Take the time often to listen. Listen to what you want to sound like. Listen to stuff that challenges you. (I am working on some modern-style jazz, trying to get into its style and feel. Listen, listen, listen!) Listen to all genres and figure out what makes it good. Your life will thank you.

Summing it up:
  • Be deliberate in working toward what you want to accomplish. Plan ahead and make goals
  • Be balanced in what you do- rest and relax.
  • Accept your humanity and imperfections
  • Listen to what’s around you- your own traditions and your own ideas. They meld together.
Notice that all of these aren’t just about trumpet. If you want to be a success in your life as much as in your music
  • Plan ahead and have goals.
  • Keep your daily balance
  • Know it won’t always go the way you want it to and adjust
  • Pay attention.
Much more on all of these in the coming year. I am finishing this post at this year’s trumpet workshop. As the week has been going on the spark is being reignited. So much more in growing in trumpet playing, music- and, of course, life!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Tuning Slide Book Now Available

My new book based on the weekly Tuning Slide blog posts is now available for sale on Amazon.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Hymns That Move Me (Week 2)

This is the second in my series looking at thirty amazing hymns and songs of the Christian faith. I made three lists, one of my top 10 from the Moravian Church's tradition, one of my top 10 of the great classic hymns, and a top 10 of more "Gospel-type" hymns and songs. I am doing it alphabetically to be fair to all the songs. I hope you are both inspired by these words and learn a little about my own denomination's rich musical heritage.

Moravian Hymns
Christian Hearts in Love United-Nicholas von Zinzendorf (1723).
Zinzendorf was the patron of the Moravian refugees who left Bohemia and Moravia and settled in Germany. He gave them land to build their village and, as a Pietist himself, became their spiritual leader. One of his early hymns described his vision of what a Christian community should be. The title in the traditional translation describes it well.

1. Christian hearts in love united,
Seek alone in Jesus rest....

3. Grant, Lord, that with Thy direction,
"Love each other," we comply,
Aiming with unfeigned affection
Thy love to exemplify;
Let our mutual love be glowing,
Thus will all men plainly see,
That we, as on one stem growing,
Living branches are in Thee.

An alternative translation is just as descriptive:

1. Hearts with loving heart united
Met to know God's holy will....

3. Since, O Lord, you have demanded
that our lives your love should show
so we wait to be commanded
forth into your world to go.
Kindle in us love's compassion
so that ev'ryone may see
in our faith and hope the promise
of a new humanity.


Great Hymns of the Church
Be Thou My Vision- Dallan Forgaill, Ireland (6th Century)
According to Wikipedia the hymn is based on an Old Irish text, "Rop tú mo Baile" and is often attributed to Saint Dallán Forgaill in the 6th century. The text had been a part of Irish monastic tradition for centuries before its setting to music. The prayer belongs to a type known as a lorica, a prayer for protection.

It was translated from Old Irish into English by Mary Elizabeth Byrne, M.A., in Ériu (the journal of the School of Irish Learning), in 1905. The English text was first versified by Eleanor Hull, in 1912, and is now the most common text used.

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that thou art;
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise;
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.


The mystic and monastic language and tradition are heard clearly down to the last lines, an expression of the union into eternal life.

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.




Gospel-type Hymns and Songs
Beneath the Cross of Jesus- Elizabeth C. Clephane (1868)
Elizabeth lived in Scot­land, about 30 miles south­east of Ed­in­burgh. She spent most of her mon­ey on char­it­a­ble caus­es, and was known lo­cal­ly as “The Sun­beam.” This hymn was written when she was 38 years old and only months away from her own death. The first publisher two years later said:
These lines ex­press the ex­per­i­enc­es, the hopes and the long­ings of a young Christ­ian late­ly re­leased. Writ­ten on the ve­ry edge of life, with the bet­ter land ful­ly in view of faith, they seem to us foot­steps print­ed on the sands of time, where these sands touch the ocean of Etern­i­ty. (-Link)
The great hymns and songs of the faith have a way of expressing deep personal emotions that are common to so many of us.

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by to know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.



First line below table

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Tuning Slide: 3.5- Spirituality and the Musician

Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.
-Ludwig van Beethoven

The past two weeks I have been looking at music and the spiritual. I defined spiritual as:
a. Awareness of power and existence greater than one's self.
b. There is meaning, purpose, and direction in this greater scheme of things.
c. Positive, healthy connections with other people as part of a greater community.
This week I want to look at the spiritual and us as musicians. The first quote below that I talk about is, like the quotes the past two weeks, from this website ( http://www.thescavenger.net/health-personal-development/self-growth/226-spiritual-significance-of-music-92345.html )
What we believe, perceive, and respect in life will shine forth in our music and spirituality. For some, spirituality is a scary word reflecting religious thinking masquerading as truth. It does not have to be some esoteric message about magic and mysticism. … Spirituality reflects our faith and values. It represents our response to reality. It is the rippling undercurrent beneath our actions, firmly built on the foundational cornerstone of belief…
There’s a lot in that one paragraph. First it says that who we are will be reflected in our music. That includes our beliefs and perceptions of the world around us as well as what we value. Sometimes those things shine through in spite of us. The whole history of musicians and substance abuse, suicide, and personal difficulties did not completely silence the messages that some of these have had to share with us. In fact for many of them their music was a way of trying to figure it all out, their search for meaning and hope and life itself cries out from their music. At times that becomes very dark and dismal, and at times filled with a bright light of hope, even if they themselves never found it.

Which brings me to the questions that many of us need to wrestle with in our music…

What feeds your spirit? What is it that gives meaning and hope to our lives? Where is our personal search taking us? How does my music reflect the beliefs and reality I live with each day?

Most of us don’t deal with these consciously when we go into our practice rooms or even performances. But the more in touch we are with those questions, the more likely our music will be impacted and transformed. Most musicians know of those times and places where all these come together and we are moved in different ways in the midst of a performance. One of my friends described that in one of his group’s performances with the word- “boomerang.” They were performing at a conference and the audience started to sing along with them turning the moment into one of high emotion and spiritual uplift. Everyone, including the musicians, were surrounded by something greater than themselves. No one left that performance unmoved! It happened because the musicians were very much in touch with their own spiritual lives and it was included in their music.

How then do we feed our spirit.

There are many ways, perhaps starting with your own spiritual history or tradition. In the book Spirits Rejoice!: Jazz and American Religion, Jason Bivins discusses the spirituality of a number of Jazz musicians over the decades. He almost always begins with their upbringing and its possible influence on who they became and the expressions of their music. Most did not stay in those initial traditions alone, but the influence is real and powerful no matter how far the style may have strayed. It is also why Gospel music is part of the deep heritage of Jazz itself. But it is found in all types of music. So be attentive to what moves you musically and what that says about your own spiritual roots.

But then you must maintain your own mindful awareness of yourself. Mindfulness is the non-judgmental attentiveness to your feelings and the events around you. Mindful meditations a way that many people begin to discover some of these depths. Later this year I am also going to talk a little about things like Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong as spiritual disciplines for musicians. They can bring together body, mind, and soul in an expression of your own creativity and energy.

Which brings me to a quote that I think applies to our lives as musicians and our spirituality:

Play the music, not the instrument.
-Author Unknown

To get in touch with the spiritual in our own music we have to become comfortable with our instrument. We can easily get sidetracked by the technical aspects of playing our instrument. We can get bogged down by trying to remember the fingerings for the key we are playing in. We can lose sight of the music when we are just playing the notes on the page. The spiritual depth of our playing, our even just the plain musicality of it, gets interrupted by the logical side and we lose the intuitive.

One of my MAJOR pet peeves is when I get a piece of music and find that a previous musician as gone through and written the fingerings for all the notes in a particular section. My mind cannot process the written numbers and the note at the same time. I lose the intuitive knowledge that a G# on the staff is 2nd and 3rd. Numbers don’t represent anything and I wonder what that 2 and 3 mean. Sure, it’s a quirk of mine, but I have spent a long time becoming as comfortable with my instrument as I can be at this moment. Don’t confuse me with data that is unneeded.

Right now I am doing something I have never consciously done in my 55+ years of playing. I am working on changing my embouchure. (No need for details at this point.) That means I must for the moment be playing the instrument first. I am trying to relearn how to play with a good sound. I am developing new muscle memory in my lips and breathing patterns. I am working toward the natural feel the change in embouchure will have when it is settled in. Until then, I am not finding the spiritual as easily as I did before. One of these days I will be back to the music.

To live is to be musical, starting with the blood dancing in your veins.
Everything living has a rhythm.
Do you feel your music?
-Michael Jackson

As I am writing this, I am listening to some music. I am typing and the music is flowing. It is an instrumental Jazz duet and it is working in both the conscious and sub-conscious. Every now and then I am aware that my body is moving side to side in time with the music. Then my feet start tapping. I am in a public place so I am not about to get up and start dancing. But the rhythm is dancing in me. Do I feel that when I play? That is my goal.

That is spiritual. Let it flow.

One of the best examples of spirituality in music is the incredible Jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. He is famous for his spiritual wanderings, wrestlings, and depth. Last week, on the anniversary of his death, National Public Radio posted on Facebook an older piece they did on him in 2012. McCoy Tyner, a member of his band, remembered Coltrane saying:

"I respond to what's around me."

Tyner adds,

"That's the way it should be, you know?”

Coltrane on NPR.
(http://www.npr.org/2000/10/23/148148986/a-love-supreme?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=nprmusic&utm_term=music&utm_content=20170717)

Here’s a video of Coltrane’s “Dear Lord.” With the title in mind, hear spirit blowing through the horn!



And if you haven’t ever done it, go find “A Love Supreme.” Take the time to let it fill you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A special note:



This year's Shell Lake Arts Center Trumpet Workshop begins Sunday, July 30. I have the boxes of my book ready to go. They will again be free to the students! In order to help me defray the cost I have a Go Fund Me page where those who would like to can make a donation. Thanks!

Here is the link:

Go Fund Me for Tuning Slide books for students

Monday, July 24, 2017

Rule of Law...

or law by ruler?
I continue to be gobsmacked by the news that comes out of the White House.
  • Talk of pardoning himself and others for something that didn't happen?
  • Constant updating of security clearance forms.
  • Attacking the Attorney General you appointed because he followed the law.
  • Wondering why the "beleaguered" AG wasn't investigating "Crooked Hillary"?
  • Suggestions being floated that Rudy Guiliani could replace Sessions as AG. 
  • Reported attempts at finding ways to discredit independent investigator Mueller.
This on top of all kinds of other issues from suggesting that the courts are not to decide on his orders, the incredible chaos and insensitivity to people's health needs in trying to repeal and "replace" the ACA, and, well, you get the idea.

 The lack of respect for the rule of law in all this is beyond belief. Although perhaps not. There is always an undercurrent of law by the ruler or ruling party. Admittedly the GOP is having great difficulty with their own use of that. They have been co-opted and overwhelmed by Trump and the basic support he has. They have also been trapped by their own rhetoric over the last 8 years into taking some seemingly extreme positions.

Sadly, the Dems aren't in any better shape. They haven't figured out how to be a loyal opposition with appropriate and helpful ideas. At this point they are in the same position as the GOP. All anyone can do it bend to whatever the wind is that drives Trump. The GOP going with it; the Dems tacking away from it.

Meanwhile the country is caught in the crosswind.

I hope someone comes up with some clear and hope-filled answers soon.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hymns That Move Me (Week 1)

A number of weeks ago I started thinking about the great hymns of the Christian faith. I ended up making a list of the hymns that have deeply moved me over the years. I did not include any of the hymns from my own Moravian tradition since they alone would have taken up the Top 10 and left out the others. So I made a list of hymns that are deeply embedded in my tradition that many others may have never heard of. Finally I made a third list of the Gospel-type hymns and songs that may not fit the great hymns of the Church title, but are just as important.

This week I start a series looking at all thirty of these amazing hymns and songs. I am doing it alphabetically to be fair to all the songs. I hope you are both inspired by these words and learn a little about my own denomination's rich musical heritage.


Moravian Hymns
Angels from the Realms of Glory- James Montgomery (1816)
James Montgomery was the son of a Moravian minister from Scotland. Author of over 400 hymns, about a quarter of which are still in use, he is often considered along with Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley among the great British hymn writers. This Christmas hymn is a poetic vision of the birth of Jesus. Angels, shepherds, Wise Men, saints, sinners, and finally we, ourselves, coming to the birth of the Savior.
Angels from the realms of glory...
Shepherds, in the field abiding...
Wise men, leave your contemplation...
Saints, before the altar bending...
Sinners, wrung with true repentance...

Lord of Heaven, we adore Thee,
God the Father, God the Son,
God the Spirit, One in glory,
On the same eternal throne.


Great Hymns of the Church
Amazing Grace- John Newton (1779)
Yes, it may have become so common that it seems schmaltzy. But it is a truly personal hymn, as so many of the great ones are. These are the words of a former slave-ship captain turned minister. He was converted to faith in the midst of a storm, was eventually ordained and become a strong voice for the abolition of slavery. He realized there was something wrong about what he had done and changed course. The amazement at God's grace is at the heart of the song.
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind but now I see

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev'd;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believ'd!
.
It is just as powerful and spiritual in its instrumental versions. Yes, they can get to be syrupy sweet, but we can often hear the grace whether it is a country, jazz, orchestral, or choral arrangement.

Here is one of my all-time favorite versions by flutist Hubert Laws:

Gospel-type Hymns and Songs
Abide With Me- Henry Lyte (1847)
Clearly a song about approaching death, which is, in fact, its source. According to Wikipedia, Scottish Anglican Henry Lyte composed the poem and set it to music while he was dying of tuberculosis. He only lived another three weeks. Again, as with Amazing Grace, the power of the personal becomes universal. He ends the first verse and moves on:
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
Earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Tuning Slide: 3.4- Depths of Spirituality

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Music, once admitted to the soul,
becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies.
― Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Last week I started a series of three posts on music and spirituality. I don’t want to get too out in left-field, New Age-y or whatever. That easily happens since spirituality is such a slippery subject, like trying to catch the wind. To attempt to keep my post from the dangers of such a discussion, I found a few quotes on a website (http://www.thescavenger.net/health-personal-development/self-growth/226-spiritual-significance-of-music-92345.html ) that I will use to keep me a little focused. The original quotes are bold; my thoughts on it are in normal type.

Many who study and discuss spirituality believe that we are innately spiritual; it is part of the human make-up and serves the evolutionary purpose of helping us form communities of meaning and support, helping ourselves and others when in times of need, and focusing on the broader picture of our world so that we can work together for mutual benefit. At the same time music and song are found in one form or another in most if not all cultures. Music becomes a way, perhaps, to form the bonds of community and support. It can express who we are by telling our stories in ways easier to remember. It may even serve to help form the neural networks in people of the same culture or offer a way for newcomers to join the culture.

Yes, that’s a heavy paragraph. Let me lighten it. Music can emerge from:
… personal education, environment, and experience. It can be inspiring, practical, and form the foundations for enjoying everyday life. When we listen to the secret language of the song, we only begin to understand that music is from a spiritual source.
The “secret language of song.” A few weeks ago I shared a post on my Facebook page about hymns we should stop singing in churches. The reasons were varied but they were usually because the song was simplistic, contained poor theology, or was just too sickly sweet. It sure hit a nerve. Some people thought I was a heretic (exaggeration, I hope!) or was treading on things that were given directly from the very hand of God. For many, the hymns mentioned contained a “secret language” that made sense to them. The post seemed to be attacking that. Yes, the music may be saccharine, the theology poor, the words silly- but for many of us these songs have come from a spiritual source. They don’t make sense- they make soul.
Spirituality is like a seed planted in the soul; when cherished by the heart, nourished by the mind, and savored by the spirit, it can and will give good fruit in due season. Spirituality is central to our life journey.…Spirituality is pivotal to how we interact with the world around us when pursued with authenticity, integrity, and sincerity.
I can’t but think of John Coltrane when I read that quote. His whole life was a quest to find the seed, nourish it, savor it, and discover its fruit. Following his recovery from addiction he jumped headlong into one of the great spiritual journeys found in music. His music expressed what he found in his soul. Many listeners, which is what this post is about, were at first surprised, turned away, finding the music too far from what they were used to. Others heard a connection that literally struck a familiar internal chord. Their lives began to resonated in tune with it.

I found that in a number of places for myself. One is the immortal Jazz standard, Summertime. It doesn’t matter if it’s Janis Joplin’s soulful wailing (which I was fortunate to have heard in person), Coltrane’s spiritual flights, or Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald sweaty southern interpretation (among many)- the song contains the authenticity, integrity, and sincerity of the soul. Blues can often do that- and can bring people of different backgrounds and history together. It is expressing variations on each of our life journeys.
[Spirituality] can be born out of a desire to connect with a deeper meaning and purpose in life. Musician and listener share a spiritual connection in the space between silence and sound.
Why do some key signatures sound happy and others, sad ? Why do we want to get up and dance to some and so in the corner and cry with others? Why do some songs connect us with each others pain, take us to heights of joy, or silence us in awe? It happens when the musician touches us with her sound. It happens when we are open to new things, or in need of an uplift. It happens when we move into sync with what it around us and some level of sound vibration. The spaces of silence lead us to moments of introspection that we may not even know we are having. In those connections we may even find that there is more to our own lives- and the world- than meets the eye.
Sound is spiritual. Every action and word has a sound that resonates and vibrates through life that is positive, negative, or neutral.
But be cautious, is also an important reminder. Did the Rolling Stones singing “Sympathy for the Devil” at Altamonte in 1969 have some spiritual impact that ended in violence and chaos, a beating death, and three accidental deaths? Probably not, but the spiritual tone of anything can be changed by music- for better or worse. Some have condemned heavy metal and death metal, rap, or even good old rock and roll for many bad things.
Deep down in the depths of the human soul we are all searching for significance reflecting a desire to discover something greater than ourselves. Every person has asked the timeless question of the meaning, purpose, and significance of life. Music is used as an expression of the deep desire to discover more.
At some level it does feel like I (and others) have been putting a great deal of baggage on music, making it of great significance. After all, it’s only music, only entertainment.

But it isn’t that. It is far more than something to pass the time. We all saw the outpouring on the death of the rock superstar Prince last year. That was not because he entertained a lot of people- it was because he touched people at important times in their lives. He moved them, inspired them, got them through tough times and helped them celebrate happy times. We resonate with the music that moves us- and music that moves us means we are in tune, in sync with it.

Sometimes it’s the rhythm or the groove; sometimes it’s the chord progressions; sometimes it’s the melody and words moving together. The great music comes from somewhere both deep within us and from the transcendent beyond us. Together they bind us to others and help us find ourselves.

How do we musicians develop our own “spirituality” or soul in order to make music? Next week I will look at it from the point of the musicians.

I have to end this week’s post with a wonderful quote credited to Christian Reformer Martin Luther. Never known as one who minced words, his earthiness was often evident in his statements about others who didn’t agree with him. To Luther, music was divine; but don’t disagree with him. I don’t!

A person who...does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.
[Foreword to Georg Rhau's Collection Symphoniae iucundae, 1538]”
― Martin Luther