The Dark

This piece came to me after several agonizing months doing nothing with music.

I understand the concept of the tortured artist, because I’ve lived it. The constant struggle for acceptance and success takes it’s toll when living your dream always feels just barely out of reach. I once heard a quote that got me thinking about this, and it was in the spirit of this idea that I got out my equipment, dusted it off, and composed this music.

“You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you.” —Harold B. Lee

He’s right, of course. But sometimes the appearing light doesn’t come immediately. Sometimes it doesn’t even come a short or even long time later. Sometimes we need to walk in the darkness for a long time before the light appears.

It is at those times we become truly acquainted with the dark. It’s not the dark of evil, but the dark of everything unknown. It’s the dark of living and working and striving day after day to find your place—to know your purpose—basically walking out into the darkness, and continuing to walk, and walk, and walk. Yet the light does not come. You continue because your heart says to do so, yet the light doesn’t come. You pray, you seek, you work, and you walk, and yet the light doesn’t come.

Some become bitter. Others panic. But the truly courageous hold to the journey, not because they can see, but because it’s right. And because they continue to walk, they gain something far greater than light. They gain faith—real, lasting, unquenchable faith. To those that hold to this perilous journey, no darkness can stop them. Even as they stumble, they make it through. And they find and help others along the way. They lift, and they lead, and they strengthen, and they build that faith in others.

In essence, they become a light to others, even while their own vision is obscured. But they’re not the blind leading the blind. They have vision beyond what light can offer.

Don’t fear the dark. It is there to make light out of you.

50th Sheet Music Piece

Rock of AgesWhile I’ve been writing music for over 17 years, this week marks four years from the time I put out my first piece of sheet music. If I had known the incredible response the sheet music would have, I would have started putting it out much sooner!

I just wanted to offer my deepest thanks for all you have done to help bring about my dream to become a full-time musician. It’s your purchasing the sheet music that’s done it. I’m not exaggerating when I say that every time you download another piece, it keeps food on my family’s table, and keeps me writing more music.

We’re still working to get above the poverty line (the cliche of the starving artist has become the story of my life), and the road isn’t easy, but your support is a much bigger encouragement than you can imagine. I love being able to bless the world with the gifts God has so generously given. It’s a calling that can be challenging, overwhelming, and so incredibly rewarding. I don’t perform in public very often. You’re the ones carrying the music out to the world. You’re the ones making a difference in the lives of those who hear you play. You’re touching hearts and blessing souls. What a beautiful thing!

Today also marks my 50th piece put to sheet music. If you haven’t been to my homepage lately, take scroll down and look and the fun mix of sheet music listed. I used to get teased at the MTC because I loved the hymns of zion so much. That was almost 15 years ago. I think the Lord was shaping my musical heart even back then.

So again, I just wanted to say thanks. Let’s keep making the world a better, more beautiful place.

Two Types of Creativity: Which are You?

Everyone is creative, but everyone has different ways of showing it or expressing it. In this video, I talk about the two types of creativity, and how they effect your creative work, and your everyday life. Knowing your creative type is powerful when it comes to either approaching a new skill or overcoming writers block. So what about you? What’s your creative type?

And just a sidenote, the music is from my newest CD, Fly. It’s the piece called Mount of the EagleYeah, that’s shameless self promotion, but hey, it’s my blog, right?

Chord-Player Piano

Click this video to start, and then click on a note to play the chord. If you hit the top of the note, it will do the major chord, and the bottom will do the minor. I’ve always wanted to make something like this, and I finally got around to it!

Falling Up

I’m taking a different approach to releasing my music this time.  Instead of writing a whole CD’s worth of music and then releasing it all at the same time, I’m going to release songs as they are written, and then when there is a CD’s worth, I’ll put them together.

This way the music will be available as soon as it’s recorded.

This song was written by Maria Hathaway (Maria Spencer after tomorrow!  Congratulations, Ria!), and I wrote the music for it.  It will be available for purchase soon!

Enjoy!

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Falling Up

Falling Up

Falling Up

Lyrics and Vocals by Maria Hathaway Spencer
Music by Chas Hathaway

Walk to the place
where you can no longer see,
turn your face
to all that’s free,
take a step
into the deep,
fall into light.

Arms will embrace
and you will know it is He.
Call His name, walk His ways
fall into the endless light
of truth
of love
of peace
above.

Walk to the place
where you can finally see.
Gaze upon
Eternity.
Fall into light.

My Musical Journey: The Message

The Message

When I was nine, my sister Ria had piano lessons. Being the little brother, I thought I should be able to have piano lessons, too. To me it looked like fun, and I wanted a turn. So mom signed me up.

A lady in our neighborhood, who was also in our ward, taught many kids piano lessons, and for only $3 a week, it was a pretty good way to go, though I didn’t find out until later what a generous teacher I had to charge such a small fee for those valuable lessons.

The lessons were fun, and I learned all the basic musical terms and skills, and obtained a very basic piano proficiency. By the time I had been taking lessons for a year, however, I was tired of practicing, and after a few weeks of dragging my feet, I stopped going to piano lessons.

Years went by, and I didn’t touch my piano books. They were a thing of the past, and any time I considered playing, I remembered how boring practice was, so from the time I stopped the lessons, I stopped playing the piano entirely.

As a young man of fourteen, I loved listening to music while drifting off to sleep. I would stick in a favorite cassette and let it play through to the end. However long it took me to fall asleep, I would always get completely wrapped up in the music. As I made a habit of this, I soon found that the mere act of turning on music and closing my eyes did something to me. It was as if the sounds were wrapping around me, filling me. I don’t know how to describe it, but that simple, quiet music had an overwhelming effect on my whole system.

It was at that time that I came to a realization of the power of music – just a few simple notes, played at just the right… well, everything! The tempo was perfect, the notes were perfect, played at the perfect volume at just the right moments. What was it about this mix of sounds that drew a person in so completely? Was it the flawless skill of the artist, or was it something independent of the musician? Did the music itself somehow convey the sense of completeness and power that I felt?

Much of the music I listened to was religious music, and the powerful feelings I felt while listening to that music were always accompanied by an intense spiritual high that made me want to be better, do more good, and reach out more to bless the lives of more people. But a lot of the music I listened to was simple New Age music, which at that time was sometimes called Easy Listening music.

One night, while listening to some of this gentle music, I felt something unique – or I heard something, but with my feelings rather than my ears. It was as if someone or something was sending a clear message through while my mind and heart were in such a susceptible state. The message was simply this: “You can give this gift to others.”

I lay motionless, still wrapped in the feelings and power of the music. The words had been clear. You can give this gift to others. What gift? Music? The ability to play music? The feelings that the music expressed? Though the message had been clear, I didn’t know for sure what it meant.

The more I thought about it, the more I felt that it was time to go beyond simply listening to and enjoying music. I needed to make music.

But how? I didn’t play any musical instruments, and my voice was nasally and boisterous. I would have to learn to play an instrument. A flute? A brass instrument? I didn’t have any instruments, and I didn’t have access to any instruments – except…

Yes. The piano. The family had a piano. I would would get out my old lesson books and start learning to play first thing after school the next day.

A Musical Language: Speaking through Music

Here’s a crazy idea – though it’s not exactly a whim, since I’ve had the idea floating around in my head for about eight years now. I’ve always been fascinated with the capacity music has to communicate feelings and convey messages in a way that is often more powerful and effective than written or verbal communication. What if we were to come up with a language that was spoken through music? A system that actually uses notes to communicate detailed information. It would have to be detailed enough that someone could translate the Bible into the language, and yet simple enough that it wouldn’t take years of training to get it. Not a code, exactly, but something between a code and a language.

In a sense, what I’d like to see is someone pipe a tune, and someone else understand the detailed message.

Some ideas have been explored along these lines. Probably the biggest is Solresol, invented by François Sudre in the 1800s, which is simply a language that uses words spelled with different combinations of notes in the basic piano scale. It has its own dictionary and grammar, too.

But I would like to see a language that is more than a code that uses notes for letters. Ultimately, the ending product has to be both beautiful music and a clear message. It has to be as artistic and aesthetically pleasing as it it literary.

While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and make its written form as beautiful artistically as its sound is musically. So in other words, it would be a language that looks like art when it is written, and sounds like music when it is spoken. There would be little or no need for tongue and mouth articulation, as is present in every language I know except Sign.

Mind you, this would be a MAJOR undertaking. If it leaned more toward the side of code, then it would take very careful rules that would maintain beauty and simplicity while allowing a detailed message without taking too much time to convey it. If, on the other hand, it leaned toward the side of language, then it would need its own dictionary and grammar rules.

Just think how fun it would be to write a detailed message, and then put it to music by simply translating it into this musical language. If it was really well made and well planned, such a language could shape the future of composition in the future for thousands of people. It would completely obliterate the question of whether or not it is possible to convey a message using music alone. It would not only supply the usual feelings and subconscious patterns, but it would speak words with as much clarity and accuracy as this blog entry. And if a picture paints a thousand words, this would paint a hundred thousand words.

I have toyed with (as well as started on and off) to create this language/code, but time has limited me from really diving into it. But here are a few rules that I think would have to be kept constantly in mind for it to have any chance of being what I envision it:

  1. It has to sound beautiful – or at least any message spoken would have the potential for sounding like decent music, and in written form, looking like decent art.

  2. It would have to be fairly simple to learn. How many people do you know that can speak Klingon? Sorry, but complex language systems intimidate people, so this has to be fairly simple.

  3. It has to be able to carry as detailed a message as the composer (or speaker) needs to speak.

  4. It has to be able to convey the message in a time-frame comparable to living languages today. (IE it can’t take 5 minutes to say, “I went to the store and bought a burrito.)

  5. It has to be able to be spoken by a single individual without the aid of others. Harmony and chord structures may be used to emphasize, expand, or provide multiple levels to the message, but a basic communication has to be able to be spoken by one person by either voice or instrument.

  6. Just remember the most important things are that it’s spoken and written form is beautiful, and its message can be detailed.

  7. Other elements, such as rhythm or note-length can assist in speaking the language, but they probably ought to be used more in grammar rather than individual words in order to allow the composer or speaker as much creative liberty as possible to compose a piece of music using the language.

So there you have it. Any thoughts? Ideas? Criticisms? It’s a kind of wild idea, but we’re living in an age of wild ideas, and if we pull together, we can make some wild ideas awesome ones.

Lunch Bucket Canon: The Piece that Didn’t Make the Cut

Lunch Bucket Canon

In preparing The Ancestor CD, I had one piece that was intended to go on the album, but didn’t make the cut.  It needs some fixing up, and hopefully I’ll have it ready for publication later.  So it’s been sitting on my computer rotting for a couple months.  Then I realized that just because it’s not ready to sell doesn’t mean I can’t share it on my blog!  So here’s the piece that didn’t make the cut for my new CD.

Lunch Bucket is my daughter’s nickname, and I have a tradition of writing a lullaby for each of my kids.  After writing one for Lunch Bucket, I realized that the melody fits with the chord progression to Pachelbel’s Canon in D. So I made a little medley that is basically a variation on Canon in D, though it’s really Canon in C when I play it.

Oh, and I should tell you up front – this is NOT a solo.  It takes at least three people.  If I ever play this one in an up-close concert, I might even have everyone who can play Canon in C come up and jam along!

Pentatonic Power

If you don’t know what the pentatonic scale is, you are probably familiar with it and just don’t know that’s what it’s called.  I’m sure all of you have heard of Bobby McFerrin, or at least his famous song, Don’t Worry, Be Happy.  But in this fun little video, Bobby demonstrates the power of the pentatonic scale, and how it is engraved in our minds.  Just for fun, follow along with the audience – you may be surprised at your pentatonic instincts!

When the Night Came: The Meaning Behind the Music

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When the Night Came

when-the-night-came1

Enos

1 Behold, it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father that he was a just man—for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—and blessed be the name of my God for it—

2 And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.

3 Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.

4 And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.

5 And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.

6 And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.

7 And I said: Lord, how is it done?

8 And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before he shall manifest himself in the flesh; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.

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To hear the music without my voice, scroll to playlist on the sidebar called, “The Ancestor CD,” and click on When the Night Came


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