The Ancestor: The Meaning Behind the Music

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The Ancestor

ancestor(art by Maria Hathaway)

I served my mission in South Africa.  I loved learning about the people, the history, and the culture.  I was also fascinated by their religious views.  The native African religion – the one that was present before Christian missionaries ever came to South Africa, and which is still quite popular, has a very strong focus on one’s own ancestors.

Africans hold a great esteem for their ancestors.  Those practicing the native traditions would gather together annually with family to sacrifice a cow or sheep to their ancestors, and petition them for help, rain, protection, or whatever they felt they needed.  The major part of their religion focused on their ancestors.

When Christians of other faiths came and proselyted Africans, they told the people that their ancestors did not exist, that they had died, and were gone forever.  I don’t know if those Christians didn’t believe in an afterlife, or if they just said it to reject African tradition.  Either way, they taught the people that their ancestors no longer existed.

What a joy it was to be able to tell these people that their ancestors most certainly did exist, and that though we did not need to call on them for help, they were in need of our help.   They needed the help of their living descendants to perform the essential ordinances of the gospel in their behalf.  Because of their strong feelings towards their ancestors, most Africans received this news with great joy.

Setswana is the native language of Botswana, and while serving in that area, I made an interesting discovery about the Setswana word for God.  I had known throughout my mission that the word for God was Modimo.  Sometimes we would tell people we were barumua ba Modimo (messengers of God).

In Setswana, the word Motswana meant a Tswana person, or a person of the Tswana tribe.  To say Botswana would be the plural form of the same word – “Tswana people” or “people of the Tswana tribe.”  The prefix “mo” was singular form, and the word “bo” or  “ba”  was plural.

This fact became very interesting to me when I learned that the word for ancestors is badimo.  If I was understanding correctly, the word for God, Modimo, and the word of ancestors, badimo, were simply different prefixes for the same word – ancestor.  What insight that holds!

I suspect that the word Modimo was adopted by Africans because grasping the concept of worshiping someone besides an ancestor may have been difficult to understand.  But over time, this connection was likely forgotten as Christianity became the dominant religion in South Africa.

I think the connection is significant.  It would be hard to grasp the idea of honoring a great and powerful being who has no real relation to us.  If we were merely a clay or wood project God is working on, why should we want to emulate Him?  A statue can never take on the real characteristics of its model.

But if we are God’s children, and I testify that we are, then we can become like our Heavenly Father, if we will but follow the steps that He teaches.

Joseph Smith taught that “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves” (History of the Church, V. 3, pg. 303).  I believe that until we know and seek to fulfill our potential to become like Him, we cannot become all that He wants us to be.  We are children of God, and as children, we are also heirs of all that He has and is, if we will live according to His word and commandments.

President Boyd K. Packer has said:

“You are a child of God. He is the father of your spirit. Spiritually you are of noble birth, the offspring of the King of Heaven. Fix that truth in your mind and hold to it. However many generations in your mortal ancestry, no matter what race or people you represent, the pedigree of your spirit can be written on a single line. You are a child of God!”
Boyd K. Packer, “Your Test of Courage,” New Era, Mar 1990, 4

So I think the word Modimo is a very appropriate name for our Father in Heaven.  Truly, to each and every one of us, He is The Ancestor.

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

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Roots: The Meaning behind the Music

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Roots

I have decided to release a song a day until the day of the CD release!  The first piece on the CD in The Fourth Day, but since I’ve already released that one, I’ll start with the second track, a piece called Roots.  The recording for this entry is the music Roots, with me telling about the meaning behind the music.  To hear the music without my voice, scroll  to playlist on the sidebar called, “The Ancestor CD,” and click on Roots.

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Roots

We often use the term, back to the basics.  When life gets complicated, we say, “Okay, time to go back to the basics.”
What are the basics?  What are the real fundamentals of life?

I have a game that I play once in a while called the “Why?” game.  You can play it alone, or you can play it with others, but the rules are the same:

Start with a question – something simple, like, “Why did I eat Cheerios for breakfast?”
Now answer the question.  “Because I was hungry, and that was the most convenient breakfast food.”  Then ask yourself, “Why was I hungry?” or “Why was that the most convenient food?” and then answer that question.
Keep asking why, and keep coming up with accurate answers (as accurate as your knowledge allows).

I have played this game many times.  Always, no matter what route my questions take, the answers always reach back to the most basic principles of life, and the most fundamental doctrines of the gospel, such as, “Because I am a child of God,” or, “Because life is eternal.”

The real basics are the real answers to every question, and those answers point to the real reasons for our existence.   The root of all questions and answers are in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and Heavenly Father is the root of all life.

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25 Second Teaser from the New CD

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25 Second Sample

Here’s another 25 second teaser from my newest CD to be released in the next few weeks.  The name of the CD is The Ancestor, and this is a sample from the song that bears that name.  Enjoy!

By the way, the Deseret News has a section known as Mormon Times which wrote an article about my music this week.  Check it out at the Mormon Times Website.

Also, thanks to L.T. Elliot for her kind words in a blog post about my music.  Thanks, L.T.!

See More posts with music from The Ancestor CD

Come On Everyone! Simple, Easy to Win Giveaway!

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What Should I Call this Piece?

talltabOkay, you guys, time is running out, and this silly giveaway is still in force – for maybe a week or two.  Only a few people have tried, and even those few haven’t made more than a couple suggestions each!  You can suggest as many names as you want, so your chance of winning increases with each suggestion.  Fifty suggestions is just fine!  And you get free stuff if one of your suggestions is chosen!

Here’s the rules again:

Tab 2I wrote this piano piece for my second CD, which is coming out this summer, but I haven’t been able to come up with a name for it yet.

Tab 2I need your help! I need a good name for it.

Tab 2You can suggest as many names as you want, so any time you come up with one, simply write it in the comments.  Get family and friends to participate, because I want lots of names to choose from.  If it helps inspire any ideas, the CD itself is called The Ancestor, about roots or origins – something along those lines.  You certainly don’t have to base your title on that theme, because there are plenty of other pieces following that theme, but you can if you want to.

Tab 2So here’s how the giveaway will work. as soon as I see a name I really like, the contest will end, and I will announce the winner – so the more you participate, the better chance you have of winning.  The winner gets a choice of either a free copy of my Dayspring CD, or a free copy of the new CD (You can choose between CD or MP3s) once it’s ready (exact date unknown).  Plus I’ll email you a free copy of this MP3, so you can show off the awesome tune you named 😀

Tab 2The chosen name will be the permanent title for the piece.

Tab 2Thanks for your help, you guys!  You’re AWESOME!

My First Music Video! Yay!

I’ve finally completed my first music video.  I guess it’s a little more like a music slideshow, but the piano piece is from the CD I’m planning on releasing at the end of July (If all goes well – and so far so good!) and it’s called, The Fourth Day, referring to the fourth day of creation.  That also means that this is the first time the piece has been published anywhere.  What do you think?

Copyright ©2009 Chas Hathaway, Willowrise LLC

And in case that version doesn’t work (some people’s computers don’t play it right), here’s a link to it on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/chashathaway

If that doesn’t work, you can also watch it at Exposureroom.com

By the way, the giveaway where you help me come up with the name of my piano piece is still active!  Just comment with a name suggestion for the piece.  If one of the names you suggest is the one I decide on, then you get a free copy of my Dayspring CD.  It really is as simple as that, so just comment on that post with as many name suggestions as you want.  You can’t lose!

Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 16

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Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 16

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The Mental Ear

Tab 2Inside your mind, there is something I call a mental ear.  It is the part of the mind that processes and predicts music.  When you hear your favorite song on the radio, your mental ear tells you what to expect as your listening.  You have heard the song before, and although you probably don’t consciously recognize the chord patterns that are used, your mental ear recognizes them very well.  So if you went to a concert where the musician was playing your favorite song, and a wrong chord was played, you would know immediately that something was wrong.  Your mental ear would alert you of the mishap immediately.  You may not instantly recognize what it was that went wrong, but you would hear and feel a difference.

Tab 2Writing music uses the same principle.  Your mental ear is so used to hearing  and predicting music that it becomes your primary source for coming up with chord progressions and melody ideas.

Tab 2That ‘ear’ has collected so much data over the course of your lifetime, and is so full of chord progressions, that when you sit down at a piano to create a new piece of music, and you play a chord or melody for the first time, your mental ear will tell you what the next chord should be.  It may take a little while to fully recognize what your metal ear is trying to tell you, but you must practice in order to become familiar with it’s messages.

Tab 2In learning to hear your mental ear, it is helpful to remember how you have been already using it thus far.  Turn on the radio to a familiar song.  While one chord is being played, listen to the part of your brain that tells you what the next chord will be.  I’m not speaking of the chord names, but of the way the chord sounds and feels.  What is the feeling that you get when the music changes one this chord to the next?  You know what’s coming, you know how you’ll probably feel when you hear it.  You can thank your mental ear for that.

Tab 2Now, transfer that recognition to your own music writing.  Play a chord – play it in what ever style you would like, but then pause for a moment.  What does your mental ear tell you the next chord should sound and feel like?  Find the chord.  You may have to pluck around a bit before you find it.  If you lose your train of feeling in your attempts, start over.  Keep doing this until you find the chord that your mental ear is trying to encourage.  Once you find it, play it a few times with the original chord.  Then, play the that far again but stop and try to feel what your mental ear is trying to tell you the next chord should be.

Tab 2This is the basic procedure for writing music by heart.  It is important to recognize what your mental ear is trying to tell you to play.  Your ear and your feelings must be your guide.

Read more of the series, Play by Ear, Write by Heart

What Should I Call this Piece? A Giveaway!

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What Should I Call this Piece?

Tab 2I wrote this piano piece for my second CD, which is coming out this summer, but I haven’t been able to come up with a name for it yet.

Tab 2I need your help! I need a good name for it.

Tab 2You can suggest as many names as you want, so any time you come up with one, simply write it in the comments.  Get family and friends to participate, because I want lots of names to choose from.  If it helps inspire any ideas, the CD itself will be named something about roots or origins – something along those lines.  You certainly don’t have to base your title on that theme, because there are plenty of other pieces following that theme, but you can if you want to.

Tab 2So here’s how the giveaway will work. There’s not really a deadline – so long as it’s before the CD release, but as soon as I see a name I really like (and I’m picky!), the contest will end, and I will announce the winner.  That means it could be two days or it could be two months – so the more you participate, the better chance you have of winning.  The winner gets a free copy of my Dayspring CD.  Or if they already have a copy of Dayspring, they can get a copy of the new CD once it’s released (exact date unknown).  Plus I’ll email you a free copy of this MP3, so you can show off the awesome tune you named 😀

Tab 2The chosen name will be the permanent title for the piece.

Tab 2Thanks for your help, you guys!  You’re AWESOME!

Jenniology – The Meaning Behind the Music

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Jenniology – The Meaning Behind the Music

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Tab 2 It took me awhile to decide what to study in college.  I had a lot of interests, and narrowing it down was difficult.  By the time it was time to sign up for school, I had it down to either music or genealogy.  I loved studying family history, and I thought it would be cool to go into a profession where I could help others with theirs.  But ultimately I knew I was more passionate about music.  Besides, I spent a lot more time practicing and thinking about music than I did genealogy, so I decided on music.
tabIt wasn’t until I had been going to college for a few years that I realized what I really wanted to have as my life study.  With only a few credits needed to get my Associates degree in music, I met Jenni.  She was the sweetest and prettiest girl I had ever met.  After a year of bumpy on and off dating, I asked her to marry me – the best choice I could have made.  It was then that I pledged myself to the study of Jenniology.
tabWe have been married since October 6, 2004, and I love her now more than EVER.  She is AMAZING!!!!  I am now a full time Jenniologist, and I am learning more every day.  Here are a few random Jenniology facts that I have learned already:

Tab 2Jenni loves candy – especially fruity candy, like Sprees and Bottlecaps.
Tab 2Jenni’s hair curls in a water fight.
Tab 2Jenni’s laugh makes any bad day great.
Tab 2Jenni has taught me that full-time motherhood is the best career possible.
Tab 2There’s nothing in the world like cuddling up to a sleepy Jenni.
Tab 2Eternal family is worth any price.  In fact, it’s worth every price.

Tab 2And she’s teaching me more all the time.  I love her, I love her, I love her!!!  Thanks, Jenni, for being who you are and letting me be your most dedicated student!

Read the meaning behind the music for more of Chas’s original pieces

25 Second Sneak Peek

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25 Second Sneak Peek

I’m planning on putting out another CD this summer, and I thought it might be fun to occasionally give my blog followers a sneak peek into some of the pieces that will be on the CD.  In fact, this CD will have some differences from my last CD.  While most of the pieces will be piano solos, there will be a few with either flute or voice.

Here’s a 25 second sneak peek into a piece called The Sixth Day.

Let me know what you think!

Homecoming – The Meaning Behind the Music

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Homecoming: The Meaning Behind the Music

Homecoming is one of the piano solo pieces from my Dayspring CD.

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How comforting the light of the gospel is in the face of something as shocking as death!  Testimony, born of faith, adds a spiritual element to the otherwise abstract complexities of life.

That testimony is a real and powerful confidence that becomes indisputable in the heart of those that embrace it, and it is a real and life-sustaining thing.  This mortal life is but a moment.  After death we continue life as we had previously known it, before it was crudely interrupted by this frightening but essential phase of existence.

To those with such faith, death is not a thing to be feared at all.  In fact, death is more of a reunion than a separation.  The partings that come with death are only very temporary, and when all is said and done, this mortal life will seem to have been but a passing moment.

I have a photograph that I like to get out and look at once in a while.  It is of my older brother’s missionary homecoming. He is only seconds off the airplane from his mission to Brazil, in a tight embrace with Mom and Dad.  Their faces are full of excitement, joy, and love.

That picture has a lot of meaning for me.  I took it on my own full-time mission, and it reminded me that I must serve my mission honorably, so that when I return, I will have such a moment.

It also reminds me of another homecoming that I will someday experience.

The thought of leaving this life and rushing into the arms of my Heavenly Parents sometimes fills me with so much hope, and so much anticipation, that I have to remind myself that I still have much to do before I can qualify for such a reunion.

Perhaps it is the fear of the unknown that frightens us about death.  We thrive so much on regularity and tradition that even a minor change from the ordinary can throw us completely off balance.  Adventurous as we may occasionally feel, it seems that few of us feel ready to step beyond the comfort-zone of mortality into the surreal and unknown mystery we call death.  Even the most courageous people can’t deny that there is a bit of apprehension that accompanies impending death.  Perhaps to some, it is like lying down to sleep, knowing that whatever dream first enters their mind will be their new permanent reality.

But again, this is where faith plays such an essential role in our lives.  Life as we know it has the greatest opportunity for growth, experience, and learning.  It also allows us glimpses of the joy that will be available in the eternities.  Such glimpses give us hope for the fullness of joy that will be awaiting the righteous in the life to come.


Purchase Dayspring CD
, by Chas Hathaway, buy Homecoming MP3 on iTunes, or see other writings about the meaning behind Chas Hathaway’s music.