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, Continue reading A Musical Language: Speaking through Music

Heikhal: The Meaning Behind the Music

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Heikhal is the Hebrew word for temple.  I have used a mode for this piece that is reflective of Middle Eastern music.

The temple is the most sacred place on earth.  There, the most sacred and divine ordinances are performed.  It is, quite literally, a bridge between heaven and earth.  Is it any wonder then that it is referred to as a place of revelation?  I suppose the veil is thinner there than anywhere else on earth.

Anciently, mountains acted as temples.  Sinai acted as the temple for Moses.  Then, when the Lord felt that the children of Israel were ready for more, He had them build the Tabernacle.

Once they reached the promised land, He had them build the Temple.  We often label it the temple of Solomon, but really it was the Temple of God.

Now temples cover the world.  But each is The House of God.  The power and influence of each building is not diluted by the increasing number of temples – rather, with every new temple, the power of God is increased in the world.  That power and influence increases exponentially with each new temple.

So how can we help that power increase?  Attend the temple.  Attend often, even regularly.  Whatever your circumstance, you can make more time for the temple.  As all of us attend the Temple more often, the need for more temples will increase, and the power of God will increase.

Even on a more personal level, as you attend the temple, you will see the power of God increase in your life.  You will be happier, and your life more fulfilling.  It’s that simple.  I promise.

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

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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!

25 Second Sneak Peek


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


Homecoming: The Meaning Behind the Music

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


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.

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Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 3

Getting Started

Part 3: Getting Started

Some of the ideas mentioned in this chapter may seem obvious, but they are also  essential.  For now, I’ll speak to you as if you are sitting at a piano, following directions like a piano lesson.  If you’re not at a piano, just do these things the next time you are sitting at a piano.

For this lesson, I will provide music that you can use to learn the first steps of learning to play by ear, but you are welcome to get your own CD or MP3 of music instead.  Make sure that if you use an MP3 player or iPod it allows you to pause and rewind without having to rewind the whole song.

Listen to the piece one time through without touching the piano.  Do not get discouraged as the piece develops.  Of course it sounds hard, you’ve never played it before!   Just enjoy the piece for now.  This will implant the feel of the piece into your mind and heart.  This “implanting” is very important, because as we will discuss in later chapters, the feel of the tune is much more important than the sound of it.

When the song ends, return to the beginning of the song.  Push play.  As soon as you hear the very first note, stop the player.

Now find that note on the piano.  If you can’t find it, restart the track and play that first note again.

Repeat this as many times as it takes to find that first note.  If you think you have it but you’re wrong, you’ll discover it soon enough.  Just do the best you can.  The secret to this whole process is to not get discouraged.  After you feel confident that you have found the first note, rewind the track again and find the second note.  Repeat this with every note.  Each time you add a note, play it in context with the other notes you’ve already learned.

As you know, most piano pieces start on 2 or more notes.  It’s usually not too difficult to find the high notes, since they are usually the melody, or main tune.  The highest note, or melody, is usually accompanied by lower notes in the chord.  The challenge is often in finding the lower note(s).  I will speak in later chapters of tricks to find other notes using the melody as a guide.  For now, just keep trying until you find the notes, and be sure that as you find them, you play them together as they are played on the CD.  If you have to re-play and retry the notes 100 times before you finally get it, don’t worry, you are perfectly normal.  Be patient with yourself – you are just beginning.
Each time you learn a new note, or group of notes, play all, or at least many of the notes before it.  This may make the learning feel very monotonous for awhile, but it is an important part of learning to play by ear.  Unlike reading music, when you play by ear, you have to be memorizing the piece as you learn it.  The interesting thing about it is that if you simply play each new note and chord in context with what you’ve already learned, memorization will happen automatically, without conscious effort.  This is nice, because you will likely never feel like you are doing drills or exercises, but rather you are simply learning a piece of music.
In my own learning, I never did drills, exercises, or conscious memorizing.  These things happened automatically as I learned to play the piece.  So be patient with yourself as you get started, because you’re learning a lot more than you think.