Fish Philosophy

Imagine you are a fish in a pond.

While in school, your teacher tries to convince you that it is impossible to see through water.  Of course this seems ridiculous to you at first, but then he stirs up the mud at the bottom of the pond.  Soon the entire pond is completely clouded.  You cannot even see the fish around you or the teacher.  “See?”  Your teacher says, “you are in water and you cannot see.  Now you know that it is impossible to see through water.”

Some of you and your classmates recognize that it is not water that is blocking your vision, but the mud that your teacher spread in front of you that makes it impossible to see.  You recognize that when the mud settles, you will again be able to see again like normal, because the mud and water will again be separated.

But some of the fish begin to feel confused and lost.  In panic, they turn to the teacher for help.  The teacher replies, “The only safe place is the bottom of the pond.  At least there, you can feel something beneath you.”  They follow, because they don’t know what else to do.

As the mud settles, they are buried in the mud.  Their “new perception” that mud is the same as water is therefore confirmed in their minds, and they remain in the much ever after.

Though unhappy in their new state, they pride themselves on their new understanding, wondering how they could have ever been deluded into thinking that what they once experienced was sight.  They scoff at the fish above, swimming happily about the pond.  They mock them, telling them that their childish belief in “Clear” water is just a tradition that their parents convinced them of.  They say, “Yeah, we once thought as you do, but now we see what water really is.  Sight is an illusion.  You cannot trust your senses.  The only safe place is the bottom of the pond.”

The wise know the difference between the mud and the water.

AudioBlog/Passing Thoughts: 30 Sep 2010

Passing Thoughts 28 Sep 2010

I think I’ll call my audio blog entries Passing Thoughts, just because the word AudioBlog sounds blah. This time a share some passing thoughts on fulfilling dreams and bucket lists.

Forgotten Stories from the Old Testament: Three Virgins

Shortly before Abraham’s father offered Abraham up as an offering to idol gods, there were three virtuous women offered up – killed because they refused to bow down to idols. I’d sure love to hear the rest of their story. Who were they? What was the situation that led up to their death? Martyrs like this are heroes in every sense of the word, and they are remembered through history for their faithfulness.

Here is the account, given in Abraham 1 from the Pearl of Great Price:

9 And it came to pass that the priest made an offering unto the god of Pharaoh, and also unto the god of Shagreel, even after the manner of the Egyptians. Now the god of Shagreel was the sun.
10 Even the thank-offering of a child did the priest of Pharaoh offer upon the altar which stood by the hill called Potiphar’s Hill, at the head of the plain of Olishem.
11 Now, this priest had offered upon this altar three virgins at one time, who were the daughters of Onitah, one of the royal descent directly from the loins of Ham. These virgins were offered up because of their virtue; they would not bow down to worship gods of wood or of stone, therefore they were killed upon this altar, and it was done after the manner of the Egyptians.
12 And it came to pass that the priests laid violence upon me, that they might slay me also, as they did those virgins upon this altar;

My Musical Journey: 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.

This entry is originally from…

overtones-button2

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.

Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Conclusion

Play Button

Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Conclusion

kb1abstract3

talltabMusic is a remarkable thing.  So is the mind and the heart.  Together, these three elements can create beautiful music for all who hear it.  I’ve noticed that generally it is the simpler music that touches people most deeply.  I encourage any who enjoy listening to music to give writing music a try.  The best indicator to tell if you have ability to write music is to notice how much you enjoy listening to it.  The more you enjoy listening to it, the more developed your mental ear is, and the greater capacity your mind has to bring new music to life.  This may be hard to believe, but in my experience, it is true.
talltabMany people, even musicians, may try to convince you that music writing is something you’ve either ‘got’ or you don’t.  Don’t believe them.  This is but a convenient way to make musicianship sound unreachable for the inexperienced.
talltabThe truth is, even the most gifted musicians have developed the capacities we have been discussing, but they rarely know how to explain it, because so much of what is happening in practice is internal.  So they only explain those things which are easily explained – the note values, the time signatures, and the drill techniques.  These are all good, but they are only the technical parts.  I hope in this series I’ve been able to convey some internal ideas that are used in playing and writing music.
That is not an easy task, but I hope my attempts prove helpful in your quest to play and write music, by ear and by heart.

See more entries about playing the piano by ear and writing original piano music

Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 20

Play Button

Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 20

kb1abstract4

The Sound Method

talltabThe basic idea of the sound method also works with silence, but silence can be a little more difficult to find in the busy world that we live in.  If the opportunity presents itself, try creating music using only your mental ear while you are in complete silence.
talltab Also, have you ever noticed that when you sit or lay in complete silence – perhaps  shortly before you begin to fall asleep, you can occasionally imagine sounds so well that you can almost convince yourself that you actually hear them?  I don’t think this is anything strange.  As your mind approaches sleep, it will sometimes begin to drift into dreaming before you have completely fallen asleep.
talltab If you ever find yourself drifting off, and are aware that you are doing so, try playing with your mental ear.  You may, on occasion, find that you can make yourself hear music – not actually hear it, but almost hear it.  If it works, you may find that you can create beautiful music, much in the same way you would if you used the sound method.  The only caution with the sleepy method is that if you fall asleep completely, you’ll probably forget what your music sounded like.
talltab In speaking of these methods, I hope not to create the impression that writing music by heart requires some kind of deep meditation or something.  That is not the case at all.  Actually, these sound and silence methods work best if you have already created some of your own music using the basic methods we’ve already discussed.  Sound and silence methods are just a fun way to play with your developing mental ear.
talltab Music is a simple thing that promotes emotion and motivation, and is best created with that idea in mind.
talltab If this method does prove itself effective for you, you may find that it is not difficult to invent a tune while humming during a walk, or whistling while you work.  You will likely find that you can spontaneously begin humming a tune that you have never before heard, and perhaps you will never hear again – unless you have a piano handy.  Try some things out, and you may be surprised how easily you can write original music.

See more entries about learning to play the piano by ear and write original piano music

Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 19

Play Button

Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 19

The Sound Method

talltabThis section of the Play by Ear, Write by Heart series may seem like the strangest, and may give you the impression that I have a bit of a mental disorder, but if you will take it seriously, and try it out, I’m sure you will find these tools as useful for you as they have been for me.  These methods are certainly not necessary, but they can be a bit of fun, and might even help you in creating original music.
talltabYour mental ear is quite powerful.  It is also very sensitive, and can be easily manipulated.  If you have ever been in a situation where you have been surrounded by a continuous and solid noise, such as a loud motor or fan, you may have noticed that any sound that you hear in the distance may be distorted and misunderstood.  If someone speaks to you while you are next to a loud motor, for example, you may hear something different than what they actually said.  This can be frustrating in terms of communication, but if you are trying to learn to write music by heart, a loud and constant sound can be a great tool.
talltab I should clarify that I am not speaking of loud music or loud rhythm.  Those will prevent the very thing you are trying to accomplish.  I am speaking of a constant sound, such as the hum of a vacuum cleaner or the crashing of falling water.
As you listen to the sound, listen carefully.  Listen intently and try to hear more in the hum than what is really there.  When you feel as though you might be able to hear echoes of other sounds emanating from the hum, let your mental ear play with it.  Imagine that you can hear music in the hum.  Imagine it with as detailed as you can.
As your mind begins developing a tune, repeat it over and over, until you feel confident that you won’t easily forget it.  Then, go to a piano and try to play it.   This may or may not work, but when it does work, it can be a fun way of inventing a piece of music.
talltab Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged when your attempt at playing your imagined music on the piano doesn’t sound nearly as good as you remember hearing it.
talltab Your mental ear has much more skill than your hands do.  Your mind can play entire orchestras with every little detail.  After all, consider a piece of music that you’ve heard dozens of times.  Can’t you hear the tune in your mind with all the little instrumental details?  That is your mental ear playing back a piece of music.  This same format can be used to write a whole new piece of music that has never been heard before by anyone.
If you can come up with a basic tune this way, allow yourself time to learn to play it.
talltab You’ll also find that a tune is MUCH easier to remember once you’ve played it on the piano (however inadequately), because sometimes when you come back to a piece you can remember the fingering better than the tune.  That’s all right, since as soon as your fingers do their work, your mind will recall the feelings and notes of your original music.

See more entries about learning to play the piano by ear and write original piano music

I Live in a Mansion

moon

talltab1I live in a mansion.  There are so many rooms, and so many doors, that it would take more than a lifetime to explore what is in them all.  From one room, I can explore the sciences, and watch the progression of the stars and planets.  I can chart the known universe and discover things that it has taken mankind centuries to understand.
talltab1 From another, I can learn the religions of the world, make connections with things divine, and come to a deeper understanding of why people are the way they are.
talltab1 From another, I can become my own symphony, and follow the practices of the master composers.  I can perfect the principles they have learned and carry them on to new levels.
talltab1 There is a room in my house where I can practice medicine and learn how the human body works.  In this room, I can also learn how to strengthen the powers within my own body through exercise, activity, proper nutrition and rest.
talltab1 In one of the larger wings of my mansion, I can enter a fantastic world with creatures and people that most people only meet in dreams and movies.  I can converse with them, and in essence, leave the world entirely through time machines and spaceships.
talltab1 I have rooms that bare the perfect resemblance of locations all around the globe.  I have been to Egypt, China, South America, and Africa without having to leave my home.
talltab1 In my favorite room, I have met the Savior and His prophets.  I have come to know God, and converse with Him regularly.  I have met Adam, Enoch, Abraham, and John the Baptist.  I have met the reformers and those who took part in the great restoration of the Gospel.
talltab1 I have visited many of the rooms in my mansion, and plan to visit many more.

talltab1 My house is small, and my means are meager.  But in every room, there are books.

Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 18

Play Button

Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 18

Cautions concerning your mental ear
talltabYour mental ear has a remarkable capacity to remember and bring forth beautiful music from a seeming oblivion.  It collects information from every tune it hears, and binds emotion to any mix of chords.  Using this as a guide to writing music can make it possible to promote virtually any emotion that the human heart can experience.  The mental ear also builds up a catalog of chord usages to draw from for writing music.
talltabI would like to share a couple of cautions, however, concerning the mental ear.  It is so common, and so easy, for a person to write a piece of music by heart, only to find later that the piece already exists.  You may find, after writing a piece, that the melody or chord structure has already been written by someone else.  It is comforting to know that chord structures are not copyrighted, but it is important to also understand that melodies are.  If you find that your chords match some other song that already existed, but your melody is different, don’t worry, that is alright.  There’s nothing wrong with using the same chords that someone else is using.  But if you find that your melody is already in existence, recognize that it is not yours, and you must either give proper credit to the writer, or change your tune.
talltabMy second bit of caution is also the more important caution:  if this happens to you (you write a piece only to discover that someone else wrote it first) do not get discouraged by this.  It can be embarrassing if you have publicized (not published) your piece already, only to find that it wasn’t yours in the first place, but do not let this scare you from writing more!  Consider it a great compliment.  Does it not prove that your capacity to write music is great?  Does it not prove that your musical ear is incredibly powerful and effective?  If you can write a melody that is already popular without even knowing that someone else wrote it, does that not validate the talent that you have developed?
talltabSometime read “The Story of my Life” by Helen Keller.  She went through this on a heavy level.  But with her, it was with writing instead of music.  She was very gifted with words and wrote a beautiful story, only to find out later that it wasn’t hers.  She could only assume afterward that she had heard it years before and forgotten about it.  She was greatly complimented for her work, but when it was discovered that the story already existed, she was looked down upon by some of the people she most admired.  During her recovery period from this most challenging part of her life, she said:

Miss Canby [a teacher] herself wrote kindly, “Some day you will write a great story out of your own head, that will be a comfort and help to many.” But this kind prophecy has never been fulfilled. I have never played with words again for the mere pleasure of the game. Indeed, I have ever since been tortured by the fear that what I write is not my own.

Helen Keller, The Story of My Life, chapter 14

talltabThe shock of the whole event discouraged her from writing fiction for the rest of her life.  This is a tragedy.  Don’t let that happen to you!  When you find that a piece is not yours, simply step down and start working on your next piece.  You have infinite music in your heart that has yet to be written, and no matter how good your piece is, your best is not yet written.  Write it, and let no failure or fear of embarrassment hinder you.

Read more articles about writing music by ear