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.

Music for Its Own Sake: A Dangerous Philosophy

Play Button

Music for its Own Sake

talltabMusic has a powerful effect on the mind and heart.  It can change the entire mood of an environment in seconds.  While there may be different factors that determine what music effects people in what way – such as personal taste and style, music is a powerful influence.  This has always been the case.  And I am not only speaking of New Age or classical music.  I am speaking of all kinds of music – pop, country, classical, rock, hip-hop, alternative, rap, a capella, folk, hymns, chant, Jazz, oldies, choir, not to mention all the world music – Celtic, African, South American, Middle Eastern, Asian, Aboriginal, and so forth.

talltabMusic has power.

talltabBecause of this, I think it is very important that we recognize that music is not an end of itself.

talltabThere is a popular idea which toys with the idea of music for it’s own sake.  Or you might say, music as a contribution to the arts in general.  I can understand that, but I don’t like that idea.  I simply don’t.  I suppose that makes me a bit of an outlaw in the field of the arts, but if music is written for no intent at all, then what is it worth?

talltabWhy do I say this?  Mainly I am concerned that if we put too much emphasis on music for its own sake, we may praise it while overlooking its intended message.  Some call pornography an art.  I used to disagree with that, until I reminded that art is not necessarily good of itself.  Whether or not pornography is an art is irrelevant.  There is good, clean art, which portrays positive messages, and there is evil art, which carries poison that can destroy the soul.

talltabIf masterful music is put to a degrading message, can we really praise the music as being a positive influence on society?  I don’t believe so.  In fact, such music is more poisonous than if the message was put to a discordant, unpleasant sound.  Skill, talent, and power can be used for evil just as they can be used for good.

talltabSome use the beauty and talent of an artistic portrayal to justify it as a worthy influence.  But satan will use as much “light” as necessary to sneak in a dark message.  You may have an entire glass of fresh juice, but one drop of a strong poison will still kill – even if the poison doesn’t effect the flavor of the juice.

talltabBasically, there is music of God, and there is music of satan.  Art and music are not good or bad of themselves.  They are only as good or as bad as their message.

Electro-dog

Yesterday my wife and I took our dog for a walk.  Every once in a while we stopped and I’d go hide in the sagebrush while my wife held the dog so I’d have time to hide before she came after me.  This is one of our dog’s favorite games, though she’s not that great at tracking people – she could use some practice with her sniffer – but she has fun trying.

One of the times I asked my wife to hold the dog and I prepared to go hide.  While trying to get hold of Lola’s collar, my wife let go and said, “Ouch! I think I think Lola’s got a cactus spine or something.”  So I came and felt around for it.  At first I couldn’t find anything, but then I felt it – some kind of poke.  I seemed that she had a spine in her neck, and as I searched for it, I felt it again.  Was it a poke… or a shock?  I felt around more, and after a moment felt it again.  “Ouch,” I said, pulling back, “that’s weird!  I’m not sure it’s a poke we’re feeling. It’s almost more of a shock!”  I felt her fur again, and the more I touched her, the more poke/shocks I felt.

Then we realized that we were standing almost directly beneath one of those massive beefy electric wires that carry electricity over mountains and miles of empty terrain.  It was even making strange zapping noises.
“Uh…” I said, looking at the gigantic power-line, “let’s get out of here.”  So we scrambled away from the electric wire.  We checked the dog every couple minutes, and sure enough, the further we got from the power lines, the less conductive she was.

I don’t know if the dog ever noticed anything, but if she starts demonstrating super-powers, I won’t wonder why.

The Power of an Ordinary Day

Most days are ordinary days. Most often, when I come to the end of the day, I can’t think of anything that occurred during the day to distinguish this day from any other day in my life. It’s amazing how many times a day starts full of grand ideals and ideas, with motivation, determination, or anticipation, only to end up as an ordinary, useless day.

We all know how precious time is, yet it still passes. It passes as quickly and effortlessly as the clouds that come and go unnoticed.

Some would consider it a depressing idea that an individual could be born, live, and die in complete anonymity. But to me, it is fascinating, because that inconspicuous forgotten soul can still progress to immortal glory, worlds without end. When you see things from the perspective of eternity, the least of us has as much potential as the greatest of us.

So what about time? Can a seemingly meaningless day be worth the value of endless days? Can my pointless day hold as much meaning as what another might experience in a million years of life?

I believe it can. Perhaps today was the day I thought of the idea of getting a book from the library to identify a tree in my yard. Days later I act on that thought, and check out the book, which leads me to take greater interest. Perhaps my simple thought may lead me to one day become a professional botanist or herbologist. Perhaps today I thought of the idea of emailing an old friend – or a new friend, which eventually leads to a lifetime friendship.

Have you ever wondered when Leonardo Davinci got the first thought, the first idea, to try doing something with art. Was he a child? Was it on an ordinary day? Did he even act on the thought for a few days? I’d be surprised if the very first inclination to try something creative didn’t come on an ordinary, boring, and meaningless day.

Most people meet their future spouses on ordinary days. Most people’s first exposure to their genius came on days that seemed to Continue reading