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

Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 19

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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

The Isaiah Barrier: Tips for Surviving Second Nephi

the-isaiah-barrier

talltab1How many times have you read first Nephi?  If you are like me, you’ve probably read it at least twice as many times as you’ve read any other book in the Book of Mormon.  Thank heaven Nephi does such a great job in his first book.  But then what happens?
talltab1You’re reading along, having a wonderful spiritual experience.  You’ve finally gotten back into the habit of reading the Book of Mormon every day.  You’re so proud… er… uh, pleased with yourself.  Then all of a sudden you read a verse that says:

“…kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their faces towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet…”

talltab1“Uh, okay…” you think to yourself, “I’ll just file that away into the back of my brain and get back to the good stuff.”
talltab1So you continue reading.  It doesn’t take you long to figure out that the strange Hebrew poetic writing doesn’t go away.  It lasts till the end of the chapter, then continues on to the next, and the next, and the next.  Before you know it, you’ve lost your daily habit and you’re hating yourself for not being able to work through the Isaiah barrier.
Sound familiar?

talltab1Let’s explore some ideas for getting through the Isaiah barrier without too many permanent scars.

  1. Take it in stride. Don’t expect yourself to race through it at the pace you’ve been going.  It’s not traditional English prose.  It’s not even traditional Hebrew prose.  It’s okay if your scripture study is only a few verses instead of a whole chapter.  Better to read smaller chunks than no chunks
  2. justtallGet a commentary – I’m not talking about FARMS or Hugh Nibley.  They can sometimes be as daunting as Isaiah himself.  Just get the Church Publication: Religion 302, Old Testament Student Manual 1 Kings–Malachi.  That is the Church’s old testament institute manual for the second half of the old testament.  It’s very simple and clear, and believe it or not, it makes Isaiah easy to understand!  (I bet you thought that was impossible – au contraire!)  Give it a try.  By the way, it’s also available to read online for free: http://ldsces.org/inst_manuals/ot-in-2/manualindex.asp
  3. justtallPray. Pray hard.  You’ll need all the help you can get, and who can help you better than the real author!
  4. justtallRewrite it. Okay, so this is a little more involved, and may take some help from tip 2, but give it a try.  Re-write each verse in plain English.  It’s not interpreting and rewriting the scriptures for publication, it’s putting it in your own words to help you get a grip on what’s going on.  Plus it’s kind of fun.
  5. justtallGet out the maps.  Better yet, jump on the computer and goof around on Google Earth (did you know that’s a free download?  It’s much cooler than Google maps, too.  Trust me) and punch in locations as you come across them.  Isaiah’s a real geography buff, and mentions places a lot.  Sometimes seeing it visually can help a lot.
  6. justtallFind scriptural commentary on Isaiah.  Isaiah is such a popular topic in the scriptures (especially in the Book of Mormon), that a lot of the verses are mentioned by other prophets and expounded in detail.
  7. justtallIf all else fails, skip itOh my heck, did I really just say that?  Yeah.  It’s a last resort, but if it’s a choice between losing your scripture habit and skipping the chapters, just skip them.  If you get really good at your habit, you’ll come back in the future.  The Isaiah chapters are more or less done by the end of 2 Nephi 24, so just jump to 2 Nephi 25.

talltab1Well, that’s about all I know.  Any more ideas?  How do you work your way through Isaiah?  Any tips for the rest of us?

Oh, by the way, here’s a scripture for the day!

3 Nephi 23:1

And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah

Journals and Diaries: Ideas for Keeping it Fun!

I have been keeping a daily journal for about sixteen years now, and I love doing it.  One of the things that keeps me at it is using variety in my journal-keeping methods.  Here are some examples:

Traditional Methods

1. Keep a small pocket notebook with you wherever you go, and when an idea of something to mention in your journal comes to you, jot down a word or two that will remind you of the incident so you can write about it in your journal later.
2. Write a memory of something that happened long ago.  Remember that it probably won’t make a difference in the next generation if you wrote it the same day or years later.
3. Write about something funny that happened recently.
4. Write about something someone else did recently.

Creative Methods

1. Draw a cartoon, sketch, or simple painting of the event(s) of the day in your journal.  Write what the picture represents, and be sure to Continue reading