I

1 Nephi 1:1
I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.

I’m trying an experiment. I’ve found that writing is a form of pondering – a very powerful form of pondering, so I’m going to try reading the Book of Mormon slowly, writing about each verse. I would guess that this is the most widely read verse in the whole Book of Mormon, simply because it is the first verse. If I were going to explore the scriptures verse by verse, trying to get as much out of them as possible, I might start with a few questions about how this verse starts. I ask these questions, either because I don’t know the answer, or in hopes that in exploring the answers I already know, I might learn something new.
Why does Nephi write in first person? As far as I can tell, Moses, Isaiah, and most of the Old Testament prophets wrote in third person. Why then does Nephi choose 1st person for his narrative?

There you go. I’m already stuck on the word, “I.” I’ve just been doing a bit of searching, and so far I can’t find a reason. Any Ideas?

I Blew It!!!

I blew it. My first chance and I blew it!

I’ve had a silly idea for a long time. Jenni and I don’t have a TV, so we never see regular episodes of anything. We do rent movies on DVD and watch them on the computer, but we’re determined not to get a TV. I’ve been working on my most recent book quite a bit lately, and I was talking to someone about it, and how much fun it has been to write. When the person I was talking to said, “How do you get the time?!” I fumbled with stuff about getting up early or staying up late, and a little about determination, blah, blah, blah.

After I left, I slapped myself on the forehead. I forgot – completely forgot! See, I’d had this idea that if anyone ever asked me how I get time to write books or CD’s, I’d simply say, “I don’t watch TV, and in the time I would have been watching, I write.”

But I forgot. Blew it on my first chance. Oh, well. Guess I better give up movies so I’ll have more time to write more and when someone asks where I get the time, I can tell them I don’t watch anything at all…

Hmmm…

Nah.

Ode To My Kia Sedona

Maybe someday I’ll put this to music, but for now, here’s my latest poetic composition…

Ode to My Kia Sedona
by Chas Hathaway

Sitting,
Reflecting,
I can’t help but thinking
The one I have now’s not sufficient
Pragmatic,
My old pick,
But not too aesthetic
I’d long since gave up as deficient

The first time I saw you
I knew you’d be mine
You wanted me too
After six months garaging full-time

Reflecting bright
the mid-day light
The hue of the sun’s full corona
A brilliant white
I venture to write
This ode to my Kia Sedona

Your battery,
No flattery,
Made sounds that were clattery
The price to get fixed made me cower
At great cost,
Your defrost,
When came calling Jack Frost
A short wired fuse drained your power

So to the mechanic
I drove you that day
The price made me panic
As I walked irately away

Reflecting bright
the mid-day light
The hue of the sun’s full corona
A brilliant white
I venture to write
This ode to my Kia Sedona

Revamping,
Now camping,
After wilderness stamping
We notice you had a flat tire
Replace it,
Now race it,
A new flat displaced it
Halfway home – I think cars conspire

Back to the shop
Once again you won’t start
Alternator’s a flop
‘Till we save up the cost for the part

In case you’re ideal’s
on a new set of wheels
Before your trip through Arizona
Consider my plight
Get the car that’s right
Just don’t get a Kia Sedona

Music for Its Own Sake: A Dangerous Philosophy

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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.

Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Conclusion

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Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Conclusion

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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

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Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 20

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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

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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

Play by Ear, Write by Heart: Part 18

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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

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!