Sunday, January 22, 2012

minutes to hours, hours to days, days to years

One Life ..... in minutes.

I've only ever fully written a song start to finish, top to bottom in one sitting once in my life.   "One Life" was a song that I wrote for the funeral of a dear friend and colleague Eva Crespo.  I wrote the song on a Tuesday afternoon in about an hour.  I wouldn't have been able to finish it at all if not for the help of my friend Pablo.  He graciously transcribed what I came up with pretty much as I was singing and playing..... since then I've become much faster at music dictation, but back then I was super slow.... He also translated the chorus into Spanish so that it would be bilingual.  The very next day we rushed over to Tallowood where Gary helped us record it in the sanctuary so that we could give Eva's daughter a copy of the song.  I then pretty much played the song constantly as many times as I could before the memorial service.... I'm a rather poor accompanist and as Pablo was on his way out of town, I either had to play it for the memorial or it wouldn't be played..... of course, ever since I've been able to play it in my sleep.

The great irony is that since it's rather hurried and thrown together inception, I've spent hours editing it  because I've used the song for several different settings and since it was my prerogative to do so, I changed the words each time to better suit the occasion.  So far, in various forms this song has been sung at a memorial service, a missions benefit concert, a GA /Acteen recognition service and at a 5th grade graduation.  Each time with verses that fit the needs of the event.   Being able to tailor songs for specific events is my absolute favorite part of writing music.

"AWAKE!".... VERY slowly! 

AWAKE! is a song that I started right after graduating college in the spring of 1999. For all this time, I've had the basic harmonic structure in place, the lyrics were fully formed and I'd even notated what I had, but it didn't feel finished.... still doesn't really....Every few months since beginning this song, I've dragged it out of my journal, tweaked this adjusted that but the song remained virtually unchanged until this summer.   This past 2011 summer I was able to come up with a contrasting B section that feels right to me and now the song feels closer to being finished than ever before.    The biggest hurdle in the way of finishing the song at a this point is that I think it needs real orchestration rather than just piano.  So now I've got find time to re-learn and learn for the first time everything I need to know in order to try orchestrating.  Guess I know what I'll be doing summer 2012!

"More Than We Ask For".... song writing is like quilting, sometimes all you need is the right  little piece to pull the whole thing together.

2007 feels like a million years ago!
Sometime after 2000 and before 2007.... (meaning that I really don't remember when)..... I wrote a verse that sat in my music journal just waiting to be musically sewn to something that would tie it together.  Then one afternoon in  2007 when I was preparing for the Coffee with a Cause concert I composed a chorus that I REALLY REALLY liked.    I pieced it together with those verses that were getting dusty in my journal, added scraps of an accompaniment from an entirely different song written in 1999 whose accompaniment I'd recently reworked and voila! In one afternoon I was able to take a song fragment and a spare accompaniment, throw in a new chorus and suddenly I had what I would consider a song with a working title called "More than we ask for" One more song was ready to be heard.  I was pleased enough to include it in the Coffee With a Cause concert.... and THEN time passed.....

Since the Coffee with a Cause concert in 2007, I've become increasingly unhappy with that "More than we ask for" song.  It seemed to me as if the ideas in the chorus didn't tie the verses together as well as I would have liked after all. Plus when I had more time to dwell with the theology of what I'd written, I didn't think that I had really said what I meant to say.  Once you've got theological issues in your songs, they unravel and fray at edges to the point that they are unusable.......

So I pondered and waited.....practicing, writing other things, studying theory, and always reading and listening to more music.

Then lo and behold, last week right in the middle of an ordinarily exhausting week of school  I was able to write new verses which make the piece more directional and cohesive.   LOVE the words...... but  NOW  that I  like the verse words so much better I find that the melody although serviceable doesn't make me as happy as the rest of the song........I don't love it.... I think I can do better.

So I'm pondering and actively waiting...... practicing, writing other things, studying theory, and always reading and listening to more music.

Sometimes it's hard to remember why I write songs. At this point in my life both because I'm so busy being a teacher, and because I've had so many recent vocal health issues, no one is actually hearing the music I write.  Especially when writing music is so laborious and often such a frustrating process.  There is always one more detail that needs attention.  Then there are the times when in weakness I begin comparing my skills to those of other musicians. Huge mistake!

It's at times like this when the Lord is faithful to give me purpose.  He is faithful to remind me of His calling on my life.  He is faithful to remind me that His calling doesn't waver in light of my circumstance..... Whether any song is ever heard, I am ALWAYS called to obedience.  So I will write.   This week, he gave me these verses to remind me of who He is and therefore who I am.

Proverbs 16: 2-4
All a person's ways seem pure to them, 
but motive are weighed by the LORD. 
Commit to the LORD whatever you do, 
and He will establish your plans
The LORD works out everything to it's proper end
even the wicked for a day of disaster. 

Colossians 3:16-18
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  

Colossians 3:22-24
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.  Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 

My prayer is that I will daily remember who I serve.

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