Musings: Opposition in All Things

I’ve been thinking a lot recently on or about contrasts. Without contrast–or opposites–it is difficult to get your point across. In paintings, it is oftentimes the dark segments that cause the lighter segments to “pop” visually. In literature, it is the force against which the hero must fight –  for us to truly believe her success in the end.

And so it is with music. If all is bland, if all is repetitive, or if the musical line just meanders, where is the enjoyment? It is in opposition that light and darkness are revealed and the power of a piece is exposed.

I remember being a music major sitting in theory class one morning and my professor came in with great energy. He posed the following question with a mysterious look on his face: “Class, which of all the notes is the most powerful?”

We puzzled on that for some time. One student daringly said, “F-sharp.” The professor’s wry little smile got even bigger. “No.” Another class member called out, “E-flat?” The professor gave his head a little shake and waited. But we were stumped. He finally grinned, but spoke quietly. “Silence,” he said. “Silence is the most potent note. It makes all the others stand out.”

Pretty profound, I thought at the time. And that class interchange has remained with me through the years. Now when I go to compose, I ponder that question of “Class, which of all the notes is most powerful?” And as I write I am continually seeking the best, most fluid balance of opposition. Of light and dark. Of silence and sound. Because without those contrasts,  all becomes milk-toast-bland.

Musings: Amazing Mothers

I had been feeling discouraged for the youth of the world. As I look at what they encounter on a daily basis, I wondered how they could cope and lift themselves above the media influences around them.

I suddenly feel much better.

First, I must say that two experiences in less than 24 hours does not a world make. But it was enough that I feel encouraged.

I met two mothers just yesterday alone who are quietly toiling alongside their children, raising them in gentle patience and love, who for right now are seriously content in that experience.

When I asked the first what hobbies she had, she laughed and said essentially right now her hobby was raising her sons. Oh, and cleaning her home. Her eyes were rested and the peace palpable.

Later in talking with a different mother–and when I asked her what her hobbies were–I was stunned to hear the same thing. This second young mother looked me straight in the eye and said, “Right now I’m raising my children.”

These are articulate ladies. These are women with immense talents and quality. And these are women who have grasped the ethereal, eternal nature of women of God. These are women who are not second-guessing their role as the “raisers of the future.”

Children who are raised in love, with steady boundaries, and by parents who (although not perfect) strive to listen to their cares with honest hearts, are children who are steadied enough to walk through this life with balance.

Do some children go off the deep end, creating ruckuses in spite of excellent parenting? Of course. But studies have shown, and I presume will continue to show, the impact of parenting style on children. Resent parenting and I presume children sense it. Savor parenting and I presume children sense it.

For example, a recent study came out indicating families that do outdoor-fun, recreational events/activities with their teens (at least weekly) help teens resist drugs and alcohol, simply by spending time with them. Another study has shown that families who eat dinner together nightly help children avoid binge drinking.

I had been worrying: “Are mothers getting their importance? Do fathers understand how important they are to their children?”, I now feel encouraged. I have seen fathers “getting it” and now I’ve encountered two mothers just in the past 24 hours who get it, and in fact celebrate the time they have with their young children. Without regret. Without resentment. And in fact, with a whole lot of love.

These ladies toil in our society quietly and peacefully in their God-given glorious role as today’s shapers of tomorrow’s leaders. Why would anyone criticize the power of motherhood? And now that I’ve met these two amazing young mothers, in short sequence of one day, I am encouraged that there are many more.

What Chord is Angst?

When trying to paint with music, it’s fun to sit at the piano and explore emotional chords. If you were a dark storm moving in over the peaks of Devil’s Mountain in a fictional forest, what chords would you use to create that mood? Or, a butterfly flitting from flower to flower on an easy Sunday morning at the same mountainside? Or, a lost little girl sitting on a rock with bleeding feet, wanting to climb down the mountain but not knowing how?

These are the thoughts that flood my mind at times as I sit on the bench in front of my piano, letting my fingers aimlessly create moods. How delightful to explore the depths of human emotion in sound. Not so fun in real life.

Don’t Stay Discouraged

We often hear, “Don’t get discouraged.” I’d rather it be worded, “Don’t STAY discouraged.”

Discouragement is all too common an emotion. Most of us, if not all, have found ourselves living from time-to-time in that rundown establishment known as Hotel Discouragement. Do you visit there so often you have your own room? The trick is to stay there no longer. If we wake up in the depressing, filthy, crusted sheets of despair, the choice is ever present to get up and move to a sunnier place.

Here’s a good quote to help us do so. I found it at David Lebovitz’ website. He was speaking about writing cookbooks. Yet his advice pertains to all writers, artists and any other valiant individuals. David advises us all to shun the dark moods of despair, reminding us:

“…don’t be discouraged. Julia Child was rejected by almost everyone because Mastering the Art of French Cooking wasn’t considered salable. Later in life, another of her books that was turned down became a huge success.”

Hmmm. Good things really do come to those who patiently work hard…and who choose to move out of room 232 in that shady establishment, Hotel Discouragement.