Tuesday, October 8, 2013

It Didn't Have to Be

*Post dedicated to my dear mother-in-love, Jayne Neal, who poured her heart out to Jesus in breathtaking song during her solo performance on Sunday.  All who heard and saw felt the light of the King of Kings manifest in her voice and eyes. 

Martin Luther once said that, "Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise."  And I confess that I've rather had music on the brain for quite some time now.  At a UNM dance performance, I was greeted with a display of  frontal nudity set to a score whose beauty was said to lie in the ambiguity and absence of the meaning.  The dissonant and "experimental tones" of the music felt neither truly emotive nor evocative of any real or deep purpose.  I did not feel liberated by the invitation to create my own story as I watched the performance.  Instead I faced an onslaught of confusion and a wave of disharmony that was unsettling.       

But what truly wounded me was that this idea of discord, both visual and audible, was called the real vision of truth and goodness.  For, as I thought about it, that is what music in its essence is should be.  Music is humanity set to tones and notes that words may not always express.  Good music does precisely what it was created to do, it echos within the human soul, resounding in truth, in sorrow, in goodness, and in hope.  After all--it didn't have to be


Karl Barth is quoted to have said,"I even have to confess that if I ever get to heaven, I would first seek out Mozart, and only then inquire after Augustine, St. Thomas, Luther, Calvin, and Schleiermacher."  
Music, unlike other pursuits, is not something that was necessary and vital for the survival of mankind.  It didn't have to be, and yet--here it is.  Bach and Handel wrote Soli Deo Gloria on their sheets of music, because they were writing for the Great Composer, creating something that would not feed the body but the heart.  Should it surprise us that creators of some of the world's most lovely and passionate songs were writing to the glory of God, the Author of Truth?  After all, that is what music is--resounding and rising Truth.

For those who are wandering and looking, those who are earnestly questing and seeking after Heaven in the real world, the heart-wrenching note-cries of music are evidence that testifies not only to the existence of God but to His goodness.  Where many words fail and all 'round us human voices are raised in anger, disharmony, and selfish ambition, men will live, struggle, and die in the throes of their earthly existence for even the possibility of music.  

Good music edifies, cleanses, heals, and restores, because it is finds its origin in the author and perfecter of all goodness, mercy, truth, justice, and grace.  Music that rejects all form and structure and sacrifices meaning is the cry of the fallen creature, the wounds and scars of a broken world.  This music speaks the language of The Fall, the harmony of the darkness and of the void of the night.  But Creation is the theater of God's glory, and as deep calls out to deep, so the fierce cries that wrench the soul, and the soft strains of love that wrap around tendrils of laughter is humanity ever reaching out and stretching to touch the robe of the Star-Kindler.

 "At night I love to listen to the stars.  It is like five hundred million tiny bells."  (Antoine de Saint Exupery).  

The dissonance of our human lives, the mistakes, the sorrows, the labors, the pains--these too are notes on the staff of our life-song.  For in these discordant moments, the Great Composer blesses and transforms them into pieces of the symphony that create a longing for relief, for a return back to harmony.  As bits of a melody's wrongness are identified in a song, the human ear waits, longing for the indescribable redemption, for that reaching upwards to grasp grace once more.  And that is part of what makes music so universal, so evocative, welling up from the deepest of deep places in the imperfect human soul. Behold, God makes what once was broken whole.  

 Oh, who are we, that He should make beautiful things out of us? Alleluia! 

excerpt from "The Lay of Eanna"...

“But thou, oh maid of Rùaðhàn.   Oh child of men, their daughter.
The song you keep,
Is ancient and deep,
A pool of eternal water.
But higher still, you must now go, deeper still I call thee.
Song of the earth,
Harmony’s birth,
I give to you the key.

“The magic of the frozen stars, on a cold and moon-swept night,
Of lion’s mane,
The smell of the rain,
The morning crescendo of light.
The melodies of the meadow flowers; the language of trees, their ways
Rhythm and Rhyme,
The passage of time,
The hastening of all days.

The Maker of all earthly things, the King of Heaven high,
The Highest One,
El Elyon,
Lord of the Sapphire sky.
He grants gifts to sons of men; all blessings flow from He,
Thy glorious song,
To Him belongs,
Hold fast to the Heavenly!”

The lark then taught the maiden well, she learned of hidden things,
Tongue of the Brook,
Dance of the Rook,
Of heather, of bells, of wings.
And the wellspring of her heart, flowed a worship silver-pearled,
For the [i]Dream of the Rood
Matchless it stood
Above all that is the world.

She learned to sing in pitch of night, when a frozen world lay dead,
The Song, her shield,
Bright sword to wield,
By the Light, she still was led.
She sang of joy amidst great pain, with a suffering spirit weak,
When floods would rage,
Notes filled her page,
The Bridge Builder she would seek.

[i] A reference to the famous Old English poem called “Dream of Rood” in which the cross, upon which Christ hung, speaks.  

      Soli Deo Gloria