Monday, November 9, 2009

Mozart, the Silmarillion, and Night Songs

Mozart had an extraordinary gift to write themes in his music.  One idea, expressed musically would start, then another would weave in.  It would stand on it’s own as a melody line, yet fit with perfect precision with the first theme.  Then, another independent musical thought adds into the melody, woven into the movement that is already occurring and still fits like a matching puzzle piece.  Building the thoughts until they reach the stories pinnacle, that moment when you have to know how the plot will wind up.  Then, the themes start winding toward the resolution and the eventual conclusion of the score.  Listening to one or two of those musical lines is pleasurable, but learn to pick out the different themes within the sounds themselves lets the listener hear the sound of art which also mimics life.

One line is joyful, bubbling along with purpose and speed.  Another adds a new personality, something richer and with greater depth.  A darker voice joins the song; minors add the new tone of tension, suspense, perhaps even angst.  Life is something like that at times.  We start off our day, the tone is established and then new voices are added in based on where we go, who we speak to, what actions we take, or the opposites of those.  Sometimes, these are things we can control and other times they are far away from our reach. 
Many have asked about that minor voice, why does it need to be there?  Named diabolus in musica or the Devil in music several hundred years ago, the tritone is a dissonance within chord structure.  Or, speaking in broader terms, why is there evil in this world?  If you are familiar with the story of Adam and Eve that may be where you point.  There were people, fruit, a tree, a snake, bad choices, and wah-lah entry of sin.  Well, yes that is true.  However, by the very fact that the serpent already existed there was previously sin in existence though not yet in humans.  Why would God allow that to change?

I think one of the most beautiful metaphorical descriptions I have heard of why there is an allowance of sin with all of its disastrous effects is from Tolkien’s Silmarillion.  I won’t quote it directly, though I do recommend reading it.  To give you the gist; the Supreme Creator is leading all of the lesser beings in a song, resulting in the creation of the world.  This is a wonderful thought by the way – wouldn’t you love to hear the song that might result in the creation of a tree or a cloud, even a waterfall or rain?  Anyway, the music was being created, multiple strong threads woven together to form a complete world.  They are rejoicing, as their music is guided by the Leader, and reflects His glory in the creation.  But, then another joins in, putting in discords with such fire and destruction the others are silenced in disbelief.  But, the Creator of the Music comforts them that the minor and threat filled music is something that He knew was coming, already knowing the phrases and melody turns it will take.  And, though they cannot understand it – He has a plan for it and this provides a gentle comfort.

In life, we have songs in the night, times when we don’t know which way to turn or why something happens.   You are going along and then some new melody line weaves into the music.  It may bring hope, anger, joy, hurt, love, or despair.  But, the comfort is that the melody line is not unknown to our God, our Creator.  Instead, He takes the phrase and blends it into the music – making it fit perfectly.  In my own orchestral section I may not be able to see how it fits, but there it is fitting perfectly into the score nonetheless.  There have been so many tragedies this last week alone, the shooting at Fort Hood, in Orlando, and many other catastrophes.  It is so easy, so human, to ask why and be angry at God.  Comfortingly enough, God is big enough for both our anger and all of our questions.  Now that these terrible things have occurred, we must rally in prayer asking God to weave this discord, this diabolus in musica, back into His perfect melody as only He can.