Monday, April 06, 2015
When I taught music in college, I would occasionally encounter a Christian student with problems about how to serve God through music. Some of the questions would be, "I want to serve God through my music, but should I quit playing secular music in bars, etc.?" Or, "Can I be a good Christian musician and still play secular music?" And finally, "Should I quit all types of music except religious music?" Heavy questions to be sure.
The typical answer was that it was ok to play secular music because God hears everything and as long as you respect the talent that God had given you, you'd be safe in assuming that God would understand that your heart was in the right place and honor that. While I still believe those words, as I grow older I have begun to rethink the question.
Personally, I now realize that the music I treasure playing the most is almost always in a church and preferably in a worship setting. For me, playing tunes and taking solos, while fun, doesn't satisfy any longer. This is probably due to connecting my love for God through my music. When I was a non-believer, I played to a lot of furniture. In other words, there weren't many people listening. In fact, I found that most of the music I was playing was gratuitous.
When I accepted Christ, it seemed as if God had rearranged the notes I had been playing and made them agreeable to the listeners. Each time I would play in a church, people would come up to me at the end of the performance to tell me that they had been sincerely moved by the music. This came as a complete surprise to me and still does each time I now play.
I now believe that the Holy Spirit is always available to us and as I offer my music as prayer, it's no longer to please myself but to please God. Sometimes I even imagine that Jesus is in the room listening. I don't mean to sound pious, believe me, I'm not. I just have found my purpose in life. What about my playing, you might ask? I actually feel that I am playing better now than ever and utilizing all the musical skills I have acquired over a lifetime.
So, in answer to the previous questions, I can only say, be patient and God will eventually lead you to make the correct decision.
Blessings to all,
Monday, March 30, 2015
In the summer of 2011 I came upon the idea of composing original music for the Book of Psalms.
The Book of Psalms was written 3000 years ago by King David, Asaph, his musical director and the sons of Korah who were working under David. Asaph, while not getting much recognition, functioned much like Billy Strayhorn did for Duke Ellington.
One morning while meditating on Psalm 27 and using the ancient technique of Lectio Divina where one slowly repeats a Scripture passage, I began to hear the text in musical terms. The music of rhythm and melody emerged and I decided to follow composer's instincts and write it down. This led to a full blown composition. Now 3 1/2 years later I have completed 108 of 150 of the psalms.
I first began composing music in 1966 while working with the legendary jazz trumpet/sax player Ira Sullivan in Miami, Fl. Most compositions would begin with a sound from the piano, a chord progression, melodic fragment or a rhythmic idea. The Jazz Psalms always begin with the sacred text of the psalm. I work with Music Serving the Word Ministries, Scottsdale, AZ. The name of the ministry clearly states the mission to "serve the Word". Through the practice of Lectio Divina, a particular phrase or word will stand out and become the seed of musical thought. From there, the text is extracted, form is decided and musical style reveals itself and the necessary steps to composition completion. The result is a sort of snapshot of the theme of the psalm. It is important to realize that the Jazz Psalms are just a reflection of one of the multiple themes of the psalms . The Psalms are complex and often long and not easily ready for jazz composition.
The Jazz Psalms are songs, written in the language of modern music with various styles and ensembles that are meant to be sung as were the original psalms written by King David and his musical staff. In fact, the Book of Psalms is the only book of the Holy Bible that is musical. The intention of the Jazz Psalms is to lead people to discover the richness of the original Book of Psalms considered to be the prayer of the church.
Suffice to say that the Jazz Psalms Project and the gift of the Book of Psalms has led me to the most spiritually fulfilling endeavor of my life. It is truly a gift from God and I invite you to share in this experience by listening to this work at Music Serving the Word.