Paradigm Shift

So today (13.04.08) I went to the CD launch of local Celtic band, Sunas (they’re online, go check them out, they’re amazing!). If you thought Celtic music disappeared when the Riverdance craze waned, think again. The venue was packed, George Jackson opened on his violin, people of all ages & styles were there.

Listening to these amazing people play totally beautiful music moved me so much. To begin with, Celtic music is very celebratory. You’re looking around for the campfire and the gypsy dancers. When it’s tight (and when the lead singer can play more instruments than she has fingers for) it’s incredible. So I’m reflecting on beauty, because a couple of days ago I wrote a 6/8 ditty on the subject for a writing challenge on Christ-SF, and I *never* write in 6/8. And by now you’ve guessed that I had an epiphany, because I never bother to blog unless I have. And like all my epiphanies, it’s something I’m sure the rest of the world already knew, and I’m just now catching up.

Julia Cameron said, “All of life, every scrap and morsel, is sacred, creative, and charged with meaning. There is beauty in a tiny embroidered handkerchief, beauty in the sweeping span of a bridge. There is beauty in what God has made and beauty in what man has made. And making beauty makes God manifest.”

Experiencing Sunas’ music was like that: beauty that made God manifest. I hope that I’m not taking terrible liberties with them – I have no idea of their spiritual orientation – I’m simply reporting my own experience. As I listened and watched, I saw these people displaying the wonder of who God had made them. And for the first time, I looked at my own music differently. George McArdle had something to do with it, too.

I come from a creative writing background. English was always my forte at school (you seriously *don’t* want to see my ball handling skills on the football field or tennis court). All through my teens I was madly writing poetry, and sometimes prose. When I started seriously beginning to write songs, it was very hard to drop free verse (which I infinitely preferred) and write in rhyme or at least assonance. A discipline, you might say. So for me, songwriting has always been about “the message, get the message across”. I guess this is partly because I’m not skilled enough to write instrumentals – my instrumental skills are almost as negligible as my sporting abilities. (Now you know why I write complicated melodies – I can’t PLAY them!) And now you’ll also know why Tim Moorton, when he came to arrange my songs, was flabbergasted by the amount of WORDS in them.

As a Christian musician, I’ve always felt that my music should be a vehicle for my faith. You know, music is a sort of universal language, let’s learn the language and impart the gospel, that sort of thinking. Nothing particularly wrong with it – it is what’s deepest in me and dearest to me – except it’s limiting. I come to the keyboard to write, and I get writers’ block because I don’t have anything to SAY that day.

It’s funny – normally we Christians think unchurched people will come hear our God-music and be set free. Today I went and saw a non-church-affiliated band and they set me free.

For the first time, today I felt that making beauty, like Sunas does, is justification enough for my music. It doesn’t HAVE to have a message. It doesn’t have to be a sermon on wheels to “qualify”. In the same way that nature showcases God’s glory, beautiful music can, whether or not mentions Him directly. I mean, I love to write songs for specific people, and about lessons I’ve learned, and things that encourage others, and I’ll continue to do that. But I’m also going to experiment more, and let the songs fall out where they fall. I think God will enjoy this ride. Wish me luck.

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