Here it is, the final movement of the Advent String Quartet. The theme for this movement is Peace.
One of the titles of Jesus, the Child that is born on Christmas, is the Prince of Peace. Now, I am not into the rigors of logic and the details of definitions, but I do know that he did not necessarily mean pacifism. In fact it was Jesus who said that he did not come to bring peace but a sword:
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’" (Matt 10:34-36)
We are called to stand up for the defenseless - not stand by idly. We need to know when we need to fight and when not to. As long as there is evil in the world, we always need to be on guard against it.
But the peace that I am talking about, or conveying in this movement, is quiet resignation. No matter what happens in the world, peace can be obtained on the personal level. From a Christian's perspective, this is the resignation to God's Will and an understanding that God is always in control. No matter what is going on the outside, this inner peace can still reign within us. This is what I believe Jesus meant by "His yoke is light" etc. When you look at the Christian way of life, in the face of the modern world, it is difficult. However, through believing in Christ and His dominion over all and our relationship with Him, all we have to do is do what He is calling us to do. The lure of the world is somewhat diminished as we see it is all fading and that the real treasure is in heaven.
Musically, the movement is slow and quiet. It is not a very melodic piece. It was written as a soundscape, as a meditative piece not an entertaining peace. As with the other three movements, I begin with the "Peace" idea or motive and deviate to a less settling part before returning to a peaceful conclusion. Now, the performance of this piece will be much more free than the other pieces. I have written it without barlines. The intent of this is so that the performers can determine the pace of the rhythm for themselves - for them to feel the piece rather than read the piece. Unfortunately, my rendering is more mechanical than I wanted, but this is all I could do for right now.
Now, this is not typical finale material. It is not fast, rambunctious, triumphant, or even technical. That is exactly what I meant. The purpose of Advent is not fulfillment. The purpose of Advent is longing. To sum up, the purpose of the Advent String Quartet is in the (paraphrased" words of St. Augustine, "Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in you". Afterwards, we should have a longing, a feeling like our waiting is not yet over.
A couple of bits: first, I find this a coincidence that I posted this movement on the day of North Korea's Kim Jong Il's death. Because there is uncertainty to how North Korea will proceed, consequently there is little peace of mind as far as what is happening on that side of the world. Please keep world peace in your prayers.
Second, I have over the last couple of weeks, averaged about a "song" a week. I don't know if this momentum will continue, but I sure hope that it will. I have many musical projects on the horizon for next year as well as some immediate songs that I want to do.
Third, I am averaging around 5 min. a song. if this continues, I would have approximately 5 CDs worth of music by the end of the year. Once again, we'll see how that comes along.
I hope you all have a wonderful rest of Advent waiting for the coming of the Christ Child!
Here is the third movement of the Advent String Quartet. The theme for this one is joy. This last Sunday was the one where the priests can wear the "rose" (I still call them pink") vestments and I believe that the theme is usually joy for this Sunday.
This is a really odd piece for me. Reason is I tend towards heavier and darker sounds and sonorities - Heavy metal, dissonant German opera, etc. I am more at home in a minor key (sad sounding) than a major key (happy sounding). This piece is pretty joyful :) My wife even said that it is cute. It is rather faster paced and I wanted to give sound to what joy would be, in particular the bouncing, jumping, and a general lightness that usually comes with joy. I put in a slightly depressing part to contrast to the more joyful theme. If it had a program (a story), I would say that it would be about a child joyfully waiting in anticipation for Christmas. Then, during this time of waiting, he got some bad news, but not terrible news. Maybe that he got a bad grade in school, lost a game....something that would be depressing for a child but definitely something that can be overcome. Slowly we see the child get over their loss and begin to focus again on Christmas.
The same should be said for us. I know that Christmas has a lot of baggage for a lot of people and that for most of us, it isn't as "magical" as it once was when we were younger. But, shouldn't it be though? Have we really missed the whole reason for this season of Advent? We will soon meet the Christ Child on Christmas day. And unlike the first Christmas when Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, wise guys etc. came to know this miraculous child and birth, we understand fully that he is our salvation. The salvation of our race. Shouldn't we be joyful?
Be sure to take a listen to the movement and get in touch with your innertube...I meant inner child :)
This is going to be more free flowing than the others. Just putting my thoughts out there.
Now, you might be asking, why is this nut writing a string quartet? These were not popular since the 1800s. Furthermore, why does he insist on the Christian imagery of Advent and Christmas?
Well, the first question kind of gets to the center of my musical philosophy. It is basically this: I make music regardless of the listener's preference. I am expressing myself and I am creating music that reflects a certain mood, sonority, or inspiration. I am making an artistic statement, not trying to necessarily gain fans. I am in a position that I can do that rather well; I don't depend on my musical craft (yet) to pay bills and I can create what I feel is right. So if you like it, great! If you don't, well that is OK too.
A second reason why a string quartet is that it is smaller than an orchestra. I can try different techniques, chord progressions, and counterpoint with a string quartet easier than with an orchestra. I only have four string instruments rather than who-knows-how-many-parts in an orchestral score. So, it is, in a way, practice for writing music. I can come up with ideas to try and write the four parts rather quickly and see how it works. If it sounds good, great. If not, it would not be too much to go and edit the four parts.
Third reason on why a string quartet: I always wanted to write a string quartet. It is so out-dated that it sounds exotic!
Just makes for a great conversation starter. Also, this is a new medium for me; the newness of writing for the string quartet gives me options I never had before writing for other ensembles. I think that stepping out of one's comfort zone can have some surprisingly fantastic results. But also really bad ones. It is a risk, but you never know if you don't try, right?
And why is it about Advent and Christmas? As I have mentioned before, I am Christian (Catholic) and very devout in my faith. If left to my own devices, this is where my inspiration comes from. Now, I don't think that what I write has to have a profound Christian meaning, but when I write for myself, I can't work off of any other inspiration other than my faith. I have tried love songs, songs of anguish...the actual musical result never compares when I write my own music.
When writing for others, it is different. They or their project is the inspiration; I don't have to supply my own inspiration to write. Recently I finished writing a musical score for a friend of mine's Star Wars tabletop campaigns. I will be working with my brother on another game music score. So, my faith is not my only musical inspiration, but it is my personal inspiration.
There are probably more reasons that I am doing this (such as showing you all what I can do, and writing Advent rather than Christmas music), but those will be for another post.
I hope to have the third movement up within the next couple of days. The theme: Joy. Have a great day!
Today is the first day of Advent, that season of waiting in anticipation of the coming of the Christ Child on Christmas. All too often, we miss the "reason for the season" and engage in the ever growing commercialism that Christmas has become and don't think on the actual waiting aspect. The ancient Jews anticipated the coming of the promised Messiah. This is the initial Advent of mankind and the one that we emulate during this season of Advent. For us Christians, we are anticipating the promised second coming of Jesus. We don't know when it will be, but we know it will happen eventually. And with that waiting, we need to not grow weary of the waiting but trust in God's promise and His timing. This is what the Advent Season is about.
In these modern times, we forget what waiting is like. Everything is instant and if it isn't then it will be in five minutes. The world seemingly turns based on our every whim. All to often, if we have to wait for something, we just forget about it.
So to celebrate this season of Advent, I am writing a String Quartet, which is a series of pieces of music, called movements, for two violins, a viola, and a cello. For each week of Advent I will write and upload one movement of this work to share. Each movement will be based on an attribute of the Advent Season: Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. The first week's movement is based on Hope.
The aspect of Hope is for us to hold on to what God has promised, regardless of what else is happening in the world. God is steadfast in his promises to us and challenges us to be steadfast in our trust in Him. Of course we falter and do not always live up to that challenge perfectly, but we should always try to move closer to perfection. Our hope should pervade all oppressive situations when we might be tempted to give up.
This first movement opens with what I call a hopeful theme. It is characterized by long notes and a peaceful feel. Slowly this gives way to what I call doubt which is characterized by long sad and dissonant sounds. This is when the doubts of the world come in and cloud our vision and hope tends to fade away. During this doubt episode, the music becomes more and more lively and violent in an effort to kill off any hope that we may have had. But as doubt takes its final stabs it inevitably dies as the hope theme re-emerges. Hope in God and His promises is ultimately what keeps the faithful going. Without Hope, we cannot wait for we see nothing at the end of the tunnel.
I hope that you all enjoy it! I know that this may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I hope that you can hear what is being said through the music. Once I am done with the entire Advent String Quartet, I will try to find a way to publish the music for public performance.
Have a blessed Sunday! God bless!
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This is the news blog of Phrygian Phish. Check out here for news on Phrygian Phish projects like Last Rites, Beyond the Dice, and other Sean Bailey projects.