Vision



As with any art, sometimes it’s easy to write music. Melodies and harmonies flow into your head, and all you have to do is write them down. In fact, I used to think I was on the wrong track when it didn’t happen like that. Thankfully, I’ve learned that a lot of artwork takes just that: work. Vision is an example.

I’ve wanted to write this piece for a long time, but there have been several barriers:

  1. I never had a melody in mind; it was always more of an abstract concept.
  2. My forté is piano, and straight piano never seemed appropriate for this piece.
  3. The entire project seemed pretty daunting. And I’m lazy.

All that said, the process of writing this piece has a bit of backstory. I won’t bore you with the details; the short version is that circumstances aligned themselves about a month ago for me to start the project, and from there I couldn’t put it down.

So what is Vision about? In a word, it’s about the grandeur of the divine. Church is a part of life for my family, so I grew up on stories of miracles, angels, and the prophets of old. Often the scriptures seem more like fantasy than real life; as they tell it, angels used to appear to people every day.

With so many visions and visitations in the scriptures, we get a lot of insight into what seeing an angel must be like. Moses, Paul, Peter, James, and John are only a few examples of people to whom angels appeared, and for each them—at least at first—such close encounters with the divine weren’t joyful experiences; they were terrifying.

Of course, we can hardly blame the prophets; I don’t think anyone ever quite gets used to being in the presence of God. And it’s always so sudden: in one minute the shepherds are fighting sleep to watch the flocks, and in the next they’re wide awake straining to see through the blinding light and understand the words of the angels’ narration. You can imagine how many times the shepherds retold that story, and you can see them struggling to find words adequate to describe the glory and majesty of the experience. A visit like that would be the highlight of a lifetime.

On that note, Vision is a story. I’ve captioned it in the box above; as you listen, read the words and imagine yourself there.

Purpose

I found this just a few minutes ago under a stack of folders in ~/Documents. It’s a project I started a while back and then abandoned. Actually, that describes most of my projects. I originally filed this one away in hope of working on it later, but with a list as long as mine is right now, I’m not sure later will ever come. If it does, I’ll update this post. Here’s the snippet for now, though. Enjoy!

O Come

If you’ve been through my hometown, you probably suppressed a chuckle at how much it looks like a Hallmark set. And in perfect Hallmark character, we put on a Christmas concert every December. This year a family friend directed the program, and she asked my brother and I to perform. The request was pretty specific: we were assigned O Come, O Come, Emmanuel with my brother on viola and me on violin. Also, she asked me to write the arrangement.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel has always been one of my favorites, largely thanks to Chip Davis, The Piano Guys, and a handful of other artists. Writing my own arrangement of the hymn was tough in their shadow. Not long after hearing from the director, I blocked off a day and wrote four or five different starts. Each lasted about fifteen minutes before getting scrapped. After a little over an hour with nothing to show (I’m pretty impatient), I wisely put the project away and focused on something else.

That night I dreamed that I was watching a friend play an upright piano. He could tell I wasn’t paying attention, so he waved me closer and told me to focus. Then he played a soft, calling theme that made the rest of the room disappear. When he finished, he played it again, and then again, and so on until it gently woke me.

I couldn’t get my friend’s theme out of my head as I dressed and showered. Before breakfast I scribbled it down with a few tempo notes, and then I skipped class to fill in the harmony (no comment). The rest of the piece unfolded as though I were transcribing rather than writing. It was done by the end of the week.

If you’ve never heard the lyrics to O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, you ought to. They give beautiful voice to captive Israel’s longing for Emmanuel, the Redeemer prophesied by Isaiah in the Old Testament. To the Christian world to which the hymn is native, that Redeemer is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. His character is especially referenced in the latter verses, which talk of conquering death and the way to our heavenly home.

We aren’t all Christian, but we are all captive at one point or another, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who has never needed redeemed. O Come is dedicated to that redemption.

The Close

On a stop by my apartment during Finals Week, I chanced to share an elevator with a freshman girl. We didn’t know each other, so in line with proper elevator etiquette, we both stared firmly at the floor and waited for the bell to ring. After a few seconds I thought, “What am I doing? There’s another human being on this elevator with me—a female one, for that matter—and I’m pretending she doesn’t exist!” So I looked up and said hello. She tentatively said hello back and looked back at the floor.

To see if I could start a conversation, I asked her how Finals were treating her. That was the ticket. She looked up at me and told me how stressed she was. And how much sleep she’d lost. And how many professors hated her and how impossible her schedule was… At the end she took a deep sigh and told me that the only thing keeping her going was the hope of Summer after it was all over.

Now, I don’t know why, but the only thing that occurred to me was to ask her if she’d ever heard of post-exam depression. She looked at me as though I’d just told her that her house had burned down. Then she opened her mouth to say something… right as the bell rang and the door opened to my floor.

Vignettes aside, we all know that there’s both a pain and a fondness about the end, be it the end of the day, the semester, the job, the relationship, or whatever you please. About the only end that we don’t both anticipate and dread is the weekend, and even that depends on what’s due by Monday.

Anyway, while I’d like to say that The Close attempts to capture that sentiment, it really came as more of an accident. The opening theme was inspired by my favorite muse: boredom. As the project unfolded, though, it became my mainstay through the last weeks of the semester. My social life certainly suffered, but the end product has since turned into a part of my identity. I hope you enjoy it.

Nearly Forgotten

Last semester a friend and I reminisced over lunch about our old friends from high school. As I counted my mine, I was shocked to realize that I wasn’t in contact with any of them. And I hadn’t been for nearly a year!

In essence, Nearly Forgotten reflects that realization. It’s not just about friends from high school, though we all had them. Rather, it’s about anyone you met, got to know, had adventures with, shared secrets with… and later forgot. Here’s to once-past friends are now nearly forgotten.