Foreword: I probably scared you away with my blog already if you read my first post. The topic I addressed was very dicey and pointed the finger of blame at what I believe to be the root of some of the biggest problems intertwined in our common culture and norms today. I published that post so quickly because I felt it was important to post it at the time.
That being said, this post is meant to serve as the heart and soul of my blog. Everything I and others write here will attempt to point back to the ideas captured in this post. We aren’t perfect at doing that but we hope you see and feel our good intentions as the posts roll out. If you are feeling like there is no hope in the world, read this and I promise that you will find some solace today and surely in more uncertain days to come.
What makes a musical masterpiece?
Is it the pure heart and the natural-born talent found in Mozart’s works of musical majesty?
Is it the intellectual feat of Beethoven’s chord progressions that he miraculously found in the serenity of silence?
Is it the holy writ within the Hallelujah Chorus that granted Handel the power to bring us so close to God that we can almost hear Him knocking at the door?
These composers and some others throughout history seem to have hit all of the right notes to etch their names in the eternities. Their songs resonate within us on the purest and most fundamental level. Many have survived cultural and technological revolutions, remakes and covers, mash-ups and manipulations from the time of their birth to this very day. No matter the limitations of the artist’s tools and their access to information, they have somehow managed to drink from the fountains of eternal life. What is it that keeps them from falling in step with the more mediocre creations of man? Why is it that, despite a lack of technology and access to the information we enjoy, these artists operate on an entirely different playing field? Why is it that their work has not suffered the forlorn death that so many other creations have suffered?
In nearly all fields of study we can find patterns that can offer us greater insight to these questions.
Scientific method has given us a way to describe truths that we find in nature. How true theories, laws, postulates and philosophies are seems to be dependent upon their relationship with time. The longer they survive, the more true they are proven to be. It doesn’t seem to matter how many citations, footnotes, clicks, thumbs up, or views they have. Things that are not true pass away like a story on your news feed. The metric of universal truth is whether an idea, belief or theory stands the test of time.
Another strong indicator of truth is how connected a proposed truth is to previously established truths. The more interwoven it is with other truths, the more confident we can be in its soundness.
In music, melodies were discovered in the song of the bird but could not be captured and utilized until the perceiver gained enough understanding of written musical language. To write music, one needs to understand what notes represent a specific sound, what notes should make up a chord, what measures should organize those notes and chords into groups, how many measures should fit into a stanza and how many stanzas should fit into a composition. Where a song begins and ends is governed more by what feels or sounds right rather than by some stringent logical rules.
On the contrary, the feeling of what is right and wrong is less important than the logically proven rules that define math. Algebra existed on the earth as a representation of some of the world’s governing forces well before any of its precepts were discovered and widely accepted. To harness the power of algebra and rest upon its proposals, academia had to first logically prove the soundness of addition/subtraction, multiplication/division, squares/square roots and exponents/logs to begin building a foundation. Likewise, calculus and computing could not easily be explored without first requiring an understanding of the strict rules of algebra.
The studies of music and mathematics within the sphere of university academia seem to often be in conflict. When roaming the halls of an engineering building or meandering through the musical corridors of a conservatory, it would not be uncommon to hear about how the one field of study simply doesn’t understand or appreciate the other. A musician might murmur in college algebra about the mundane memorization of a skill that, to them, is meaningless while an engineer often excitedly envisions every earthly phenomena as an enigma that can be exposed by mathematical formulas. Conversely, an engineering student fulfilling their humanities requirement in an introductory music class might roll their eyes at what seems like useless, nonsensical chaos, while the composition student thrives in an inner world of limitless creation and beauty.
Despite this conflict, an increase in the influx of studies examining the relationships between the arts and technology is producing amazing results, such as showing the effects of music on unorganized matter or employing origami to space applications. The beauty of merging these two seemingly incompatible groups of study to form a greater realm of possibility is like the harmony of two instruments in a masterful symphony. Both instrumental lines, though distinct, are beautiful and melodic on their own, but pale in comparison to what they can be together and what they contribute to the complete work. In the pursuit of truth, no single medium is sufficient to receive a beautiful harmony. If truth is found in math, science and music, what other known truths are we missing out on because we think we have it all? How much more beautiful will the harmony become when it transforms into a symphony?
In following any of today’s news, we can see how polarized the world is. It may seem like any hope for harmony in our society is absolutely impossible. Every type of division and discord seems to sneak its way onto our news feed even if we have sworn off paying attention: Fingers mash on keyboards, people argue endlessly, husbands and wives divorce, friends turn to cold, silent enemies; we see an increase of protests, riots in the streets and on and on and on.
Though the years have changed, there seems to be a familiar melody to this tune.
The Civil War, born out of two immovable ideological divides, pitted friend against friend, brother against brother and son against father, ending in over half a million lives lost. Our country’s divide today is so strong that it is killing the closest of relationships. Will it get so bad that relationships will not be the worst casualties? Will history repeat itself claiming so many of our fellow countrymen’s lives because we refuse to resolve our conflicts through reason, understanding and compassion? Is it too late to stop what is now on the horizon?
Perhaps we can save more lives than we take.
In a day where conventional wisdom and long-held traditions are being turned on their heads, there is an opportunity for all of us to leave sandy, unstable foundations and ground ourselves in the pure, solid truth.
To do that, we need to quit playing our own tune for a moment and ask ourselves two things: What is the truth and what parts of it do other people have? What is truth and what parts of it do other people have? WHAT IS TRUTH AND WHAT PARTS OF IT DO OTHER PEOPLE HAVE? (Can I make it any more obvious?)
By seeking out listening for the answers to these questions, we will discover the truths that rule our universe, refine our part of the truth and come to understand and appreciate the truths others possess. We will be able to pull together a more stable and complete worldview. Instead of clashing with the rest of the orchestra, we will be able to focus on the conductor and listen to each other, which will draw our parts together in harmony.
We all have our part to play in creating a beautiful symphony of truth but we cannot incorporate our part if we aren’t willing to follow the Composer and Conductor of all truth, the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the literal Son of God, even Jesus Christ, the very embodiment of truth and purity. I hope and pray that as many conductors try to lead you down a path of incomplete truth that you will recognize what they are lacking and faithfully search out the Master Composer to take part in the sweet, pure and divine composition of the Symphony of Truth.
*Edit this video was recently released and I loved it so much and how it ties into my blog that I had to include it. All credit to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.