August 18, 2020 | Stories by Barbara Williams
Music has always been a huge part of my life going back to beginning piano lessons at age six. During every season of life, God has used music to bless, encourage, comfort and convict me. During this season of COVID, music refreshes my soul deeply, reminding me of Who is in control. I know many of you feel the same way. But how do all these wonderful songs come into existence? How do they begin? What needs to take place? And how does that process relate to real life?
Here are some essentials:
A STAFF – When a composer sits down to write, he or she needs manuscript paper or a computer program that presents a staff on the screen. A staff is just five little lines and four spaces. Not too impressive. But those lines and spaces hold unbelievable potential. Think of some of the greatest music literature in the world….Handel’s Messiah, Beethoven’s Fifth, Debussy’s Clair de Lune, to name three. Or think of a recent song that made an impact on your life. Enter the composer. Those beautiful melodies, harmonies and lyrics were in his or her mind before one note was written.
And so it is with God. From the very beginning of your life, He has the perfect composition, the song of your life in mind. Psalm 139: 14 says, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.”
You are unique, one of a kind. The Master Composer had the melody and harmony of your life and mine in His heart even before we were born.
A KEY – Probably the first decision a composer makes is what key (scale) to use. If you are a musician, you know that the first thing you observe is the key signature. In what key is this piece written? How many sharps or flats? None? That is a crucial piece of information.
Now the word “key” can have more than one meaning. For instance, have you ever tried to open a door with the wrong key? It’s very important to have the right key, whether in music or other situations.
Years ago, in Ohio, a new youth pastor had just arrived at our church. He had a great singing voice. One night we had a Q & A time with him and at one point the pastor asked him to sing something. He asked me if I knew a particular song and I did, so I headed for the piano. Now the church had just purchased several new pianos which were kept under lock and key when not in use. I forgot about that little detail. :)
Upon sitting down on the bench, I quickly said to Frank (the new guy), “I need a key.”
To which Frank replied, “the key of F.” Oh boy. So I said again, “I need a key.”
To which he replied (louder this time), “the key of F!”
Finally, in desperation, I made a turning motion with my wrist and said (this time rather loudly myself), “I NEED A KEY!” The whole room erupted in laughter and my sweet husband sprang into action, finding the right key!
The composer also decides if it is to be a major or minor key. Teachers often describe this to younger students as “happy or sad”.
God determines the perfect key for your life and mine. Our natural tendency is to question, “Why is my life written in six sharps and hers in the Key of C?” “My life is so much more difficult. Can’t I have it just a little less challenging, Lord?” “It seems like I’ve been in a minor key for a while now, Lord. Isn’t it time for something different?”
And then of course, there is something in music known as a key change. You can be playing along in the Key of C and then – BOOM – there you are in five flats or six sharps! Sometimes you get a few measures to prepare, known as a modulation. Sometimes it is very sudden. But you keep playing, trusting that the composer knows where the music is going.
These are truly difficult days for all of us personally and for our nation. So many changes, in such a short time and in so many ways make our heads spin. Change, especially sudden change, can make us feel off-balance, unsure if the Composer’s steady hand is still writing the song. No matter what our circumstances, we can trust God’s promise found in Romans 8:28 – “And we know all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
The secret of being able to weather the key changes in our lives is to SPEND TIME WITH THE COMPOSER.
Over the years as a piano teacher, I have attended many composer workshops.
Spending time with these composers gave me a different perspective and understanding of their music. It gives me joy to play or teach songs written by someone with whom I have had the pleasure of spending time.
In the same way, spending time getting to know God helps us accept His dealings with us as our trust in Him grows with every change and challenge.
Psalm 25:4-5 is a great way to pray. “Show me Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me. For You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.”
Be watching for Part Two as we continue to explore The Perfect Composition!