I heard this beautiful concept once about the minor note. How the minor note is only one in a set of seven, yet some how gives life to the whole scale. It creates emotion, suspense and mystery within the selected key.
It use to be taboo to end a song with a minor note, like to do so was breaking a rule because:
It has no resolve.
It asks questions.
It can irritate you and make you feel uncomfortable.
In the words of Jeff Buckley’s ‘Hallelujah', “The minor fall and the major lift” the majors lift you on wings to heaven and the minors take you down to the abyss. The major notes make sense, give answers and create order, but the minor note gives life.
I relate to the minor note. So often feeling alone and misunderstood amongst the seven, yet inwardly feeling like I’m in the right place. That somehow I’m giving life to the scale even if the scale doesn’t want me there. Maybe this is why the prophets said about the Christ, “he was despised and rejected by men” and, “this light appeared yet the darkness did not understand it.” I’m no christ, but then I remember that story is not about us becoming like him, but he became like us.
In a world dominated by the major, it’s comforting to believe that this minor note, though outnumbered, cannot be quieted. The known God we’re so familiar with can actually, in fact, keep you from knowing the, unknown god. The “I am who I am.”
Relationship of movement and sound
I heard that scientists have been able split atoms down the 150th sub atomic level or something crazy like that and what they see down there at the very very bottom looks something like a sound wave. The theory is that the building block of matter seems to be some relationship of movement - “And god S-A-I-D…” - sound.
Being a piano player, this sits well with me. Thinking that sound and creation are inseparable. It makes me think there’s this beautiful connection between the seven days of creation, days of the week, seven spirits of god in the book of Revelation, seven chakras of the Hindus, the seven heavens of the Jewish Kabbalah, and the seven notes on a musical scale. The creation story morphs from being a past tense history lesson to the instrument god is playing keeping everyone and everything in motion, every…single…second.
I see why the writer says god looks at it and says, “It is good.”
Often times it feels like religion has turned the eighty eight key piano on it’s side, called it a ladder and told you to start climbing, creating a spirituality that involves hierarchy, mastery and ascending from level to level. I hated playing scales when I was learning how to play. It’s boring and sounds dumb. But then, you have to play the scale, moving up and down, to learn how to play.
Someone once said, “In music, first you must learn to play by the rules, then you must forget the rules and play from the heart” and I think the same is true in religion. Perhaps you have to learn the scales, but I’d still prefer to know in advance that the keyboard was meant to be level to the ground and the goal was to make the keys all work together, instead of figuring out which ones to remove to find the one remaining best note.
I’m learning this version of approaching the piano is for people who are in fact, spiritually novice. It takes no practice, effort or heart to rip all the keys out and play one singular note. Besides this being lousy music, it was also a torture technique used to make people go insane. Can you imagine, “Dong! Dong! Dong!” Reminds me of the phrase the apostle Paul uses, “A clanging gong.”
“If you have ears to hear…”
Can we hear the music?
It’s liberating realizing you don’t need to make every note on the piano be Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Prep-per, Vegan, Baptist or Post Millennialist. The worst thing to do to the piano is to argue over how to play, who should play and when it’s played; analyzing the sound coming from it.
Perhaps it’s why, when the woman is at Jesus’ feet weeping, he sees into the judging thoughts of the Pharisees across the room and asks them, “Do you see this woman?” It’s sad how we can turn instruments into weapons and even though we hear notes, we don’t hear the music.
I like believing god is not just the notes, he’s the music, the wave, the vibration that creates the platform of unlimited possibility. In this world of laws and certainty, he’s less the conductor, and more; the humble energy that sits, waiting for us to strike the key. A god who chooses to interact with us through humble participation, hiding as one amongst the seven: misunderstood, ignored, sometimes feared.
The orchestra plays, the child dances, a chord is strummed, not a word is sung, and your heart aches, reminding you that sometimes the best things about god, are not what can be communicated, understood, or even believed, but only felt. Notes can point to something, but are not the thing, and that something always comes from within.
Ronnie is an artist who's ideas have launched businesses, apps, music albums, and as of late, cartoons. He thinks outside the box but don't tell him that, he doesn't believe in boxes, unless you're in a movie cinema. Ronnie lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A with his wife Anna and their three boys Jack, Griffin and Maverick.
See previous articles by Ronnie Herrema