12 September 2011

Vivaldi vs. Ives

You'll have to forgive the lack of posting recently. The start of this school year has been a particularly challenging one where time management is concerned. It's a good thing I have a closet full of time turners and an endless supply of energy, right?! (Ha.)

I've been reading Boyd K. Packer's book on teaching recently in an attempt to refine my personal teaching methods so I can more confidently inspire my students to become better, not just to remember facts. A good portion of the beginning of the book (I haven't finished yet) has been about the usefulness of metaphors and similes in teaching difficult, intangible subjects. One symbol he uses is the piano.

The gospel, he says, is like a large piano. If a person were to play only one key (say, the doctrine of faith) without the help of the other keys (works, for example), then that one key would grow out of tune with overuse and the individual playing the key would not benefit from the range of sounds offered by a piano when more keys are played in harmony.

That was the word that stopped me. Harmony.

Small change of topic: I've grown up listening to classical music in my home, and considered myself decently well versed in who composed what and when until a friend of mine started introducing me to the musicians rarely found on your average compilation CD. I went from a love of Vivaldi's soothing, harmonized seasons into the world of Mahler and Charles Ives, a man influenced by what happened when different marching bands played at the same time - a far cry from the typical use of a stringed instrument. Ives is excited by noise. He wants lots of it. He's interested in experimenting with what happens when two things that don't normally belong together are suddenly forced into the same space, and the results are often incredible and inspiring (and insane in the best sense of the word.) And my Ives education is only beginning.

Going back to the word harmony. If the gospel is like a piano, and people want things to be harmonized pleasantly, is there room in the gospel (or, perhaps more specifically, the culture surrounding the gospel) for the Ives' of the world? We are very comfortable and accepting of those who harmonize in normal ways - the Mozarts and Beethovens and Vivaldis and Strauss' of the world but are we as comfortable with the Mahler's and the Ives' who play the gospel piano, just differently? Should we be?

I know my answer.

1 comment:

Nanakat said...

Hi. It's me again. I confess I haven't known if I've heard any of Ives' work. Have to remedy that.

In the meantime, I'd like to offer something that I think relates to this. All too often, an aspiring writer will come up with a Great Idea, and be very excited about writing a story about that Great Idea. And all too often, the story fizzles, even if the Great Idea is REALLY GREAT!

I submit that what happens there is not that the idea isn't Great, but that one idea alone isn't enough. Even the shortest story needs more than one idea, and the more complicated the story, the more ideas it needs.

Whenever I hear of someone not being able to finish any of the stories they've tried to write, I urge them to pull some random (and, it is to be hoped, maybe even totally weird) idea out of a hat, the blue, the dictionary, their idea file (anyone who wants to write should keep an idea file), and see how that new idea can be made to fit with the Great Idea of the story.

And I think that might be akin to what you say Ives does. I know it can work for stories, so I'm excited to hear how it works in music.

Thanks for sharing.