Prayer: The Composer’s Way

Guest Blogger: Kayla Cole

*This is the third in a series of posts on Lenten Prayer Practices.

So, I was finally making good progress cramming the next day’s bible study (never mind that it was probably my seventh time sitting down to do it that morning…) when my attention was completely arrested by a song. It was like everything stopped—the rest of the world ceased to exist—and the only thing moving, the only thing living with me in that moment, was that song.

It consumed me, as if my heart was the string taut against an invisible bow, completely vulnerable to every rise and fall in the composition. I was swept up and stranded in a spiritual sea of emotion, brought to the brink of relief and gratitude, and not a single word was uttered or imagined.

That’s what music does for me. Where thoughts and words fail, music succeeds. It is nectar to the soul. For every psalm or chorus, there is another wordless story of faith that expresses just as much, if not more.

Image result for sound waves

I can’t do total silence. It’s too loud and uncomfortable: either my brain becomes a raucous distraction, or I find myself at a directional loss, wondering what to do next. There must be a melodic soundtrack, however quiet or busy. Even with all three kids at the breakfast table, we need music to bridge the tired gaps and breathe fresh life into the day.

When I used to watch the occasional horror film (before having children provoked more than enough imagined paranoia), pressing the mute button always got me through the rough spots. As long as I wasn’t prone to the score, letting it incite my adrenaline at will, my eyes could remain open. If you can’t see something happen, hearing it can almost be worse. Like the sound of a car crash or explosion. The rest is left to your imagination.

Back in the day—before streaming music was the BEST THING EVER—I used to buy a lot of CDs, and I still own more film scores than anything else. With no discredit to the crew and actors, I believe the music is what defines a movie. It is in the melody where you discover what really matters—everything the director was trying to capture but couldn’t, because words and actions just weren’t enough.

 

I heard there was a secret chord

That David played and it pleased the Lord…

 

I have so much admiration for composers. You can recognize each one by the footprints they leave in their music, their musical signature. They transcribe a piece of their soul into notes on a page, a view of the world that is all their own, yet so widely affecting that it takes an entire orchestra to translate the meaning. Then, from the background, it speaks a wordless language that every person understands. How can such talent not have divine origins?

Image result for composer

The particular song that took me captive was Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi’s “I Giorni,” featuring renowned violinist Daniel Hope. Good ol’ Google told me that i giorni translates to the days, and I found that rather meaningful. There I was in the midst of a regular day, invaded by a song so aptly titled. It served to amplify the simple lesson that any moment can be extraordinary, if only we are open to the opportunity. God can always find a way in.

This link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54LgLNpW3KE will bring you to a live recording of the same pianist and violinist, accompanied by a handful of other stringed musicians. Watching this video was a whole other spiritual experience for me. You can see some of Einaudi’s physical expression, but Hope shows much more. He doesn’t just play music. He creates music. The violin he holds is not the instrument; Daniel Hope is the instrument. You can see the music in his posture and read it on his face. He embodies and transmits it—Einaudi’s composition—into the world as a soulful offering of life and love for all who will listen.

 

Well, it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall and the major lift
The baffled King composing Hallelujah…

                                                                                                -Leonard Cohen

 

Another piece excellent for prayerful reflection is Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s “Spiegel im Spiegel,” which translates to Mirror in the Mirror. (Here is the link to an arrangement I prefer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5s6pb2LQgs) You may have heard it before as it has been featured in many films, including one of my favorites, Dear Frankie. Every time it loops through my online stream, I pause to listen and breathe; and afterwards, life just feels better.

But maybe classical music isn’t your particular jam. What kind of music nourishes your soul? What does your life’s soundtrack sound like? How does God speak to you through the music you love?

This week, make intentional time with music. Turn off all other distractions and turn on your favorite song. Let it have its way with your soul, composing hallelujahs.

Image result for whisper of god

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