Monday, December 5, 2011

Writing Chants

The chants I write are the chants I myself need to hear. They are the songs of my heart, beginning with the first chant I ever wrote, God Hold Me. This simple chant was a complete surprise to me, just as the notion of writing music was a surprise to my life. The way songs and chants form still amazes me. They aren’t just written; they are begun, then sung and sung and sung, until slowly their final form rises to the surface of my being. The recording process is much the same; the recording begins with one instrument, is then added to, listened to, taken from, and then added to again, until its final shape rises to the surface, a coherent whole.

I’ve thought a great deal about how this process is best nurtured. Life has many interruptions. Just as a piece of music, or a musical process, gains momentum, life can jump in with a whole different agenda. It is so very easy for the everyday calls of life to take hold…the daily activities that serve the body, the home and the garden; the work that protects the future with income and maintenance; and all the small ways we each take time to care for others. These are all valued parts of life, necessary and beautiful, each in their own way.

So, how does one nurture the gift of creativity and then share it with others, with so much else of life calling. The washer just stopped; do I go and get this load of wash into the dryer and the next load into the wash, knowing that if I don’t keep on top of this process, the week’s laundry will not be finished by the end of the day (and then I must go to work tomorrow)? Or, do I trust that the spaces of time when I leave my creative work to do something that does not seem to be creative at all, are in fact creative time? That the creation continues to work in me, grow in me, taking shape in the quietude of seeming neglect and abandonment? When I return to the work, as a writer does after taking a break, will I see something new that grew without any apparent help from me?

Today, as the short day darkened toward our early evening, I took a walk, feeling that the day had been filled, for the most part, with questions, perplexities, and laundry. As I walked, I thought “what single next step can I take for the chant I am now working on? Perhaps I am asking too much of a single day. Perhaps I am trying to circumvent the process, trying to leave it behind in the quest for the completed chant. Perhaps, once again, I need to accept that the next step is actually all I can do and that this next step is the only path to the finished work.”

I decided that the next step was to change the speed of the piano track; it seemed too quick to me. I sat down at my computer, tried that (and failed). But somehow that led to experimenting with the guitar, then with the dulcimer, and then with a counter melody on the dulcimer. After a timeless period of musical immersion, another piece of the chant had flowed to the surface. I was blessed again by the process.

3 comments:

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Anonymous said...

This introspection and clarity has great value, for yourself and for others; you have a gift not only for music but for getting to the heart of things...

Anonymous said...


Very good post. I'm going through many of these issues as well..