Category Archives: Music

Powwow Haiku

Air flows over holes.
Fingers block, unblock.
Vibration makes merry tunes.

Sweet flute tones flow through.
Airy notes cry peace.
My heart flows slowly quiet.

Breeze brings bittersweet.
Bitter on parting,
Sweet joy flows on melody.


People Aren’t Hammered Dulcimers

Bet you read the title and responded, “Well, duh!”

Or maybe you wondered what a hammered dulcimer is and whether it had anything to do with alcoholic beverages.

Let’s start with a hammered dulcimer. It is considered a percussion instrument. It looks like a big box with criss-crossed strings. To make the sound come from the instrument, the player hits the strings with a mallet (or hammer). You can go out to Youtube and see any number of instances of hammered dulcimer pieces. My personal favorite is a Rich Mullins piece (why yes, yes, he is deceased), Calling Out Your Name.

If you visited the video, you know that the hammered dulcimer produces a sweet sound. It has an initial tone of the strike, followed by a decreasing string vibration. I wish I could give you all the music theory and acoustic science, but I’m not there yet.

That said, people are not hammered dulcimers. You cannot produce sweetness, goodness, and light in people by striking them.

Spanked children don’t learn that they broke rules and can choose better. They only learn that violence gets them what they want, that they have no power to challenge authority (just or unjust), and that they have no personal space. In addition, spanking is linked to sexuality in some cultures, so pain and pleasure become linked in a disturbing way.

A slapped woman doesn’t learn that she is loved enough to have better expected of her. She learns that she is unloved, and her ideas and words have no value. Silence is safer, and she learns to deceive those around her into thinking all is well.

Belittled teens, slapped by nasty names and ugly adjectives, don’t learn to be productive, contributing members of society. They learn to silence themselves, hate their thoughts and feelings, and try to be an invisible as possible.

Without the healing of Christ, humans hammered by physical, verbal, and emotional blows make noise of increased medical costs, decreased tax base, and decreased participation in society. There is no music at best, and silence at worst.

People despised and avoided him, a man of pains, well acquainted with illness. Like someone from whom people turn their faces, he was despised; we did not value him.

In fact, it was our diseases he bore, our pains from which he suffered; yet we regarded him as punished, stricken and afflicted by God.

But he was wounded because of our crimes, crushed because of our sins; the disciplining that makes us whole fell on him, and by his bruises we are healed.

–Isaiah 53:3-5 [Complete Jewish Bible]

Stepping Stone and End Points

You dance to the music in your head,
And you reach a good place.
You don’t know anyone,
But that’s okay.

You all hear the music,
You all want the music.
You think it’s the best place.

The music begins…
And it’s just not right.
You have all the right attitudes,
You have all the right platitudes.
But it’s not right.

You leave,
Disappointed by the end of the journey.
Tears begin to fall
As silence roars and shouts the music down.

On your knees,
Sobs declare the brokenness, the emptiness, the aloneness.

As silence descends again, another tune rises from the sky.
It is your music, and it is different.

You dance off, grateful that you weren’t at the end.
What looked like an end crystallized, metamorphosed, reformed
Into a stepping stone to the next best place.

A Garden Waltz

It’s fuzzy…
But memory floods back…

I’m sitting on the hardwood floor…
Hands clapping over chubby, dirty knees.
The old TV is on,
The one built into a cabinet
Tall and high with light colored wood.
The funny old man on TV
Waves his white stick.
The music starts.
“In the Garden” of notes
I hear them but I also hear your love
Through the bars of my crib,
And then I see your love
“In the Garden” of music.
He with bright blue eyes
And really good-looking clothes
Takes you by the hand
And waltzes you around
In a plantless living room.
You’re both so happy
And so young…

Then memory fades,
And I’m “In the Garden” of repose.
It’s lifeless with no flowers or plants.
You can’t dance.
The dead earth rectangles
Speak of separation
Through time and space.

I pray some day
To see you waltzing again
“In the Garden” of eternity.

The Flute and the Drum

A fairy princess
Tiny, dainty, demure
Suddenly exploded
Became tall and angular
A giant sprite dancing in answer to Pan’s flute
Soft and sweet but repetitive and restrictive

We used to dance together in Pan’s clearing
Whirling, twirling, stretching, laughing

Now I hear the beat of another drummer
The flute no longer moves me
My staccato steps pound a pattern of warfare and advance

I hear the flute and see my sprite
There she stumbles, careens, crashes, mumbles
She hears the flute and the drum
And can’t understand why I’m deaf to the flute
And she can’t find the rhythm of my heart in the cadence of the drum

She cries, wails, the silence of her steps deafens my war cry

I stop

We sit in a circle of silence

Pan blows his flute to soothe his sheep
My drummer still sounds the battle cry
But our circle is silent yet

What a quiet joy to have a dream of day
When the flute and drum
Weave a melody of unity and uniqueness
When no one cares
If you hear
The flute
Or the drum
Or the beat of another’s heart

May the steps of my dance and the swaying of my soul
Begin to blend the flute and the drum
So the sprite’s sobs turn to joy!

Modern Lessons from a Medieval Musician in a Children’s Tale

I’ve been thinking about children’s tales lately. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about the lessons of patterns for adult life that are built into these old stories.

Through a series of unusual topics and non-sequiturs in a conversation with my oldest daughter, we covered mice and the Black Plague and finally we talked about “The Pied Piper of Hamlin Town.”

A high-level summary:

Medieval town is plagued by mice. Everyone knows it’s a problem, but no one seems to know what to do or how to get started. A stranger in every sense of the word waltzes into town. He dresses funny because his clothes don’t match, he plays an unusual flute, and he has a touch of oddness about him. He tells the town council he can rid them of their problem without giving any details, and then he asks an exorbitant price. Everyone agrees. He plays a waltz that has the mice and other rodents hypnotically boogieing out of town and jumping gleefully to their deaths in the nearby river. He comes back and asks for his pay. Everyone is so boggled by the oddity and simplicity of the solution and their lack of funds that they refuse to pay him. He begs and pleads. Ignored and unanswered, he leaves a deadline with an air of threat in it. When the deadline passes without a peep, he appears and plays a different tune that causes all the children to follow him out of town. The parents are powerless to stop the children. He leads them into a cave, never to be seen again. The sole survivor of this incident is a handicapped (disabled in modern parlance) child.

As my daughter and I talked about the lessons in this story, I thought of the following:

Count the cost.

Before you begin a project or enter into an agreement, you need to look at your resources–time, talent, and treasure. You need to be sure those resources will suffice to carry you through the entire project or agreement physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Sometimes the simple solution suffices.

Admittedly, in the real world, playing music doesn’t make the rodents or bad things disappear (I’ve tried, believe me, I’ve tried). However, the song was simple. As analogy, sometimes the best solution isn’t the latest drug or the most promising software or the newest gadget; the best answer is time or solid work or rest.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

In the old days, a man was as good as his word. If his word was good, people trusted him. Be sure you can keep any vow, oath, or promise you make. Like a Great Teacher once said (in my own inimitable paraphrase), “Let your yes be yes, and your no be no. Anything else is a crock and attempt at deceit.”

Different doesn’t mean stupid.

People, especially bullies and people who feel lousy about themselves, have a tendency of targeting those who are different as stupid or easy marks for fraudulent games. The hero of this story dressed funny and had a slightly different skill. The people of Hamlin tried to take advantage of his oddness. It did not end well.

Sometimes a curse is really a blessing.

I’ll bet there were days when the parents of that disabled kid felt really awful. I will bet the neighbors made fun of them or clucked their tongues about secret sins and punishment. On that day, when all the kids disappeared, the town’s treatment of the parents probably did not change, but those parents still had their greatest blessing alive and well to be with them.

A Hollow Analogy (Why I Like “One Tin Soldier”)

I’ve always been a sucker for music. Besides modern worship, my favorites tend to be the story songs. These are the ones where the lyricist writes words that paint pictures and tell stories and teach lessons.

You probably know the song, but I’m including a link to a version in another window in case you don’t. (And I promise it’s one of the less dark videos around 😀 ).

When I was younger, I loved the rebellious spirit of the chorus. You could almost see a petulant teen with a raised fist sarcastically telling someone who had hurt him to just hate and cheat and be sure to justify everything by claiming you have all the authority you need directly from heaven.

As I got older (translated had kids), I saw the chorus as a challenge, a challenge to the rampant hypocrisy in most denominational pews. We are quick to judge the murderer and the rapist, but we so often forget to speak lovingly to our spouses and to be sure to give our families proper time. We claim we love and serve God, yet we find it hard to attend the recital of a neighbor’s child or help in volunteer efforts to clean an elderly widow’s yard.

Even older, with my kids as teens, (besides doing deep breathing to the flute licks for relaxation), I see an analogy to the Kingdoms of Darkness and Light.

The mountain people represent the Kingdom of Light. It was peace and cooperation and relationship that these people valued. They even created a monument, a stone engraved with “Peace on Earth” to remind them of their values. They called peace their greatest treasure.

The valley folk were a little different. Their treasures were literal treasures: gold and riches. Maybe they even felt the mountain’s position was strategic for holding power. They represent the Kingdom of Darkness. And they were so jealous because they heard the mountain had a treasure.

They sent a message to the mountain, requesting immediate transfer of all gold and treasure. The mountain people, knowing the treasure they held was intangible, offered to share. Of course, the valley people were enraged and killed the entire population on the mountain… and were sorely disappointed to find the treasure wasn’t a thing but an idea and the people that supported it.

So too it is today. The valley folk who choose the Kingdom of Darkness, held back by greed and jealousy, want so badly the treasure that the mountain people, children in the Kingdom of Light, hold. The Kingdom of Darkness cannot understand that the treasure is not power or position or possession. They cannot understand it is peace and cooperation and relationship. This results in enmity and jealousy and division and disunity and discontent.

So today, I am reminded that I must follow my still, small Voice. I must choose the values of the mountain people of the Kingdom of Light. I must choose love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. I must not focus my eyes on possession and power and position. I must keep my eyes on the still, small Voice.

And that is the choice we all face every day.