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Archive for April, 2013

God’s Perfect Timing

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Here is How Music Works

Life continues to zip along. I can’t believe how well things are going. ALMOST can’t believe. I am careful to avoid saying things like “can’t believe,” “unbelievable,” “incredible,” and “fantastic,” because they all imply unbelief.

I’ve learned some remarkable things about music.

Sometimes I’m shocked at the density of the human race. Every so often, I realize there is something we should have realized ages ago, yet which we somehow managed to miss. For example, we’ve done things to make trash bags easier to tie. We put cinching loops in the mouths, or we put ears on the bags so we can tie them in knots. That took decades. Why didn’t someone do it within months of the debut of plastic trash bags? It’s so obvious, it should have happened much sooner.

Now that I’m starting to understand written music, I’m stunned at how bad teachers are. I worked with a classical pianist for several years, and he never told me important things I needed to know.

First of all, rhythm is much, much more important than pitch. The correct pitches, without rhythm, are noise. The correct rhythm, with random pitches, is music. When you compose, the ability to write rhythms is crucial. If you can write a rhythm down, even if the pitches are wrong, you can easily fix the pitches later. If you can’t get the rhythms right, you’re incompetent and helpless.

Second, written music is like English. It’s broken up into short rhythmic patterns which are homologous to words. If you practice reading rhythms, without changing the pitch, you start to recognize these patterns, and you begin hearing them in your head before you play them. You no longer have to count out the beats, which is impossible at performance tempos.

Third, you should take this language-like quality into account when you write music. An experienced musician will be looking for familiar patterns, just as a reader looks for words, not random letters. If you write familiar patterns, the musician will be better able to play fluently, and your ideas will be clearer to him. They will also be clearer to you, as you work with them.

I use various methods to get this stuff into my head. My Musition software has been incredibly useful. I guess I can say “incredibly” in that context. I can program it to throw up one rhythm pattern after another. It plays a metronome for me, and I tap out the rhythms. Then it tells me how I did. I can program it to repeat things I’m having trouble with, or I can simply progress from one pre-programmed level to the next.

I also take my studies to the keyboard. I have a book of awful classical pieces. They’re simple. I put it on the music rest, and I use one finger to tap out the bass rhythms and one finger to tap out the treble rhythms. This helps me to work the hands independently.

I’m still using my Note Play software to learn note reading. I can’t believe how effective it is. It has levels of increasing difficulty. As I’ve improved, I’ve started to get into things like octaves and playing melodies with both hands. If I can get reasonably fluent, the jump to actual sheet music will be very manageable.

I’ve had some trouble with triplets. I can play triplets over eighth notes on the piano, regardless of whether the triplets are written in sixteenth, eighth, or quarter notes. But doing it from sight… that’s a pain. The short notes aren’t bad, but quarter notes are hard, because they’re so slow. The feel is hard to get into your mind.

I looked at all my software and all of my books, and there were no good answers. I scoured the Internet. No luck. Today I decided to visit my music teacher, and of course, he had the solution on tap, instantly.

He told me I needed to tap out “Carol of the Bells” with my hands and feet. One limb plays triplets, and the other plays duplets. You switch hands. You change things up. Eventually, you get to where you have a sure feel for the rhythms. Then you’re in business.

Now I practice this exercise. I feel stupid doing it, but I know it will work, and as he said, you can do it anywhere. In the car. Wherever. In a few days, I should have a much better grip on triplets. I can read eighth-note triplets very well, but the software says I’m going to have to learn to read quarter-note and eighth-note triplets in the same measure, and that’s tricky. I don’t want to barely get by. I want to nail it, every time. Now I know how to get there.

Once I get fairly sure of my timing, I’ll be able to devote more time to pitch and harmony, but with a simple cell phone and a knowledge of timing, I’ll be able to write tunes anywhere. The phone will let me check pitches, so if I can write the rhythms down, I’ll be ready to go.

Today my teacher told me the stuff I’m doing typically shows up a year or two into a method. I’ve been doing this for what? Two months? I should have been doing it from the start. He said it was insane to put other things before this, and I agree. I’m learning exactly what I wanted to learn when I first took an interest in the piano. If I had continued doing it the other way, I would have died musically illiterate.

I’m obsessive with this stuff now, because I’m sure there is a point after which things get much easier, and I want to reach that point ASAP.

There are a lot of software-based approaches to teaching music, but most of them stink. With the two tools I’m using now, I’m learning quickly and without a lot of frustration. It’s very sad that software companies aren’t doing a better job. It should not be that hard to come up with a good program. And here’s something amazing: Note Play isn’t available any more. They replaced it with something fancier which isn’t as good. Note Play is so small it fits on a floppy, and it’s a breeze to use. I’m amazed it didn’t become popular.

People criticize computer-based music training, claiming it ruins you for real music, but that’s stupid. It does not happen. If you can play with a beat or other aids which are supplied by electronics, you can play when they’re turned off. I had an ear for music before I started, and it’s not going to disappear just because a machine helped me become literate. I know there are some people who practice with metronomes until they sound like machines, but in all likelihood, those people never had soul to begin with, and they never had much of a chance of understanding music. I doubt that the metronome ruins musicians. I think it’s more likely that it permits people with no talent to play music by mimicry, with no depth or understanding. I think this explains a lot of the bad Asian musicians who have incredible technique. There is much more to music than pushing the keys at the right times.

The closer I get to God, the better things get. I come closer and closer to seeing my dreams realized. Stress is leaving me. Things that used to be impossible are working out. Within the next few months, I expect to be able to move to another level in composition. The music won’t necessarily be much better, but it will be much, much easier to write. And I may actually be able to play some things.

If that’s not a good testimony, I don’t know what is.

Keep praying in the Spirit, every day, and remember, the promises of Malachi 3 apply to this, more than they do to money.

Isaiah 40:31

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

More Progress

Sure enough, I felt God’s touch again at church last night. I guess he plans to keep this up for a while. What a blessing. You can’t get this for all the money in the world. There are literally billions of people who need this, but very few get it. You can’t get it through work. You can’t get it by manipulating God. He won’t listen. You have to pray diligently, as a lifestyle.

Last night I was getting ready for bed, and I started having problems in the left side of my head. My nose was stopped up, and my ear felt funny. I went into prayer, and I started feeling faith, peace, and victory. My head opened up, and I went to sleep.

I slept so well, I can’t remember the last sleep that compared to it. I had some kind of dream which I can’t remember, but I know that in the dream, I was praying in the Spirit, and I felt freedom and peace like I had never felt before in prayer. I felt as if I were soaring up to God along with my prayers. Nothing was obstructing them. They poured up out of me like a torrent.

When I awoke, I still felt this way. I got to bed late, so I didn’t wake up until almost nine, and there were already leaf blowers outside. Usually, this drives me nuts, but I didn’t care at all. I wasn’t distracted. I went into my usual time of prayer. It was like the prayer in the dream.

Strange things are happening. My knees feel wonderful. I bounce out of the truck like a young man. On the way home from church on Sunday, I hit a traffic jam, as I usually do in this cursed city. Ordinarily, I can barely stand traffic jams. They make me feel claustrophobic and trapped. But this time, I didn’t care at all. The impatience had left me. Today I got stuck in traffic again, and the same thing happened.

The world is coated with a shell of lies put there by Satan and man. When you pray in the Spirit consistently, you eventually get bursts of faith that penetrate the shell and reach God. You become like Peter, who rose above the flood and walked on it. That’s what’s going on here.

Jesus said you have to be born again. He wasn’t referring to salvation. That’s just fertilization. A person who is born again grows to resemble his or her father, through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Many people who are saved are weak, scared, angry, and full of iniquity. They are not born again. A baby can’t be born until it develops.

This world is God’s womb. Between us and God, there is “water,” like the water of the womb. This water is lies and curses. God’s water–the living water–is stronger. It enables you to break through the water of lies and emerge into the kingdom of heaven.

If you remain small, Satan will always seem big. But he’s not, and he can’t grow as big as you have the potential to be. And thank God, he has something you don’t have: an expiration date. We are immortal. Satan is not. He isn’t real. A thing that doesn’t last is not real, by heaven’s standards. He is a puff of smoke that will disappear shortly, and we will remain, free of his cruelty and lies.

Life can be better than it is.

Joint Beneficiary

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

One Service, One Miracle

A few days back, I wrote about the miracle I experienced in church last Tuesday. I was sitting in church, and I felt something touching and handling my right knee, and afterward, I was healed of minor stiffness and soreness that had been with me for 24 years.

I wondered why God had only healed one knee, but later in the week, I saw a purpose. When I moved, one knee would hurt, and the other would not. Over and over, this reminded me I had been healed. Had both knees been healed, I would have felt nothing, so I would not have been reminded.

On Sunday, it happened again. Several times, during worship, I felt something touching me, but this time it was both knees. It came and went. By the end of the service, I had been healed.

I still feel a very small amount of sensitivity in the left knee, but it’s a small fraction of what it was.

While this was happening, I thought of one of the miracles Jesus worked. He was healing a blind man, and it took several tries. At one point, Jesus asked the man if he could see, and he said he saw men who looked like walking trees. Jesus kept working on him, and the healing became complete.

Apparently, it still works that way sometimes.

That’s fine with me. When you get things all at once, you appreciate them less, and you don’t have as much to look forward to.

It’s very strange, being healed. It turns out I was doing things to accommodate my knee problems, and I didn’t realize it. I find myself doing those things out of habit and then finding there is no reason to do so. Or sometimes I’ll anticipate pain, but it won’t come.

I now walk a little differently, especially when taking stairs. My knees point straight ahead, instead of being slightly turned out.

One interesting result is that I am now even more enthusiastic about church attendance. I keep wondering: will there be a miracle every time I go? God is two for two over the last seven days.

I don’t understand why this was a priority. I’ve been thinking about it, and the only thing I can think of that will be easier for me is standing for long periods. If I had to speak in front of people, this would make it easier. Other than that, I can’t think of any particular reason God chose to do this. I did pray for it, but it wasn’t a major concern.

I was always able to stand for long periods, but standing still got to me after a while.

I hope this doesn’t stop. I would love to get rid of my reading glasses. That would be tremendous. I don’t expect to live forever in this body, nor would I wish to, but the Bible says there used to be old men who were strong and who had good vision.

These events got me thinking about David Herzog. He’s a preacher who says a cloud of God’s glory falls in his services. He says people get amazing healings. They lose weight instantly. They find new gold crowns on their teeth. They find jewels that have appeared from nowhere. Naturally, I’ve been very skeptical, although Sid Roth, who appears to be an honest person, said he saw a white patch disappear from a person’s hair in a meeting with Herzog.

It is said that some people have faked this experience. A preacher was accused of pumping some kind of fake smoke into a crowd to simulate “the glory.” And for all I know, Herzog is a complete phony. I am not a mind reader. But what happened to me is very much like the things he claims happen at his services. So is he telling the truth? I can’t say it’s impossible.

I don’t know why it happens at church, but the Bible suggests that miracles occur most readily where people of faith gather. Jesus himself could not do “great works” among the unbelievers of Nazareth.

The hidebound “NIH” mind is frustrating to deal with. Many people believe miracles are rare, and they would actually get angry if you said otherwise. The Catholics say a candidate for “sainthood” has to perform three miracles, as though that’s rare or surprising (I’ve had at least four, so sign me up). There are places like Lourdes, where people go, at great expense, and wait for healings that never come. They seem to believe God won’t touch them in Terre Haute or San Antonio. Obviously, the people who don’t expect miracles to happen in their homes and churches are completely wrong, but because they don’t believe, they won’t receive. That’s not a small thing. It means they’ll die of cancer, they’ll continue to be paralyzed, they’ll stay blind, and so on. These are not small things, like minor knee pain in a middle-aged man.

These things are available, where you are, right now. Start praying in tongues every day. Don’t quit. Pray for a good church, and go weekly. Read the Word. It’s God’s Constitution, so learn your rights. Supernatural things will happen to you, sooner or later. Look at me.

If your church disagrees, well, they’re wrong. Get over it. Every church has to be tested by the Word of God. If your church says God doesn’t heal, it contradicts the Bible (not just me).

I hope to see more manifestations, especially in my friends. It’s somewhat pointless if I’m always the recipient. When they take place, I will do my duty and let you know.