Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year. 2016.

Let's just say I feel more broken than I did last year, but in a much different way, a way I didn't know was possible. I've continued life with the philosophy that I can't rule out possibilities for my life, for truth, that I haven't tried personally. At some point I realized that all of my closest friends were moving on in their lives, be it to marriage, business, or excessive schoolwork, but as my reaching out seemed to wear itself thin, I found myself moving in that same direction. And I don't mean progress as much as I mean alienation. I don't know who would still be glad to see me, to no fault of their own.

Perhaps one of the reasons that even these old songs aren't speaking to me is that I can hardly remember what that love that they always speak of feels like. They say that friends come and go in your life, but your family will always be there for you. I could say that I never took advantage of the large family of which I am a part my entire life, and now that I have family living out here, I have them. But I'm still not entirely sure what's there. It's territory that still feels alien to me.

I'm grateful not to have failed any classes, though when the difference is less than two percent, there is hardly a difference in my eyes. But one thing I know, I did not give up. Even though I had convinced myself that I had many, many times, I know that I didn't. A student in my music history class had similar experiences to me, but when the difference was between passing and failing, s/he only saw her grade in the class and lost hope, giving up when the chance was its lowest at the final exam. For me in three of my classes, my grade shocked me as each day progressed in the semester. I have never failed a paper in my life, and seeing two classes below the 50 up until the end... at that point I accepted that failure was imminent, in not just one, but three major classes, but somehow I managed to get through.

I express that though such situations have made me rethink absolutely every aspect of my life to a pulp, I came to a conclusion that I had neither expected nor found appealing - that utter, miserable failure is a necessary part of my growth. I didn't find it reasonable. I still don't understand it. In fact looking at these words now, they look so blatantly simple and obvious my brain doesn't admit they do it justice. But as the repercussions of my decisions continue to flurry into my face, I think I do accept that I contain at least a smidgen of tenacity. I'm not strong, and for the first New Year's Eve that I've passed, I don't feel a rush of renewed energy. But I have a prayer. I don't even feel up to my big plans. But somewhere, something inside of my knows something - that happiness, love, future relationships are still possible. They still exist and can not only be real but also strong. And even though our brains trick us to no end, I know that in my past, times like this were always eventually followed by some amount of triumph. I am finding it hard to trust my own words, yet here they are, floating around looking for entrance into my heart.

I bid you a happy New Year, because we don't just deserve it. It's necessary encouragement, and by it are we made better. Life's going to keep throwing snowballs that we are unprepared for. I think we are unfit to see our own progress or regression if it may be. I think life really is going to get better. And if you had to have as many glasses as I have had tonight, I'd say just go with it.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Your Best Reality

Did you know Wang Leehom and Wong Fu made a video? I didn't, until just now, after finishing up finals and getting ready to leave with the band to the bowl game, and then after taking a long nap, when I was aimlessly wandering YouTube and stumbled across this gem.

Wong Fu loves to leave me things to ponder but I found this one particularly meaningful. What if this international singer were just another street performer, like we think we are?

"Do you want to be famous?" the girl asks.

"Perhaps the version of me in an alternate universe can be famous, but not in this one," he responds.

He seems to enjoy what he does after all, making music in the middle of Times Square, singing anything but the Chinese music that would make him renowned. But her dream is to become a reporter: she has something to share and won't let some alternate version of her have all the fun. It is unclear whether time lapses, or we just switch to our reality, where she becomes that reporter, and Wang Leehom indeed becomes famous, as they continue their interview and he ponders whether it was fate that brought him here, or perhaps something else.

"Why not make everything in life become the way you want it to be?" I feel her questions are wise, in that they imply that we are creators of some sort and each have our own purpose. In this course of thought, I really believe that we can take the resources in life we now already have to design whatever future we desire. Everyone can create, whether it is music, art, beautiful experiences, or the joy of others. I know that I at times forget this principle, even making myself busy to the point of forgetting what really brings happiness. I hope that I can start now in opening up some of my time, allowing more time for chasing dreams. This time of year allows us to reflect on life's important things and renew our goals. I've only learned recently that we can't do everything at once, but we still must make time for the important things, and if that means chasing your dreams, then that should be a part of your goals.



Wednesday, December 9, 2015


Throughout the semester my physics professor has shared spiritual thoughts each class, which may strike some as odd, but I've always found them to be immediately relevant and thoughtful. Today he shared his last thought, entitled "What Science Has Taught Me About Religion". He began that science has not taught him very much about religion. However, it has taught, over and over again, that we really don't know anything. This is one thing that I wish I understood more clearly. Because there's something about it that makes learning become interesting.

If I don't eventually end up living with an observatory in my home, I at least will need a house overlooking the sea. Or at least be nearby, where I can always be reminded of the sheer vastness of the unknown. Too often have I read through a book, thinking afterward that I finally knew what that book was about. Reading every line in a book won't reveal what is between those lines, even if the Internet claims to. Or taught a class, thinking that my knowledge of that subject would be comprehensive. I wouldn't dare teach something that I didn't think I thoroughly understood myself. We've simplified physics down to countless laws that explain how the world works, but they do so imperfectly - there have always been missing pieces, new things to be discovered, that may completely change the way about which we see things.

What of our imperfect system of music? These laws that have been figured out, that ultimately tell us very little. Our beautiful artificial system built on irrationally-numbered frequencies, eventually carrying us to one of a dozen dominant-tonic relationships. Perhaps I could learn that after filling the gaps of my previously unknown music history that I may not have wanted to discover, I can still listen to music as I once did, as I learned to understand each piece and they in turn grew to impact me. Perhaps I may also learn that because I have so much to learn, I don't need to know everything at once.

It is perplexing to my mind what range of thought is trapped in this tiny physical brain or ours. The way we think, we could fit within it an ocean, deep in thought and infinite in complexity. I want to be in harmony with all the sciences and arts, wisdom and knowledge. But even if learning were simply consuming any of this information as one does with water, information will not process into wisdom without intense effort. Just how slowly this process must be, and how great a mind must be to know anything of himself. Even if I feel that only by some higher being absolute truth can be revealed, how much truth can that even entail? It can either flow as a river, or be distilled as dew. I wish I could know just how much I don't know. I wish even this statement made sense to me, because at once I think I understand it, while I know that isn't entirely the case.

This is the way the mind flows, deeper and deeper into the unknown.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

As my Sister Returns from the Mission Field

My sister comes home from her mission tomorrow from Sydney, Australia. I haven't seen her since I left for mine on July 5, 2012. We've exchanged many emails, several photos, and seven short phone calls. One of those calls was the day she had flown into the Sydney airport, where she ran into my mission president and his wife, and they connected her to me. I could not have been more excited for her; twenty-one months into my mission, I wish I could tell her what lay ahead in her future. At the same time, I tried not to be aware of what was in mine.

The day I flew home from my mission, I prayed that I would never ever forget those marvelous experiences that I had as a missionary. I could never forget the amazing people that I had grown to love. I couldn't forget anything. How could such a time and place have completely changed who I was? These were just everyday people, living their lives; how could something so simple as a setting apart uttered with hands laid upon my head have put me on the path to desiring nothing but their happiness? I had never felt so torn apart as I realized that in no time at all, I would be released from once having been set apart to represent the Lord Jesus Christ.

As much as I feel I have done countless wonderful things since coming home - and many things have happened - God continues to grant me that final wish, that I not forget who I truly am - a Sydney RM, a revelatory missionary forever. One who knows the words revealed to Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail as D&C 121. I can't say I've been more faithful than previously, in fact if anything I have gone through much toil and confusion and to be honest the longing for that other world could not have tormented me more than it had at those times. But I'm grateful to, despite my difficulty in learning and adjusting, have gone through what I have. These are never the trials that I would have wanted! But what had I expected? Trials wouldn't be trials if they were easy. And yet they are so minute in the scheme of things.

I hope the people of Australia who knew that I once knew them could know that I still remember them clear as day. I'm so grateful for the increased memory I was given for that time and for that specific purpose. You're still in my heart. I remember that I taught you; that I befriended you on the street though you continually denied interest in lessons; I remember that I stood there with you into the waters of baptism as you accepted the greatest joy you could then receive. Some of you have disappeared and returned to your home country, some of you have found yourselves lost and once again in search of truth, and some remain, continuing your progress toward eternity. I wish that I could still reach you, though no longer missionary, still a friend. Still someone who cares deeply about you, to see you thriving in something so powerful as the Atonement of Christ. But even if you can never hear my voice again, I know our Father in heaven continually hears my prayers for you, and is watching over you in every step you take. I wish you could know that He can never truly forsake you - for the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but "my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee."

When Sister Howes sent me this recording shortly after I performed the song in Hyde Park YSA Ward Easter fireside, she mentioned that she didn't know if I would share it or even if I would want to listen to it, but it was moving to her. I gave it a listen and immediately found my intonation, among other things, revolting. And truthfully I still do. But as I lose contact with more people that I knew as a missionary, my memories are slowly failing me with time. This song is a small piece of the love that I knew and felt in those last months in Australia and further evidence of the truth. Can I forget something so beautiful? Never. The gospel is true, regardless of what we do. I will never forget it.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Two Piano Preludes

These pieces have actually been available for months, but I've realized that the only thing stopping me from getting back in blogger shape is myself. During this time I've had a stupor of though about the fate of this blog, seeing as my train of thought which had been running a clear direction three years ago suddenly took a very large turn. Whatever the case, I will never give up composition as a hobby, but my output will be more limited in terms of variety. Because I probably will not study the orchestral arranging and directing in the near future, I aim to steer in the direction of writing for small ensembles, if not simply for solo piano. The piano has enough grandeur to give me as a performer suitable happiness because of its already immense capacity as a solo instrument.

Well here I finally present to you two pieces that I hope can give you a sense of hope as you play. I also hope that one day one of my pianist friends will be able to record these for me without all the mistakes that I make in doing so so that these sounds would be enjoyable to listen to as well.

Download score: Prelude No. 1

I haven't much to say about anything that I write, except that the subtitle for this piece is indeed taken from the nursery rhyme about the demise of an egg, but additionally and more accurately alludes to a specific story in the Book of Mormon.

Download score: Prelude No. 2

I find the nearly ternary simplicity in the form of this piece quite pleasing. But alas, it can't always be this way.

It is difficult to classify this music in terms of form and I really don't feel qualified in giving names to my creations, so at this time these will be known as preludes. But as always, I leave the rest up to imagination.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Finding True Beauty

I feel I must ask again with President Spencer W. Kimball, where is that Beethoven and Brahms among us? Anyone, irrespective of religion, race, or time, who has such mastery of their musical language as to produce truly sublime works of art?

I believe I am beginning to see more clearly the purpose behind all of this. I used to believe in a key, a secret if you will, that the great masters could use to create beautiful music. That somehow upon my search I would be able to unlock what they had. But I had all the music that I wanted in front of me, and I couldn't figure it out. It has to be in the chords, or the chromaticism, or the colors, or perhaps a combination. But even with all of that laid in front of my face, there really wasn't a reason why the end result should be beautiful. I looked at the music, and it looked like any other old piece of music.

As I continue my search for the purpose of music, I am becoming increasingly convinced that the ultimate goal of music is indeed to be beautiful. Beautiful; this is not to be confused with pretty, or cool, or relaxing. These other descriptions fall under subjective aesthetic judgment, suggesting that this beauty can change with time or perspective. I speak here of true beauty. This is beauty on a whole different level, that withstands the test of all time and people.

But how can there possibly be true beauty?

It's hard to say. True beauty is rare, extremely rare. This skill cannot be taught by anyone in this world. I would venture to say that of all those composers whom we know that wrote enjoyable music, only a small handful of those pieces they wrote are truly beautiful. To the hearer, this music cannot grow old, but neither did its beauty have to be forced; that kind of beauty is relative. True beauty can be recognized by any, the educated and the uneducated, the poor and the rich, and will remain so no matter how much a person studies and learns the techniques and materials of music, only because this beauty has no human explanation. Read through the score you will, analyze the form you will, the harmony, the counterpoint, and thoughts pouring through the performers' minds as this music is played. The answers still won't be there.

But yet it can be recognized! There is great power that lies in the "simplice e bella" Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber. There is something truly moving about Sergei Rachmaninoff's or Johannes Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2. These pieces are not pretty. They are profoundly beautiful, in the same way beauty in a person is not found in a Tinder photo, but in the living, breathing miracle of that person. The lives of these pieces are immortal.

I am not asking for perfectionism. I am asking for truth. I want the composers of today to have hope. This world is lacking in truly beautiful music. There is plenty of good-sounding music, a skill which can be taught and copied by anyone. You can go and create this music and still make the world a better place. But true beauty; I believe it can yet be made, by truly seeking what is good and sharing it, changing people's lives forever.