As an introduction to sound theology, we are working our way through Victor Wooten’s 10 principles of music. If you missed the first element “groove,” you can find it here. There were two entries on “notes,” you can find them here and here. The third element of music is “articulation.”
Articulation is a short-hand that musicians use to describe the duration and shape of a note. It is as unique and individual as your eye color or facial expressions; it is dependent on the shape of your embouchure and the weight of your breath. The language that describes different kinds of articulation is precise, but its implementation is particular.
For example, staccato describes a sharp, detached note. For wind instruments, a clearly articulated staccato is formed by the shape of the palate of your mouth and the placement of your tongue in/on the mouthpiece. Each staccato is unique.
Articulation is how we sound to the world.
For Wooten, articulation requires us to leave us bit of ourselves behind every time we make music. Our particular articulation in the sonic landscape is our mark, our sound, our contribution to the grand symphony.
I spent this week with an amazing group of people: about 500 men and women, from all over North America, who ride Harley Davidson motorcycles and belong to a ministry called Black Sheep. These folks come from every imaginable walk of life, ethnic background, and religious, political and social upbringing. But they don’t let their differences keep them from making a beautiful sound in their world . . . they are committed to serve the biking community (including the 1%-ers) with the love of Christ. Shining boots and listening to people’s stories is the way they build relationships. Because Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, Black Sheep shine boots. Their sound in the world is as unique as they are, but it is always the sound of service, the sound of love.
This is the butterfly effect – your sound, your presence, your articulation makes a difference. Christ in you can change the world as you leave a bit of yourself behind with every note.
Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man is a quintessential piece that affirms both the truth of our individual distinctiveness, and that we each matter in making the music come alive. This week, listen to three of Copeland’s musical works.
New York Philharmonic, conducted by James Levine
Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Antal Dorati. Recorded by Mercury in 1957.