Lent : Reflections on doing 40 pieces

The idea of doing this came in a conversation about struggling with prayer. My friend Drew (who is doing his doctrate)  said that his thesis was his prayer as of now. Having struggled with prayer for a few years I found it enormously profound and comforting. I didn’t have to spout or think meaningless words. I could do something more meaningful. So I thought I would try and do 40 pieces for Lent as a way praying.

So in some senses the compositions and putting them up was an act of prayer. Initially I had hoped that I would do the 40 pieces before Lent and put them up. However being as disorganised as I am that didn’t work. I must also add that I didn’t compose all 40 through each day of Lent. I’m sorry if I gave that impression.

Of the 40 pieces, 3 were old ideas (10, 16, 35) which I hadn’t put down in any form before. Twelve of them (2, 3, 4, 7, 15, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33, 34, 40) were ideas that I worked on in the 3 weeks before Lent started. However when Lent started I felt quite ill for 4 days and later we had to go to Spring Harvest for 5 days. So most of the ‘normal’ days I was generating a piece from scratch. I was also doing an evening composition course in 20th century music during this time and piece 36 was one I did as an assignment for that and piece 30 was inspired from the course itself.

Lent is supposed to be for 40 days starting Ash Wednesday. However Sundays can be taken as a break. Other traditions go right through the Sundays end Lent before Palm Sunday where passion Week starts. So I was putting up six pieces a week.

I was reflecting on the desert and the wilderness through these pieces and put up short reflections to go along with them. Interestingly enough more people read the posts than listened to the music. This was a bit disappointing. I do feel that the written word holds too much sway over Christian spirituality. But then in many ways it’s easier to read about something than actually engage with the object itself. So I know that I like to read about God rather than engage with him. I love reading about scripture rather than read scripture itself. So a good lesson there.

The songs came through various means. Most of the time an idea came and as I developed it I would ask myself what is this piece saying in context of the desert. Occasionally I looked at a passage or had an intentional thought and wrote the piece accordingly.

Reason and Record really made the process of putting up the music much easier. And soundcloud was absolutely brilliant for putting up music. I haven’t even started scratching the surface of what is possible with soundcloud. Anyone in music should ditch their myspace page and get onto soundcloud!

Finishing the project was very difficult as I felt drier and drier. But I was quite pleased with the last piece. Quite a few people seemed to like it. I even got a mention in Maggi Dawn’s blog.

The first thought on finishing the 40th piece at 2 am on Easter Saturday was : ‘I wish the bloody neighbours would shut up!’ This and other holy thoughts provided their graceful companionship through this project.

So now the question is ‘now what?’ I’m not sure. Folks have suggested taking it to a publisher. Others have suggested putting images with it and making it like an exhibition. I love all those ideas but to be honest I’m a bit scared and a bit lazy.

I doubt I will do another Lent like this. It was very consuming. But I might do an Advent 😉


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