Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Musical Truth

A couple months ago I received a call from my mom wanting to know what I thought about a Karaoke singing game that she was thinking about giving as a present to two of my children (who happen to have birthdays about a month apart.) My parents are ardent singers who have a passion for singing. They like singing well, singing harmony, singing with family, singing with friends - they just truly enjoy singing.

It is one of their great sadness's to see the art of singing just not cultivated these days as it was when they were growing up.

My family has been not that different than our American culture in that way. We sing, at church. We sporadically sing at home - having small children "Only a boy named David," "The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock," "Six little Ducks that I Once Knew," "Amazing Grace." But we certainly haven't worked on singing and don't really have a particular talent with it. We're not tone deaf, but people certainly don't flock around when they hear us sing either.

My wife and children are also occasionally blessed with my "renditions" of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" or other such highly classical pieces. Especially when I add my own words to them:

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world,
Pink and Purple, Blue and Green they are precious as you've seen
Jesus loves the little children of the world
Periwinkle, Chartreuse too, and a pretty Mid-night Blue
Khaki, Tan and Olive Green, Camo so you can't be seen
Jesus loves the little children of the world

So, a karaoke game? Well... Okay, I am sure the kids would at least somewhat enjoy it.

But the game arrived and was dutifully given on the first of the birthdays. It came with a microphone, and with somewhat less than usual "setting up" on the computer, various hymns, choruses and other more contemporary Christian songs were emerging from the computer's speakers with the words scrolling along in time for a person to sing with.

But then we noticed how the game worked. The words came along on a musical staff, and the computer would show you a little lighted cursor, on that same staff indicating what note you were singing. If the cursor glowed or sparkled orange you were on pitch. When you were on pitch you had a numbered point tally that accumulated. If you were "off " the cursor was blue - and no points accrued. You could watch the cursor raise or lower with your pitch. As the words scrolled across the screen they would be on the note that they were to be sung. If you sang the word with that note the cursor would be bright orange. If you were particularly on pitch the cursor would kind of explode orange and distinctly sparkle. If you didn't, the cursor just stayed blue.

It was humorous to watch myself (and my family) as we initially sang. We would certainly "hit" some of the notes. And we would certainly "miss" many as well. It was particularly humbling when I saw how poorly I "held" my notes. I would be initially "On," sparkling orange and happy and then my voice would crack, wobble, warble or otherwise go off key. And I would watch as the "dumb" cursor displayed my inept singing in patent, flat "blue."

Before you sang a song, the game would even tell you what kind of a score you needed to get Silver, Gold or Platinum distribution.

My first songs were good enough to be "distributed to friends and family."

After our first couple of songs my wife and I "retired" downstairs while the girls kept singing and warbling.

In a few minutes one of my daughters came down mad. Not out of control, but her internal vegetable plate was very well steamed. "I don't like the scores the game gives me."

"Why not?" I asked. She said, "It's not scoring me high enough."

And I laughed. I told her that if you sing well, you will score well. But none of us sings well at this point. I said, "we're all terrible right now."

She backed up and was almost stunned: this child isn't used to being "bad" at anything. "We are?" "Yes," I said. And I explained that with practice and if she and her sister's worked at keeping the note cursor "orange" they would score well. If they didn't, they would score like daddy had.

With a few broccoli knocked off her plate, and with some serious questioning in her face, she trudged up stairs to bed. But over the next few days and weeks she and her sisters worked on their singing, with the help of a little orange musical cursor.

And lo and behold, she and her sisters started to get Silver and Gold and Platinum on their songs.

It was amazing, when you truly sang on pitch, you scored well. When you didn't - you didn't.

It didn't matter how well you thought you sang. It didn't matter how well someone else thought you sang. It only mattered if you were actually on pitch (at the right time.)

The game was and is about musical truth. And that truth wasn't relative, it was absolute.

There's something to be learned from that little musical game. There's what I think, there's what you think. There what I say, there's what you say. There's what I do, there's what you do. But what counts is what is true. If anything I think, say or do isn't true, it is of no worth. If anything you think, say or do isn't true, it is of no worth.

There is Someone who knows what that the true pitch is, and how well we each are singing the song.

And He is also the solution for all our wrong notes.

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