This past weekend I had the chance to speak to the Seattle Presbytery as part of their Presbyfest event for laity, deacons, ruling and teaching elders. Needless to say, the conversations from the Fellowship meeting in Orlando and the formation of the Evangelical Covenant Order (ECO) was weighing on people. I wrote a bit about the recent discussions in a previous blog posting, but at this event I was thinking not exclusively about changes to the Constitution or polity concerns. No, my mind drifted (not surprisingly to many – both the drifting and the subject) to how music can speak into all of this.
Recently a YouTube clip was posted that distilled the magic that happens when generations experience music together. Legendary producer George Martin went back to Abbey Road studios where he produced some of The Beatles best work along with Dhani Harrison, son of the late George Harrison, and Martin’s son Giles. In the clip the three men sit around the sound board listening to the original recordings of their from 1969 album Abbey Road and to “Here Comes The Sun” which is one of Harrison’s great contributions to the Beatles catalog and a certified classic for the ages. What is beautiful in this clip is just watching the aging George Martin, poking buttons and turning knobs as he surely did decades ago flanked by these young men watching in reverence. The different mixes pop in and out as the familiar sunshiney notes lift up and George Harrison’s optimism fills the room.
Yet what is amazing is that in playing with the mix at the sound board, they collectively experience an epiphany: a lost guitar solo from George Harrison arises that isn’t in the final mix that the generations have become all-too-familiar with. You see the stunned look on Dhani Harrison as he hears his father’s guitar solo that didn’t make the cut and the look on Giles Martin’s face as with a slight smile he acknowledges that George Harrison has just just strolled back into the studio as if for the first time. Both these young men just look at George Martin, the sage at the soundboard, who has a moment of what the church at the institution of the Eucharist calls anamenesis - a deep remembering that draws the past into the present and the present into the past as an eternally generative ‘now’ crossing his face. ”Oh yes,” Martin muses “I had forgotten about that.” ”It changes everything” Dhani says through a grin across his face as his father owns the guitar frets yet again and runs the chords up and down the measure.
What does a rediscovered guitar riff have to do with anything in the face of a denomination on the brink of separation?
One of the wonders of this short video is that it wouldn’t have been possible without all the generations gathering together in a spirit of both exploration, creative wonder and willingness to listen. George Martin and Dhani Harrison represent completely different generations who both knew George Harrison, but they needed each other to find something more, something undiscovered, something sublime that on their own they couldn’t have achieved. With a mutual invitation of the past to the future (Martin telling Dhani “Here… try that… push that one… turn that”) and the future to pull on the past for inspiration and guidance (Dhani to Martin looking with a sense of awe and humility) neither would have found the epiphany that awaited them.
The lines “Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces/ Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here” have new meaning as the son and the producer discover the father once again.
(cue: heavy handed tip of hat to Rublev Icon of the Trinity…)
Also, without the diversity of people around the sound board in how they listen, the song would be left as an artifact and not a truly living, breathing thing that still has surprises to offer. Giles Martin is the one who tweeks the board as Dhani and George Martin chat and allows them to hear midst their dialogue something forgotten – “Listen to this”. With diversity comes deeper and more robust dialogue as well as the possibility of epiphany… something new, startling, unheard of, and bold.
I wonder how much music will be lost in the coming months as congregations pull into ever-shrinking circles of ‘affiliation’ groups that will primarily listen to the same songs, expecting the same resolves, and find fewer and fewer surprises to animate, provoke and humble our walk as Christians in an age that is seeking examples of unity and sacrifice.
Maybe through the grace of the Holy Spirit in our midst we can sing “Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting/ Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear” in the coming months. At least that is my prayer. And my hope? That we can sit down and listen to the music beyond ourselves once again and allow for epiphany beyond our certainty and live as people in faith as we wait for the Son.