String Theory Performing Today!!!!

All set for another adventure with String Theory today (Saturday, Jan 28)! If you’re in the area, we’d love to see you there! http://stringtheoryquartet.net/2012/01/24/rocking-the-promenade-this-saturday/

Advertisements

“Living the Gospel of Life”

The study of music has often lead me into the realm of the invisible. In fact, music as sound is always invisible, yet we know from experience that it exists. As human beings we experience many things that we cannot see or even at times explain, yet this is a testament to our complexity and mystery. I have a great love for humanity, encouraged by my study of music, and this love has lead me into ministry work which upholds human dignity. This love for humanity in turn inspires musical studies and gives purpose to performance and substance to interpretation. Below is a paper I wrote in preparation for a talk on the value of human life. I hope you will enjoy it and that it will make you feel special.

“Living the Gospel of Life”

Introduction

God’s mercy endures forever! He created and sustains us out of pure love and watches over us every moment, solicitous about our good in every way. When we wander away, He, while giving us free will, uses every opportunity to lead us back to Himself, to fullness, and to love. Even during our life here on earth we are capable of having a relationship with Him, the creator of the universe. The heart of a person in the grace of God is a home for the Holy Trinity. Therefore, we should love God, ourselves, and our neighbor and so live out the Gospel of Life.

You are Amazingly Valuable

At the heart of the Gospel of Life is this message: You are special. You are valuable. You are un-repeatable. God loves you. Each one of us was bought with the blood of Jesus Christ and there is nothing anyone could ever do to keep Him from loving us. All of salvation history is a love story between God and humanity, between the Bridegroom, Christ, and His bride, the Church. He died for all humanity, but He also sacrificed Himself for you personally. This is pointed out in the beautiful verse, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).

At times, different things the world tells us can discourage us from loving ourselves. Voices like, “Oh, you should be skinny” or “You should gain more weight” or “You’re not that smart” etc. come at us all the time from television, from people who may feel insecure themselves, and a number of other places. Sometimes interior voices tell us we’re no good because of things we’ve said or done in the past. But these are not the voice of God, so we don’t need to listen to them. God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you” (Jeremiah 1:5). From the very beginning, God loved us and He always will. We have only to look at the creation story to see this. “God created man in His image, in the divine image He created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.’ God also said: ‘See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food.’ And so it happened. God looked at everything He had made, and He found it very good. […]” (Genesis 1: 27 – 31).

Activity: Look inside yourself right now. Close your eyes if you want to. What is your relationship with yourself? Do you love yourself? Are there things there that keep you from loving yourself? Put them aside. Forgive yourself of anything you are sorry for. Love yourself, for you are good, made in God’s image. Listen to God’s presence. He lives in you. What is He telling you?

Others are Amazingly Valuable

Once we have this knowledge and love of self, it logically follows that we extend this love to others, for they also are created in the image and likeness of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, “The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God […]; it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude […]” (CCC, 356 (1700)). Jesus said that in order to have eternal life, we must follow the greatest commandment: “[…] You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke, 10: 27).  In order to love our neighbor as ourselves, we must wish and work for their best good. Jesus sums it up with his verse, “Do unto others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

Sin is anything in which we purposefully hurt ourselves, others, or fail to love God. Sin makes us its slaves and separates us from God and our neighbors. It makes us a slave to the passions, but love sets us free. Anyone who acts out of true love is not under slavery but is free and full of joy. As saint Faustina says, “Love is a mystery that transforms everything it touches into things beautiful and pleasing to God. The love of God makes the soul free” (Saint Faustina, “Divine Mercy in My Soul: Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska”, 890 (257)). It is love of God, others, and self which gives meaning, joy, and purpose to everything we do. As Pope Benedict XVI says, “Openness to life is at the center of true development. When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good” (Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 28).

All Human Life is Beautiful: Living the Gospel of Life

In order to live the Gospel of Life, it is important to start at a personal level. A true love for God and self naturally results in an outpouring of love for others. We live the Gospel of Life when we act in sacrificial love towards those in our families, our friends, close relationships, and those in our communities. Simple acts such as cooking dinner, taking out the garbage, calling up a friend, are acts which affirm the dignity and humanity of the other person and allow true love to flourish.

In relationships we are called to strive for the very best for the other person. Each of us is called to a vocation that gives life and glorifies God. In 1 Corinthians we read, “Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6: 19 – 20). We are called to give ourselves completely in whatever vocation God calls us to. The sacrament of marriage is holy. It is a total giving of self to the other person in a commitment bound by love. Some of us may also be called to religious life in which we give ourselves body and soul completely to God. Some of us may be called to live a holy single life to the glory of God and the service of neighbor. In all of these vocations, we work to protect, nurture, and uphold the dignity of every human person each of whom is a reflection of the face of God. As Pope Benedict says, “We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us strength. To do all we can with the strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: ‘The love of Christ urges us on’ (2 Cor 5:14)”, (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 35).

Conclusion

As responsible Christians, we should promote love of God, self, and neighbor, the teachings of the Church, and holy vocations and to pray for the healing of the human family. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life” (CCC 2270). Bl Mother Teresa said, “Because I talk so much of giving with a smile, once a professor from the United States asked me: ‘Are you married?’ And I said: ‘Yes, and I find it sometimes very difficult to smile at my spouse, Jesus, because He can be very demanding – sometimes.’ This is really something true. And there is where love comes in – when it is demanding, and yet we can give it with joy” (Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Speech at the National Prayer Breakfast).

Focus

A dear friend of mine recently wrote a post about focus which I find very inspiring and relevant for today’s busy world. It can be applied to music practice, ministry work, relationships, and life in general. http://waterlilywriter.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/the-search/#comment-24

It is good to participate in those activities which help self and humanity and give glory to God. Everything else is not worthy of our attention. Yet, we even need to choose between things which are good. The world is so vast and exciting and we cannot, nor should not, do everything. What we can do is our best moment by moment, trusting and seeking God in those things which he leads us to do.

“The Road”

It sure is a good time for writing songs! Here’s the latest. Doug and I recorded the instrumental parts today so you can hear them. I would be thrilled and honored if anyone wants to play “The Road” for non-profit gigs, so I’ve included the music and lyrics here. If you play for this song profit, just say it’s by Danielle Rosaria Cummins and let me know about it. Hopefully it will be played sometime in the future by one of my music ensembles, so I’ll keep you posted about any live performances. It was a great joy to write this song and I hope you enjoy it!

Lyrics:

Verse 1:

Give me the sun and a song and a road

and I can go a long long way,

But where will I go if I leave you behind?

For you say I must go,

but my heart says to stay.

Chorus 1:

So come, come along!

What is to stop us?

Let’s leave it behind.

This first step we take together

shall start our journey home.

Verse 2:

So let’s leave the basket in the Nile

and take the baby home.

For the story never ends until everything gets told

and everything gets told in the end.

Chorus 2:

So come, come take my hand.

Onward we go now to start the dance,

As our dreams come together and our story becomes our home!

Verse 3 and Chorus 3: Instrumental

Alternatim

The truth is always the truth. Truth can be defined as “That which is”.  In our human experience, we can learn about truth through differences. Imagine eating your favorite dessert, say tiramisu, after a long day of work and a tasty dinner. Yum. Now imagine eating tiramisu all day long. Eww! And if you ate it all the time, after a while you probably wouldn’t taste it anymore. We need contrast to experience the tastiness of the dessert, even when its inherent qualities remain the same.

It’s the same in music. Composers are aware of this need and fulfill it through the use of contrasting textures, emotions, harmonic colors, etc. In Medieval times this was called “alternatim”. The concept of alternatim permeates medieval music and can clearly be seen in the music of the Mass and the use of the “modes”. A mode is a way of moving. There are many elements in the Mass that allow for alternating ways of moving. There are melodic modes which use different notes, interpretative modes which convey different meanings through written words, the settings of the notes to text, some having many notes per syllable and some having only one note per syllable,  and the alternation of contemplative Mass parts and parts which involve outward actions such as a procession. All these variables switching off from one to another create movement, contrast, and enhance focus and an experience of truth through the various motions of reality.

The book of Psalms is a beautiful example of alternatim. You can look up Psalm 57 as a example. It is a “Confident Prayer for Deliverance”. It is made of three parts. In the first part, the Psalmist calls for God’s mercy and protection in which he trusts. In the second part he describes in vivid metaphorical imagery the danger and malice of his foes. In the third part, he sings of his steadfastness and his trust in God and praises the Lord for His glory. When seen in contrast to one another, these sections are easily understood by the intellect.

Alternatim is as necessary for music as it is for life. Work is balanced with time with friends is balanced with prayer is balanced with recreation and leisure. This is the rhythm of life. We need times of struggle to learn from as well as times of joy. So the next time you feel tempted to shut out the world and practice forever, remember you will also need something to say, so go out and have some fun!

Doug Cummins

Doug Cummins is an awesome musician (and he’s my brother)! Last week he did a live show at Aladdin Jr. 2 with Alax Patin on drums. The performance was comprised entirely of originals. Stay tuned ’cause Doug is coming out with an album soon called “Sink or Swim”. We collaborated together on the song called “Falling From Gravity”. You can check out my bro’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/dougcumminsmusic.

New Musical Adventures for 2012

This December has been an wonderful, exciting time of celebration, visitations, and music. The result has been inspiration for new projects to jump start this year, 2012. Yesterday Sarah Wallin Huff and I visited Santa Monica to pick up our String Theory busking permits. On the dive down Sarah told me about an amazing new piece she wrote for our violin group, the Rosé Trio, which we will be performing in February. The structure itself is amazing! It’s made of small pieces of material or phrases that Sarah takes and layers, flips, augments, etc. and crafts into a complex four-dimensional structure like some sort sici-fi puzzle. Talk about parallel universes!  It’s awesome! Here’s the link to Sarah’s blog where you can see a colored analysis of the piece: http://sarahwallinhuff.com/2012/01/for-my-nerdy-friends/.

Another piece which we’ll be working on is called “Forest of Cedars” which I wrote this last month. It’s inspired by the Epic of Gilgamesh, the 4,000-year-old story of the king of the Sumerian city Uruk and his friend Enkidu. Gilgamesh is “two-thirds god”, invincible, and spends a pointless life stirring up trouble until he meets his match in Enkidu. Once he feels weakness, Gilgamesh begins to experience depth in his life and begins a quest for immortality. He and Enkidu become fast friends and together they travel to the cedar forest to fell the largest tree and kill Humbaba, the guardian of the forest an so gain immortality through fame. This is a story about humanity and its restless search for fulfillment. It is an excellent read. Here is the citation for a very good edition of the story: “Epic of Gilgamesh, trans. and ed. by Benjamin R. Foster, a Norton Critical Edition, New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2001”.

The piece that we will be working on is based on the adventure in the cedar forest. It has a tribal character, with percussion solos and repeated 12/8 melodies. We will be rehearsing the piece for the first time this Sunday, so stay tuned as this new story unfolds!