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Look at it this way.

as encouraged by Timothy Shepard

On Modulating

The organ music swelled and soared; it was an interlude before the last verse of "O God, our help in ages past". When the congregation began to sing the last verse, we realized that we were singing in a higher key -- the organist changed key; a modulation had taken place. Modulating makes the music more interesting; it makes life more interesting.

The word "modulate" has two disparate meanings: 1. to adjust to a certain measure or proportion; 2. to vary or to change. The first meaning implies accommodating or responding to a change; the change comes from the outside. The second meaning implies actively making the change.

Change in our world is guaranteed, but change guarantees nothing. I've been listening to a book on tape about Aristotle's thought. With his "uncommon common sense" Aristotle goes into great depth on categories of change. A balloon popping is a different kind of change than a boy growing into a man. The tree that is crafted into a chair is a change of the tree; the tree that burns in a forest fire due to carelessness is also a change of that tree but in a completely different way. We can manage change, we can create change, but we can't deny it.

When the organist modulated between the third and fourth stanzas, she employed a technique that she had to work very hard to learn from her theory professor. She found a pivot chord, a chord that was common in both harmonies. The pivot chord connected where she was leaving to where to she was going in an unobtrusive way. The congregation hardly knew she had changed keys until they started singing again. I strongly recommend using the pivot chord method for changing keys, especially for congregational singing.

When the organist finished her modulation, I quickly realized that I, too, had to modulate. The hymn now was in a higher key. It would have sounded awful for me to sing it in the original key and everyone else in the new key. It required a fuller participation on my part or more energy, standing a little taller, and a deeper breath. I have found that most changes, musical and otherwise, can be accommodated by active participation, by evaluating one's posture, and taking a deep breath. The next stanza turned out to be quite an inspired event.

God's action in the world is really about changes. Through creation God ordains change. Salvation history is the story of God modulating (both senses of the word) events of his people. We celebrate God's changing work in the Liturgical Year. Easter is the most significant change in this amazing story and the truth in resurrection power enables us to change everyday. God is working the divine plan out; it will happen through change.

The Church, in fact, is changing. The question is how we are going to modulate.



Salvation history is the story of God modulating (both senses of the word) events of his people.