Sacred Sheet Music for Folks who Download
Look at it this way.
as encouraged by Timothy Shepard
It was an epiphany, discovered late at night the summer after my senior year in High School. In my parents' house there was a big attic fan we used to cool us from the summer heat. The din of the fan motor washed out all other sound and music. Late at night I could play the piano without being bothered and without waking up my parents. It was my favorite time to play, and to compose. I was working on composing a new song. I would improvise as I prospected for ideas.
Somewhere in that inspiration I found a very simple chord progression that I liked. Over and over I repeated the progression while improvising melodies over it. The repetition would go on for 15 or 20 minutes becoming like a mantra. The experience awakened a whole new exciting phenomenon in my mind. My perception was of something very spiritual; it felt like what I always thought prayer should be. I discovered the music of Taize years later. This new music captured the essence of my late night discovery. Taize is an expression of faith quite different than most mainline denominational churches.
Taize (pronounced teh - zay) is a tiny village hidden away in the hills of Burgundy, in eastern France. It is the home of an ecumenical community of brothers since 1940. A style of worship and music has evolved at Taize that today attracts thousands of Christians of all ages that make pilgramages to the community for prayer and reflection. It is contemplative for a noisy, complicated world. Brother Roger of Taize succinctly describes a Taize worship experience:
"From the depths of the human condition a secret aspiration rises up. Caught up in the anonymous rhythms of schedules and timetables, men and women of today are implicitly thirsting for the one essential reality: an inner life, signs of the invisible.
"Nothing is more conducive to a communion with the living God than a meditative common prayer with, as its high point, singing that never ends and that continues in the silence of one's heart when one is alone again. When the mystery of God becomes tangible through the simple beauty of symbols, when it is not smothered by too many words, then a common prayer, far from exuding monotony and boredom, awakens us to heaven's joy on earth."
Three elements make Taize unique: silence, repetition, and Latin. Silence is the most difficult and unnerving element to achieve. It takes practice, patience and intention before we become comfortable with it. Silence, thought, is "so essential in discovering the heart of prayer". The music is made up of short phrases, easily memorized, which are repeated until the chant/prayer is finished. The trick, as I have pointed out before, is to get to the point where you do not worry about how many times to repeat. The repetition allows everyone to fully participate, and for each individual to ponder and make an existential reality of the words. The words are often, but not always, in Latin. The reason for this is that as the community of Taize evolved, more and more people of diverse nations and languages came to participate. Latin, being a very easy and beautiful language to sing became the idiom for musical text.
What makes Taize chants particularly usable is that the are easy to learn, they leaves lots room for improvisation, and Taize is accessible to non-trained as well as trained musicians (which is another similarity between Praise Songs.) Because of its rhythmic and harmonic simplicity, it invites improvisation. You can use whatever resources are available: flute, bells, choir, guitar, organ, synthesizer, soloist, 15th C stringed instrument, etc.
Many folks erroneously equate Taize with Praise Songs because of the simple repetition but this is in fact an erroneous conclusion. Taize chanting rises and falls in much more subtle ways. There is no teleous in Taize. Good praise song singing builds and moves forward with an urgency to exert and praise. Praise songs help us proclaim, Taize encourages us to listen. And there is nothing wrong with that. Taize is peaceful and joyful presence with God. Praise songs are joyful and more joyful and encourage physical energy ad participation. Don't be mistaken, they are different. And that is no judgment on either.
So, if you get a chance, try a Taize worship service.
..."silence is so essential in discovering the heart of prayer."