Now that I finished my paper for Reggie’s Worship class, I can (hopefully) make more sense in these theology through music posts. On the concept of freedom, Jeremy Begbie wrote about the goodness of constraints in Theology, Music and Time. There’s this idea that freedom means liberation from all possible constraints, as in that would be a good thing. But we often get our identity and behavior in working within constraints, especially those that we cannot change. Take time, for example. We are all temporal beings, subject to the presentness of existence. We (especially Americans) are constantly in battle with this thing called time…it’s always “working against” us. We treat any boundary as a bad thing. We shouldn’t.
Time has been created by God, was present before the fall (as far as we assume), and should be a good thing. A very good illustration of this works out in music, especially in jazz improvisation.
We have a time signature, a key, a groove, a pocket, all these things in place to make good music. Once we understand where the boundaries are, what key and time, when to play, when not to play, when to slow down, speed up, get quiet, etc. that is when we can make good music. It’s when the improviser, not paying attention to the band, starts going off in a wild direction, that we would probably classify as bad music. Some people might object, and say, “Well, what about free jazz? There’s often not a specified key or time.” But there are still constraints- one of those constraints would be: make music like it doesn’t have a key or a time.
So the key to real freedom is understanding one’s boundaries in which to live. Listening to where the band is will allow one to create beautiful music.
There’s a lot more that could be said: the importance of practice, how to rightfully test the boundaries, when to “break the rules” (especially in jazz improvisation), but I think this will be good for now.
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