The art of music arranging involves the reconceptualizing of an original work through the use of reharmonization, motifs, restructuring of form and orchestration—adding color, nuance and heightened expository, all while remaining faithful to the heart of the work: the melody. In parallel, the expression of an artist’s creativity undergoes the same level of reconceptualization throughout their creative walk. At the outset of an artist’s career, the melody of purpose is always present, but can become obscured through individual desires and expectations incorporated into the draft of the original work. As a result, the manifestation of purpose through individual creativity can be waylaid until they are both synched together through life experience—the happening of which is usually characterized through periods of stillness, transition and a confrontation of logic and spirit. In navigating these seasons of restructuring, how does an artist or creative remain open-minded and faithful during the reconceptualization of their gift?
The ability to adapt during these periods of change necessitates a renewed outlook and reevaluation of self —as well as the ability to view life and creative purpose through a macro lens of significance, versus the weighing of creative value through momentary losses or wins. Within these transitional moments of an artist’s walk, where ideas of identity and creativity are confronted with purpose, a new level of confidence and faithfulness will be required in order to successfully continue forward.
As paralleled in scripture, the Prophet Moses was called to lead the Israelites from Egypt during a time of stillness and stability in his life. The Creator confronted Moses with a new arrangement to reframe Moses’ purpose. From a macro view, Moses’ calling involved a higher level of reharmonization and orchestration that was beyond his individual experience, as juxtaposed against the history of his ancestor Joseph, 400 years earlier, who was sold into slavery by his brothers and imprisoned, but later installed as the governor of Egypt. With Moses’ origin as a prince of Egypt within the royal palace, he was now living as an outlaw in Midian, having escaped the mistakes of his past, and was being called to return to Egypt to free the Israelites from bondage.
During Moses’ debate with the Creator on his worthiness and ability to carry out his calling, Moses was asked to throw down his walking stick—an appendage that Moses had grown to rely upon in the desert, that had become a part of his identity as a wanderer, now herdsman. When the walking stick was cast, it transformed into something he feared—a snake—and he ran from it. The Creator then instructed him to pick the snake up from the tail to resume control of the stick. Likewise, in the casting down of a creative gift in compliance to its purpose, it can appear to upend the individual desires and vision that an artist has carried for the expression of their art and bring their worst fears of obscurity and disempowerment to life—but in the handling of the fear of transformation, and picking up the reformed gift from the tail and continuing forward, creative power and purpose can be revealed towards the beautification, enlightenment and illumination of the culture.
In the practice of casting down individual creativity in periods of transition and transformation, the importance and power of the melody of purpose becomes clear in the overall arrangement and expression of individual creativity. As jazz master, music mentor and legendary arranger, Quincy Jones once remarked on the significance of melody: “You can study orchestration, you can study harmony and theory and everything else, but melodies come straight from God.”