An Essay by Mark Christopher Brandt
When I was first inspired with the idea for recording Seven Moons, I was thinking about a small homemade model of Saturn that was hanging in a schoolroom when I was in fourth grade. I thought that it was really cool, and I wished I could have it to hang in my own room. Eventually, my fourth grade teacher actually gave me the Saturn because I was so persistent in asking for it. Over time, it wound up in my closet, and later, it wound up in the trash. Saturn might still be impressing children in that classroom today if I had not been so obsessed with ownership. It was not enough to enjoy it from my desk. I had to have it. This memory got me thinking about how human beings desire things that seem so very important to us at certain moments in life which, later in life, will have little or no value to us at all. Often, the value we placed on a thing is taken for granted as time goes by. We do this with people, too. Fortunately for us, God is not like this. He values and treasures every thing and every person that He creates. Our value as a person never diminishes in His eyes, and we forever maintain utmost importance in His heart.
When I began to study music, I specifically went on a quest, like I did to obtain that Saturn, to learn how to improvise. I wanted to be able to make up a song that had never been heard before. I wanted to conquer music and perform it for people. I wanted to possess music so that I could revel in it. I wanted to be a creator. It was not enough to be able to perform music someone else had written. It was not enough to listen to music others had created. I wanted to write the music, and I wanted to be able to spontaneously create the music like my favorite musicians were doing.
But how does one create and let go? How can one both give and receive? How can one die to self and live for others? The answer to these mysterious questions have appeared to me in my quest for music. I learned that my quest for music was a quest for love, and I learned that my quest for love was actually a search for God, for the God who creates and treasures what He makes. I learned from my experience with Saturn that I am to God what Saturn was to me---a thing of beauty to be admired which points back to the one who created it. The person who created that Saturn was really clever and gifted at crafts. It looked awesome from a distance. Close up, it was just painted styrofoam, toothpicks, and construction paper. In fourth grade, I was too young to realize that my focus should have been on the gifted creator rather than the thing created. Then, I could have asked the person who created it to show me how to make my own. In short, my desire to create was skewed by my desire to possess.
Music is not supposed to point back to the musician. It does, but it is not supposed to. Music comes from God. Music comes from Heaven and it enters the world through mediums called musicians. We know this because true musicians are capable of improvising as well as composing. True musicians do not need music to play music. It comes from within them. True musicians do not need lyrics to drive their melodies. Their melodies drive them, and they burst forth into the air for anyone nearby to hear. A musician who decides that he is creating on his own is dangerous. Soon, he will be bragging. Soon, he will be expecting accolades. Sooner still, he will begin to believe what people say about him and his gift, and then he will be deciding who is doing it right and who is doing it wrong. Money is not an issue for debate here. Payment comes to everyone who works. Wages earned are not open for debate. Good musicians make money. Lousy musicians make money. Everyone should be paid for their labor.
If you know a musician who would be willing to go into a recording studio with no prepared music, allow a person to pick from a bowl filled with twenty-four different tonal centers which key he was to spontaneously compose in, and then that same person gives him exactly five minutes to improvise a piece of music while surrounding him with video cameras, and then, after going through this process eight times, that musician was willing to allow the world to hear and see the unedited results of that recording session, you can be certain that the offering comes from a true musician, and that true musician is certain that the music came from God who dwells within him.
No human being creates from nothing. The music of Seven Moons had to come from somewhere because the peripherals and the requirements were dictated by outside forces, and even the piano was not my own. The music on this CD, as is the case with all music, came from God. He dictated. I listened. At times I wavered, at times I slipped, but I gave Him my heart and my hands and I am elated to share the results with you.
At one time in my life Saturn was merely styrofoam, paper, and toothpicks. While I maintained the stubborn illusion that I was in control of my creativity, all of my "Saturns"---every song, every thing, every person---were so much dust at the hands of a careless and insensitive creature.
My new Saturn, however, and her Seven Moons are from Heaven, and it is now the pianist who is so much dust in the hands of a benevolent Creator. He loves me, mistakes and all. He loves you the same way. In the hands of the Creator, everything can become what it is meant to be. Let us enjoy God's music together.
Mark Christopher Brandt
October 7, 2014