Weekly Musings #8 Reflections on the 23rd Birthday

Birthdays are the best days of the year. It is a great time to celebrate and reflect on your life and share the joys of being alive with the ones you care about most. I have the greatest privilege of being able to see my 23rd birthday. After making 23 trips around the sun, I have made a couple of reflections and observations on my life, and I would like to share some of them with you all.

1. I have been blessed by a mighty God in more ways than I can imagine.

A feeling of thankfulness overflows me as I get older. I look back at the choices I made, the company I keep, and the great privilege that I am fortunate and thankful to have. I am blessed with a loving family. I am pursuing my life’s ambition of being a successful composer. I am also finding my place in a little state called Iowa. I am also thankful for those who helped me get to where I am today.

2. This is the first birthday without my Dad.

This is important to note because it was a tradition that my dad would always call me first thing in the morning to wish me a happy birthday. This is special for me because I did not have the opportunity to grow up with my dad but I visited him whenever I could. It was always the best way to start my day hearing his voice calling me so early in the morning. so it is a new experience of having a birthday where my dad can no longer call me. I am truly thankful though for what is still here. I still have my brother, mother, grandmother, stepfather, uncle, aunt, and cousins who are apart of my life enough to wish me a happy birthday.

3. I always liked that my birthday is closer to the beginning of the year.

It makes a great place marker for not only reflecting but also a chance to look forward to an entire year of opportunity, freedom, and another day to pursue happiness. If I had more sense I would write down the important events of my life and look back at what happened the previous year so I could always remember and share my stories even if I am physically unable. Thank you, FaceBook, WordPress, Twitter, and Instagram for actually making this task relatively easy. I don’t know but there is something about the beginning of the year where it is easier to reflect on life than it is at other points of the year.

TL: DR Birthdays are awesome.  My Birthday is the best birthday because it belongs to me. (also anyone else who was born on this day.) *cough* Mozart *cough* I am thankful that I get to see another year and I look forward to going around the sun one more time if it is God’s will.

Weekly Musings #7 Real Hidden Racism

 a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

This Webster definition of racism should be looked at quite carefully because there is a hidden and undiscussed condition of race relations in America.  One amendment that I would make in this definition is not just the superiority of a race but also of a inferiority of a particular race.  With this amendment and the belief that racism is never able to be rationalized or justified.  I am writing about this because I believe there are two things that are missed when we discuss racial harmony in America. Pandering,

  • Pandering or giving preferential options to a particular race is extremely racist, bigoted, and evil.

When you pander or give special treatment to people based solely on their race, then you are telling that race, that they are unable to succeed without your help. This says that a race is not self-sufficient, hard-working, or that life is too hard for them to achieve the American Dream through efforts of the community of people.  I say that politicians or political platforms that appeal to a group of people with promises of special treatment, or through ‘diversity programs’ are racist because they believe that if a group of people doesn’t have these ‘diversity programs’ the race or group of people cannot succeed. People only pander to people feel superior tend to pander to those who are inferior and if that pandering is directed to a particular race, then it is racist.

  • Making Conclusions about an individual’s belief or values based solely on their appearances is evil and there is no justification whatsoever.

It is racist and bigoted to assume that an individual must think or believe certain things to be a part of a particular race. Your beliefs and values are not predicated on what you look like. An individual is never a group. But this does not matter in a collectivist worldview.  In collectivism and all of its sub-divisions, the individual is subjective to the will of the group. This means that if an individual is not lock-step with a particular group then that individual is ostracized. This is the breeding ground for racist collectivism. It prevents people from seeing individuals as a separate from a specific characteristic. (in this case race) This is seen today most absurdly within American politics in the context of identity politics. This means that a particular individual’s race is more important than the character of an individual. When this happens, it becomes harder for people to see each other as individuals and that breeds the horrendous nature of racism. Identity politics always creates an “us vs. them” scenario.

 

Let’s begin a real conversation about racism in America.  One that doesn’t focus on race as the most important thing.

TL: DR Pandering and making assumptions about an individual based on a group is racist, toxic, and should not be tolerated if we are truly going to talk about race in America.

Weekly Musings No. 6 Happy New Years. Death to the School Mentality

As a composer, I am often hit with this desire to neglect the idea of a steady pace but pursue with a rush last minute mentality.  I can’t speak for other disciplines and skills but I find myself thinking, “it won’t take that long. I can get it done in a couple of hours, or at most three days.” Most times this works, with varying degrees of success. But I find it to be a real challenge to be focused throughout the entire process of music creation, from idea to well-crafted masterpiece.  This is especially true when I start with a blank canvas.  So I guess if I were to make a New Year’s Plan, it would be to get out of what I call the school mentality.

The school mentality is the belief that any project has to be completed no later than four months. This project could be term papers, portfolios, and of course music composition.  Admittedly, four months is a long time however, the problem arises when you are placed in a non-school setting. In school, you are there to learn how to do things and hopefully learn to think critically, you’re time can be divested almost solely on your project, with other classes on top of those. This is a great thing, focusing on developing a skill or craft with goals and deadlines. When out of school, your perceived sense of time is altered in a way that drastically different from reality.  I don’t know if this is true in other disciplines, but in the Fine Arts, time can easily be distorted.

For example, In four months I have to have at least one well-thought composition definitive of my skills currently, on top of my other responsibilities. This is good for when you are learning about pacing and managing the time you have. After spending years learning how to manage a four-month deadline, it becomes difficult to think beyond four-month completion cycles. This makes it daunting to perceive a reality where after school there is not a hard deadline. Projects could take eight months or even up to three years. You have a life filled with deadlines that entrepreneurs, musicians, composers, and artists have to often time create for themselves. I find this disconcerting at times. It means that life does not have to be lived semesterly cycles. It means that my time management skills if I learned or developed any, has to make adjustments for a 100k marathon instead of the 5k or even 10k marathon.

I still have one and a half years to make this transition from the boxed in school mentality, but it makes it difficult to imagine how to conceive of a time where there are not the constraints of school. This is especially true if you been in a school since the age of five. My major goal for 2018 is to learn how to think outside of school and increase my compacity to be able to create my own deadlines and learn how to live a post-school life while still being in school.

TL : DR School Life and Real Life have two completely different time-worlds. When I think about writing music It is difficult to imagine a time where I am writing music outside of school. My goal for 2018 is to be able to conceive an idea of what life is like after school while still in school.

Weekly Musings #5 Watch Night-A Cherished Tradition

It is that time of the year again. It is the end of a year and the eve of a new year. This time is filled with partying, remembering, and making Best of, Worst of, and Rewinds of the year. I, however, have a long-standing tradition around this time. On December 31st, I always attend a unique church service in the African-American community called Watch Night. Sadly, this will be the first time that I will have missed Watch Night. So I thought it would be great to share the meaning of this special tradition with you all.

 

Watch Night is a church service held by most denominations of the African-American church community. This occasion commemorates the eve of the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln that was to be made effective on January 1, 1863. This would effectively free the slaves in the Confederacy and allow them to join the Union if the Union forces won the war. The problem for the slaves as they were not sure that Lincoln would commit to his proclamation and would back out so, on December 31, 1862, the slaves gathered to watch and pray that God would allow Lincoln to stay the course and follow through on the proclamation. Today this event is remembered in the African-American community by meeting around 9:00 or 10:00 pm on New Year’s eve and usher in the New Year. This service fills the community with a sense of hope, renewal, and strength for the new year.

 

Watch Night is important not only because it commemorates the hope for God’s use of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, but it is also important as a means to give thanks to God for the year that has passed and to pray for a brighter tomorrow for the future. It is the most sacred and unique traditions observed explicitly by the African-American community. Further, this occasion is used to honor and remember those who died and could not see the dawn of the new year. It is the most celebrated unifying tradition that weights to unify a community.

 

As with traditions, there are those who do not care, think its old-fashioned or unnecessary, or at best make sure to leave their party and be at a church by midnight, then return to the party. I was made to go as a kid. I didn’t understand the significance at the time, but there was never an option for me not to go. I did not want to go until I started playing saxophone with my church band. As I attended more and more, I came to understand the weight and importance of Watch Night, and I have supported ever since. I felt that a service honoring God for his works in the past and praying for a more free year is the best way to spend New Year’s Eve. Also, the breakfast afterward is always good.

 

TL: DR Watch Night commemorates the eve of the Emancipation Proclamation by watching and praying for the New Year. It is a long-standing tradition in the African American community. It is a great time to observe all that is happened this year and to look forward to the year that is to come giving God all the glory.

Weekly Musings 4: Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!!! We are almost at the end of the year, and I am just getting started with this blog. Thank you for starting with me on this journey so far, and I hope to see you in 2018. I am excited about the future, and I wanted to share with you three brief thoughts on the true meaning of Christmas.

Thought No. 1, This is the day we observe the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This birth is special because this child was born of a virgin, but even more critical is the humble beginnings of Jesus’ birth. The Son of the God who created the entire universe and everything that is in it gave up his position of power and authority and lived the life of a mortal human from birth to death. This was done so that through his perfect sacrifice humanity would be made whole and right with God.  Thus, God gave mankind the greatest gift ever.

Thought No. 2, Christmas is the time to celebrate the joy that is found in Jesus Christ and how he changed the course of human history. This celebration could be seen in many different forms. This could be telling the story that surrounds his birth,  being together with those you hold close, remember and honor those that have passed away, and even sharing gifts with one another while partaking in your favorite holiday traditions. It is important always to remember that the reason we can laugh, share, and sing on this special day is due to the gift that is Jesus Christ.

Thought No. 3, It is a time for me to be thankful for all the gifts God has given me. The gift of passion for creating music, the gift of family, friends, and the time to say thank you, the gift of opportunities that were afforded me, and the freedoms that people before me gave their lives to secure. I am also thankful for you for reading this blog and being with me thus far. It means so much more than you could ever know and I thank God for you.

TL: DR The true meaning of Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ and celebrating the importance of his coming to save humanity. I take this time to celebrate the joy that Christ brings to all mankind, and I am thankful for all that he has done for me. I also thank you for being with me this year.

Weekly Musings #3 We Hold These Truths…

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This single quote should fill every American great pride, honor, and value.  It is the unique passage in the world today.  It is the ideal representation of the mantra inspired by western Judeo-Christian philosophy. Three foundational truths are highlighted in this quote.

  • We derive our human rights from a power that surpasses any governing body.

The quote above only has meaning if there is something with higher power than the government. If the government is the end all be all, then our rights are subject to the will of a majority. It means that life and the pursuit of happiness are predicated on a benevolent and kind government. Which as a black person (pulling out the race card) is not true. Never has been, never will be. So this idea that the value of human life in America is not bound by an untrustworthy government but is affirmed forever by a Creator who is above Government. This is important because it claims that the individual is more powerful than the group.  The individual must be defended robustly and advocated for proudly and without fear.

  • Liberty and freedom are never subjected to the will of the government, but the government must preserve the individual’s rights.

Preserving the liberty and freedom of the individual a government must respect and not infringe on the power and rights of the individual. In order to realize this ideal, there have to be sound checks on the governing body. In America, this test is found in our Bill of Rights. These Bill of Rights give the individual the power to correct, change, criticize the government and provides the ability to protect themselves from all forms of oppression foreign and domestic. To take away, delegitimize, or forget their importance is equivalent to saying that individualism is terrible or at best unnecessary.

  • The Pursuit of happiness and happiness are not the same thing. The only right that we have to happiness is the freedom and ability to pursue it

With this foundational truth, the government does not have the strength, the power, or the right to provide happiness for you. The responsibility of the state is only to allow the individual to live their life as they see fit. The only caveat to this is when the lifestyle choices of the individual pursuing happiness cause harm and prevents other individuals from seeking their happiness. If the government tries to provide happiness for all the people, then it can only take from one group and give to another.  When you give the government the power to regulate your life, then you are diminishing the value of your right to pursue your happiness.

TL: DR Our rights and freedoms are derived not from Government but a Creator. This means that our value as individuals supersedes the will of the majority/government. To do anything that takes away from these truths that have built the American society is to shame all the progress that has been made in pursuit of these ideals.

Weekly Musings # 2 Because I am a Composer, America Must be Good

I believe that the United States is the best place to be a composer and a musician. Despite the flaws and imperfections of the US, its robust value of the First Amendment, its open-market for music consumption, and the cosmopolitan nature of musical heritage are all privileges found here. This means that the music I write can be free from government intervention and I can also take advantage of the wealth of resources available in my backyard for an inspiration of the next great innovation in music composition.

The First Amendment, specifically the aspect of freedom of expression, is vital to the composer. This is because when the Amendment is appropriately followed, I have the freedom to express my innovation, ideas, and songs in any way that I wish. Of course, there is a danger for misuse of this freedom, but more often than not, the most significant innovations in music composition come from the freedom to explore without fear of backlash or favoritism of other music from a governing power. My music is beholden only to people who listen to it of their volition. That means my music is free to be dynamic, to grow and change, I am not bound to a particular way of thinking about and writing music. I don’t like being told what to do, so when I am free to take responsibility and have control over my music, then that is an excellent thing.

The freedom I have in America to write whatever I want is also combined with a free market of music consumption that allows individuals to choose the music they like.This means I can’t force anybody to listen and purchase a particular type of music over another. Because of this, there is a competition where only the best or most faithful to a specific style survives. I believe that this open nature is why the United States dominates in the music industry. This free market destroys most barriers to entry. No matter who you are or what you believe, good music is still good music, and no outside force can permanently stifle it in the United States.

Finally, because I live in America, I am truly privileged to enjoy the richly diverse musical heritage that embraces the United States and freely incorporate it into my music. You obviously have the diverse European traditions and the robust African-American traditions, but there is also a world of other cultures that have at least historical music value that can inspire the next masterpiece. Sure there is the internet to do research, but to witness authentic cultural traditions live; I do not have to leave my home country (unless I really, really want to).

 

TL: DR The United States is the best place to be a composer because I am free to write anything that my head and heart desire, for the exact people that are interested in it and to learn so much from my backyard.

 

Weekly Musings #1 Introduction and Purpose

Hello and welcome to my first Weekly Musings. My name is Denzel Washington, and I am the face behind DLW Muse. I am currently a graduate student at the University of Northern Iowa studying Music Composition. More information about me is on my website (www.denzellwashington.com) Facebook page (facebook.com/dlwmuse). Weekly Musings is a new blog series that allows people who listen to my music know more about me and my perspectives on not only music-making but also my outlook on life, and the on the world around us. Weekly Musings will be short blogs between 500-800 words, and they will be posted every Saturday afternoon on my website; www.denzellwashington.com. To be notified of when a new blog is uploaded, follow me on Twitter (@MuseDLW) and Facebook. This first blog will be shorter than upcoming blogs because it is an introduction and not focused on a specific topic

This weekly series is essential for me because I believe that experiencing music in isolation is only a small fraction of what makes music great. Music creation is always informed by politics, intellectual discourse, economics, and differing philosophies that govern our outlook on the world. For example, how Richard Wagner approached his opera was very different than the way that Giuseppe Verdi approaches his operatic work. They were also informed and affected by the economic, political, and intellectual climate of their day. In a more contemporary context, the beliefs and views about music and life of Chance the Rapper are different than say Eminem or LeCrae. This statement is not a value judgment on any particular artist or their music but an example as to how an artist’s outlook on life impacts the creation of music.   

I also believe that my music will have more meaning and connection when my audience understands and knows the person behind the music. This blog series will allow me to connect with each of you in a way that is meaningful almost like a discourse. Feel free to agree, disagree, or give information that I have probably never considered. I look forward to the conversation and the dialogue. I will be sure to respond to you individually, and if it’s not possible, then I will be sure to address your comments and thoughts in a future blog post. Until next time have a God blessed day.