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Maestro Moments with Stan



12 notes in music. 12 notes! That’s it. With those 12 notes, there are well over a quintillion possible melody combinations! That’s a number followed by 18 zeros. And that does not include the variations of duration and rhythm. So, in theory and in practice, the number of tunes is infinite. I didn’t make this stuff up. There are mathematicians (apparently, with lots of time on their hands) who have created equations about it!

It’s really quite extraordinary to think that (pardon a hackneyed phrase) – “since time began” – every melody ever created in Western music uses the same 12 notes. Johann Sebastian Bach and Justin Bieber used the same 12 notes. (Hmm…?) I worked with a conductor once who put it this way: “They’re all the same notes. They’re just in different order!” Symphonies, opera, jazz, rock, country, oratorios, hymns – the same 12 notes.

There are so many astonishing abstractions that can be drawn from this concept. (Remember those late night eclectic conversations with close friends in high school and college?) For me, as a church musician, the thoughts all point back and reflect on the unparalleled majesty and glory of God - the infinite creator of all things…the giver of life…the giver of every good and perfect gift…the ‘Great Musician’!

You may have noticed that, sometimes, it seems like I play more wrong notes than I get right! (Poor lighting, wrong eye-glass prescription, arthritis, the keyboard needed dusting…I could go on!) My gift is less than perfect, but fortunately, it is encouraging to know that “in all things, God works for good with those who love Him and are called according to His purpose”. With whatever skill or talent that each of us has been given, let us be mindful of purpose and the responsibility we have to God’s glory.

Now excuse me while I go practice!