Although written for instruments of the wind band, Igor Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments is a very interesting, non-“band-y” composition. You can listen here. At a glance, an uninitiated person might think the Russian-born composer just didn’t use the right form of the word, but he was actually intentional, thinking etymologically about the components of the word “symphony”: he titled the work based on his conception of together-sounds (sym-phonies). Of this innovative work, the composer wrote this:
[The Symphonies of Wind Instruments] is not meant “to please” an audience or rouse its passions. I had hoped, however, that it would appeal to those in whom a purely musical receptivity outweighed the desire to satisfy emotional cravings.
Unrelated to Stravinsky’s work, two decades after it was written, my grandfather wrote several devotional articles for the Christian Leader journal. The article below seems appropriate to share on this, the 107th anniversary of his birth. Note how he describes in some detail the together-sounds he was hearing, and how he relates that to what happens when we come together under a “Conductor” to “play our parts well.”
Life Is Like a Symphony
By Andy T. Ritchie, Jr.
I am listening to a symphony concert. Perhaps it is impolite to be writing while at a musicale; but, if possible, I want to preserve my feelings of this moment for my future inspiration and for the possible good that they might do others.
Somehow, the longer I live, the more every beautiful thing I see or hear reminds me of God. My soul is deeply moved now by hearing this rich music. To me it represents life. The composer transforms into melody and harmony the thoughts of his mind and the feelings of his heart. I am in a fine position to observe the conductor of this particular orchestra, and in my judgment he is one of the finest I have ever seen. He plays upon his men as he would upon the keyboard of an instrument. In the music there are the throbbing and mellow tones of the violins and other stringed instruments. There are the noisy brasses. There are the reeds and woodwinds, the quivering, liquid tones of the flutes, and the monotonous noise of the percussion. Sometimes I hear the indescribable strains of harp music. The violins cry, then they sing. I feel and hear a storm. Once, since this program started, I have felt that the music would literally lift me from my seat—and I have been humbled almost as by a prayer.
The music is impressive in its contrasts. It is soft and loud, slow and fast, smooth and rugged. It is like life with its smiles and tears, its storms and sunshine, its laughter and its crying.
Though I have heard many symphony concerts, I am filled with wonder and amazement as I seem, more than ever before, to feel what actually happens when men of different nationalities and talents and with different instruments come together under one master leader and produce such marvelous effects.
In life some of us have somber souls and some have joyous. Individualities vary as do the characteristic sounds of the many musical instruments. We are very different—but with our differences we can fit into the great symphony of life and carry our part of its melody and its harmony. In this orchestra which I am hearing there are many men, many minds, many souls, many instruments; but all are directed by one master conductor. It is so in life. All who play their parts well are directed by Jehovah.
As I watch the conductor before me and read the gratitude expressed by the way he looks as his men give their best; and as I see how pleased he is with them, and how he seeks to honor them, I feel very keenly that our Master not only is able to blend our voices and our lives into a beautiful whole; but that He is moved to gratitude when we do our best. Life is more abundant and God and life seem more real to me than before I came to this concert hall.