Arise, My Soul, Arise
You know how some tunes just sound like they’ve been around forever? Tunes like Amazing Grace or Danny Boy or Shenandoah – so singable and tuneful that anyone could sing them, and most people who hear them will have it stuck in their heads for the rest of the day. Tunes written simply, but not tritely. Serious, evocative music condensed into basic, human melodies that speak to us all.
Well, not to overstate it, but this piece written by Dan Forrest is one of those tunes to me.
It was such a timeless melody that I just assumed that Dan Forrest had arranged the tune – because surely it always existed, right? How could millenia have passed and no one composed this simple, evocative melody yet?
Don’t be deceived, though – simple does not mean bland. Amidst all its approachable beauty, the tune has lots of musical ideas to unpack. Even from the first line, Forrest uses an idea called text painting – the words “Arise, my soul, arise” are set to a rising melodic line. The violin part uses extended techniques like harmonics (on a string instrument, this is where you place a finger on the string, but do not press it all the way down, creating a higher pitched sound with a unique, ethereal tone quality).
Complexity condensed into simplicity. We encounter this in a nonmusical way all the time in the form of platitudes – “Nobody’s perfect,” “Everything makes sense looking backwards,” “Good things come to those who wait.”
I don’t know about you, but my gut reaction when I’m told a platitude is usually an eye roll (that I usually just do in my head). However, none of us are above the simple truths. After all, Jesus was in the business of simple truths. When asked for the greatest commandment, Jesus did not give a diatribe on the complexities of Mosaic Law – he said “Love God, love others” (Matt 22:36-40).
Sounds like a platitude to me.
The point is this. As you explore the nitty gritty nuances of the Bible or theology or philosophy, be sure your thirst for depth does not detach you from those simple truths that God offers us.
We are infinitely loved and eternally redeemed by an infinite God, and all He asks in return is that we love Him and one another.
Simple as that.
Director of Music
First Presbyterian Church