• J. Aaron Stanley

Update | Upcoming Recital | Philosophical Musing

Updated: Feb 21

Pardon the stock photo. This is obviously not me. But cool, photo, no?

My last blog post on my site was a year and a half ago. How time flies.

How optimistic I was about the kind of time and energy I'd have to keep my blog updated!

I've been quite active, of course. I've composed a LOT since my last blog post. I've also been consumed with working on a quite intensive M.M. in Music Composition degree from Southern Methodist University, of which I'll finish up in May.

There is so much I could write about, so much I want to say. But most of it will have to wait. I'm keeping a note of the things I want to write about on my blog as soon as my schedule lets up a bit.

Some of it is related to research projects. Some to compositions or projects of mine. Some to philosophical thoughts I have about music and art and composing... or just life in general. (Much of the “news” related stuff is already old at this point, but I did recently update my CV to reflect more recent developments.)

My graduate recital is coming up on Sunday, March 28, 2021 at 6:00 pm. It will be a virtual concert, and I will publish the link once I have it. I will only be able to present SOME of what I've been working on. Much of my work over the last year and a half has been with large ensembles, along with a 25-minute one-act opera called Waiting Room. My large ensemble work won't be represented on the program. And the 1-act opera will have to be recorded beforehand. It is likely I will only be able to present sections of it, rather than the entire thing. It depends on certain factors beyond my ability to fully control, but I will do my best to present as much of it as I can.

But apart from that, I have three solid pieces that will be on the program...

  • Shafts of Sunlight Through Stained-Glass Windows. A fanfare for antiphonal brass and percussion. This will make the perfect opener for the program.

  • Charge of the Light Brigade. A exciting and energetic setting of Lord Alfred Tennyson's famous poem, sung by an incredibly talented bass-baritone.

  • Hullabaloo. A jazz-inspired chamber work for Violin, Clarinet, Trumpet, and Piano. A fun and energetic piece to close the first half of the program.

Closing the program will be at least selections from Waiting Room,but hopefully the entire opera. (Especially since the last ensemble number, as the climax of the work, ties everything together and is best enjoyed in context with the work as a whole. I worked hard to make it a musical culmination, tying together all the previous thematic material.)

This was a joy to work on and workshop with the SMU vocal department last year! The process and feedback helped greatly improve the piece. Although I've typically been more of an instrumental composer, I really hope I have the opportunity to write opera and/or musical theater again. I love both genres. Waiting Room is a blend of the two. It is almost entirely sung, like an opera. But the musical aesthetic wavers between classical and musical theater, probably leaning more to the musical theater side than classical. Particularly with “Nature of Men,” a song that is more classic broadway jazz than classical aria. (What can I say? Jazz is in my blood. When I read this section of the libretto, I felt jazz was the only way to go with it.)

I will close this post with a thought that has been on the forefront of my mind for nearly a year now:

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

I just finished the series, Vikings, this week as a winter storm gripped a wholly unprepared Texas. We were lucky enough to only lose power for about 45 minutes. We've been without hot water for several days, and I'm having to take “Viking” showers, which I've discovered are actually quite energizing.

But apart from those minor annoyances, events of the last year is teaching us that there are things beyond our control. In the show Vikings, the characters have almost a fatalistic view of the universe: that everything is foreordained and fated, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Nothing is your fault because whatever you do, whatever happens, is the will of the gods.

By contrast, we as largely Christian Americans, have almost the opposite view: everything is entirely dependent upon us. My thoughts, my actions, my attitudes, my choices determine the outcome of my life. We succeed or not as a result of our own efforts and enterprise. That 'ole "rugged individualism."

I've come to believe that in reality, it is a balance—a give and take—between the two. It is my responsibility to manage my mind and thoughts and actions. But that is pretty much the extent of what I can control. Everything—and I mean everything—beyond me and my choices is almost entirely outside of my control save for my perhaps feeble attempts at influencing others.

For some of you reading this, this is probably nothing new. No deep revelation. Maybe you've already learned this lesson. But for me, this has been one of the greatest revelations of my life. I always had a problem letting go of what I can't control and trusting God to handle it. I liked the idea of being fully in control... yet I'd experience the frustration over and over again with things not turning out the way I wanted or expected.

I've learned to pray and ask for what I want. Not one time, but everyday. And God eventually comes through. It would take many blog posts to describe the minor miracles that have happened in my life as a result of accepting the limits of my ability to control, and trusting God to work things out.

Trite as it may sound, this classic prayer is full of wisdom. It took me 45 years to begin to understand it:

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

Grant me the strength to change the the things I can.

And grant me the wisdom to know the difference.

I think all of us need this prayer now more than ever.

Until next time.

24 views0 comments