GROUNDED: ROOT CHORDS

A Reflection on Nerdy Music Things, and Also Texas Construction Norms.
By: Rebecca Garrett Pace, Minister of Worship & The Arts

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.” Matthew 7:24

I grew up in North Carolina. Even after living here in the Dallas area for 10 years, I’m still pretty quick to correct anyone who says I’m from Texas. “Actually, I live in Texas. I’m from North Carolina.”
(This relates to rocks and sand, I promise.)
Something I noticed when I first moved to this area was that y’all don’t have basements. Where I grew up, in the rolling hills of Charlotte, everyone had a basement. Basements are great. They’re extra storage space, laundry room space, game room space, or just bookshelves-that-don’t-fit-anywhere-else space.

Apparently, you North Texans don’t have basements ‘round here because the foundation isn’t solid enough. The soil is a mixture of rock and sand, and the tectonic plates shift just enough to make basements unfeasible. Or so it’s been explained to me. Maybe John Stanford can clarify.
Our first hymn this Sunday will be “My Hope Is Built” (also known by its alternate title “The Solid Rock”). Buckle up, folks; it’s time to get a bit music-nerdy. The opening four notes of this hymn’s melody make up what’s called an arpeggio, or a single chord that’s spelled out one note at a time in succession. This arpeggio is F - A - C, which is actually the root chord that the whole piece is based on. Like crafting a recipe that features one specific ingredient, or putting together an outfit that goes together because of its harmonious hues, the root chord ties the piece of music together so we don’t feel like we’re being flung about, with nowhere to land.

When we start each new verse of this hymn, we are literally singing the root of the song over and over, reminding us of where we’ve been and where we belong. The rest of the song continues to paint the text with music by using intervals like major 3rds and perfect 5ths, and the rhythms almost sound like marching - steady, sure and unwavering.

Reflection questions:
  • In some ways this parable of Jesus is quite simple: rock = good, sand = bad. But is it simple? What might you read between the lines of this parable?
  • We all have complex combinations of solid ground and shifting sand in our lives. Maybe you feel rooted and grounded in your friendships, but your career is shifting sand. Maybe your marriage has seen better days, and you’re trying to figure out how to do some foundation repair. Maybe you’ve lost the rhythm or melody completely and you’re looking for the “root chord.” Take some time to reflect on what “solid rocks” and “shifting sands” are present for you right now.
  • Listen extra closely to “My Hope Is Built” as we sing it this Sunday, and see if you can pick out those strong, marching rhythms, those arpeggios that form a musical foundation. What does the music during worship bring forward for you, mentally or emotionally?

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