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The Musical Loop As Theology

West Shore UU Church, One Church, Many Paths

The West Shore UU Church in Rocky River, Ohio has been experimenting with different circle formats (e.g. World Café, Peace Circles). One of their board members, Brian Gardner, was inspired and wrote the following theological reflection on the process:

I was thinking about a particular method of creating music that has parallels to our approach (using discussion circles): the loop.

Looping music is a way to start with a foundation and to continue adding "voices" to that same foundation. Rather than a traditional song, it creates a soundscape. A mood.

I've added a video of a loop I wrote a few weeks back, really at the height of a lot of the sorrows I was experiencing during this process:

It starts with a 4 measure musical idea. It's kind of an interesting idea, but it doesn't really seem to have much depth or interesting character. I wouldn't want to listen to that idea for very long all by itself.

Next, a bass line is added. It's another voice that compliments what was already said but it seems to add a bit of direction.

The next two voices have a bit more to say than the bass line and they are harmonized with one another.

The final two voices have the most to say and they, like the previous two, form a harmony between themselves while also adding depth to what was already present with the previous four voices.

 Different voices, all speaking at the same time, all working together to create something larger than any one of them.

In thinking of what it is that we hope to achieve, we are learning about time periods via different voices. Each time period could be like the four measures of the loop. Each voice adding to what was spoken and creating something greater than a singular voice. Some voices can be in parallel harmonies (similar in outlook and flow, but from a different vantage point) while others may be a different outlook that still adds to the whole (like the bass line).

As more voices are included, much like the musical loop, we start to feel a mood that is complex and nuanced. Like a loop, we can focus on just one part or we can try to take it all in at once. Or, perhaps, we can listen multiple times, giving emphasis to different components with each listen. We could also try focusing on different combinations of voices.

Musically speaking, four measures isn't really much music at all. Likewise, two and a half years at West Shore is just a small fraction of its total existence. With each, however, the variety of voices can give richness of depth and nuance to that small piece of time.