Chord Progressions, Melodies, and Mountains

Melodies are what make songs pop. Melodies give life and vibrancy. Melody make music memorable.

This could be seen as bad news for chord progressions. Melody (and its intimate friend harmony) are the glitz and glamour of song-writing.

Chord progressions, though, should not be taken for granted. They form the structure on which melody plays. Notes without a chord progression underneath are just melody. With a chord progression, they’re a song.

There are many chord progressions that go way, way back, and they’re still useful. Many commentators have pointed out the similarities of Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade of Pale to some of the compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach.

In (relatively) more recent days, the C-Am-F-G progression was heavily used in the late 1950’s (Monster Mash, by Bobby Picket, transposed to D major), the 1970’s (D’yer Make’er by Led Zeppelin), and right on thru today (Meghan Trainor’s Dear Future Husband.) That’s a lot of different feels for the same chord progression.

Archetypes in nature are God’s way of establishing structure (think: chord progression), while riffing a melody line over top. There are many diverse examples of this, all of which point to extraordinary abundance and diversity.

You can easily visualize a mountain. A mountain is an archetype – the chord progression. The details of the mountain are the melody. Trees of different height and color, a stream, animals, moss, leaves, rocks. No two mountains are the same. At the level of detail, each is quite different.

Visualize a beach. Smell the salt air, scoop up a handful of sand.  The contours of the shape of the beach, the water color, the height of the waves, are melody and harmony for the spot you’re standing on.

As we create and build, we imitate God because we’re made in his image. A city is an archetype, but no two are the same.

We’re all human – but each of us is infinitely unique. In God’s eyes, you’re a melody unlike any other.

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