title sequence

It occurred to me today that I should explain the title of the piece I’m currently working on, “Knock on Wood”, because on the surface, at least right now, the piece sounds nothing like what the title would suggest.

I think a lot about titles, and I especially like titles that carry multiple meanings and things like that. When I thought about it, the phrase “knock on wood” seemed to carry a feeling of security with it. We use it as a sort of protection blanket, so the bad thing won’t happen to us.

Whenever I think about comfort or security, I always think about my relationship with God. A big reason of how I’ve kept my faith over the years has to do with the security of knowing someone up there is looking out for me, as best He can.

Well, whenever I think about my faith, I always think about my upbringing in church. One thing I always loved was the congregational singing. There is something really special about hearing 200 country people with horrible voices singing together on a Sunday morning.

And thinking about those old hymns always brings me back to my grandfather, who led the singing all my life up until he passed away almost 9 years ago. My grandfather meant and still means the absolute world to me. He taught me so much about how to be a good person and about keeping a life-long thirst for knowledge. I really regret that he isn’t alive now, almost selfishly, because I would love to just sit down and talk with him like he used to. He was a high school science teacher way back in the day, and he loved to give me little science lessons while we drove in the car. He taught me that inertia is the reason that the rain goes up the windshield, why the leaves change colors, how a rainbow works. I often dream that I’m sitting with him in his basement, talking about things just like we used to. When he died, I got to have a good portion of his library including his books about the hymns and the great hymn authors, which mean the absolute world to me now.

Last year, for Father’s Day, I did an arrangement of one of mine and my grandfather’s favorite hymns, This Is my Father’s World. I played it at the church I grew up in, a Free Will Baptist church, and I joked that it was perhaps the only time bitonality has gotten an “Amen!”. I knew from the time I finished it that the solo version wasn’t its finished form. It needed expanding. There was too much there for a 6 minute solo piano piece. I knew it needed to be a sort of piano concerto. My grandfather died before I came into my own as a piano player, and I like to pretend that he’s up there somewhere smiling over me while I play. I needed to be personally involved in the performance of this piece.

So all of this somehow came to be Knock on Wood, which will be dedicated to my grandfather.

And that’s my story.


all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.

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