A tritone is dissonant, a sound that needs resolution (audio).
The sound is so dissonant that it used to be called Diabolus in musica (Latin for “the Devil in music”), as if stress or tension are inherently satanic.
Tritone Life is dedicated to the paradox that it is not the Devil who lives in dissonance, but Christ.
As a profession, I follow the calling of pastor — the calling to teach the Bible, to persuade others to follow Christ, to pray, and above all to exhibit what being a disciple of Christ means. I find that this calling mostly involves encouraging people to persevere in tension.
But I have other callings. I follow the callings of violinist, writer, and citizen, to say nothing of husband and father. Each of these disciplines makes claims on my time and devotion, and their claims create dissonance. They cause stress and tension in my daily life that I wish could be resolved. But the dissonance is normal, and Christ uses it to teach me balance in time and priorities.
There are other dissonances in my life.
As a pastor, I am deeply rooted in the culture of American evangelicalism. But I find some things in that culture to be narrow, utilitarian, and inauthentic. As a violinist, I am rooted in artistic culture. But I find problems with that culture too, if different ones. The sensuality of the arts can create an impression of authenticity that is false. The arts today lack an intellectual raison d’etre.
This dissonance between my cultures tests my ability to be the same person no matter where I am.
I feel a dissonance, further, between the way I think and the way many people communicate today. I notice discourteous informality, frequent generalizing, and a lack of care for the meanings of words. My selfish preference would be to live in my own world.
But I’m convinced that a mind cut off from fellowship will become sick. I need to share what I value in terms that will be meaningful to others. The theology of the Bible, the beauty of the arts, the power of words will all become my poison rather than my food if I don’t interact.
This dissonance tests my ability to transfer valuable things without changing them.
And then there is the dissonance between spiritual and sensual desires. I want to be surrounded by marvelous sounds, tactile pleasures, moving sights — all of the beauties to which artists dedicate themselves. But I also want to be motivated by this invisible, odorless, as yet insubstantial reality, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
My culture of evangelicalism, in its gnosticism, tells me that sensual pleasures are filled with temptations. My mind answers, “So are churches.” And my senses protest, “Our Creator commands that we praise Him.”
This dissonance tests my belief that the Word became flesh.
All these dissonances are spurs toward integrity, toward wholeness in living.
So here is a blog about the sounds, sights, thoughts, and perhaps even smells and tastes that pass through my experience. It will become a real-time sampling of how I push against what is grim, an itemization of the spiritual value not merely of thought but of pleasure. I hope you will be able to see something of what Christ has done in me and continues to do through all the tension.
Here is a piece that has been a favorite since childhood, the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, 2nd movement, by J. S. Bach. It features a sequence of tritones, but only at the point of maximum tension in the piece’s development (beginning about 2:45). The movement ends, like the world at the commencement of the Kingdom, with a picardy third.
My header on this blog is a detail of Stradivari’s “Antonius” (1711), from the instrument collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.