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Hymn to Saint Magnus

I had one student who, once she heard this piece, could not rest until she learned it.  Could that be because she was ready to finally put her lingering grief over the death of her mother behind her?

In the International Harp Therapy Program, as well as in other therapeutic musician training programs, the use of the Modes of music is core to providing healing music to clients in many settings.  As part of that training, we spend much time learning tunes in the various modes, improvising in the modes, and learning how to select the mode appropriate for a given situation.  For the more common modes--Dorian, Mixolydian, and of course Aeolian (natural minor) and Ionian (major)--this is a relatively straightforward task.  But what of the far less common modes?

The Lydian mode is a striking mode, seen as the brightest of all.  And yet there is a wistful quality to the Lydian mode. I have found that is is especially soothing to those who have felt overwhelmed with grief, as it seems to soothe the heart.   There are literally only a handful of traditional tunes in this mode (though rock guitar solos tend to favor it).  The Hymn to Saint Magnus is by far the loveliest I have found.

You will notice that the tune uses many F chords (in my setting, it is in the key of C, so F would be the natural home of the Lydian mode). Tension comes from the movement from F to G and back again, which happens repeatedly.  If you wish to improvise in F Lydian, you would employ the same strategy.  So, for example, you might play four measures of F chords, 2 measures of G chords, and then end your progression with 2 measures of F chords again.  F needs to be "home"; these chords emphasized the other way (more G than F) would create G Mixolydian.

In any case, I hope you enjoy Hymn to Saint Magnus.

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