All to the Glory of God

The function of “incubation” – being the second of the four stages of the creative process as posited by Graham Wallas – is amazing in the way that it validates for the Artist that he’s on the right track with his work.

For example, I knew that, in order for “Sirens of Hope” to come across like the opening number of a musical or light opera, five events needed to take place:

(1) There had to be a certain extension of the theme. It had been exposed, but not sufficiently developed.

(2) There had to be a certain type of modulation involved in this extension; otherwise it would seem both boring and unnatural.

(3) There needed to be a certain change in instrumentation toward the end, not only to give the number more variety, but also to give it a “grand sense of finish” — as befits an opening number.

(4) It needed to “rock out” at the end. It had rocked a bit earlier — now it needed to rock harder and longer, in order to honor that “grand sense of finish.”

(5) It needed to end in a certain key, where it could segue most gracefully into the next number: “Bone of My Bones.”

What I did not know was:

(1) The instruments that were logical for the change in instrumentation would happen to turn out to be the instruments that would “rock” the hardest, as needed, for the end of the number.  So I was able to accomplish two purposes without compromise, even though I hadn’t planned it this way. 

(2) The modulation that was most logical and natural — that is to say, the least forced or contrived — turned out to modulate into the exact key which I needed in order to segue into “Bone of My Bones” most gracefully.

The first five events were a function of my conscious intention and choice. The second two events were, according to the Wallas model, a product of unconscious creative incubation.  As such, they were “given” to me as unexpected gifts that, for me, validated that I was on the right track artistically. Moreover, because I am a Christian; and I believe that all good gifts are given by God, it validated for me that God is supportive of my project. After all, it is written:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
— James 1:17 NIV

The Wallas model interprets such gifts as a function of the second stage in a four-stage process. I fully accept that model. I also accept that, for a Christian whose aim is to glorify God in his work, this stage of incubation is the work of God. My own process may seem completely chaotic, haphazard, and random. But it is God who can “make the crooked paths straight.” (Isaiah 42:16) 


Johann Sebastian Bach

What is even more astounding is that, even though I haven’t written any of the lyrics to this piece of music, I can “hear” the lyrics “Glory to God” fitting into a logical place in the melody line, having the same meter as “Sirens of Hope” in a different verse. This is further evidence to me, in a very frank and flagrant fashion, that God intends to be glorified in this piece.  I wonder if an experience similar to this is what was felt by the great composer, Johann Sebastian Bach.  I wonder if it is for reasons such as these that Bach was moved to inscribe, at the bottom of every piece of music he wrote, the words: “All to the Glory of God.”


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