Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rite of Passage: the Distressor

I said in the post yesterday that we got some new gear. See the two pieces there on the bottom of this rack...those are distressors. Just got them last week thanks to the good, kind partnership with Mr. John Erskine, the music department's recordist. Almost every good studio has a pair of these, or least every studio has come to a crossroads and come to a decision on why they didn't buy them. I've waited a long time to be able to have one to use regularly.

For those interested: our digi 002R was modded by It is a great little company in Chicago. I hated using the 002 when I borrowed it years ago. The sound of the stock 002 made my decision to not use Protools pretty obvious. Now with the "Tweak Head" mod, my analog/digital and digital/analog is pretty close to the full HD systems that cost upwards of $10K. Pretty fun. The amazing thing about BlackLion is that they have since made even more improvements to their tweak head, and Matt told me that he'd add those updates for free if I can ship it down to him.

Matt is sending us one of his clock generators to try as a demo for syncing up everything in the chapel upstairs. Free demos! I'm sure we will end up keeping it. I like to support companies like this.

Mixing last night went pretty well. After working on "Here is Our King" for two days and feeling lost with how to make everything work with the room mics, I switched to working on "Light of Jesus." It should have been more of the same since it was recorded the same night as the other song, but something clicked in about 30 minutes and I already had a really solid sense of what the song should become. Then I went back to "Here is Our King" and realized how boring the mix was in comparison. I'm riding the room mics further down that I did last year now to let everything be more defined. The rooms were washing everything into a big mush. But I'm riding the rooms up at quieter moments when the band drops. So far so good. Its tough to do it in a way that isn't that there is a sense of the wholeness of each part.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


It is that time of the year to put together the Hope Chapel CD. Somehow in the next month or so, I've got to edit and mix a whole CD worth of the worship songs we have been singing this year. I've been working on one song for a week now off and on and think I'm going to lose my mind. Getting back into the studio to mix is like trying to relearn how to ride a bike--except for its the exact opposite of riding a bike. Bike riding is supposed to be one of those things you never unlearn. Mixing is one of those things you aren't sure you ever did learn, so elusive.

Further complications: we have so much more and better gear in the studio now. I want to learn it all over night and make it perfect.

I bought a book over break called Mixing With Your Mind. It is helpful to distinguish between left and right brained tasks that the mix engineer has to accomplish. I need to get the left brained stuff, the cable patches, the track setup and internal computer routing all taken care of as quickly as possible so that I can attend to the creative flow without being jerked back into the technically tedious distractions.

I'm trying to repeat the mantra that Kendal Combes had me chant during my first record, "there is no such thing as a perfect record...there is no such thing....etc. etc...."

Pray for my sanity. Please.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Crafty Crafty Joshy

So. For those of you who care to remember a while back I was sick for something like a whole month. Discovering a few blogs got my spirits up nicely--the blogs along with Readymade magazine. When feeling boxed in by ennui, seeing pics of some fresh creativity was really helpful.

So, over Christmas I made these lamps for the dining room:

Then I also made this coat rack:

See my flikr page to see more pics.

I love our house!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Robert Farrar Capon's Supper of the Lamb

I recently found this blog with an excerpt of one of my favorite passages in writing ever. I wanted to put the link there to give this other blogger credit. But I've cut and pasted it here too. I hope I'm not breaking copyright laws!

His definition of an amateur has helped me grasp my life vision more clearly. Oh that we'd all be better lovers! I've used Capon's chapter on cutting into an onion twice now at the college level and once for my sixth graders years ago. I retyped the whole chapter to simplify some of the language for them. I wish I had some of the pictures of those poor students as they teared up from all that onion in their eyes! So precious. We did the exercise as part of an outdoor education project one long weekend in the southern hills of Oklahoma. Several parents came to help chaperon. The whole gist of the exercise is to see the beauty in creation, even something as ordinary and repugnant as an onion. It was fantastic to watch these parents standing around behind the students--these highly affluent, the elite of Oklahoma City, some of them even on their cell phones. Such quizzical expressions. I was half embarrassed and half amazed that many of them did not "get it." I don't know if there is a better hands on teaching experience that reveals the idea of sacramental beauty.

I have a recording of me reading "Water in Excelsis." I sent it to Susanna early in our relationship when she lived in Tallahassee and I lived in Oklhaoma. I'll post it somewhere if I can find a good way to share it for downloading.

This below is only a few pages into the book.

The world may or may not need another cookbook, but it needs all the lovers–amateurs–it can get. It is a gorgeous old place, full of clownish graces and beautiful drolleries, and it has enough textures, tastes and smells to keep us intrigued for more time than we have. Unfortunately, however, our response to its loveliness is not always delight: It is, far more often than it should be, boredom. And that is not only odd, it is tragic; for boredom is not neutral–it is the fertilizing principle of unloveliness.
In such a situation, the amateur–the lover, the man who thinks heedlessness a sin and boredom a heresy–is just the man you need. More than that, whether you think you need him or not, he is a man who is bound, by his love, to speak. If he loves Wisdom or the Arts, so much better for him and for all of us. But if he loves only the way meat browns or onions peel, if he delights simply in the curds of his cheese or the color of his wine, he is, by every one of those enthusiasms, commanded to speak. A silent lover is one who doesn’t know his job.
Therefore, the man who said “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” was on the right track, even if he seemed a bit weak on the objectivity of beauty. …Like Caiaphas, he spoke better than he knew. The real world which he doubts is indeed the mother of loveliness, the womb and matrix in which it is conceived and nurtured; but the loving eye which he celebrates is the father of it. The graces of the world are the looks of a woman in love; without the woman they could not be there at all; but without her lover, they would not quicken into loveliness.
There, then is the role of the amateur: to look the world back to grace. There, too, is the necessity of his work: His tribe must be in short supply; his job has gone begging. The world looks as if it has been left in the custody of a pack of trolls. Indeed the whole distinction between art and trash, between food and garbage, depends on the presence or absence of the loving eye. Turn a statue over to a boor, and his boredom will break it to bits–witness the ruined monuments of antiquity. On the other hand, turn a shack over to a lover; for all its poverty, its lights and shadows warm a little, and its numbed surfaces prickle with feeling.
Or conclusively, peel an orange. Do it lovingly–in perfect quarters like little boats, or in staggered exfoliations like a flat map of the round world, or in one long spiral, as my grandfather used to do. Nothing is more likely to become garbage than orange rind ; but for as long as anyone looks at it in delight, it stands a million triumphant miles from the trash heap.
That, you know, is why the world exists at all. It remains outside the cosmic garbage can of nothingness, not because it is such a solemn necessity that nobody can get rid of it, but because it is the orange peel hung on God’s chandelier, the wishbone in His kitchen closet. He likes it; therefore it stays. The whole marvelous collection of stones, skins, feathers and string exists because at least one lover has never quite taken His eye off it, because the Dominus vivificans has his delight with the sons of men.

In a recent email my dear college professor Dr. Lundin has admitted to me that he's not the biggest fan of this idea of the amateur. Richard Wilbur's poem "Lying," Dr. Lundin says, gets closer to his "aesthetic center of gravity." I assume his concern is that Capon's approach gives too much power to the viewer rather than the viewer's surrendering to the object itself. This is definitely a concern I share. I'll have to do some more thinking on this!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Credo ut intelligam

I'm sitting in on Professor Mark Husbands' course, "Faith Seeking Understanding." He began yesterday with Augustine's Credo ut intelligam, "I believe in order to understand." This is a tough beginning for us moderns. Seeing is believing; we want our evidence. Yet, faith does not come by seeing. It comes by hearing. I'm also struck anew at Jesus' words in John 10:

"He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers."

Roger Lundin, a favorite professor from my undergrad, was the keynote speaker last night at our Veritas Forum here at Hope College. About fifteen minutes into the lecture I realized how comforting it was to hear his voice, the calm cadence of his musing along with the explosive, ecstatic boom of his voice. Further into the lecture I found myself confused--how much of Dr. Ludin's voice is similar to the voice of Garrison Keillor? Was I truly being comforted by gnostalgia for Dr. Lundin? Or was it really just the similarities of his voice with the radio voice I grew up hearing from childhood?

It is such a poignant example of the familiarity we have with voices. I pray that it is not so hard to discern between the the voice of Christ and the other voices we hear. I pray we will not even know the voices of strangers.