Thursday, February 26, 2009

A mix for Travis, "Keyboards & Noise"

Late the other night I couldn't sleep and was too brain dead to read, so I turned to putting a mix together for Travis, one of our keyboard players. Travis has had an enormous affect on the sound and creative direction of our worship music over the past few years. He is talented, he plays boldly and his parts are interesting and appropriate. He writes his own music and has managed to put together some really nice recordings while in college. Bottom line: I'm dern proud of him.

Most of his songs are solidly crafted around a singer/songwriter form, and he does that well. But he has enormous control over the keyboard/synth that he uses with us. That is the difficulty of much of the progressive rock out there...that you not only need to know how to play your instrument technically, you also need a thorough grasp of all the different kinds of tones and sounds you can get out of your instrument. Since Trav has such an ear for creative noise, I'm encouraging him to break out and try some more experimental music. So, anyway, I put together this mix for him in bed that sleepless night and then liked it so much I listened to it again before finally falling asleep. I thought I'd share it here.


“Thule” -- The Album Leaf -- In A Safe Place
“So Here We Are (Four Tet Remix)” – Bloc Party – Remixes [Disc 1]
“Lest I Forget” – The One AM Radio – This Too Will Pass
“Golden Star (Alias Remix)” – My Brightest Diamond – Tear It Down
“Interloper” –Earlimart – Avenues
“Calculation Theme” – Metric – Old World Underground, Where Are You Now
“Wedding Bell” – Beach House – Devotion
“Stop Coming To My House” – Mogwai – Government Commissions (BBC Sessions)
“Satellite Anthem Icarus” – Boards Of Canada – The Campfire Headphase
“What You Gave Away” – The One AM Radio – A Name Writ on Water
“Comfy in Nautica” – Panda Bear – Person Pitch
“Underneath the Weeping Willow” – Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump
“The Movies” – Earlimart – Everyone Down Here
“Another Day” – The Album Leaf – In a Safe Place
“Ego Tripping (Ego in Acceleration Jason Bentley Remix)" – The Flaming Lips – Ego Tripping At the Gates of Hell [EP]

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The "System"

This [the current state of our health care system in America] may explain our strange, indeed neurotic, sense that the needs of "the system"--whether it is the system of governance or the system of markets or the system of technological innovation--are now more important than the needs of individuals such systems were once assumed to serve. We are a nation of Pythagoreans, ashamed of and enthralled by our secret desire to assume the secret eternal nature of numbers, and made powerless by that shame.

From "Sick in the Head: Why America Won't Get the Health Care System it Needs" by Luke Mitchell in Harpers Magazine, February 2009

"If you look at the world as a whole, we have to admit life is good here where we live. But in an evil Twilight Zone kind of way there's nothing else to choose. In the old days there was always a bohemia or a creative underworld to join if the mainstream life wasn't your bag--or a life of crime, or even religion. And now there is only the system. All other options have evaporated. For most people its the System or what....death? There's nothing. There's no way out."

Karen speaking to Hamilton in Girlfriend in a Comma by Douglas Copeland published 1998

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Blog response!

The following section was posted on a comment about a post on "Being Relevant as a Form of Cultural Insecurity." I'm so eager to engage others through this blog, that I thought I'd take the time to write a whole post in response. She has some good thoughts and concerns here that deserve good discussion, and further, that previous entry on cultural insecurity needs to be teased out some more so that I don't overstate my position.

"What is the place for 'I' in corporate worship? 'I' needs to meet Jesus in private worship all week so that 'I' can spill into the river of corporate worship like a tiny, bubbling stream." There's more, but it occurs to me that this speaks to the liturgy as well as the artistry of our worship. And, to switch analogies, might it be much the same way I prepare an event for my large, extended family? By sheer number of people and diversity of personality, I simplify the meal and the activities in order to be a welcoming place for everyone. But the joy of experiencing the time together overcomes any simplicity or familiarity of the offerings. In fact, in these gatherings simplicty and familiarity and custom and tradition are celebrated because they create our common bond. I could go on and on, but I'm quite positive, if this analogy holds any merite at all, being *cool* is like the last priority on anyone's list. The problem for us here where I live, is that we lost track of the tradition and "family" customs that bonded us. That is a big-time source for our insecurity.

There are a few things here to think about:

*What is the place for I in worship? I've been deeply formed by the late Colin Gunton's work with Basil of Caeserea. Basil taught the definition of a person in terms of the Trinity is a being in relation to. The "I" has a place in worship if it is a dynamic rather than a static "I." Gunton explains that a Trinitarian concept of person is neither lost in the collective of communism nor isolated in the narrowness of the rugged individual.

There is much frustration today with the over use of the first person singular "I." Back when we used transparencies for our worship choruses and kept them in file cabinets, I remember just about fainiting once when I saw how many songs we had with titles that started with "I." For some time I reasoned that the Psalms themselves are riddled with prayers using the first person singular. Further Biblical training and reflection has since led me to be very willing to change the "I" to "we" primarily because of our context here in North America. We are hyper individualists. The "I" that we use today is pyschologically and philosophically different than the "I" of the Hebrews. Often it is possible to interpret the "I" in a Psalm with a double-valence: the "I" of the author could also be read by the Hebrews as the "I" of Israel as a people.

My conclusion is that we need to be much more careful with the first person singular today. When we switch between singular and plural pronouns as worship leaders, we need to draw the congreation's attention to the switch so that they can live into and grow into the difference. We are communal individuals. Bonhoeffer warns (sorry ladies of the lack of gender inclusivity), "Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. Let him who is not in community beware of being alone." The way we use pronouns today can help shape a properly theologcially inspired person while subverting rugged individualism.

*Custom and tradition are celebrated because they create our common bond.
I really like your point that the insecurity is a result of a lack of customs and traditions that form a family-like community. Perhaps we can then say that the emphasis upon being "relevant" is attempt to fill the void of family-like relationships? We can apply Augustine's lithmus test to this. Whatever ultimately does not bear the fruit of love for God and neighbor must not be from God. I am positive that an outsider might object to the worship music I write, lead and record as clearly engaging the aesthetic of "the cool." Hopefully, for those who are within our campus fellowship here, the music if first and lastly about love of God and of neighbor, to create a culture that mediates a common bond of love. If the music does betray an engagement or an expression of the cool, my hope and prayer is that it does so critically, even subversively, and especially not self-consciously.

So, yes, the worship service is a cultural expression that does mediate fellowship with God and brethren. My thoughts about the impulse to be 'relevant' is exactly to bring our attention back to this kind of mediation...that we might gather together the fellowship of the saints (true worship) rather than just forming a crowd (being cool).

Thursday, February 19, 2009


The Hope chapel CD is finished. Andy and I got home from Lansing at midnight. We stopped for sushi to celebrate. I've slept most of today. Went in for a meeting with the staff and a woman from Kansas State who introduced us to some of her research on spirituality among college students. Trygve took me over to Butch's to celebrate the CD's completion. It has been about a month of earnest work. I've had maybe one day off in this whole time, and I'm not complaining as much as I'm trying to put it all into perspective. It's a month of work, but I think about the standards for this production throughout the year. What should worship music sound like? How best to capture that sound on a recording? How best to capture the spirit of who we are as a worshipping community? How much should the recording be a document of our journey and much should it cast a vision for where we can go? How does the recording compare to other live worship recordings? Should it intentionally sound different?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Obama's Drama

I saw a clip yesterday of the president venting about how he'd inherited the deficit wrapped in a nice bow. I can't find the clip or I post it. He seemed to be only kinda joking, mostly trying to share the horror of it all with the press corp.

Everybody knew our next president would have an unenviable beginning. The Tom Daschle thing just seems to be a scape goat. What are we to think about this economic stimulus? It seems like a hail mary to me. I feel like I did back when Bush was leading us into war. I didn't know anything about WMDs, but I wanted to trust that our president was privy to certain intelligence. I'm still glad that I trusted him even then. I miss that time when I felt I could trust our president. I'd like to trust our new president even at the risk of being disillusioned. Does that make sense?

This column is on to something.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

DM Stith Video

Susanna sent me this video here of David. We are talking with him about playing up here this Spring. We may open for him. It is a long shot, but it'd be supa dupa fun.

Mixing is coming along nicely. I'm high right now from eight hours straight in front of the computer/console. It is amazing how I'm learning so much more intuitively just by doing it again. I think I've finally started to understand what a little this and that can do. Not too much EQ. Not too much compression. All the things I've read are helpful, but it is really just have to trust your ears. So stinkin' thankful for the goodness of hard work and the learning curve and the incredible resources we have in the studio.

We brought the Drawmer 1968 down to the studio from upstairs, AND a local engineer is loaning us his SSL compressor. It's probly $4k by itself and I don't have time to really mess with it.

Monday, February 2 2009

1:30AM and I’m still a bit loopy from the adrenaline. I left the studio at 12:30 or so. Will probably crash hard soon. Spent most of the evening working on “Meet You in the Morning,” a song Brad introduced to us last January. I’m so happy that the core tracks that I recorded for him on that song will make it on his new record, and I’m so happy to have Paul Van Kempen leading the song on this year’s CD. I of course would love to have been able to sing it myself. I love singing any of Brad’s songs, but there is something very nice about having a student sing it. A kind of sharing that is deeply good and right, a nice “Amen,” and Paul did such a nice job with the song in chapel this morning.

That session at my house in Oklahoma City was a great learning experience and memory. Brad wanted to see what tape sounded. We tracked everything on my half inch eight track. It was my first time wearing the producer and engineer hats at the same time. Such an amazing way to start with UJ, Brandon Graves and Tye. The bass sound we got was the best I’ve ever gotten. Brandon had some very stern but good words for me challenging me to really step up and be the producer and lead. Very intimidating to “produce” a moment with core players from Waterdeep, a band I’ve loved and promoted for years. So, it is a great treat to have those tracks make it on to the record.

Speaking of chapel this morning: I was struck by the goodness of my opportunity to be here at Hope College at this time. We had a really nice, cozy service last night before the Super Bowl, and acoustic set, a testimony from Angela Taylor Perry and some extended time for prayer. Then this morning to have Paul continue in that same spirit, to be led by him and the other students…and then to get to hear Steven Bouwma-Prediger speak, such a good man, I really am filled with wonder that I get to be here to share in these things. Jesus is so generous to me, so kind and generous.

I want to learn how to challenge the students during our worship. Gently. Lovingly. To draw them deeper into pursuit of Jesus. To call forth faith. I want to say, “Who among you is pursuing Christ? He is surely pursuing you. Do you know this? Who wants to be his student? Who is willing to listen and learn?” I’m experiencing deep and good joy today because of a sweetness towards him that endures throughout the day and week.