05/31/16

OSOM: May

Phew.  I made it.  It took all 31 days, but I made it.

Between wrapping up some stuff with work and scheduling two guest performers to come in and record, the timeline got full real fast.  But Taylor (vocals) and Zeke (drums) were absolutely amazing with their creativity, precision, and attitude.  We had a great time and I hope to work with them more in the future.  Be sure to check out Zeke’s band, Shiloh Hill and their upcoming album and tour!

Throughout my creative process, there have been a number of times where the ideas seem to be “confirmed” by a number of unexpected places.  Like a network of streets that lead you to the same places, daily interactions with people and places feed the same concepts with creative energy.  As I started reflecting on Exodus 3 where the Lord appears to Moses in the burning bush, it was touched on in Sunday school, a conversation with a friend, and I was reminded of it being the source of inspiration for a piece of art my wife Hazel made.

In the story, the exchange between God and Moses is both spectacular and baffling.  On one hand, the Lord does this miraculous thing where the bush is on fire, but not burned up.  He speaks to Moses directly, commissions him to lead one of the most important events in history, and gives us a name by which to call Him: I AM.  Then on the other hand, Moses realizes the holiness of the moment, then promptly tells the Lord of lords and King of kings that he is not the guy for the job.  While I have tendencies to think of Moses’ behavior as ridiculous, I have seen this sort of thing play out in my life too.  “Here I am Lord…send me…except make it easy and not scary because I’m not entirely certain you’ll follow through…”

Perhaps Moses does what I often do: forget that we were woven together in the depths of the earth.  Known before we were in the womb.  Created specifically in His image as a child of the Kingdom, who would grow to inherit robes of righteousness and a crown of glory.  When we forget that, forget the source of who we are and how we are, we start feeding the unbelief that the Lord will provide and that His arm is not too short.

So that is what this song is about: shutting out the lies, leaning into the truth, and flourishing in the light of His love.

I mentioned a work of art by Hazel earlier in this post.  I had read a book that included a number of meditative/reflective exercises, and one of which involved the name of God – that’s the tetragrammaton for all you big theology word lovers.  In Hebrew, it was written without vowels because it was believed so holy, that to even utter it was to take it in vain.  It is where we get “Yahweh” from.  The letters are transliterated into English as, “YHWH.”  If you place them vertically, they happen to form a sort of stick figure person, like so:

YHWH

It is a beautiful way to be reminded that we were spoken into being by the Creator, and that we bear His image.  Hazel made a beautiful artistic rendition of this, and that is the cover image for this months song.

Without further ado, I hope you take a moment to listen, and that it is encouraging and worshipful for you.

 

04/26/16

OSOM: April

As I near the end of a particular season in my life (long story) I am reflecting a lot on transitions.  There is a lot of excitement, but also a lot of fear.  What will the next season hold?  Will it be better than the last?  Or worse?  But when elements change, it also allows you to better see the constants.  And I have found myself extremely grateful for those.

Musically, I wanted to revisit a full band song after a solo guitar song in February and a solo piano song in March.  I feel like I’ve learned a lot in just a few months, and I’m pleased with these results.  I tried a different mic setup on the piano: two small diaphragm condensers placed about a foot from the top of the lid.  This took some of the low end and room noise out, which was a big plus in this particular ensemble.  Lastly, as a personal point of pride, this is one of the more upbeat songs I have ever written.  That in itself makes this month a success!

I hope you find it a place of encouragement in the midst of whatever questions you might be asking in life right now.  That’s what I intended in the final chorus after verses comprised of questions and frustrations:

“It’s all grace to have even half of all it is I’ve had”

 

04/7/16

The Fate of My Control

I jotted this poem down in a Wendy’s today when I watched an elderly woman try to figure out the new Coca-Cola Freestyle machine.  And before you think I’m heartless, before I could offer assistance her lunch companion did so.  There are some themes here I expect will emerge in April’s song…


The things for which we used to labor
That gave us significance, a sense of something greater
Has been replaced by all of a sudden
By even the feeblest press of a button

I had just become used to the latest update

When things changed so did I
Doing what it takes to get by
This new machine disguised as progress
Is the same girl in a different dress

Empowered to make more choices
At the cost of silenced divergent voices
The world you would have me believe
Is worlds from the one I perceive

The cry of my television
Is I am my own decision
Don’t lean on family, principles, religion
I am king of my own dominion

For a moment let me subscribe
To this worldview you prescribe
What have I then created?
What deep loves are liberated?

Fear, responsibility, anxiety, stress
Because what I need I don’t possess
My heart, my mind, my soul
Are sealed to the fate of my control

I hardly even make it through the day
Nevermind pave my own way

03/30/16

OSOM: March

This month something wonderful happened: the beautiful Baldwin upright piano I grew up playing decided to come live at our place instead of at my parents’ house.  Well, it didn’t really decide…we called people to come move it.  But I like to think it was pleased at the idea.

So naturally, it was my goal this month to showcase it for the song.  Recording an acoustic piano can be quite challenging because of all the transients, overtones, and all those other fancy audio words, but you can also do the best with what you have.  And I was pleased with the results.  I used two large diaphragm condensers approximately two feet from the lid of the piano.

The recording was fun and exciting, but it was really the song itself that captured my imagination.  I haven’t had a real piano to play on or write with in several years.  The feel of the keys was like slipping into your own bed after a weeks vacation.  And so the melodies started flowing and the ideas started sparking.  I even ended up trying my hand at reversing a portion of the audio in order to create a disorienting atmosphere akin to the siren’s chorus.  I had to learn the piano part backwards in order for the notes to line up properly once reversed – and that was nothing short of confounding.

The song is a personalized take on the classic epic, The Odyssey.  We can all relate to the temptation of the “siren’s song.”  I was particularly taken by the juxtaposition of Odysseus’ obsession with hearing what the siren’s had to say and the precautions he took to stay the course.  There are many alluring things that I turn aside for all too often.  But thankfully, we have an Anchor that holds within the veil, and continues to draw us to the everlasting shores.

I hope you take a listen and enjoy the journey.

02/27/16

OSOM: February

The February installment of One Song One Month stands in stark contrast to January.  From full band to solo acoustic.  From relationship woes to the forged iron of friendship.

I was inspired by my favorite author, Robert Benson.  In his book, Living Prayer, Benson offers insight into the idea of brokenness.  Most often we pray to be salt and light in ways that multiply blessings.  But, perhaps just as often, our experience is that we serve in the midst of being broken.  As Benson says it, “You cannot be multiplied enough to be shared, only broken enough to be shared.”  He also recounts a time when a friend called in the middle of the night (when hardly any phone call brings pleasant news) who was in great need.  It was not the friend expected magical wisdom to make it all better, but rather he “called me in the middle of the night when his life was coming apart because he knew that I had been broken too.”

Those sorts of moments are very intimate, and I wanted the music to reflect that.  So I went with just acoustic guitar and vocals.  I used this as a time to explore doubling the guitar track.  I’ve often read about getting a solid main guitar take, and then recording another one alongside it to help give depth and potential panning options.  So I did, and I think the result was worth the effort.  This song resulted in a better mix, though there was not much that needed doing in comparison to last month.  Nonetheless, mission accomplished.

Hope you enjoy!