Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Highly Recommended

Very talented friends of mine in Memphis/Nashville have produced some very high quality worship lyrics/music.Listen for free.

Read Full Post »

to Red Mountain Music at Second Presbyterian next Saturday night.  Drawing to be held Tuesday PM.  To enter leave your name and preferred contact (email, phone, etc) in the comments (we will delete them after we enter you for the concert); by contacting Jason Hood; or Robb Roaten or Jacqueline Jones at Second Presbyterian (first initial and last name, then @2pc.org), telling them you want to enter for the drawing and giving contact info.

Very high quality music, great contemporary arrangements of hymns.


Read Full Post »

Better Days

This is one of my favorite “Christmas songs”, Better Days by the Goo Goo Dolls:

And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days
Cuz I don’t need boxes wrapped in strings
And desire and love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight’s the night the world begins again

And it’s someplace simple where we could live
And something only you can give
And thats faith and trust and peace while we’re alive
And the one poor child that saved this world
And there’s 10 million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight’s the night the world begins again

I wish everyone was loved tonight
And somehow stop this endless fight
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight’s the night the world begins again
Cuz tonight’s the night the world begins again

Read Full Post »

Couldn’t Be Happier

We went to see “Wicked” at the Orpheum last week. If you’re not familiar with it, it is a musical that tells the “untold story of the witches of Oz”. I won’t try to explain the whole story, but there is a song towards the end of the show called “Thank Goodness” sung by Glinda, the “good” witch, that is pretty poignant: 

That’s why I couldn’t be happier
No, I couldn’t be happier
Though it is, I admit
The tiniest bit
Unlike I anticipated
But I couldn’t be happier
Simply couldn’t be happier
 Well – not “simply”:
‘Cause getting your dreams
It’s strange, but it seems
A little – well – complicated
There’s a kind of a sort of : cost
There’s a couple of things get: lost
There are bridges you cross
You didn’t know you crossed
Until you’ve crossed…

And if that joy, that thrill
Doesn’t thrill you like you think it will
Still –
With this perfect finale
The cheers and ballyhoo
Wouldn’t be happier?
So I couldn’t be happier
Because happy is what happens
When all your dreams come true
Well, isn’t it?

Glinda finds herself being celebrated by all of Oz and seemingly about to marry the man of her dreams. But in the midst of it all, she begins to realize what she has given up to get “what she wants”, the compromises that she has made. It is an all too familiar picture of our culture. We are promised “happiness” just right around the corner, in a bigger house, a sexual encounter, winning the big game, … only to find that it all ultimately leaves us wanting just a little bit more. As Paul told the Philippians let us “lay hold” of the “prize” that will give us true joy.

12Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

17Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”     Philippians 3:12-21


Read Full Post »

I recently spent time around a young couple on the cusp of marriage (not readers of this blog btw!).  It’s all bells and whistles, all icing and little cake, and a whole bunch of chaos is wrapped up in emotional “love” that seems to make things okay.

We can be grateful for the feelings that bring us together, and then back together time and time again.

But what a dangerous thing to rely on!  Feelings are not concrete, and storms are coming…

It’s all hard work–we all know that.

It’s learning to filter what comes into you head so that it’s not always said.

It’s learning to put someone on a bit of a pedestal–not our normal tendency, especially in this day and age of sarcasm and irony and leveling humor.  Marriage is the opposite of the democratizing impulse.

It’s learning to give others preference, and learning to do what they want to do or what they need you to do, and searching for joy in that place.

It’s learning to challenge people in a loving way.

It’s learning to remember what the other person cares about (what parts of the house especially need to be clean) and what they have trouble doing.

Nothing is more tedious than listening to someone play scales.  But it’s that discipline that is going to make a good piano player.  It’s the disciplines in marriage, and in any meaningful relationship, that ultimately make the real music that is worth hearing, that blesses both marriage partners and the world, that gives others something to which they can aspire.

In comparison, the emotional love we often feel (especially early on) is simply the start of a journey, not a destination.  It’s hearing that first Chopin piece and being in rapturous awe, neither realizing nor caring about the 100,000 scales you must play before you perform it.

Read Full Post »

The Story behind the Song

O Love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in thee
I give thee back the life I owe
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be

O Light that foll’west all my way
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee
My heart restores its borrowed ray
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be

O Cross that liftest up my head
I dare not ask to fly from thee
I lay in dust life’s glory dead
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be

At age the age of twenty, George Matheson (1842-1906) was engaged to be married but began going blind.  When he broke the news to his fiancee, she decided she could not go through life with a blind husband. She left him.  George’s sister offered to care for him.  With her help, blind George left the world of academic theology for pastoral ministry; he wound up preaching to 1500 each week.

The day came, however, when his sister fell in love and prepared for marriage herself.  The evening before the wedding, George’s whole family had left to get ready for the next day’s celebration.  He was alone and facing the prospect of living the rest of his life without the one person on whom he’d leaned.  On top of this, he was doubtless reflecting on his own aborted wedding day twenty years earlier.  It is not hard to imagine the fresh waves of grief washing over him that night.

But that’s the night he wrote the gem above.

HT:  Dane Ortlund

Read Full Post »

On the heels of my last post, I should probably tell you what I think of Pete’s latest effort, Phil Wickham’s Heaven and Earth.

One could subtitle this album, “the triumph of the keyboard.”  Unlike many musicians I knew in the early and mid-90s, who were stuck on “real instruments” and denigrated keyboards, Pete really believed in keys.

The whole album channels Coldplay’s keys, percussion and guitarwork, a fact acknowledged by the lifting of the lyric “permanent state”.  Equally delightfully and more surprisingly, there’s even a dash of Sigur Rós here and there.  Cielo get going with a spoonful of Sigur, providing some medicine for the soul.

Of course, imitating secular acts is considered cheesy.  But when it’s done well, imitation can be a potent thing.  And imitation is inevitable anyway (again, as in the last post, see Andy Crouch, Culture Making).  Fortunately, there’s plenty of originality on this album as well.

As for the lyrics, the album is a bit more triumphalistic in tone than (say) the average contemporary Reformed worship song, but with more desire and passion than we sometimes pour into tracks.  I hope my Reformed friends will agree that In Your City is great theology; it’s message is certainly worth getting excited about.

Albums committed to a concept (in this case, heaven) can sometimes pay a heavy price in terms of monotony.  Thankfully, that is not the case here.  On a few tunes I would have loved to have seen a a bit less striving for heaven-ish sounds with the keys and the soaring guitars.  But that critical note is almost a stretch, because this album really rocks.

Try sampling Eden; Heaven and Earth; In Your City; and Cielo if you want something quiet.  Safe is getting played on K-Love.  It’s okay, pretty good by K-Love’s standards, but still sounds like a better version of Phillips, Craig, and Dean. 

(Thanks to Memphis’s greatest male vocalist and top tier musician/singer/songwriter Josh Smith for tipping me off to this album.)

Read Full Post »

I’ve been spending time with the family a fair bit, as well as working on nerdy writing projects, so blogging has taken a backseat.  I thought I’d blog on the soundtrack for my most recent work, and lessons learned as a pretty subpar musician.

One of my projects was on heaven.  So Phil Wickham’s new Heaven and Earth, produced by my old friend Peter Kipley, seemed like a good fit.  I haven’t seen Pete in about 15 years.  Given his popularity now, I’m unlikely to see him ever again!  But I can tell that Pete still loves the sounds he loved back then, and it takes no stretch of the imagination to see his goofy grin behind a sound board.

One note on Pete.  He was crazy about music, one of the few people I’ve ever met who loved music more than I did.  He certainly had raw talent, an uncanny feel for what worked, and he was prepared to mine sounds and concepts from the strangest sources.

But more than anything, Pete worked.  He was persistent and invested.  I can’t remember him ever being lazy about a musical challenge, an opportunity, a gig, or a riff.  In his early 20s, Pete was broke and running around DFW saying that he wanted to be a Christian music producer.  Now there are many ways that story could have ended.  This one ended with a Grammy (for Mercy Me’s album).  And it’s not over yet; I predict this album wins another Grammy.

It turns out there’s a secret to Pete’s success, and it’s not that complicated.

Pete leapt to mind when I read Andy Crouch, Culture Making.  You want to do something?  Work hard at it.  Take criticism.  Grow where you need to.  In all likelihood, if you have artistic aspirations, your work ethic is not what it needs to be right now. 

(Sidebar:  If you are an artist, or have any sort of creative aspirations, you must listen to Darren Doane’s excellent audio on this:  http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2009/09/22/christians-in-filmmaking.  Note Justin Taylor’s summary; I’d add that Doane challenges his audience of aspiring filmmakers to go film 100 sunsets, and get back to him.)

What little success (and it was very little) I had in music, I owe a fair bit of it to what Pete taught me about nurturing passion and working hard on a craft.

Fortunately, passion and hard work are transferrable assets.

Read Full Post »

https://www.noisetrade.com/joshuasmith .  Turns out the best musician in our state is not in Nashville.  He’s a little too intelligent sometimes for my taste (Isolde?  Really?!), but what do you do.  Check out the first and ninth tracks.  (A higher quality version of the ninth track is the soundtrack here:  http://vimeo.com/9313482.)

My favorite non-Tennessee song, which Josh will be doing at CUMC (9:31 edition) in the near future, can be streamed for free:  http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2010/03/31/only-your-blood-is-enough/.  Absolutely wearing this song out on Itunes; top notch lyrics adapted from an Isaac Watts hymn.

Read Full Post »

Last weekend my daughter Corinne (12) and I went to New York City for a belated spring break getaway. One of the highlights of the weekend for us was seeing “In The Heights”, the Tony-award winning musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda. It’s a story about tight-knit community in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, as they struggle with changes in the neighborhood. As the playbill says,”It’s a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind.” It  is a celebration of home and community in the tradition of “It’s A Wonderful Life”. In  the song “Alabanza”, the main character, Usnavi, is eulogizing the matriarch of the community, Abuela Claudia, and says this of her (the bread crumbs are for feeding the birds)

I’d like to think she went out in peace
With pieces of bread crumbs in her hand
Abuela Claudia had simple pleasures
She sang the praises of things we ignore
Glass Coke bottles, bread crumbs, a sky full of stars
She cherished these things
She’d say “Alabanza”
Alabanza means to raise this thing to God’s face and to sing
Quite literally “praise to this”
When she was here, the path was clear
And she was just here
She was just here…

It’s a beautiful picture of someone walking through life with God, with eyes that see and ears that hear, and by living this way, pointing others to Him- “when she was here, the path was clear”. 

It’s a description I would like to offer up as the definition of an artist as well. There is much debate of what “Art” is. And just about everybody with a paintbrush, a pen or a microphone claims to be an artist.  I believe an artist is someone who uses their medium to point others to beauty, light and truth- and in doing so, intentionally or not, pointing them to God. Being an artist may begin by learning a skill- singing, telling a story, painting, etc. But what makes it Art is how these skills are used. It is about how the person sees the world and communicates that unique perception to the audience. “In The Heights” did a great job of holding up the beauty of family, community and home to God’s face and saying “praise to this”. I’d like to begin a series of posts about art, like “In The Heights”, that have helped me to see and hear. 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »