Monday, June 23, 2014

Listening to Music Now (Part One)

I recently read an interesting post about Rhapsody's UnRadio. It's another way to listen to music, somewhere between the $10/month access to all music usually associated with Spotify and the new kind of "radio" experience which is Pandora. It's good to keep thinking about technology and how it affects the listening experience, because these are the pipelines through which the miracle of music flows into our brains and bodies.

Pulling back a little from our immediate situation, back beyond Youtube, before Itunes existed, back, back, back before surround sound, back to the invention of cds, back further to DAT tapes, cassette tapes, four tracks, quadraphonic stereo, vinyl, the first radio, first recordings. This has all changed in a just a bit longer than a human lifetime.

And how we listen to music continues to change. In live settings natural acoustics made a huge difference --  for most of history. And, although we thought all our sound reinforcement changed all that, it really didn't -- natural acoustics still matter. Ask anyone who has ever set up a sound system in a public (or private) space. Ask the people who suffer through music that sounds much worse than it should because it does not fit the room it's being played in. Acoustics still matter.

Headphones or speakers? How much (and what kind of) noise pollution is around you?

Many factors influence how we listen to music now, but the building blocks are the same, and worth remembering, especially since we now have access to an unprecedented, incrementally increased amount of music -- styles and types, live and recorded. What this means (among other things, including new challenges and opportunities for professionals and amateurs alike) is each of us has a chance to discover and rediscover music!  iWhatever our phase of life, music can be a gift, an avenue for grace of God, a prophetic prod towards truth, an invitation towards growth, an exposure of the heart, an aid to rest. So consider carving out a half hour. Get on Rhapsody, Spotify or even YouTube. Explore. It may remind you what a marvelous gift life is, and what a beautiful, terrible world we live in. Which is a good thing to remember.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Song and Dance Man

One of my favorite Bob Dylan quotes goes something like this;
"I'm just a song a dance man."
Coming from one of the most revered and long-lived musician/lyricist/activist/poets around, this is a fun statement. And like most good poetry it is both true and not true at the same time, depending on what level you look at it. Allow James Moore explain:
"Scrape away the veneer and what's left is a guy madly in love with the art of musical performance, someone who, for better or worse, till death do its part, is both master and slave to the creative process itself."
So on one level it's true, he is a song and dance man. Especially important for those who want to immortalize and worship him to understand. He's not the messiah.
On the other hand he's much more than that -- and his work is profoundly satisfying and disturbing, helping you face reality and shining light on our hiding places, reminding us how much meaning there can be, how much sorrow and joy in a simple song and dance.
What does this have to do with anything, you may be wondering? Well, part of what I'm working at in my own life and work (both as a songwriter and a leader in the Dandelion Seed Company artist network) is digging through the underbrush and the topsoil to find the bedrock I can really build my life and my work as an artist on. If it's not fame or money or being true to myself, what is it?
I think Dylan's quote is a nod in the right direction. One of my first and deepest foundations for my life and journey as an artist is simply this:
That art and creativity, the song and dance, are good things. They are a gift from God, they make life richer. Yes, they can do so much more -- move people, make them think, draw them closer to God, teach something -- all that is true, but without the foundation of them being good in and of themselves, being a gift from God, it is SO VERY DIFFICULT to really live out the calling or make the journey we are called to make as artists.
Imagine if you only saw your child in terms of the value he or she could add to your or someone elses' life -- you would be hamstrung as a parent from the start in being able to help them become the gift they could be to others, and yes, to you yourself. Something very similar applies to the arts in general and more specifically to those who are called to an arts-related vocation.