Archives For My Music

Judah

June 5, 2017 — Leave a comment

Of all the instrumentals I’ve put together this year, there are three that I struggle to really like. Either it’s a case of me rushing the production, or not spending enough time, during the recording process, on synchronizing the rhythm.

I’m okay with them. As I’ve said before on these kinds of posts, the instrumentals that I am putting together are done in under 7 hours. It’s one way of attempting to stretch myself artistically.

Plus, I see my YouTube channel as a public art process diary, not a money making venture. It will contain my musical flaws, faults and not-so-good recordings. Warts and all.

I’m not suggesting that my work ethic is slack or that I am lax in how I create. The music is genuine, or as genuine as I can get it to be given my lack of practice over the years and current technological limitations. All in all, I’ll give it my best shot and make an effort to learn from every bump, and blister along the way.

One of those instrumental songs is called, ‘Judah.’ Teaching through Numbers 23 this morning reminded of the fact that I hadn’t yet posted the instrumental or given any commentary on it.

The passage in Numbers which triggered this is where Balaam sets out to curse Israel. This ”mercenary prophet” [John Calvin’s words, not mine] is set up to curse Israel a second time, however he’s met with only that which God has allowed him to speak, saying:

‘[…]The Lord their God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them. God brings them out of Egypt and is for them like the horns of a wild ox […] Behold, a people! As a lioness it rises up and as a lion it lifts itself.’
(Numbers 23:18-24, ESV)

Calvin writes, ‘God will never cease to be gracious to His children, until He has led them to the very end of their course […] Israel, like a lion, shall be bold and strong, prompt in their resistance if any should provoke them.’ [i]

This is linked in with Genesis 49:9, where Judah is described as a ‘lion’s cub’. This is then later connected to the statement about Jesus, by John in Revelation,

‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered.’
(Revelation 5:5, ESV)

Calvin writes,

‘the Tribe of Judah excelled in bravery. The sum is, that however, the people of Israel might be attacked on every side, it should be endued with invincible fortitude, to overcome all assaults, or to repel them vigorously. This courage was counted among the gifts of God.’ [ii]

With both art and sound, I had made an attempt to paint the tenacity of bravery in the midst of pain and breathless brokenness; of courage; of joy; of being awakened to the reminder that our strength is the joy of the Lord, and it radiates out from God’s holiness and grace.

As for the creative process, all the rhythm was created using a semi-acoustic layered over another semi-acoustic, bass and lead were done on an electric. The drums were sequenced via Garage band. The artwork was a fast drawn add-on.


References:

[i] Calvin, J. Commentary on Numbers

[ii] ibid.

Naming a tune can sometimes take time. There are days when the name will drop instantly. Then there are other days when the quest to aptly fit a title to a song is drawn out, long and tedious.

It’s no great drama since creating music, for me, forms part of practice. This coincides with the enjoyment of using a gift and the challenge to better myself each time.

I can’t help but wonder, though, how much harder this might if I were under the thumb of finance, corporate pressure and contractual obligation.

I’ve gained a healthier respect for the professional, who, sees his or her art dissolve into the mix of polish, performance and perfectionism. Rather than seeing their art come to life, they witness it being devoured.

On the creative front, each tune takes me approximately six hours to create, mix and post it in a video.

Currently, I only use audacity, a laptop, Marshall amp, guitar and FX unit for recording, which brings with it some challenges and limitations. The drums are sequenced using Garage Band on an ipad.

Blog posts like these function in much the same way as an active art process diary does for a working artist.

The title of this tune comes from a poem I wrote in April called The Embers of Inhaled Grace. If I could improve anything in this, it’d be the drums and mix.

‘Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’
(James 4:7. ESV)

 

 

In a world of “noise” it can be difficult to step up and say something unique. That act risks rejection. It involves vulnerability, humility, courage and honesty.

The key to interaction, we’re told, is more interaction. We’re encouraged not to limit ourselves to just one media arena. Build followers, “friends” and establish a “market presence”, in a market overloaded with sell, sell, sell.

Twitter is a fast-paced, here one minute, gone the next platform and Instagram isn’t much different. Blogs are in the plenty and are always a step away from losing what little readers they do attract to the next biggest thing that can hold the already dwindling internet attention span of the masses.

Facebook has it’s usefulness, but as someone said to me in a conversation last night, it’s a two-edged sword. It should be wielded wisely.Pick your fights, sheath the thought. This is juxtaposed with its algorithms, which by default, push new posts to the bottom of the pile, only displaying those with the most responses. Social media is largely a popularity game that few will ever really win.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attempt to make our own contribution. We can’t just wish away the responsibility to speak into that overloaded arena. As the aptly named axiom goes: “don’t compare yourself to others, just stay in your own lane”.

Or as Spurgeon stated:

‘If you, my Brother and Sister, have a little company of about a hundred people to deal with, be perfectly satisfied. Or if, my Sister, you have a class of ten or a dozen girls to teach, be content with that number and do the best you can to glorify God in your own proper place. Depend upon it, if you exchanged your burden for mine, you would not be able to bear it– and if I had yours, I dare say it would not fit my back so well as my own does!’
(Lowly Service, circa 1870s) [i]

Stay in your own lane. Speak with your own voice. Make your own contribution.

Yes, think before sharing. We should ask ourselves if whether or not what is being shared further pads the “noise”; pads our own egos or irresponsibly invites strife. We shouldn’t give up or give in there. Refine thought, argument and lofty opinion, “taking them captive to obey Christ” (2. Cor. 10:4-5). Then under conviction or consolation, either jettison it or seek a way to speak it.

For Christians, what guides this process is God’s eternal redemptive spiritual and physical presence; His voice spoken through Spirit and Son. One that pierces darkness and sheds light onto an otherwise difficult to see front line.

It’s His authority that we rest on. It’s His voice that will linger because in the end that which is wished forgotten, doesn’t serve the downtrodden.

‘Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it in many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth […] He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.’
(Ecclesiastes 11:1-4, ESV)

Therefore brothers and sisters:

‘The altar must never lose the glow and heat of its holy fire and the lamp of the sanctuary must never be permitted to go out, so these sufferers, as they lie, night after night, watching the long and weary hours, keep the lamp of prayer brightly burning and the incense of intercession perpetually ascending to the Most High. And so the earth is never without the sweetening influence of saintly supplication.’
(Spurgeon, ibid) [ii]

The poem featured below is a little on the heavy side, but it isn’t without redemption.

[For those interested in the creative process:  It takes about 3-5 hrs to put these tunes together; just me, God, my guitars, an amp and audacity. Another 2-3 for mixing and then creating the video.My most liked part of this weeks art project is the high-end lead parts and the bass. The lead for this was all done on a semi-acoustic.]


References:

[i] Spurgeon, C.H. 1870s,  Lowly Service [online version available here]

[ii] ibid, Lowly Service

If you are among the few readers of this blog, or perhaps among the one or two Facebook friends that are following what I create musically, you may be interested in this.

I’ve managed to pin a melody to some rhythm and bass that I put together a few weeks ago. Sometimes when I’m working on an idea, I’ll come up with multiple different avenues and if they’re good enough, I’ll record those and set them aside for another day.

This particular instrumental came out of some prayerful playing and is as it is. I used three different guitars for this piece and the free play (not pre-programmed) piano option on garage band. The title comes from a poem a wrote a few months back called Soliloquy & Symphony.

Both the poetry and music are original. I was faced with somewhat of a dilemma with the end result. My time spent mixing this split the song into separate versions. Each version is alike.The only real difference being the rhythm guitar section.

I had a hard time deciding on which tune to stick with so after much consideration I’ve decided on posting both.

I’ve also thrown in a poem for good measure, and in case you’re wondering, a bagatelle is a short piece of music written for piano.

Let me know which version you prefer. I’m partial to version 2, but also really like the more full, gritty sound the rhythm provides in version 1.

Pax Vobiscum.

Version 1: with rhythm.

Version 2: without rhythm.


(©RL2017)

Some songs come together. Others morph into new things with new beginnings. I tried a few different paths with this tune and ended up siding with simplicity. After my last few songs this year, I’ve worked hard to improve the mixing aspect and keep to the basics where possible. Using the same equipment and software, I’m aiming to the best with what I’ve got.

Let me know your thoughts 🙂

At the beginning of this term, I sat down and assigned a few songs for my youngest daughter to learn on the guitar. One of those songs was a tune we do in the mornings called Open the Eyes of My Heart.

It took her a few weeks to pull together the chords, and her skill level was where I expected it to be. My daughter did okay for a beginner, but then she blew me away with something completely unexpected.

With gusto, she started singing. I decided to record the “proud dad” moment and accompanied her. Here is that moment: (Bare in mind that this is the first time I’d actually heard her sing. Also, my daughter hasn’t had any formal vocal training and the song is recorded using a smartphone).

 


I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you…’

(Ephesians 1:16-18, ESV)

Song credit: Paul Baloche,  Integrity Music, 1997.

On my wall sits a quote from Oswald Chambers that reads:

.                    “our reach must exceed our grasp.”

The apostle Paul understood the kind of motivation this statement inspires. In chapter 12 of his letter to the early Roman Church, he writes, “do not be slothful in zeal, instead be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”

In part, we can bridge from Paul and Chambers to say, that though we may find the waters thick and heavy with thoughts of self-condemnation, self-defeat and self-doubt, we should not surrender to them. Even though we may feel past being able to grasp onto something that will take us beyond these, we must still reach, because we have been reached for!!

Whether all three self-negatives be the consequences of words spoken against us or echoes from an internalized pattern of responses long ago set in concrete by abuse, or lies we’ve told ourselves, the apostle’s much earlier proclamation speaks, denouncing all false claims on us:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1)

It’s healthy to recognize the limitations of our understanding and ability, but we should never let this master us, as though that recognition gives credibility to lords who seek to paralyze, subdue and rule over and against us; as if Jesus Christ wasn’t, in fact, Lord.

To not be slothful in zeal may include taking a step back. Taking time to refocus, or re-calibrate and come back with a different approach in mind; to recognize the struggle as a learning experience; learning through the things that have caused us to become despondent, unresponsive or careless.

Education is in the imperative:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

To be fervent in spirit can involve pushing on through until we grasp that which was once beyond our reach. The proverbial, you have to dig in order to find the gold. In this we hear Dallas Willard’s call to understand that ”grace is opposed to earning, not to effort.” (The Great Omission)

‘To pray without ceasing; to rejoice in hope and be patient in tribulation” (Romans 12:12). To not give in to the whispers that in darkness seek to stop and condemn us, by saying “be nothing, do nothing, because you are nothing and can do nothing“.

In the face of this opposition, the apostle speaks, ”Let love be genuine. Hate that which is evil, cleave to that which is good”; “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:9 & 12:21).

“Do not be slothful in zeal, instead be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord!!”

As Chamber’s said, our reach must exceed our grasp. If not, we go nowhere for having failed to see how firmly we are already held by God’s grace and the freedom that exists therein.In Jesus Christ we reach for the One who has already reached for us.

Education is in the imperative.

So with all this in mind, here is my creative offering for this week. It is part one of two posts where I have, as a guitarist, musician, Christian and writer, sought to reach beyond my grasp.