Saturday, November 26, 2011

beat boxes

I love the NBC show, The Sing Off.  It's got it all - great music, compassionate knowledgeable judges, and did I say, great music?  I have a few favs... and two of them are finalists -  Pentatonix and Urban Method.  I also liked Delilah who were eliminated earlier.

If you haven't watched the show, go to Hulu and watch it.  It really is a great show and I highly, highly recommend it.

I am routing for Pentatonix...  They get a huge sound with just 5 voices arranged very, very well.  The rhythm section is HUGE and just plain solid.  The beat box guy - Kevin Olusola - also plays piano, cello, and sax and is evidently quite accomplished on each.  I googled him the other day and found this incredible video of him playing cello and beat boxing... just amazing.

and here's Pentatonix

Monday, November 14, 2011

new gear

my primary guitar
Guitar players are always looking for way to make their sound both better and easier.  I'm at a lace where I'm very happy with the cogent of my sound.  I have two amazing Lowden guitars that I love.  My primary guitar - the custom Lowden O25C  in the picture to the left -  has two pickups in it, a Sunrise magnetic and a McIntyre soundboard transducer.  Together they work very well for me... but to make them work well, I have a rack of stuff that is a royal pain to schlep around.

an earlier incarnation of my rack
The current incarnation has a different blender (the red thing on the top right) and I've removed the tuner (the 2nd thing from the bottom) but it is still the same overall size and essentially the same weight... and it sounds great.  When I was playing with Jamie Green, she would request that I bring that guitar and the rack so I could get that "beautiful guitar sound."  She was right.

For you gear heads, the signal path is a stereo out from the guitar to a stereo Sunrise buffer, to a Dtar Solstice blending preamp, with a dbx compressor in the channel inserts and a Digitech S100 digital effects unit in the effects loop, out to the PA.  I generally run the guitar with a touch of compression, a little chorus, and a little reverb.  The Sunrise is a touch louder than the McIntyre.

LowdenS10P - my 2nd guitar
My second guitar - an old Lowden S10P that is beaten to death, had some terrible repairs done, but sounds and plays great - has only one pickup, a Fishman UTS with the stock Fishman endpin preamp, so it doesn't require the blender or the buffer, but if I want the same rich sound with the compression, chorus, and reverb, I still needed to carry the entire rack... until now.  I got a new piece of equipment, a TC Electronics G Natural, that has pretty much everything that is in the rack plus more in one box that I can access on the floor and the whole thing is 11.2 X 10.5 X 3.5 inches and weighs 4.1 lbs.  And it sounds good..

G Natural
Because it is a digital unit, I can have the option to store 30 presets in addition to 30 factory set presets and I can recall them by stepping on the footswitches.  There are more effects there than I have in my rack plus switching between sounds is much easier and quicker.  It even looks as if I can set it up to work with the dual sources I have in my primary guitar so I can leave the rack at home almost all of the time.  I'm excited about that... if I could leave the rack at home all of the time and got the same quality of sound, it would be wonderful.

Now all I need is to get things together so I have more gigs more often.  I have to either find the right musical partner or get serious about the solo thing.

FWIW, if the G Natural works as I hope, one of these days, I'll replace the pickups in my second guitar to match those in the #1...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

putting it out there

Last week we had a wonderful show in the Cambridge Drive Concert series with Terry Holder.  At some point during the day, I was talking with Jerry, Terry's husband and guitar player.  He wondered out loud why it was that guys in the audience assume that every female performer "is available to them" and told stories about guys who tried to pick Terry up.  One fun story involved a guy who had purchased 3 CD's from her merchandise table and then learned that Jerry was her husband.  He returned the three CD's and walked away without even asking for his money back.

I was thinking about the discussion this morning as I was walking to work and listening to some music.  I love "If I Were a Boy" by Beyonce and, despite the controversy over the rights to the song, I think she just kills that song.  Every time I hear it, I believe her.  I feel the pain at being taken for granted by some guy and her yearning for "a better man,"  and I figured it out.  A great performance involves putting it all out there.

As a culture, we're just immature about emotions.  When a performer opens his or her soul and puts their emotions out there, it feels intimate.  Indeed, it is intimate... but that doesn't mean we really have an intimate relationship with the performer.  All those guys to whom Jerry was referring were just unable to experience emotional intimacy of any kind without assuming it came with sex.  They really need to be "better men"  who can experience powerful emotions without making assumptions.

So, here's my question... how do we raise a crop of better men who really do understand the emotions of other people?  Who are emotionally mature, caring, and giving, and who understand where the lines are?

Here's a live performance of "If I Were a Boy..."

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

handling the text

As a pastor, I take handling the text very, very seriously.  It is my responsibility to help my congregation understand what the text meant in its own setting in life and then help them find the meaning it has for us in our setting.  This can be tricky.  Often the setting of the scripture is as foreign as it can be to our setting.  Sometimes the details just don't make sense to us.  Sometimes, especially in the case of the gospels, there is more than one setting.  For the gospels, we have not only the setting of Jesus' ministry, but also the setting of the writers' churches.  They looked back at Jesus' life and asked, "What stories or events from Jesus' life do my folk need to hear?"  Understanding those passages often requires looking at both Biblical settings and our own.  Then... there are just those passages that don't seem to fit our setting at all.

This past Sunday, I preached on Matthew 25:1-13.  It is a passage that I don't think particularly speaks to my congregation.  The more I thought about the parable, the more I became convinced that if Jesus was telling this story to my church or to most churches in America, the story would take a different tack.  In the Biblical story, there are 5 wise maidens who have adequate supplies of oil for their lamps when the bridegroom is late and 5 who do not.  When those who do not have enough ask the 5 wise maidens for help, they are sent away.  When they finally arrive at the wedding feast, again, they are turned away.  The point is to be ready at all times for the coming of Jesus.  This was especially true for Matthew's church who thought Jesus was running very late.  My congregation is just not concerned about the second coming.

Here's what I think Jesus would do with the story today.  The 5 wise maidens would share their oil.  But what if there isn't enough and everyone runs out?  Think of the feeding of the 5000, of the Hanukah candles, of all of the instances where God's generosity overwhelms the needs and there is more than enough.  I think Jesus would remind us that by sharing, everyone has enough and the wedding feast would be that much more wonderful with the additional folk there helping to party.  I believe the call to us today here is not to worry about being prepared but to share all we can with others and watch as God's party gets bigger and bigger.  And I think he would use it to condemn those in the Church who identify with the Tea Party, the followers of Ayn Rand, and the Republican party who are so bent on holding on to what they have to the detriment of those in need.  And that is what I talked about on Sunday.

So I danced with eisegesis... clearly my message introduced something to the text that wasn't there... but I do believe that if Jesus was telling that same story to us today, that's the direction he'd go.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

just proves what's necessary

She's playing a really cheap and lousy guitar in an open tuning and clearly doesn't know the "correct" way to play a guitar... but what wonderful music!  Just goes to prove that the most important part of making music is in the heart and soul of the player... technique is secondary (although she clearly has great technique even if it is "wrong") and the quality of the instrument is secondary (even though with a better guitar she would have sounded that much better).

So... the lesson for me is, "play, play, play... and then play some more.  just make music and don't worry about the other things."