Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

CreativEndeavors

I’d like to expound briefly on a few creative projects that I’ve been working on this year that some of you may be unaware of. Since we’re about half-way through the year, a few words on these projects might not be amiss. After all, a few of these projects were on my list of resolutions for this year, and an update wouldn’t hurt. So without further ado, let’s start with the one project that wasn’t on the resolution list: X-PRODUCT.

Pronounced “Cross Product”, this is the Junior Human Video team that I have been directing since February. For those who are unfamiliar with Human Video, it is essentially an interpretive dance that conveys the lyrics and message of a song to the audience. Don’t worry; I didn’t know what it was either until December of last year. In fact, let’s start at the beginning of this story.

Once word had gotten around my church that I had been in various theatre productions in college, I suddenly became the expert on these matters. Now, granted, I only ever performed on the stage for these productions, and had little to do with the behind-the-scenes work. And yet, I realize that most people don’t really distinguish between the two. At any rate, the music director at my church approached me about starting a human video group for some of the kids of the church to get them exposed to the world of human video. Having done various acting roles since I was in 4th grade, I thought this was an excellent idea and agreed to help. Of course, I thought I would be helping someone who actually knew what they were doing. Who actually knew what human video was. Who had actually done human video. Ha ha ha, silly ol’ me.

It quickly became apparent that I would be running the entirety of the group. This was a little daunting to me on a few levels. First of all, my one weakness in the theatre is choreography. Every time I did a musical in college, it would take me forever to finally get the choreography for a song down, and even then I was never quite perfect. Now I was to coach a group of 9 to 12 year olds on choreography? God has got a sick sense of humor. Secondly, since I was under the impression that I would be assisting someone else, I wasn’t really comfortable running things. Like I said, I hadn’t even heard of human video until the music director approached me. Finally, I’ve had a little bit of experience in dealing with children through my work as an adult leader in the Boy Scouts, but I was more of a resource and chaperone instead of someone who actually ran anything. So, as you can see, things quickly got out of hand.

Still, I decided that since I had said that I would do it, I would stick through and finish. Our first production needed to be done on Easter Sunday, so I gave myself plenty of time to get the crew into shape, considering that I was new to human video and they were new to human video as well. Of course, you can’t start a group without a good name, so I began to think of what we would call ourselves. Most of the names I had seen for groups were clever and reminded me of the naming convention of Homer’s Barbershop Quartet from The Simpsons: It should be witty initially, but should become less funny each time you hear it. That’s when the name “Cross Product” came to me. I thought it was clever on a few levels (we’re all a product of the cross, we’re doing this production for the cross, etc. etc. etc.) and it gave me an opportunity to be an absolute nerd. With name in hand, we started rehearsals.

To be honest, by the first rehearsal, I had no idea what I was going to do. I knew that they would be performing the song “End of the Beginning”; but past that, I really had no idea what I was doing (as previously hinted to). I managed to work my way through the first rehearsal, getting a gauge of the talent of the ten children I’d be working with and introducing them to the idea of human videos. I ran this first rehearsal absolutely alone, which I wasn’t really comfortable with on a variety of levels, the least of which was trying to control ten 9 to 12 year olds who are not my direct offspring. Needless to say, I was frazzled and readily welcomed the assistance of one of the parents for the remainder of the rehearsals. As a director, I can’t keep the kids in check and teach them choreography at the same time, so the addition of a disciplinarian definitely helped.

With the introductions out of the way, I had to think of a plan if I wanted this to be a success. I had seen a few different versions on YouTube of the song we were doing, but none of them really possessed all that I wanted to show. It was at this point that I decided to make an entirely original arrangement. Now, trying to teach one kid choreography is one thing, but ten kids simultaneously and in concert with each other is something completely different. So, as I usually do, I fell back on my engineering background. Taking the lyrics a line at a time, I created a spreadsheet that detailed the entirety of the motions of each participant. All said and done, this spreadsheet took up six 8.5” X 11” sheets of paper. Intimidating when you look at it, but it definitely helped me to visualize where everyone was at every part of the song, like little chess pieces that I could move around and control at my will. Part of the reason I made what was dubbed “The Epic Spreadsheet” was so that I could coordinate all the moving pieces, but the more important reason was so that the children would have a script of what they would be doing.

If I learned anything from doing theatre in college, it’s that rehearsals are only productive when everyone is present and everyone knows what to say and do. Juggling the schedules of ten different kids is challenge enough without also having to make sure that my rehearsals didn’t conflict with something else at the church. As such, I figured that if some of the kids missed a rehearsal or two, then they could use the spreadsheet to practice at home. Ideally, this is how it should work even when they do come to rehearsals. As we neared the end of the eight weeks that I had given myself to teach these kids this particular human video, I was nervous because some of the kids had been missing for the majority of the rehearsals. A clock can only work if all its pieces are present and know what to do, if you know what I mean.

The Saturday before Easter Sunday was our dress rehearsal and at that point each of the ten kids had been to at least two rehearsals. I was justifiably nervous. Now, another aspect that I haven’t made clear here was that I would not be out in the audience directing the kids with hand motions. I would be in the choir singing the song that they would be performing. As such, I needed to make sure that the kids could do the choreography without me coaching from the shadows. My perfectionist nature definitely pushed them to execute flawlessly, which I had not seen up to that point. I kept telling myself that it was “passable, but not perfect.”

The next day it was out of my hands. I had done all that I could to teach these kids this human video. From tips about stage presence, the fourth wall of the audience, keeping in character and the “quarter rule” to the actual motions themselves, I had spent the equivalent of two full working days with these kids preparing them for this one-time performance. And, of course, as is the case with every performance, they pulled it off flawlessly. I really wish I had been able to see it like that before they got up there and did it for the whole congregation, but that is the nature of the beast that we call theatre.

Now, during the eight weeks, I learned that there were some in the congregation who had actually had training in human video. Reasonably, I am still questioning why they were not used to direct this group, instead of the choice of a complete neophyte. And yet, after bonding with these kids for eight weeks, I wasn’t going to let this group fade away. We put in too much work to just end it. Now the initial learning curve was out of the way and we could quickly pull together another human video. After a few weeks of a well deserved break, we got back to work on our next production. This time I have an assistant director, a choice that should become apparent to a lot of people in the near future.

Even though the project wasn’t quite what I had anticipated, I stuck to it and have definitely reaped some immediate rewards, along with those that will be waiting in heaven. Sure, there are some things that I would like to change (more parental involvement/commitment would be nice as a start), but I’ll just keep plugging along doing what I can.

Well, this post got kind of long, so I’ll save the next two creative endeavors for next time. See you then!

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PlaylisTinkering

When I bought my first car about two years ago, I was excited to finally have a car to myself. I really have no complaints about it, with the exception of one thing: the CD player. If I had gotten a car that was older or newer, I would have gotten a tape deck or an additional auxiliary input, respectively. As it is, I cannot just plug my mp3 player into the car stereo and listen to my music. I’m too cheap and lazy to upgrade the CD player, and I’ve found the local radio stations to be banal at best. As a result, I’ve burned a bunch of CDs to play in my car. In doing so, I’ve come across something interesting.

Of course, when burning CD-Rs, I am one of those people who will get as close to that 80 minute cut-off mark as they can. I feel that anything short of that is just wasted space. When I started burning discs for my car, I would find artists that either had an album and an EP, or two shorter albums and I would put one right after the other on one disc. I was surprised at how many discs ended up being the entire discography of a band on one 80 minute CD-R. This worked for quite a few of my favorite bands and I was able to quickly fill my car with music from a variety of musicians.

As I continued, there were a few artists that didn’t quite fit into the 80 minute limit. This is where some judgment came into play. I’d try and keep as much of the albums as I could on the CD, only omitting one or two songs that pushed the total time over the edge. These were usually songs that I didn’t particularly care for anyways, so there was no real loss.

Then came the challenge of artists that I enjoy, but have far too much material to easily filter down to a set that would fit within the boundaries. At first, I would do the same filtering process as before, but this time I would be looking for the songs that I really enjoyed, instead of merely removing the songs that I didn’t care for. I burned a few of these, but I was not very creative in the ordering of the songs. I chose an alphabetical order, mainly for convenience, but also because I figured I would listen to these discs on a shuffling, or random, mode.

As I’m sure my brother already knows, with the two compilations of music from Colorado musicians he’s already made, creating the perfect mix-tape is more of an art than merely choosing what music you want to listen to. I now have an appreciation for this art as well. For example’s sake, let’s take a hypothetical CD I would burn for a CD player alarm clock (of which I do not actually own):

1. “Morgenstimmung (Morning Mood)” by Edvard Grieg from Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46
2.  “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles from Abbey Road
3. “Good Morning Good Morning” by The Beatles from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
4.  “Good Day Sunshine” by The Beatles from Revolver
5.  “Good Morning Starshine” by Strawberry Alarm Clock from Incense and Peppermints
6.  “Blue Morning, Blue Day” by Foreigner from Complete Greatest Hits
7.  “Alarm Clock” by The W’s from Fourth From the Last
8.  “Woke Up This Morning” by A3 from The Sopranos
9.  “Pachuca Sunrise” by Minus the Bear from Menos el Oso
10. “Sunday Sun” by The Cinematics from A Strange Education
11. “A Day in the Life” by The Beatles from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely hearts Club Band

For this example, I followed the concept of free association. That is, expanding a subject by including the first words and phrases that pop into your head. In doing so, I have expanded my initial idea of “alarm clock” to include “morning/good morning”, “sun/sunshine/sunrise”, and “day”. Strangely enough, a lot of these tracks are songs by The Beatles, of which I have absolutely no qualms. Still, this is only one aspect of creating a mix. This isn’t really any different than what I was doing with the musicians that I had too much material from. This next example goes into the flow of a mix:

1.    Theme from New York, New York
2.    My Kind of Town
3.    South of the Border
4.    Fly Me to the Moon
5.    All or Nothing at All
6.    Nice ‘N’ Easy
7.    The Best is Yet to Come
8.    I’ve Got the World on a String
9.    You Make Me Feel so Young
10.  I Get a Kick Out of You
11.  I’ve Got You Under My Skin
12.  Luck Be a Lady
13.  The Lady is a Tramp
14.  Love and Marriage
15.  (Love Is) The Tender Trap
16.  Witchcraft
17.  Learnin’ the Blues
18.  Night and Day
19.  The Way You Look Tonight
20.  Strangers in the Night
21.  In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning
22.  It Was a Very Good Year
23.  The Last Dance
24.  My Way

This example was created by selecting the songs by Frank Sinatra that I liked. Once I had the total time underneath the 80 minute threshold, I started moving tracks around. Most songs on this list fall into pretty clear-cut categories, so I tried to group the songs together based on their subject matter. Once that was accomplished, I would move whole chunks of songs around to get the desired flow. Right off the bat, I wanted the songs revolving around the night to finish off the mix, so I set those at the end. From there, I wanted to start the mix with the songs about various locales, thus cementing the start of the mix. In between there were the “women songs”, which were further split up to sub-categories. The main point with this mix was to get a good flow from one song to another based not only on lyrical content, but on tempo as well. Of course, with a lot of the songs having the “big band” sound, it was fairly easy to have a natural progression between them. Finally, this last example uses the ideas from the Sinatra mix and applies them to a variety of artists like the Morning mix did:

1.   “White Lines and Lipstick” by A Change of Pace from Prepare the Masses
2.   “Squeaking Wheels and White Lights” by This Providence from Who Are You Now?
3.   “Armistice” by MUTEMATH from Armistice
4.   “Is This Tomorrow?” by As Tall as Lions from You Can’t Take it With You
5.   “Little Kids” by Kings of Convenience from Quiet is the New Loud
6.   “Eleanor Put Your Boots On” by Franz Ferdinand from You Could Have it So Much Better
7.   “Words & Music” by Sondre Lerche from Heartbeat Radio
8.   “Boring Fountain” by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin from Pershing
9.   “Saturday Night” by Blitzen Trapper from Furr
10. “Junkie Weight” by Gooding from Tiny Heart Attacks
11. “Devil” by Cat-a-Tac from Cat-a-Tac
12. “Calling on You” by Paulson from All at Once
13. “Pachuca Sunrise” by Minus the Bear from Menos el Oso
14. “Keep Forgetting” by The Cinematics from A Strange Education
15. “This is Not the End” by The Bravery from The Sun and the Moon
16. “The Name of the Train is the Hurricane” by Men, Women & Children from Men, Women & Children
17. “Too Too Too Fast” by Ra Ra Riot from The Rhumb Line
18. “M79” by Vampire Weekend from Vampire Weekend
19. “Itch U Can’t Skratch” by Junior Senior from Hey Hey My My Yo Yo
20. “Sublime” by Supreme Beings of Leisure from Supreme Beings of Leisure
21. “The Rot” by Ian Cooke from The Fall I Fell
22. “Wake” by Annuals from Such Fun

The idea behind this last mix was to introduce someone to the variety of bands that I like. Even though I might be labeled a hipster for the lack of mainstream music on this mix, I do feel that it is a gateway for people to discover some pretty great musicians that they might not have known about otherwise. As such, I spent a very large amount of time picking out the tracks for this mix. There was a lot of back and forth to try and get it just right, and now I believe I have arrived at something that I will enjoy listening to.

One aspect that I found helps with mixes like this is the way that songs begin and end. Getting a good flow of tempos is good, and even progressing through different musical styles lends itself well to a good mix, but what really gets songs stuck together is if one starts in the same way that the previous one ended. For instance, if there is a fade out on the last song, then if the next song started with a fade in, it just naturally fits together.

What I’ve found through making these mixes, is that the truly good mixes make it so that when you listen to the songs away from the compilation, the next song from the mix automatically will come to mind when the song is done playing. I am by no means an expert on this subject, but these have been my thoughts on creating a good mix. Consider this post to be tips from a music enthusiast, and nothing more than that.

ResolutionarYeaRedux

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

– Jeremiah 29:11

A new year full of golden opportunities

Once again, the new year is upon us and it’s time to assess how we did on our resolutions for 2010 and to develop our goals for 2011. Let’s see how I did last year:

–          Staying in one place: Partial – I spent a lot of time in Maryland, and I ended up moving out of my apartment into another one. At least it was an apartment in the same complex.
–          Bad habits: Failed – only lasted about a month.
–          Dentist and Doctor: Failed – still pending on actually visiting the dentist, and haven’t really looked for a doctor either.
–          Working out & constant weight: Accomplished – only had a 1% gain, but considering the circumstances, that’s pretty good. Plus, it’s probably muscle weight anyways . . . from working out.
–          Cooking: Success – plus many other social benefits.
–          Reading: Accomplished – a book a week is pretty good, but there’s still some left to read.
–          Movies: Accomplished – still have a few more to watch from my collection, but I did manage to finish watching all the Best Pictures.
–          NaNoWriMo: Success – not only did I complete the challenge, I took a little extra effort to complete the novel.
–          Prayer: Accomplished – although not as much in my personal life as I would have liked, I have found myself in more opportunities in which to participate in prayer than in years past.

So, on average, a successful year. Despite some emotional turmoil at the beginning of last year, I managed to work through it and pull myself up to a new high. 2010 was really about finding myself. It was trying to figure out who I was, what I believed, and what I could do. The time up in Maryland was kind of like going into the wilderness for a vision quest (or some similar activity). I spent a lot of time alone, thinking and diving deep into my inner self.

But that was last year. Last year was laying a foundation for this year. Now that I’ve figured out what I’m about, it’s time to take this year and really reinforce the new life. It’s time to develop roots, but also to still take time to grow. I think that one of the best results of the resolutions I had last year was that they gave me goals to strive for. I’m a very goal-oriented person, so once I set my mind to something, I’ll usually finish what I start. The resolutions for 2010 were a good balance of tasks to develop many aspects of my life; to remain well rounded. Also, the resolutions were attainable and realistic. It always feels better when you can accomplish a goal, but also know that there was a challenge to it.

Now, on to 2011. I turn 26 this year, and I think that 26 is a good number to use for many of the following goals. It’s a week in, but here are the 11 resolutions I’ve come up with to work on for this year:

1.       Bad habits – same deal as last year. They’ll continue to make the list until I stop. A lot of them are ingrained on my subconscious, so it’ll be a challenge to break them. However, I have heard that it usually takes about 28 days to break (or gain) habits, so February may be the month I really sit down and work at breaking them.
2.       Health – Now that I’m not travelling so much, I will probably take some time to finally visit a dentist and to find a doctor. As usual, I will continue to work out at least twice a week, in the hopes that I might be able to lose the 1% of my weight that I gained last year. I think that my 2010 baseline was a good spot to be (even if it is a little heavy), so I’m going to aim for that baseline.
3.       Softball – Once again, my lack of extended travel means that I can get involved in activities like recreational softball. I really enjoyed playing in the one game that I had the chance to participate in last summer, so I hope that the team starts up again this year so that I can join its ranks and really get in shape.
4.       ‘Splorin’ – There’s a few places in Alabama that I just haven’t gotten around to visiting yet, and this year I’d like to do so. One of the places I’d like to visit is Cathedral Caverns state park. I passed by the sign for this so many times that my interest has been piqued. I’d also like to visit the high-point of Alabama (such as it is) so that I can claim another state’s highest altitude. I might even make it down to the Gulf of Mexico if I can put forth enough planning.
5.       Cooking – Now that I am well versed in the culinary world, it’s time to expand the repertoire. I’m not going to go quite as crazy as I did last year and demand 52 different recipes, but I am still going to hold myself to something. I figure that I can cook 26 new recipes this year. Now these will be recipes that I have not had before, so that’s where the challenge will come in. I already know that I can cook what I’m familiar with, so it’s time to branch out. Also, I’ll probably still have the dinner parties from time to time, as they were excellent ways to socialize on my turf.
6.       Reading – Once again, I don’t think I’m going to read 52 books this year, but 26 is still a good place to start. Now that I’ve stopped buying new books, this goal will definitely get me close to having read every book I own.
7.       Movies – I definitely know I can finish watching the DVDs (and Blu-Rays) from my collection that I have not seen yet, so that will be my goal. Right now, that’s about 26 movies. Depending on what wins Best Picture this year, I may or may not have to watch that film as well. However, I do not have any particular list that I am looking to complete this year.
8.       Videos – I no longer have an excuse. Now that I own a HD camcorder, and now that I have an upgraded computer, it’s time to get back into making videos. I’ve been on about a two to three year hiatus, and I’m really looking forward to getting back into this. Expect new videos to start appearing by the end of January.
9.       Writing – As it stands right now, I will not participate in National Novel Writing Month this year. However, the novel that I wrote last year will go through the editing and revising process starting in March. I’ve already got some of my friends working on notes for the first draft, and I have many areas that I know need work. At the very least, I want it passable by the middle of the summer, so that I can get my free proof copy published through CreateSpace (an Amazon subsidiary).
10.   Music – I started teaching myself how to play the piano last year, and so far it’s gone pretty well. I now can read sheet music, albeit somewhat slow. By the end of the year, I would like to know how to play 26 more songs on top of the 20 or so that I already know. I still enjoy the learning process, so I hope that trend continues. Also, having participated in the choir at my church for a full year now, I feel that it is time to step up into a role of more responsibility and leadership. Starting this year, I will be singing on the front line, and I look forward to developing my ministry.
11.   Relationships – Partly due to my constant travel last year, I did not actively pursue the search for a girlfriend. I was somewhat passively looking, but I didn’t go out of my way to try and find new venues for opportunities to meet single women. Also, from the soul searching of last year, I now have a better understanding of myself, and what I am looking for in a potential wife. This year I will provide myself with these opportunities. One of the best words of advice that I was given last year was, “Draw nearer to God, so that when she’s looking for you, she’ll have to look to Him first in order to find you.” I know this resolution is a little vague, but the point here is that now I’ll actually put some effort forth. And yet, such as it is,  I am definitely open to any local suggestions.

All said and done, a lot of the same resolutions, but also some new ones to start branching out my skill set. I hope to do a better job of updating this blog this year, and hopefully these resolutions and adventures will help me to post something more than just once a month.

Lastly, for the Christmas musical last year, Jeremiah 29:11 was the only solo line that I had. I don’t know if the director purposely gave me that verse, or if it was merely by chance, but it’s definitely a word that has gotten me through 2010. Now that 2011 has started, I’m going to declare the LORD’s plan over my life. I know that He wants me to prosper and I know that He knows my future, so I’m just going to have to put my trust in Him to make it happen.

MonumenTwilight

Panorama of the Mall

Washington Monument at night

Well, it only took a reservation months in advance, but I finally managed to get inside the Washington Monument. An exciting moment, to say the least. There were definitely some facts about the monument that I was unaware of. For instance, I did not know that when it was built it was the tallest structure in the world. I also did not know it was actually built in two sections. The first section was built and construction was abandoned when it was about 1/3 done. Of course, this was during the Civil War, so I can see how the nation would have more important things to do at the time. It wasn’t until years later that it was finally completed. If you look closely at the outside, you can see the difference between the first section and the second section. It’s even more obvious once you’re inside it, riding in the elevator. Additionally, I did not know that there were commemorative stones set inside the monument from various states and foreign countries. Lots of interesting information that made the wait and the trip down to Washington DC worth it.

Day

When I was finished with my tour, I walked out of the monument and heard the sounds of an orchestra playing some classical music. Adjacent to the Washington Monument is a stage where the President’s own Marine Corps band was holding a concert. I lay on the grass and listened to the performance. It had been quite a while since I had listened to some live classical music, so it was an enjoyable and nostalgic experience. Looking up at the sky, I watched the clouds go by and took the time to really relax. Since this has been my first summer in which I have been working and not just taking a break from school, I hadn’t really felt that I had given myself any of the simple pleasures of the season. Just letting time go by without a care fulfilled that need splendidly.

and Night

Even if I didn’t purposely plan my visit to the Washington Monument to be at sunset, I was definitely glad that it was. During my first visit to Washington D.C. in 8th grade, our group visited the monuments and memorials of the Mall at night, and it definitely left an impression on me. Sure, the architectures of these icons of our nation’s capitol are nice to look at during the day, but when the sun sets and the monuments get to control the light they are bathed in, their true beauty comes out. If I were to suggest any activity to someone visiting Washington D.C., it would have to be to visit the monuments and memorials at night. The pictures that I took don’t even come close to scratching the surface of the experience. Perhaps one of the most beautiful memorials would have to be the World War II memorial. I was even able to recreate some

of my previous pictures of the memorial with the lighting change being the only difference. Water plays a huge part in this memorial, so when the twilight descended, the lighting of the memorial utilized the water to splendid results.

Reflecting Pool at sunset

Lastly, the final lighting display that I enjoyed also happened to be another pleasure of the summer season. As I sauntered through the park,  making my way back to the Metro station, the fireflies were out in full force. Having lived the majority of my life in Colorado, which is not a climate that encourages fireflies, I always find that I enjoy watching and being surrounded by these insects. I think the fact that they can provide light like they do is what intrigues me about them. For me, they definitely convey memories of summers with grandparents in Kansas City, which was my only exposure to fireflies while growing up. I’m not sure if there’s just a time of summer that they come out, but when I came back to Alabama the next day, I noticed the fireflies here as well. Not nearly to the density that I experienced in D.C., but still enjoyable none-the-less.

Walking through the dark of the evening, the warmth of the atmosphere being comfortable and not overbearingly hot, I remembered why I like walking at night. There is a serenity and calm that is encompassed by the combination of the elements of the night. The hectic and frantic pace of the day winds down and goes to sleep in those twilight hours, and it is in this rest that peace can be found.

LyricaLife

In my short life, there has been one particular album that has been the source of my strength through the dark times in my life. It has also been around in the good, and perhaps the instigator of drastic change. This was the band that my now ex-girlfriend and I tried to see in concert once, which was unfortunately sold out as we approached the venue and was the same band that we were going to see the day that she broke up with me. It’s interesting to me how I essentially ran across this album completely by accident. Still, it was encouraging to find a band that had an album that wasn’t categorized underneath “Gospel”, but still had a strong Christian message. When driving back from one of my ventures up to Maryland, I decided to put this album on, knowing full well that I still haven’t been able to get through it without weeping. This time I wept (as I knew I would), but only because I paid close attention to the lyrics as they were laid out in front of me, reflecting my life of late. Below, you will find the transcribed lyrics of this album (along with some editing done by yours truly). I’ve added some notes to give background to why each song is important, and where it gets its Biblical message. I realize that this is a longer post than usual, but just hang with it for my sake. With out further ado, the self-titled album by the band “This Providence”:

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
You’re throwing everything you have at me. Cheap shots, low blows. Will you ever let it go? You’re so pathetic, give it a rest. You’re not going to win. You’re never going to win. You love the sound of your own voice and the crown of death upon your head. You in all your royalty only adds to infamy. You’re going to taste my fist. You’re so good at stretching the truth into a sugar-coated lie. Everyone takes a bite. I have been dining with the enemy. It was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Now it’s so clear to me. I’ve had enough of your games. If you’re not trembling, you better be; because I’m gonna be the end of you. I’ve had enough of your games. I’m gonna show them who you really are. And I can tell you right now, it won’t be pretty. You say, “I can convince anyone anything,” provoking the anger of a jealous God. Still, you spin a web of lies, fear, lust, pride, greed and shame. You say no one escapes the pain. I’m a coward not a fighter, disguised as a lover. For so long now you’ve held me down, but it’s not going to last, because I can see right through your beautiful lies (and those eyes for that matter).
This song speaks of the Devil’s influence on society, and its implications of trying to live a Christian life in spite of it. There are so many issues that the media today has labeled as “good” and “OK”, which are not what the Bible says about them. Even so, it is a constant struggle to try and fight against this influence.

Card House Dreamer
My world is falling apart. I was a fool, I never saw it coming. My life is like a card house; a delicate construction with no regard for the wind. Everybody’s changing, and I don’t know how much more I can take. I thought I had everything under control. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I thought I held my world in my hands until it broke and I awoke from this foolish dream. I put so much of myself in everything else. It was a dream come seemingly true. Torn at the seams revealing a nightmare. I thought I held my world in my hands until it broke my heart. Everything I loved had changed. Coffee and cigarettes can’t save me. No, it’s a hope where there’s no change of a hope in the world that I’m hoping for. Everything I loved was flawed.
Once again, this song highlights a constant struggle in my life. The struggle of control. When I feel like everything is just starting to go my way, God comes in and shows me that I’m headed in the wrong direction. It hurts when this happens, but it’s needed in order to start again with a correct heading.

Secret Love and the Fastest Way to Loneliness
She puts on a pretty dress and wears it all over town. Says, “I can give you what you want; escape from the pain. My bed’s already made.” Well I was searching for something but didn’t know what; and I found a whore on the corner of her street. She wrapped her arms around me and she kissed me on the mouth and said, “There’s more where that came from.” Like a lamb to the slaughter I followed her home. Into bed with a stranger. No one has to know. Stay away! Stay away! She wants your soul. She’ll take your life. It’s all secret love and the fastest way to loneliness. I can’t get enough, but my soul is rotting. What have I become? I can hear the screams of her earlier victims so clearly now. With a shake of my face I awoke and saw my fate: all alone in the darkness, chained to the Devil’s gate. I hear the beautiful voice of wisdom. Her words are sweet like honey and sour to my stomach. Joined by the angels, she sings, “Get on your feet. Come dine with me in heavenly places where you can here the angels sing.” It’s all secret love and a slippery road to hell.
This song mirrors the first part of the book of Proverbs (particularly chapter 5). I’m sure that any men reading this can relate with me in the constant struggle with lust in this world. The challenge is especially great when one is in a relationship with a woman before marriage. Once again, the society that we live in bombards us with sex, so the only way that we can “dine in heavenly places where you can hear the angels sing” is to embrace wisdom in our lives.

My Beautiful Rescue
I’ve been jumping from the tops of buildings. For the thrill of the fall. Ignoring sound advice and any thought of consequence. My bones are shattered. My pride is shattered. In the midst of this self-inflicted pain, I can see my beautiful rescue. I’m falling more in love with every single word I withhold. I’m falling more in love with every single word You say. I’m falling head-over heels for You. I’ve been dancing on the tops of buildings. At the top of my lungs I’m singing You a song. Don’t You leave me alone. My bones were shattered. My pride lays shattered. Well I’ll trample my pride and tell the whole world to dance with me. I’m falling head-over heels for You again. I’m crying out. “Wash my hands, these bloody hands, Lord. Open my mouth and I’ll sing.” I’ve been dancing on the tops of buildings with You.
This song held a special significance for me during my relationship; but now that I’ve had to move on, all it takes is a simple change of subject. I’ve edited these lyrics to capitalize certain pronouns to make it a prayer to God, instead of a romantic poem. If anyone knows that I ignored sound advice, it’s between me, Him and those who gave the advice. I take solace in knowing that only He can save me from the messes I make.

Losing Control
I can hear their song from miles away. It’s carried in the wind. Its melody is sung to me in miracles; the sun rises over the sea. When I hear their love song, I don’t understand. From out beyond the shadows I can hear it calling me. Honestly, if I’m honest with myself. I’ve cried myself to sleep. Crying out, “Oh God, where are you? Can You hear my scream way up there, through the clouds, in heaven? Do You even care?” I hate the song they sing. It’s like salt on an open wound. But I can’t get it out of my head.” This melody kills me. It’s out of key and foolish, but I think I might just like it. If I could just get past my pride. I turn my head and look away because You know it hurts to see the light of day. The whole world hates You, the whole world hates Your song. Oh God, I’m a sinner and I think I wanna sing along. Heaven’s not so far away. I can hear its melody from here in the waiting room of hell. I can hear its melody calling me home. And honestly, if I’m honest with myself. I’ve cried myself to sleep. Crying out, “Oh God I need You.” Well this melody heals my wounds and I can’t get it out of my head.
This song is a little more specific to the time of my depression earlier this year. When you’re single and seeing everyone else finding happiness (“When I hear their love song, I don’t understand” – see WinteReflections [‘inverse schadenfreude’]), you tend to cry out to God, asking Him to send someone to fill the wound in your heart. At least, that’s my experience of it.

…But What Will They Say?
Oh God, I’m afraid. What will people say? What will they say? Well some days I couldn’t care less and others I’m scared half to death. I don’t want to work so hard just to have a heart attack. Throw my hands in the air as if it really matters what they say. Can I just be myself? Well I won’t forfeit my soul for a pretty penny. [Matthew 16:26] Are you listening? Do I make myself clear? I’ll drive so far. From one town to the next. I’ve got something to say. Is anybody listening? Does anybody care? Yeah I’ve got something to say. I don’t want to drive so hard just to get it off my chest. No I won’t play the fool for you. No, I can’t play the fool. I’ve just got too much to say.
I know that in the past, I didn’t usually discuss my faith, because I was around people who I figured were Christian (this was back in High School). Now that I’m in the real world, I need to be more open about my faith and not care what anyone else thinks of me and what I believe.

Anything is Possible [Matthew 19:26]
I could run away from everything I know. I know I shouldn’t feel this way, because really, I have to get away from me. Is there any hope for a boy like me? Is there any hope for me? There’s got to be. Well, I can hear You say, “Anything is possible.” But my life is such a mess and we’ve already been through this. And though we’ve been here before, anything is possible. So many years all alone in the dark. Well, it’s time to get out. I danced away countless nights with demons out of sight and I took to their foolish games. But really, I’ve got to get myself out of this scene. I’m so ready to be free. I’m hoping on an overwhelming grace. I’m praying for this dream to come true. And yes, I’m a mess. I’m lonely and dirty, but it’s time to get out.
I just have to keep reminding myself that through no power of my own can I do anything. Get through anything. Only through His power can I conquer what life has to throw at me.

The Road to Jericho is Lined with Starving People [Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-37]
There’s a man on the side of the road to Jericho, left for dead. People passing by just turn their head. He needs a friend. We could all use a little more loving, couldn’t we? So come on, love. Give your love away with me. Hold nothing back, like you’ve nothing to lose. Love with all you have, like you don’t have a clue what it’s costing you. There’s a man on his way to a church who avoids the eyes of a dying soul. He just turns his head. There’s a child on the side of the road to Jericho who needs a friend. If loving were easy, it wouldn’t be love. Will you give your love away? I’m going to give away love.
It is true that we need to love like we’ve got nothing to lose. Unfortunately, if you do lose something that you had taught yourself to love, it doesn’t end well.

Walking on Water [Matthew 14:33-36 Mark 6:45-51; John 6:15-21]
Who would I be? Where would I be going if I didn’t have You to shake my face? Why do You care? Why do You care so much? Your love’s such a stretch for my faith. You don’t let go easily. No, You hold onto me tight and it’s just what I need to get me through this storm tonight. I don’t have to be afraid of the wind, and that’s good to know, because I’ve heard it all before. But I’m walking on water now, in the midst of a storm. My life fell apart and You were right there. The fire turned my whims into smoke. I choke on Your words that somehow make sense and I dance with a joy only found in the pain. I don’t have to be afraid of this sinking ship, and that’s good to know, because I’ve heard it all before. Take me away to a heavenly place. Rescue me my love, my saving grace. But I’m walking on water now and I’m singing in the rain. Well, that’s a joy I’ve never known, because I’ve heard it all before; but I’m walking on water now.
Once again, referring to the storms in my life and my need to rely on Christ to get me through it.

An Ocean Between
I find myself so tangled up in all of our ideals. We could run away, get a job in a small town on the beach. We can dream but I can’t stay. It’s a small world, but I’ll still sail much too far away. Could it be, it was destiny? You and me, an ocean between? I find myself in a bit of a mess. Life just isn’t fair, is it? I miss the years when we were young, innocent and so naive. Pride burns like wildfire. Smell the smoke rising. It’s the anthem of hell. In your eyes I saw a hope. Where you wrote us off as Pharisees. You were so relieved. Don’t listen to anything these demons have to say. We’re older now and it’s time to grow up. Breathe in, breathe out. Throw yourself in the sea (it’s so much bigger than us). Don’t listen to anything they have to say. We’re older now and it’s time to grow up.
This song speaks more to the situation my ex and I had in regards to our long distance relationship. I’m sure that if I declined the job I currently have in order to try and find a more local job so that I could stay closer to her, it would have ended the same way eventually and I would have been out an incredible opportunity.

The Pursuit of Happiness – The First Movement [Matthew 8:18-22; Luke 9:57-60]
In the heat of another busy day he said, “What on Earth am I doing here anyway? I’ve spent all my attention on the world and its distractions. I’ve no time for reflection. No, I just go, go go. It’s just go, go go.” In the heat of a conversation it was said, “I’ve got all these good intentions. I just don’t have time.” We all wish for more and more hours in a day, but I think it’s safe to say we just need to breathe and slow down. Slow down and ask yourself right now. Slow down, you’re falling asleep in traffic. Slow down, you’re losing your soul. Slow down, where are you taking yourself now? I just want to be happy, but I can’t quench my thirst, I’m always missing something. Maybe I just need more, or maybe I should just breathe and slow down. When I fall asleep, I dream of happiness in numbers and dollar signs. And when I awake, it’s only one prize away. I’ve never known anything else.
I think one of the reasons I decided to drive to Maryland instead of flying (other than saving the Taxpayers some money, and myself some stress with trying to pack 3 weeks worth of supplies into airplane-ready bags) was so that I could take some time to just slow down and breathe for just a moment.

The Pursuit of Happiness – The 2nd Movement [Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-30; Luke 18:18-30]
I know the secret to your happiness. Take a deep breath, there’s only one way. Give all you have away. Well you’ve wasted so much time trying to buy what you can’t buy (you can’t buy happiness). And if I really want to live, I’m going to have to let it go, I’m going to have to give it all. Oh God, it hurts, but when I count the cost, it all seems worth it all. God it’s a fight and I might just let it all go. The only thing that I’ve been feeding  is my American dream, but it’s never satisfied. We’re all overweight and comfortable, but I saw a need on my big screen TV. It shook me and questioned my integrity, and it called me to be more than I’d ever dreamed. It called me to give my whole life. Well, that’s what I’m going to do.
This is a bit more of a struggle for me now that I have a well paying job. Now that money is in comfortable supply, I’ve been spending a lot of it to fill up certain holes in my life.

Well, that 12 track album about sums up my life right now (and in words better than I could ever use to explain it). Thanks for reading through it and through my source of inspiration and strength in times of distress.

iPoDC

Washington Monument

Reflection of the Washington Monument

If there’s any one time or one place that photographers should flock to, it would be when the cherry blossoms bloom in Washington DC. Because of my current work location, I have been given the sublime opportunity to go to one of the many Mecca of photography. The only thing that I can relate these blooming trees to is after a snowstorm, when the trees are frocked with snow. They’re so beautiful that they almost look artificial. Honestly, it was quite a sight, and I’m glad that the sun came out when I was half-way done with my day there. I told myself that I was going to go on this photography adventure for only as long as I had space on my camera or batteries to power it. It turns out that the batteries won.

Just to be clear here, the cherry blossoms in DC are not all over the place, they are only in a few select areas. However, once you get in the thick of these blooming trees, it is quite the magical experience. The best place to see them is through the FDR memorial and up to the Jefferson Memorial. Actually, it was kind of funny going back to the Jefferson Memorial, after my family (years ago) seemed to have such a hard time figuring out how to get there. Funny because I followed the signs and didn’t have to cross underneath the interstate. I can see why the cherry blossoms blooming is such a popular event. And what popularity, indeed! I have never seen an area so teeming with people, with the exception of sporting events and amusement parks. I’m just glad that I went to the museums the last time I was in the area, because I’m sure they would have been packed. I was also glad that I had been to DC on my last trip up to Maryland, because I wrote down instructions to get to the metro (Google gave me different directions this time, which was kind of weird), and ended up forgetting the instructions in my room. Luckily, I just said, “Forget it, I can figure it out.” And I did.

DC Walking Route

Here's the entirety of my walking journey (red=out, green=back)

This trip down to DC also gave me the opportunity to see some of the memorials that I hadn’t seen in years past. Memorials like the World War II memorial, which was a pretty neat monument, especially with all the water effects. In fact, there was a large group of veterans there when I came back on my walking loop. Unfortunately, the Washington Monument still remains a mystery to me, as tickets for this time of year are sold out months in advance. Maybe if I plan ahead enough, I might be able to make it up there someday. I also was unable to see the White House, since apparently something important was going on and they were not letting pedestrians pass by. Even so, I did manage to see the President’s helicopters fly by while I was down there. Another memorial that I saw while I was in the area was the Boy Scout Memorial. An interesting statue and fountain, but it was fenced off for what I can only assume would be to protect the grass.

Now it is time to explain the title of this post. I recently broke down and bought an iPod touch. For years of resisting the Apple Corporation, I finally gave in merely due to the fact that I could get an mp3 player that had enough storage for all of my music. Well, not quite all my music (that’s over 500 CDs, in case you had forgotten), but enough of it that I wouldn’t have to compromise for the sake of space. Since I was down in DC alone, I figured I might as well bring my music along to listen to while I photographed.

It’s interesting how having my music collection playing on shuffle mode can sometimes give the right mood for the situation. For instance, walking among some of the war memorials, a Piano concerto happened to come on that seemed to mourn for those who died for our freedom. Much of my music is from motion picture scores, which makes walking around in a city like DC more dramatic. When I first got out of the metro station, the prologue to West Side Story came on, and I couldn’t help but snap my fingers along with the music as I walked down the street. What made me feel like I was in a movie the most was when I was trying to get through the crowd of people in front of the White House so that I could snap a few pictures. At this point, one of the songs from one of the Bourne movie soundtracks came on, and I felt like a spy evading the government by walking right past it. I did learn that with my armband case, I need to turn off the “shuffle when shook” feature. Apparently I move my arms around a lot when I walk. It makes sense, since I do walk rather quickly; weaving in and out of the stream of people.

During my walking tour, I sat down on a bench on the Mall and called home. I’ve come into the habit of calling home whenever I’m out traveling, just so I can say, “Guess where I am?” By the end of the day, I had gotten too much sun, which I had figured would happen anyways. I also realized something that I need to look for in a potential wife. I need someone who wants their picture taken. Now I can see why some guys date supermodels (or even regular models). The majority of my pictures are taken with no human subjects in them. They’re mainly trees and monuments. If I had a subject that I could photograph, I think it would make my portfolio that much more diverse than it already is. I suppose this is just one more attribute I’ve got to add to my list.

MusiCatalog

I’m not sure what it is about music, but I’ve come to associate certain bands or albums to sections of my life. Perhaps it’s a coping mechanism for me to get through some tough times in my life. Perhaps it’s a band that I really like and I just happened to listen to them a lot. Whatever the reason, I can’t deny that music is a part of my life. In fact, here’s a simple time-line of my life, represented in music:

– Birth to Elementary School: “Sabre Dance” – This movement of the final act of Aram Khachaturian’s ballet, “Gayane”, was what my family lovingly called “The Run Around Song”. This was the song that my parents would put on, or my dad would play on the piano while three high-energy boys ran around the house. I suppose it was a great outlet for our unending energy at that stage in life. All I know is that it was a lot of fun.

– Elementary School: Christian Rock – Before the time of CD players or mp3 players in cars, there were cassette tapes. At this point in my life, there were three bands that we listened to constantly while driving to and from school, or just driving around in general. Newsboys had “Going Public”. Audio Adrenaline had “Don’t Censor Me”. PFR had “Great Lengths”. I always associate these albums with this stage of my life, because we played these albums ad-nauseum.

– Junior High: “Speechless” – Still in the vein of Christian Rock, this album by Steven Curtis Chapman was probably one of my first CDs that I ever owned. As such, I still stuck to listening to this album constantly, also because it was the album that we listened to while driving to our Junior High basketball games. I’m not sure how much Mrs. Moe realizes how this album really effected me, because I still associate it with Junior High to this day.

– High School: Ska – This stage is a little more difficult to categorize, since there was a lot that I listened to at this point. I suppose that the two bands that I most associate with High School would be Five Iron Frenzy and The Aquabats!. Both bands have a distinctively Ska sound, and I was introduced to both of these bands around this same time.

– College (the Early Years): Motion Picture Scores – This stage actually started near the end of High School, but it wasn’t until I got my own computer and an internet connection faster than dial-up that this phase really took off. With the internet at my disposal, I found a lot of music that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about. Some people question my obsession with Motion Picture Scores, to which I point out that it’s essentially my generation’s version of classical music.

– College (the Later Years): “This Providence” – If there was one album out there that helped me through one of the most difficult times in my life to that point, it would be the self-titled album from the band This Providence. At this point, I was rooming with a roommate that I could not stand, so my coping mechanism was to play my music loudly over my headphones, so as to drown his noise out. I came across this band because I had taken up making Anime Music Videos (AMVs) at this point, and needed a song with “Wolf” in the title. At this point, I ran across a sampler that I had gotten from my younger brother that just happened to have a track on it called A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing by This Providence. One listen, and I was hooked.

– The Relationship: Owl City – There’s just something inherently happy about Owl City that I was drawn to at this point in my life. It was upbeat, optimistic, and saccharine bubblegum pop. Something that I wouldn’t have normally listened to in the past, but my emotions definitely matched the music at the time. A funny story about finding this band: I was actually looking for a new album from one of the other artists that I have in my collection, when I came across Owl City. Quite frankly, it was the name Owl City that first caught my attention. It’s an awesome name.

– The Break-Up: “Armistice” – MUTEMATH‘s new album definitely got me through another difficult time in my life. The strange thing is that most of the lyrics from most of the songs actually apply to my life right now. I don’t necessarily like looking to deep into these things, but it’s undeniable that I can directly relate to what they are saying. Songs like “Goodbye”, “Backfire”, “Odds” and “Armistice” definitely have described my life in the last few months.

Anyways, now that you know my life’s soundtrack to this point, let me move on to the real reason I wrote this post. Recently, I decided to re-rip all of my music to my computer. Since my collection has ranged through many years of acquisition, some of the mp3s that I have are of low quality, because that was all that was available at the time. I also wanted a uniform file name system so that I could handle my music better. It took probably a week to do it, but I have completed my re-rip of the entirety of my music collection. During this endeavor, I took the time to update my spreadsheet with new information in regards to certain aspects of my music collection. If you know me, you know I love lists and I love stats. Especially for things that I am deeply involved in. So here is my music collection, by the numbers:

Data Size: 38,049,180,370 bytes (38 GB)
Albums: 498
Total Time: 26368.37 minutes (439.47 hours / 18.31 days / 2.62 weeks)
Total Tracks: 7773

Top 5 Album Counts:
1. John Williams (17 Albums)
2. James Horner / Hans Zimmer (12 Albums)
3. Danny Elfman (11 Albums)
4. “Weird Al” Yankovic (8 Albums)
5. Five Iron Frenzy / PFR (7 Albums)

Pie Charts

Showing distribution of the various Genres throughout my collection

Average Length of a Track of a particular Genre

Pie Charts (Soundtracks)

Showing distribution of the various artists throughout my soundtrack collection

For the Soundtrack pie-charts, I only chose to select the composers that had four or more albums.