Welcome

There are really only two reasons that you would be reading this. One, you know
that God is good and will always provide for those who love Him, or two, you
accidentally hit the button for the next blog. Either way, welcome! As you
have probably guessed, I am in the first category with a love and faith for the
Lord that is a source of hope and strength through this crazy world!! My family
has been blessed in so many ways that sometimes I just want to shout it from the
rooftops. I am kind of afraid of heights so blogging in the next best thing!!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Killers - The Man



Have you ever heard a song for the first time on the radio and quickly judged it to be "not your thing" and changed the channel?  Me too.  It actually happens to me all the time.  They say first impressions are everything, but I do know that the first impression can be swayed occasionally.
I have also had the opposite happen.  I love a song and then through hearing it so often, or by a closer examination of the lyrics or structure, begin to dislike it over time.
The song I want to talk about today is The Man by The Killers.




For me, my most basic reason for disliking the song initially was that it was not what I expected from them.  The only songs I know of are the ones I have heard on the radio and this certainly did not fit in with what I remembered.  Upon hearing it a second time, I began to recognize influences such as Bowie and other glam rock 80's artists, that intrigued me, allowing me to give it a second chance.  The song also brought back fond memories of listening to George Clinton, and those are always fun memories!

I think my favorite aspects of the song are the steady walking rhythm and the funky synth sounds.  Add to that the "in your face" homage to Bowie in the line about the Hall of Fame, and I now have something to get me pumped up in the car or while exercising!  I do not think that this will ever be a song I listen to on repeat, but it has grown on me.


Learning to love a piece of music?

Have you ever heard a song for the first time on the radio and quickly judged it to be "not your thing" and changed the channel?  Me too.  It actually happens to me all the time.  They say first impressions are everything, but I do know that the first impression can be swayed occasionally.
I have also had the opposite happen.  I love a song and then through hearing it so often, or by a closer examination of the lyrics or structure, begin to dislike it over time.
The song I want to talk about today is The Man by The Killers.  Here is a clip!

https://youtu.be/w3xcybdis1k

For me, my most basic reason for disliking the song initially was that it was not what I expected from them.  The only songs I know of are the ones I have heard on the radio and this certainly did not fit in with what I remembered.  Upon hearing it a second time, I began to recognize influences such as Bowie and other glam rock 80's artists, that intrigued me, allowing me to give it a second chance.  The song also brought back fond memories of listening to George Clinton, and those are always fun memories!

I think my favorite aspects of the song are the steady walking rhythm and the funky synth sounds.  Add to that the "in your face" homage to Bowie in the line about the Hall of Fame, and I now have something to get me pumped up in the car or while exercising!  I do not think that this will ever be a song I listen to on repeat, but it has grown on me.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Feeling closer to God through music in worship settings...

Worship takes on many different forms around the world.  It grows and changes as the centuries come and go.  One area of worship is similar throughout, and that is the use of music.  On any given Sunday, we can find organs, orchestras, choirs, flag wavers, dancers, praise bands, and any combination facilitating a closer encounter with God.  This is happening in churches, homes, and even under bridges in large cities.  We can even find small churches such as primitive Baptist congregations singing in harmonies, as many as there are voices, without instrumentation.  We have introits and interludes that are a far cry from the hedonistic instrumental music of antiquity!  With all of our musical options, the only thing that is constant is that using music in worship is not constant!

For me, I prefer a combination of old and new.  I enjoy a stately organ playing the Doxology and Gloria Patri while at the same time, I have a strong need for emotional, "give it to Jesus" tear fests.  Crazy, I know.

One of the most pure worship experiences I have had took place on a Walk to Emmaus retreat.  While singing directly to Jesus, (Jesus, Jesus let  us tell you how we feel), with a pre-prepared ambiance, I truly felt what I think it will be like in heaven.  Singing praise with the multitudes all around God!

I have also encountered times where music detracted from my worship experience.  I have been part of praise teams and choirs in which someone (even myself a time or two) were not prepared, and therefore unable to give our very best praise.  Unfortunately, that can become a distraction to the congregation.  I have also been so overtaken with the power, love, and emotion for Christ, and seeing that in the congregation that we were not even able to finish the song we were singing.  Let me tell you, that is a moment so full of the Holy Spirit!

If you enjoy the closeness that comes from sharing a hymnal with the person next to you, dancing down the isles, singing at the top of your lungs, listening to choirs, bands, or soloists sing, or even leaving music out entirely, that is ok.  It is not about the music.  As long as we keep focused who our heavenly Father is, that is what it is all about.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Anticipation, Neighbor Tones and Other Nonharmonic Tones

As the semester comes to a close I thought it would be fun and a little silly to find a place for some of these nonharmonic tones in songs that mention these key words.  Let's dive right on in!

Anticipation tone:  These are approached by step, end on the same note and happen on weak beats.  Basically, it is the anticipation of reaching the next chord and going ahead and getting there just a little bit early.  Prematurely, if you will.  I thought a good song to look for this would be none other than "Anticipation" sung by Carley Simon.

https://youtu.be/4NwP3wes4M8

The first place I found it was at the :28 mark on the word "Really".
I found it again at 1:27 on the word "Word"

The most appropriately important use is at :46 on An-tic-i-pat-ion.  It happens on the "I" and is glorious! 


Neighbor tone:  These are basically a decoration of a single note.  If you have an E, you might go up to an F or down to a D and then return right away to the E.  They can be strong (accented) or on weak beats.  They are approached by step and left by step in the opposite direction.  Mr. Rogers theme song anyone?

 https://youtu.be/zMUGJZrR9Jg


The first time I hear a neighbor tone is all over the instrumental opening but for my purposes, I will stick with spots where lyrics can be used as a landmark.

I hear it at :33 on the word "Neighbor" and again at :36 on "A Neighbor"
It is everywhere in this song!!!! Did I mention how happy this song has made me as I am writing this?  It is making me so happy!  HAPPY!!!!
Sorry for getting sidetracked...on to the next type of tone.


Escape tone:  This one is a little bit of fun!  What happens here is movement by step with a leap in the opposite direction.  Picture climbing up the steps to the diving board, and then hurling yourself off!  I am quite pleased with the musical offering I have for you on this one.  I had no idea the song was called Escape (the pina colada song)!

 https://youtu.be/_WkR2Tv4dq4


I find escape tones in the chorus at :45 and :49 with the words "getting caught in the rain" and "not into yoga."  It continues in the rest of the choruses as well.

I hope you enjoyed this little bit of lightness as we prepare for summer! 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Legendary-ness (yes, I made that one up) of the Mix-Tape!

There were certain things we could count on growing up in the 80's and 90's and perhaps one of the greatest was the mix-tape!  From the hours spent sitting with our ear up to the boombox and our finger poised over the record button, to the inevitable break-up mix-tape, they were a huge part of life for the angsty teenager. 
Making just the right mix-tape for any occasion was an art form.  If we were lucky enough to be the proud owner of a boombox with two tape-decks, the world was our oyster.  Armed with a blank tape, a piece of scotch tape, a pencil and the radio, we could make around 60 minutes of super specific entertainment for ourselves.  Going on vacation?  There was a tape for that.  Just get dumped?  There were probably a couple tapes for that.  Your crush noticed you in the hall and now you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?  You know it...there was a tape for that!
I fondly remember sitting in my room on the weekends waiting for the newest hit song to play so I could hit the record button and capture it for all eternity (well, we know better now). The double tape-deck allowed us to get the best songs off of a previously purchased cassette and add them to mix for "riding in the car on a sunny day" or "parents suck."
With advances in technology came advances in the mix-tape.  The format went to CD and gone were the days of collecting songs off the radio.  Now we were ripping, and queuing our hearts out.  Think your friend needs to hear these songs?  You could easily duplicate the mix for them with the touch of a button.  Making a mix was easier in a lot of ways but it also brought to light the topic of piracy.  Napster and other sites would allow a user to get songs for "free", but it was always at the expense of the artist.  I loved the freedom I had to get my favorite songs off the the CD's I would buy and having them all in one place.
Today, we can create playlists and make "stations" but it is not as fun as it was when we could make our own tapes.  Our playlists don't take near the thought to create and we can't really share them with others like we could before we understood the legal ramifications of doing so.  I believe we are being exposed to more types of music than in the past with these new advances but the familiarity of our favorite bands singing our favorites songs for that time I needed a "sleep over" tape are long gone.
Mix on, good people!


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Song Analysis


Happy Sunday!  I am kind of excited about this blog post since I get to take a "popular" song of today and analyze it using what we have learned so far in theory.  I normally would have chosen a Contemporary Christian song (as this is a Christian blog), but, that would be too easy as most of them follow similar chord progressions and use the same chords!  For our purposes, I have chosen to analyze "Stressed Out" by Twentyone Pilots. 
Here is a clip of the song as found on Youtube.com:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXRviuL6vMY

Here are the lyrics as found on Songlyrics.com:

Stressed out - Stressed Out Lyrics




I wish I found some better sounds no one's ever heard,
I wish I had a better voice that sang some better words,
I wish I found some chords in an order that is new,
I wish I didn't have to rhyme every time I sang,

I was told when I get older all my fears would shrink,
But now I'm insecure and I care what people think.

My name's 'Blurryface' and I care what you think.
My name's 'Blurryface' and I care what you think.

Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol' days,
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we're stressed out.
Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol' days,
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we're stressed out.

We're stressed out.

Sometimes a certain smell will take me back to when I was young,
How come I'm never able to identify where it's coming from,
I'd make a candle out of it if I ever found it,
Try to sell it, never sell out of it, I'd probably only sell one,

It'd be to my brother, 'cause we have the same nose,
Same clothes homegrown a stone's throw from a creek we used to roam,
But it would remind us of when nothing really mattered,
Out of student loans and treehouse homes we all would take the latter.

My name's 'Blurryface' and I care what you think.
My name's 'Blurryface' and I care what you think.

Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol' days,
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we're stressed out.

Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol' days,
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we're stressed out.

We used to play pretend, give each other different names,
We would build a rocket ship and then we'd fly it far away,
Used to dream of outer space but now they're laughing at our face,
Saying, "Wake up, you need to make money."
Yo.

We used to play pretend, give each other different names,
We would build a rocket ship and then we'd fly it far away,
Used to dream of outer space but now they're laughing at our face,
Saying, "Wake up, you need to make money."
Yo.

Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol' days,
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we're stressed out.
Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol' days,
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we're stressed out.

Used to play pretend, used to play pretend, bunny
We used to play pretend, wake up, you need the money
Used to play pretend, used to play pretend, bunny
We used to play pretend, wake up, you need the money
We used to play pretend, give each other different names,
We would build a rocket ship and then we'd fly it far away,
Used to dream of outer space but now they're laughing at our face,
Saying, "Wake up, you need to make money."
Yo.

To me, part of the popularity of this song comes from the fact that the lyrics are appealing to different generations.  I, at 35, enjoyed them because they are relatable to where I am in life.  Life is hard and many of us dream of those easier times where we could pretend, play and had our sweet moms singing us a lullaby.  Life was simple then and the gentle reminders in these lyrics fill me with beautiful memories of those times.
To the younger listeners, the lyrics can give a sense of being more mature.  I may very well be alone in that opinion, but as a youth, I felt more mature and important when I could commiserate with adults.

Musically, there are certain principles that composers follow.  The only ones we have learned about so far are the ones that Bach would have used.  Let's see if some of those can be applied here!

I found that this song is in the key of A minor.  The first thing I notice (from looking at the first page sample on musicnotes.com) is that the piece starts on A3.  That would make Bach very happy as it was good practice to start on tonic. 

The second thing I notice is that the chord progression of the first "I wish" section follows the minor mode chord progression flow chart as it should.  They start with a VI, move to the iv, and use plagal motion to finish on the i chord. 

The chord progression of the chorus (as found on Ultimate-guitar.com in the comment section of this song) goes VI-III-i-V-i-vii dim-III-V
From what we have learned about proper chord progression the only thing that would work in Bach's opinion would be the transition from the i-V-i.
Now, as this is modern popular music, those same principles do not make or break a song. 

In the second verse we can hear the piano come in with a series of minor 3rd's being arpeggiated adding another layer of texture. 

The steady drum beat and use of synthesized "space-like/robotic" sounds keep the song moving.   When combined with the catchy lyrics and rhythms, we have a recipe for a song that has gained great popularity with young and old!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Music and Worship

One look in the Psalms, or on an internet site about scripture, and you are sure to see something about music and worship...or 42 if you are looking at openbible.info!  The way I see it, the more heartfelt music I hear in worship, the closer to God I feel.  That however, is just my opinion on the matter, and coming from a music education and church music major, I would be dismayed to feel differently.  This post is not about my opinion though.  The authors and scribes of the Bible have some things to say about it, so looking there would be a great place to start!
Let's look at Psalm 95:1 for our first clue.  This verse reads "Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!"  I would say this one is pretty cut and dry.  This Psalm is often labeled "An Invitation to Praise God."  The next verse goes a bit farther in saying "Let us come before his presence..."  Now, the Psalmist could be talking about the day we meet our Creator face to face, but I don't think that is what he meant about being in His presence.  I see this as spending time at, and in worship.  For the record, Psalm 100:1-2 says the same thing with "Come into His presence with singing."
The next verse to look at is Psalm 33:3.  This one is a little different in that it mentions making music skillfully.  I am one of those people who believe that Jesus loves us whether we can sing or not and I encourage others around me who may be too shy, or told they are not good at singing, to sing out in worship.  This verse is going in to a little more detail though.  As I understand it, this means to continue finding new things to be grateful for; new ways to thank God, and do it well.  If you are a singer or musician, you had better hone that gift by practicing.  If you can do it, don't go to God with less than your best!
In 1 Corinthians 14:26 we read this sage advice,"What then, brothers?  When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.  Let all things be done for building up." This verse is Paul talking to the church in Corinth and, in a nutshell, teaching them how to live and worship as the Kingdom of God.  I feel that he is urging them to share their gifts.  If God gives you the inspiration to write a praise song, write it and share it.  Don't keep that stuff to yourself.  If God gave you a talent for making music, do it and do it to the best of your ability. Just as he is saying that if you have the gift of tongues, you should surround yourself with someone to interperate so that all can enjoy.
If we look in the Old Testament, we can hear about God himself about music and worship.  Zephaniah 3:17 says that "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing."  Singing! This is where you should be able to hear the "mic drop" but I got another one for you that puts it as plain as day.
Psalm 92:1 wraps it all up.  "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High."  This one has it all.  Singing, instrumentation, hyms, and psalms.  This Psalm is called "A Psalm or Song for the sabbath day."  Now you may be thinking, "But the sabbath day is on Saturday" and you would be correct.  However, in Acts we see numerous verses that tell us that Paul and the other followers of Christ met on the sabbath to pray and give praise, or for our purpose here, worship. 
As I stated right off the bat, I am a believer in the power of music to help facilitate worship.  I have spent my life singing praises while either leading worship, or being led to a closer encounter with God by the words or melody of a song.  I have given my best praise, and will continue to do so through music and now I can rest knowing that makes God, my Father, well pleased.