Archive for March, 2012

Musician, prophet, priest

Thursday, March 29th, 2012
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It has been an interesting couple of weeks, and as usual a daily plan and adventure moves into things unexpected. First I would like to mention some of the music coming through the pipeline. Recently I spoke to a friend that is in a very rough place. Without too much detail, I found myself thinking, praying and eventually writing a song about his circumstances. I hesitate to say much about that song right now, because I have a separate entry I would like to publish when the song goes out…the entry will be around our human beings composition of ½ mechanical and ½ mysterious…the song itself is based loosely on vicious circles, and I have an interesting metaphor which I hope will support the video I am making with a talented local actor and actress (really – you can see ‘m on TV and stuff). While this project alone might be considered a full enough plate, a couple of days ago I wrote something called “lord of the dust heap” which was inspired from a book I downloaded last week. IMO the book probably had an influence on CS Lewis writing Skrewtape Letters. You can download the book free for your kindle (or whatever you prefer) here; The dialogues of devils : on the many vices which abound in the civil and religious world (1832). Lord of the dust heap is an ugly, bizarre, oozing, cacophony of sonic assault, and the phrase itself was in the book I linked to, FYI, I hope to have the song out in the next couple of days, not that you’ll want to listen to it or anything…just sayin :-).Finally, regarding the post title, I have been looking at the etymology behind music. Music (which is from the Greek muses)…and the real beginning of our musical heritage which springs from Jubal, who was the father of all who handle the harp and organ. I believe there are some deep and meaningful implications to us who minister in music. It is curious to me the kernel connections between prophesy in its primitive root, inspiration, and what we as musicians do and feel when we create and perform, especially worship – and how this all ties into what we reveal and declare (i.e. word of God to man). That being said, this applies in both profane and holy circumstances. When looking at the Hebrew lexicon for naba (primitive root for prophesy) you will find (when you scroll down and expand the definition )both divine inspiration when singing under divine influence when praising God, and being mad (false prophets). Naturally a study of priest will entail much as well, even if we don’t acknowledge it openly, we are very much involved in important ways in undertaking ones cause, be it God or the devil…like it or not…but this is a topic I hope to follow up on another day. I would just close by saying as a musician in worship you as a vessel would be far more important to prepare than the music. Does this negate the music preparation? Of course not – but if your “main” concern is the notes – you are misguided.


Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
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I like to get my heart going in a cardio workout a few times a week. I type my information into a treadmill module and out comes the suggested heart rate. I shoot for about 40 minutes of elevated heart rate, about 140. I don’t run, I basically powerwalk – and the treadmill itself elevates quite a bit (as if I am going uphill etc) so I am sufficiently tired when everything is said and done. Funny thing is, when you do a workout of 140 beats a minute you have a heightened sense of tempo. I happen to be working on a new song which is about 80 BPM (beats per minute). Often, when working on tracks I will burn “sketch” cds, or put work in progress versions into my iPod. This allows me to drive and listen to the sketch, and also tweak aspects of the song while I am going about other tasks (BTW did you know you theoretically can re-burn RW cd’s up to 1000 times?) What is my point I hear you ask? Well this week after walking for 40@140 I popped the sketch cd in and lamented the sloooooow tempo. It got me thinking about pulse (human) as well as pulse (song) or more commonly beats per minute, and how we (in a physiological sense) are influenced by these little subdivisions in time. Why do certain tempos (100BPM, 112-118BPM,etc) usually connote dance speeds? Why do faster tempos urge us into action? It is an interesting question. Obviously there are so many different kinds of dance, just determining proper dance tempos or sweet spots for the variety alone is a challenge Disco / Club / Waltz / Swing / House / Jazz / Funk / R&B / Soul / Rhumba / Tribal Fire – ya get the idea. But common to all of these pulse urges is the human organisms desire to respond. Our feet tap when we meet a pleasing dance tempo / groove. No doubt, there are aspects of the music style as well that will urge some more than others…being a truly funky drummer in the sense of being able to generate dancers is paramount in the dance clubs or weddings where they want folks interacting. DJs (perhaps unfortunately) to a large degree are replacing bands for the simple reason they can often better command a dance floor with dance music (and are cheaper?!) I have never consciously sat down to make a dance track – but I probably will now. It will be a fun learning experience, and will also be an interesting venture into “giving folks what they want”. One more thing, I am debating a song or tune of absolutely blistering skin stretching tempo. Why not? I suppose a very high energy tempo with cruncy guitars, and a drum track of aggressive single stroke style drumming would probably imply some kind of sport…jet skiing or whatever. Who knows?Call it a study….talk soon.

Bruegel Sloth 1557

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
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Since we have many folks these days living off the government, taking all kinds of subsidies (and many refusing to work unless they get the job they want), and even you and I perhaps know the experience of not applying ourselves and being downright lazy (ok – I know this at least) I thought Sloth would be a timely illustration to present. Truly this might be considered the most haunting and shattering of Bruegel’s 7 sins series. click to enlarge
Here, Sloth herself, older and uglier than the other allegories, sleeps open mouthed in a landscape of delay, decay and ultimate impotence. She reposes on her beastly counterpart, a sleeping ass. A monster behind her adjusts her pillow. Around her crawl huge snails. Even the hill of sloth is soft as shown by a winged demon sawing into it at left. From the right a stork beaked monster in monks garb drags a sinner too indolent to leave his bed; he eats as he lies. To the right in a shell like structure mingling building and tree, naked sinners and monsters sleep around a table. A couple lie together in bed behind a curtain. A demon leers around it as he seeks to draw the sleeping girl inside. Sloth or excess leisure encourages lechery. Dice on the table to the left refer perhaps to gambling by lazy time wasters. Just above center a squatting giant built into a mill enacts a proverb to many a culture: ” he is too lazy to poo”. The faceless midgets behind him are inducing a bowel movement. In Flemish below the print a rhyme loosely translated reads:

Sloth weakens men, until at length,
Their fibres dried, they lack all strength.

In short, sloth, far from resting, recuperating and rejuvenating, wasted a man away, renders him impotent and good for nothing. He becomes like a slug, a slave of the stupefied tyrant Dame Desidia.
HIGH RES for printing 2865 X 2160

Studio wisdom of Ronan Chris Murphy

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012
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Aphorisms and apparent truths about making records.
(a work in progress by Ronan Chris Murphy)

•There is no such thing as over-production, only appropriate and inappropriate production.
•Emulation is always a compromise.
•The only endearing elements of emulation are found within the artifacts of its failure.
•The quality of a recording is governed by the performance.
•Sometimes people who know less than you about making records are right.
•There is often an inverse relationship between the sound quality of a pop rock mix and the number of times over 2 the drummer strikes the snare drum per bar.
•The sound of a mix is seldom the most important element.
•Snare drums that ring are pitched instruments. Just like flutes.
•The abstention of studio effects is an effect.
•Guitars over-driven from digital racks or amp emulators will dominate or be submissive to the group. There is seldom a middle ground.
•Great records are made by great people, not great studios.
•If you don’t have the answer to a recording dilemma, the music probably does.
•If the music does not have the answer it is probably not music.
•What you can throw away is often more important than what you can add.
•The factual integrity of a recording decreases exponentially with every mic and tape track used
•There is always a producer(s) on a record.
•Some of the records you loved when you were younger sound horrible and you never noticed.
•You are making the soundtrack to some one else’s life.
•If you require academics to defend your music, you have already lost Music as an ally.
•Recordings without goals usually go no where. Recordings with goals rarely go where you plan, but they get there.
•Good “composition” does not always result in good music.
•Many people mistake “drums sounds” for “production”
•The fact that the “CD” can hold over 73 minutes of music does not mean that the “album” wants to.
•The general pubic thinks records by famous people sound better then those by non-famous people.
•Perfect recordings seldom make for perfect records.
•Production and adding effects are not synonymous.
•Sometimes not participating is the greatest contribution you can make
•A good producer knows that sometimes going away is a contribution.
•Appropriate production is bringing to the project what it needs, clearing away what it doesn’t, and not touching the rest.
•The question “Why?” should be asked before “How?” or “When?”.
•The music is more important than any one in the studio.