Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday Week 3

On Friday I was able to get my allergy testing taken care of only to discover much to my NOT surprise that I'm basically constantly suffering with allergies throughout the entire year.... My doctor told me that I didn't have an allergy season I had an allergy year and that my allergies to dust and grass and trees and mold ensure that I have no idea what it's like to feel well.  Who knew?

 Although I wasn't surprised to find that I had bad allergies, I was surprised to find that I am currently fighting them because I feel SOOOOOOO much better in the summer than I do during the school year... which leads me to believe that perhaps the doctor is wrong......maybe I'm just allergic to school......

In any case, the testing itself actually counts as my first dose of allergy shots and by the time I got home from the tests (65 individual shots) I was decidedly under the weather or in this case under the allergen.  So I took things VERY easy on Friday and Saturday.

On Sunday I got to visit with my friend Heather Bell who I rarely see anymore since we consolidated our two Sunday School hours into one.  In any case, I took a different route to Sunday School and found myself with a moment to visit with Heather.  We made an appointment to have a look at a choral piece I've been working on for about a year.  It is an SSAA piece that I would like to do a scratch recording of because with Finale playback all I get is a fake vocal AHHHH sound and it's hard to imagine.  I could sing each of the 4  parts myself, but as Heather is a great first soprano, I'm going to have her sing the 1st soprano part so that the scratch recording sounds as if the singing were effortless

Yesterday and today I've continued to play around with either existing songs OR with fragments that I've come up with recently.  I can say that in terms of ideas it was good for me to sort of take the weekend "off" because I actually HAVE some ideas.  At the same time, I'm not really pleased with anything I've written in the last few days because the ideas I've got are still somewhat nebulous and lacking in focus.  Even when the focus is clear, I'm not sure if the direction the song is headed is where it needs to go.

The best things I can do to get focus and clarity when I write are to go for a walk, read my Bible and just be still.  The being still part is the hardest part, when I have all types of media at my fingertips ready to distract me.  Things like Netflix and TV and Facebook and blogging and Itunes can at times be a HUGE distraction especially when using finale already places me at my computer.  Even when my distractor of choice is NOT technology based, I still have books that I would rather read,  chores that need doing and folks who I would love to visit with on the phone.

The more time I experience where I am focused on writing songs, the more I am sure that I really am supposed to set aside this time as an act of obedience.  Please pray that I can use my time wisely and work through my distractability to get to a creative place where  I can be receptive to whatever the Lord would like to teach me.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Week 2 Tuesday

Although I struggled last week to get focused, I was able to finish two complete songs (intro to fine)  with fully notated piano accompaniments that for better or worse are as complete as my skill allows.  I finished the second song about two in the morning Sunday morning and before I went to church I printed out a copy of both songs so that I could get a little feedback.   Thanks to my friend Mark J. who thinks like a pianist, I was able to go to my parents for Father's Day with edits in hand ready to write some more. 

In an effort to stay focused I've decided to not try to do any scratch recordings of anything until after this little song writing boot camp is over.  After all, this time  is all about getting the songs in my head onto the paper and in a form that can be communicated with others.  Learning how to record something decently is another whole skill I have to develop and it takes time I don't have.  One thing at a time.

Yesterday was the first day of Week 2.  I set about trying to write something but since I wasn't having any ideas I decided to work on notating a song that I wrote last summer but had not taken the time to notate because I thought it was too hard.  Well, this summer is all about accomplishing what seems difficult.  I didn't get the entire thing notated, but I got enough done that I now have an "in between" project to work on that I know I can finish.

The poor folks who took sight singing and ear training with me in college know that I STINK at rhythm dictation!  The good news is that I'm getting better, but the bad news is that a song like I worked on yesterday is just difficult enough for me that it is just pure and unadulterated hard work.  "Finale PrintMusic" is my friend because the playback feature allows me to hear what I just put in.  The more I practice, the better I am getting at writing it the correct way the first time. 

People talk all the time about musicians having to have talent.... the longer I am a musician the more I know that it is really all about practice...duh!

The big drama for yesterday was my unsuccessful attempts to convince my doctor and insurance company that they should meet in the middle in order to get my allergy testing paid for.  Since neither one would budge I am pleased to say that I kept my calm while on the phone, but by the time I got off the phone I was just furious!  I got over it, eventually but I must say that when I'm angry I can't think of pretty music.....  Last night I got myself together and was blessed by the Single Adult VBS.  Lizi Baily led worship and it was GREAT!

So today I woke up bright and early and started writing immediately.  This morning I've started 3 different songs, two choral and one congregational, but none of them are feeling like they need finishing, so for now they'll go in the scrap pile and maybe one of these days I'll find a use for one of the scraps.  The problem is that I like one of the songs that I wrote last week so much that I don't feel as if there is anything left to say......actually, there is a lot left to say, but how to say it?  no se...... 

In any case, spending the morning weaving in and out of the psalms is a lovely way to spend a Tuesday whether any song comes of it or not.  

Psalm 19 is the portion of scripture that is staying with me today....two of the song scraps I came up with were from fragments of this chapter.  It's just great truth!

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice[b] goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them are righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Week 1 Tuesday

Today was just AWESOME! 

The best part was that I got to spend time with God.  It has been my experience that when I am in the beginning stages of writing a song, when I am simply trying to put words and melodies together, I have to spend time in reflection about who God is, and then I just have to be still and be with God.  This is probably the reason that I don't write as often as I would like because I am so easily distracted by every earthly thing. 

But I have learned the hard way that if I want to write a song that speaks truly of who God is, AND is also worth editing, then spending time in scripture and prayer is essential, not so my song will be good but so that my heart will be right in the writing.

So before I left for the gym I tried to find a free downloadable audio Bible that I could put on my ipod....They exist, but in order to find one that I like I'm going to have to buy one.... so after spending some time in scripture, I put a few sermons that I hadn't heard in a while on my ipod and off I went. 

I was singing a song before I could even get to my car to go home. 

I give memory tests to the melody fragments that I think of.  As much as I was itching to grab my pencil, I made myself cook some lunch and eat it.  If the melody had not been worth remembering, I would have forgotten it because while I ate, I watched a little TV which is about as close to hitting the delete button on a song fragment as you can get.

My morning melody survived the memory test, so I was off.  I started writing!  By 4:40 when I had to stop to take a shower so that I could go to Bible Study I had a chorus, a verse, the beginnings of verse 2 all notated in finale and a few measures of a preliminary piano accompaniment written.

Not finished, but not shabby at all for my first "real" day of writing.  We'll see if this one stays where it is or if I'm able to add more this evening... either way... it's been a great day!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Week 1 Monday

As an act of accountability, I hope to blog about my progress.  As such, let's have a look at Day 1 and how it is different from what I planned. 

Here is the schedule that I have planned for Mondays.  Todays grade:  65%

7:00-8:00 breakfast
8:00-9:00 gym
9:00-10:00 dress for day
10:00-12:00 songwriting session
12:00-1:00 lunch and errands
1:00-3:00 instrumentation & finale
3:00-4:00 break & chores
4:00-5:00 guitar practice
5:00-6:00 dinner
6:00-9:00 Audacity

Here is what actually happened today

7:00 - 8:00 tried to get out of bed after a horribly rough night where I don't think I slept. 
9:00-10:00 actually got out of bed, had breakfast showered and dressed for the day
10:00-1:30 took a nap to recover from last night's weird lack of real sleep...... VERY unusual for me!
2:00-4:30 - finished my room at school.... I knew I had to finish it today and I did!!!  Yippee!!! 
5:00 - went to the gym so that I'll be able to sleep better tonight :)
6:00 - ran an errand
7:00 - came home did some chores and then some quick chores and cooked dinner
8:00 - I plan to eat dinner and then FINALLY...... write some music.....tunes have been flitting around in my head all day, so now it's time to get some of them down on paper

11:00 go to bed so that I can get a good start in the morning. 

Tomrrow I'm going to follow my schedule for Tuesday....I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

On Your Mark.....

Song Writing Boot Camp starts MONDAY!!!! 

All week long I've been working hard to get all of the "stuff" done that clutters my days when I don't have to go to school. 

First of all, I have to actually finish at school. To that end
  • I've done 15 hours of professional development this week. 
  •  I've packed up the piano lab so they can clean the carpet since the floor is actually muddy....not sure how that happened, but the floor definitely needs cleaning. 
  • I've gone through the knee high pile of posters that had accumulated by my desk when we had to empty my shelves.
  • I've worked on some planning for next year
I also got to see good friends at the music conference at church, I visited a new toy store, I spent time with my friend Amy, I talked on the phone with my friend Pam in the middle of the day! I cleaned my kitchen, living room and guest bathroom, got groceries so that I don't have to get them next week AND today I'm going to go and wander around Houston with my mom for the afternoon.  Today and tomorrow I'm going to finish cleaning the rest of my place and finish up laundry.... I don't want ANY distractions that I can avoid by being proactive. 

Despite my best efforts I know of two interruptions that are unavoidable next week..... but the fact that I have managed to limit them to two makes me happy. 
  • On Monday I will go back one more time and  finish filling and putting things away so they can install those beautiful cabinets whenever they are ready. 
  • The other thing that I have to do this week is go to the allergist.... but that is a good thing because allergies have dominated my year for the last couple of years and I have to get off that merry-go-round. 

When I was at the retreat in Galveston a few weeks ago, I was reminded of one of my favorite chapters in Psalms.  Psalm 40 has been in my heart for a long time.  I first memorized this chapter as a sort of challenge with my best friend who was also memorizing her favorite Psalm when we were in college.  Although I worked for weeks to memorize the chapter, and have often referred back to it in my own study, when I had a chance to revisit it again I was suddenly aware of how relevant this passage is. 

1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.

4 Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.[b]
5 Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many to declare.

6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire— but my ears you have opened[c]—
burnt offerings and sin offerings[d] you did not require.
7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come— it is written about me in the scroll.[e]
8 I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.”

9 I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips, LORD, as you know.
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.

11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, LORD; may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
12 For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.
13 Be pleased to save me, LORD; come quickly, LORD, to help me.
14 May all who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace.
15 May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” be appalled at their own shame.
16 But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
“The LORD is great!”

17 But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay.

All of us are entirely dependent on the Lord and his graciousness toward us.  He has rescued us, He has redeemed us, He has protected us against our enemies.  What other response can we have but to live a life of renewal a "new song" as an offering of thanksgiving.  May our "new songs" cause others to trust in Him.