Friday, September 26, 2008

one down, two to go

Today I hand over the "master" for the first of 3 CDs I'm scheduled to do this year.

This one is the CD of songs to accompany the Vacation Bible School curriculum for next summer. It's a relatively small project, and I've done all the recording (and mixing and "mastering," such as it is) with my home studio set up. It's actually gone way better than I expected, and I'm getting the hang of a lot of features of the Cubase recording program (including editing features) that I've never tried before.

Not bad for a non-techie like me!

Next up is the Year 4 CD for the "Gather 'Round" Sunday School curriculum. This is a bigger project (more songs, significantly bigger circulation), and I'll be doing some of it in my home studio but some at another studio (hopefully Many Streams with John and Mike). Planning to do that in November.

And then in the new year it's time for the next SmallTall Music studio album... the 4th... This one, as the biggest project, will be done pretty much entirely in the studio with "the pros."

It's going to be a good (and full) year. Looking forward to it!


Thursday, September 25, 2008

the "bad apple" theory strikes again

I am astonished, in the midst of the "US sub-prime mortgage crisis," "US credit crunch," "global financial crisis," etc, that the trusty old "bad apple" theory is being trotted out again... you know, it's not really a problem with the whole economic system, but it's the greed of those Wall Street bankers that have gotten us all into this mess...

Now, of course, there is more and more economic analysis in "mainstream" publications and newscasts that have been pointing out the broader realities of people spending more than they are earning, of unsustainable levels of indebtedness, of habitually "living beyond our means"... and there has even been a growing body of writing in "mainstream" sources daring to state the obvious - that our way of life in North America is unsustainable and needs to change dramatically (and in fact will change, whether we like it or not).

So it's rather discouraging to hear the same old stuff about the need to investigate potential "abuses" and "fraud" in the system... not that such things don't exist, of course... as if weeding out some "bad apples" (along with the mother-of-all-bailouts) will enable the system and "the rest of us" to continue on our merry way and spend, spend, spend...

I find myself asking what it's going to take for us to finally realize that, as so many voices have been saying for such an awfully long time, "the emperor has no clothes." How long are we going to keep watching the parade go by, pretending to ourselves and to each other that the emperor is finely dressed when we know that it just ain't so?

And what is it going to take for the Christian church worldwide - not just a few subcultures here and there, but the worldwide body of Christ - to understand and live its vocation not as a kind of chaplain providing religious goods and services and a thin veneer of justification to an unjust and unsustainable economic world order, but as an alternative community that lives and embodies and demonstrates a different way of living, including a different way of structuring economic assumptions and relationships...

Following the lectionary, I've been reading Exodus again... and struck, yet again, by the stark contrast between the economics of the Pharaoh (whose reply to an increasingly obvious unsustainable situation is "more of the same" - make the same amount of bricks, but now find your own straw) and the economic "desert curriculum" that God uses to try to train an alternative community (... quails in the evening, manna in the morning, just enough and not too much, hoarding results in spoilage, sabbath-keeping for the people and the land...).

I'm not saying it's easy - the "desert curriculum" never is - but isn't it time we realized that we're "in the desert" and that "more of the same" (just as many bricks, but now without the straw) isn't going to cut it anymore?

As long time readers of this blog know, these are issues I've been wrestling with for a long time (the current news makes me think of this blog post from a while back), and I've spent a lot of time working at what the implications might be for my own life and ministry (see the string of posts under the "sustainability and music" and "community supported music" labels). My latest CD reflects some of my own struggles with this, and is an attempt to articulate - and to help us to sing - an alternative economic vision more in line with biblical teaching and God's intentions for the planet.

Will the current "crisis" help to force us to take a good hard look at our own lives and economic assumptions and practices? Are we prepared to embrace our vocation to embody God's alternative economics?

Or do we just want to "throw the bums out," find some more "bad apples" to put in jail, and continue on our merry way?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

"musical do-gooders"

So apparently Geez magazine ("holy mischief in an age of fast faith") thinks I'm a "musical do-gooder"... ah, well, I've been called worse (GRIN)... and I think it's great that their current issue is focused on music... looking forward to reading it...


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

the race is on

No, I'm not referring to the election campaigns north or south of the border.

My guitar - built by Phil Campbell-Enns of Steinbach, Manitoba - has been with its maker since July, when I left it there for Phil to install a new pickup that he claims sounds "HUGE"...

It's been a while finding its way back into my loving arms... here's Phil's delightful description of the wanderings of the part, complete with a mysterious detour through Texas:

"... so i got a hold of a 'ups' tracking number and found out that your pickup got shipped 5 days later than was promised by seymour duncan, then left goleta, california, then went to los angeles, then was incorrectly routed (says the tracking info) to conroe, texas. then it went to houston, texas, then to mequite, texas, and finally to dallas before leaving the lone star state. then it went on to kansas city, eagan, minnesota, and minneapolis, minnesota before making it's way to winnipeg, where it now lies in wait for the final trek to steinbach on monday."

And today Phil reports that the pickup has arrived, he has installed it, and the guitar has now begun its return journey to me, passing through the hands of various co-conspirators who are relaying it by car and plane... ETA in Toronto on Friday... just in time for my Saturday gig and a full fall performance schedule...

The race is on! Will the guitar arrive in time? in one piece? Will Bryan be able to cope with his new-found ability to just "plug in" with an instrument that, in the words of its builder, "... your guitar now roars!! plugging it in might make you feel like you're driving a serious hot rod - lots of jam under the hood."


Yes, I know. This is what passes for excitement in my life. Humour me, ok?

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

let me see if I've got this straight...

Apparently Prime Minister Stephen Harper's rationale for not wanting Elizabeth May of the Green Party to participate in the leadership debates (and for threatening to not participate himself if she's there) is that she shows evidence of working too closely with another political party for the sake of common agenda (in this case a more sustainable approach to the economy/environment) that they consider to be important.

Funny - I thought that's why we elected MPs and sent them to Ottawa in the first place.

Silly me. Carry on.

UPDATE... the next day...

Apparently Harper and Layton have now changed their minds, and will debate May after all. Once again, it seems, it can be done - the public, WAY ahead of the politicians on this one, spoke up loud and clear and had an impact. Is it too much to hope this may mark a significant turning point? Maybe... but here's hoping.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

full of it?


After all this time going on about sustainability and music, and an alternative business model for the arts that is more sustainable in ecological and relational as well as financial terms...

Confession time. As my performance schedule grows, I've flown more in the past year than I have in any other year of my life.

And as I look to the future, and the growth of this ministry, and the fact that it is becoming the "primary income" for our family rather than a "supplementary income," and now that I will no longer be the primary at-home parent... It looks like I'll be traveling more, not less.

So I have to ask myself - am I just full of it? Spouting ecological/sustainability rhetoric for as long as it's convenient and fits with my family's lifestyle and financial situation... only to jettison all that high-minded stuff about alternatives to the "tour! tour! tour! sell! sell! sell!" model when this ministry actually grows to the point that there's more and more "demand" for what I do...?

It's not a particularly fun question to ask, but it's a real possibility, and one that I need to be willing to look square in the face.

Of course, there's always the argument of "degree"... I'm still developing my "alternative model" (a significant part of which is the "CSM" or "Community Supported Music" approach)... and I'm still at a stage where I need to travel a fair bit and expose more people to this music firsthand, to get to the point where the "touring" part can become less important... (although I believe that some traveling will always be, and should be, part of what this ministry is about...)

And ok, so I've bumped up my extended-away-from-home-touring from about 5 weeks a year to about 10, and my family has decided we can handle that... it's still a far cry (isn't it?) from the constant touring that is seen as "the standard" for a musician that is serious about "making a go of it"...

And this coming year much of my long-distance travel will be by TRAIN, which is - as far as these things go - not as environmentally destructive as flying. I'm making use of the Canada Rail pass, and seriously considering doing a 30 day North America Rail Pass trans-continental tour... coast to coast, 2 countries, on one train ticket... how's that for economic and environmental stewardship?

And we'll soon be moving into town, which means leaving the large garden that we have so carefully cultivated over the past 5 years (and which produces a surprising amount of our food)... but it also means we'll be within walking distance of MANY more things, including the GO Train, and we expect to be able to cut our car usage by about 50%...

Trade-offs... challenges... uncertainties... passionate convictions... economic realities... choices...

Real eco-efforts... or handy rationalizations?