Friday FunPost: Great Music Genres Video and A Clever Book on Music

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It’s been quite a few weeks since a true Friday FunPost. Lent is over, I’m not on break and I found something quite appropriate for this feature.

Spend a few minutes (less than 6 actually), enjoying this creative and educational medley by a young band from Europe:

Not only am I impressed by the precision in cutting from one genre to the next, the costumes are pretty awesome. And I learned about a few genres which haven’t (yet?) caught on in the U.S.

I’ve been thinking about musical genres lately as I discovered a really clever book which seeks to explode the whole concept. The thesis in Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty by Ben Ratliff invites the reader to move beyond genres which are based more on commercial categorization rather than structural similarities from piece to piece.

In a new era where most any listener can easily access almost any song ever recorded, Ratliff proposes a new methodology for creating digital playlists. He presents and discusses twenty playlists with themes related to the underlying elements of the music rather than its often arbitrary “type.” Some of these themes are “Slowness,” “Virtuosity” and “Density.”

I’ve only read the first chapter on “repetition” entitled “Let Me Concentrate!” After defining this concept, the author analyzes a diverse set of musical pieces which illustrate it in a wide variety of ways. I really like how he uses thought-provoking metaphors which stretch my understanding and subsequent appreciation of works with which I was unfamiliar.

For example, he uses a piece called “Four Organs” composed and performed by Steve Reich in 1970. On page 20, Ratliff writes:

This aspect of “Four Organs” – its “repetition” – is like playing a peekaboo game with a child. You’re going to do it over and over: that’s the repetition. But you’ve got to keep changing the way you do it, otherwise he’ll expect it and will not be surprised. And at some point in the game – it doesn’t take very long to get there – you and the child understand each other; you know each other’s reaction time, range of facial expressions, sense of humor, degree of patience.

After reading this description, I found the piece within my Apple Music subscription. I listened to it for a couple of minutes before I decided the repetition annoyed and bothered me, so I turned it off. While I won’t likely listen to the piece again, I am grateful to have been directed toward it as an example of an important element of musical form.

And I’m particularly grateful that Ratliff mentions the featured pieces twice in each chapter – in the text and in a handy list (in order of mention) from which a digital playlist can quickly be created. I look forward to more reading and listening and learning via this book.

Friday FaithPost 2: “The Passion” This Palm Sunday Night (March 20th)

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As I was searching around earlier for links to use in the first FaithPost today, I discovered that FOX is broadcasting “The Passion” this Sunday night at 8 pm EDT. The home page has clips which are intriguing. Filmed around and broadcast (live?) from New Orleans, at first glance, it looks like it could be a “Jesus Christ Superstar” or “Godspell” for the early 21st century.

It’s getting a bit of buzz, especially in light of the growing trend of live musicals on TV.

Jesus Sings Pop Songs? 10 Things to Know About FOX’s Musical “Passion” which includes these tidbits:

5. Hundreds of people are expected to help carry a 20-foot-high illuminated cross from the Superdome to the park over the course of the show.

6. Not every street in New Orleans will be shut down, so the procession may at times be stopped by traffic, or even a passing fire truck. In which case Perry’s plan, he told reporters in January, is to say, “Jesus, call an ambulance.”

7. The music isn’t new. “We are using big hit songs that everybody knows, and we are putting them completely in a new context,” said Anders, suggesting viewers might not immediately recognize them.

“It’s incredible, when we start looking through the U.S. pop catalog, how many spiritual undertones there are, because most artists have a spirituality to them, and the songs are written from those moments in their lives,” he said.

Sounds intriguing. It’s on my calendar for Sunday night (when it’s laundry-folding night). I’ll likely be posting on my Twitter account – @hartleyrkrelig , following @thepassionlive and watching/posting at #thepassion.

And, I’ll let you know here on Monday what I thought about it…

 

Tuesday FaithPost – Powerful Stations of the Cross by Busted Halo

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Is it Friday already? No, sadly it is not yet. I’m sharing a FaithPost a couple of days early as I want to offer this wonderful resource now, so that you could possibly use it before or during Holy Week.

The good Paulist Fathers who create the awesome, newly redesigned, young-adult site Busted Halo, have put together a quite powerful set of videos following the Stations of the Cross. Each video uses just text and music to tell the story and interpret the meaning of each of the fourteen traditional moments in Christ’s Passion. Here’s the fourth station, which I find particularly moving and insightful:

There’s a lot I like about these videos. But two aspects are particularly meaningful. First, the overarching theme of this version of the Way of the Cross is the Kingdom of God. This central vision of Jesus’ ministry is at the heart of the gospel and thus something which we must emphasize time and again to those to whom we minister.

I also find the simple music accompanying the words on the screen provocative, compelling and deeply moving. The piano melody used with the stations in which Jesus Meets His Mother, Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus and Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem is one I find haunting and well-matched to the emotions of these encounters.

I’m using these videos in our chapel as a prayer service with all five of my classes today. It has worked better with my one sophomore class than my two freshmen ones. I think the greater maturity and developing wisdom in the older students is the main difference.

I’ve created this presentation to use with the videos. It should be pretty self-explanatory – show the slide introducing a station, play the video and then prayerfully read the supporting slide while giving the viewers/participants a few moments to reflect.

A couple of things you may wonder about the presentation: The photos of the crosses were ones that I took while visiting Christ in the Desert Monastery in northern New Mexico a few years ago.  And the colors of the background of the slides is meant to represent the transition and transformation of this time in Lent, to Holy Week and then to Easter.

I hope you find this Busted Halo Stations of the Cross as meaningful and useful as I do. The video below will link you to the playlist of  all the fourteen stations.

May you have a blessed Fifth Tuesday of Lent and a good rest of the week.

Sun(Fun)Day Night Post – Feel-Good Music by The Hunts

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As I end a full and short (by an hour) weekend, I am feeling grateful for Spotify. This isn’t an add for the streaming music service, but rather an acknowledgement of how much it has expanded both my ability to enjoy music and especially to discover singer and bands who make music I like to listen to as much as I can.

Flannel Graph was the band I wrote about recently – particularly their song “Apple Pie” which I find both catchy and moving. Another great “indie” song which has been streaming on my devices and in my head is this one:

In addition to the quirky and playful music, I like the lyrics as well:

I could see,
I could see your heart, through your eyes
On that night from the balcony
How could we ever
Make this leap?

You and I,
Caught up in wind like we were parachutes
Oh how we’d fly until we hit the ground
How could we ever
Make this leap?

We were young,
I used my paper telescope,
To show you the stars and then win your heart
How could we ever
Make believe?

I can see, I can see, I can see a sunrise
Call me out from the dark, cause I’m broken inside
I can see, I can see, I can see a sunrise
Call me out from the dark, cause I’m broken inside

Up above the static
Up above the racket
I hear your voice calling me out of the darkness
Up above the static
Up above the racket
I hear your voice calling me out of the darkness

Caught up like parachutes, Caught up like parachutes
Oh how we’d fly
Caught up like parachutes, Caught up like parachutes
Oh how we’d fly!

You called me out from the dark, and brought me into the light,
You called me out from the dark, and brought me into the light,
You called me out from the dark, and brought me into the light,

It clearly fits into the category of popular “God Songs” in which the “you” could possibly be God. Seems to work here, especially with “you called me out from the dark, and brought me into the light.”

I’ve come to appreciate this band, The Hunts even more after I Googled them tonight and discovered they are all family – five brothers and two sisters – ranging in age from 16 to 24. Their official bio notes this about them:

While getting seven strong-minded brothers and sisters to agree on every last note and lyric can sometimes be chaotic, The Hunts note that the synergy born from that chaos is what makes the band so strong. “I like to look at our hectic way of writing as actually really helpful to us as songwriters,” says Josh. “Each one of us is a filter, and after going through all seven of those filters, each song is so much better than it could ever be if we each just wrote on our own.” Now heading out on tour in support of Life Was Simple, The Hunts are thrilled to harmonize for a bigger audience than ever before. “One of our favorite things is for all seven of us to sing together at once, and I think people really like to see the special camaraderie that comes from brothers and sisters creating something together,” says Jessi. “Growing up, we didn’t really have much,” adds Jenni. “But we did have music, and that was the thing that always brought us together. I can’t think of anything better than growing that relationship even deeper, through making more music that comes right from our hearts.”

And, for even more listening enjoyment on this not-yet-Spring Sunday evening, check out the strings in this song by them:

 

 

Friday FaithPost -“Break My Heart Sweetly”

John Moreland

Faithful readers of this blog know that every Friday I try to offer a Friday FunLink to end the week with some levity. As we approach Lent, I wanted to begin with a more somber, faith-oriented post on the Fridays until Easter arrives. Of course there is a long tradition in the Church reserving Friday for the remembrance of Christ’s death. Sunday is the day for celebration of Christ’s Resurrection and even during Lent it is a day for celebration.

Today’s post is a short video which I’m showing to my classes today. Prior to praying with the saint for the day, I like to share with my classes something which struck me in the previous 24 hours. Sometimes it’s a news story, an image, a fact, a prayer or reflective quote. My goal is to show either a prayer need for which we will communally pray and/or an example of how God is present in the world around us.

As I shared/am sharing today, I discovered this video as well as the performer this morning at 5:30 am while I was unloading the dishwasher. Readers know that I am a huge Stephen Colbert fan and that I’ve watched every episode of his show thus far. I often do this by propping up my iPad on the kitchen counter and watching while I do the dishes. And this was the segment from last Monday’s show which was next in my watching queue:

 

I am moved by the simple power of this song. “Break my Heart Sweetly” is a title rich with irony and sorrow. Moreland, who doesn’t look like your typical singer, carries the lyrics of altars, prayers, halos and demons, with grace and depth. I’d not encountered this artist previously and immediately I did some searching.  He has a religious (Baptist) background which is apparent in the respectful wrestling with faith he does in his music.

And a tip of the hat to Colbert for having this and many other interesting, diverse, and rising artists on his nightly national showcase.

Break My Heart Sweetly by John Moreland:

I swore the days were over, courting empty dreams
I worshiped at the altar of losing everything
And the guard I held together is losing all its shape
And in my head you look so gorgeous, it’s keeping me awake

There’s a scar on my soul, so let me down easy
Break my heart sweetly, like you always do
I guess I can’t let go til you wreck me completely
Break my heart sweetly, drape me in blue

I was never scared of nothing, I thought I had a home
Life went and broke me open, cause I carried it alone
I’m finding all this well worn sadness I never knew I kept
And I still chase you into heartache every time you take a step

I swore the days were over, courting empty dreams
I worshiped at the altar of losing everything
And you had a halo made of diamonds, resting on your head
I should be dealing with my demons, but I’m dodging them instead

 

 

Web Link Clearance – Best of 2015 Lists

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On this first day of the second month of 2016 I offer you a chance to celebrate: National Girls and Women in Sports Day; Change Your Password Day; Car Insurance Day; G.I. Joe Day; and Decorating with Candy Day by enjoying this list of “Best of 2015 Lists”

Why, you may ask, am I sharing these a month and a day after the start of 2016? A simple answer: these links were in my queue for posting by year’s end – and it never happened. Rather than just delete them and move on, I thought there is still value in looking back to find quality books, music, apps, etc from last year. Hence, this “web link clearance” today.

Besides: Do you write 2016 every time you put down the date or do you still sometimes write 2015 by mistake?

The Only 9 Apps Released in 2015 We’re Still Actually Using

50 Best Albums of 2015

Longreads Best Stories of 2015

Apple Names the Best iOS Apps of 2015

10 Most Popular Podcasts of 2015  (“How to Listen to Podcasts”)

Top Illustrated Science Books of 2015

The Best Novels of 2015

Overdrive’s Best Books of 2015 [This is the excellent online portal for ebooks and audiobooks that both of our local library systems use)

NY Times 10 Best Books of 2015

 

 

A Song and A Band to Know – “Apple Pie” by Flannel Graph

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Having a subscription to Spotify has completely changed the way I listen to music. Obviously, I haven’t bought a CD in a long time and I can stream music from my smartphone, iPad, and/or any internet-connected desktop.  In a broader way, it’s allowed me to diversify what I listen to. No longer do I listen to the same album over and over again – like I did with whatever exciting new CD  (or cassette tape before that) I bought.  Instead, I do much more exploring of genres I like  rather than just playing bands or singers with whom I am already familiar. 

A still very “Indy” duo I found recently via Spotify is Flannel Graph. According to the rather limited info about them on the web (no Wikipedia page yet – I just checked) it’s a young woman singer and young guy guitar player both of whom are from a small town in Montana. By far their most popular song on Spotify is “Five Foot Three” with about 197,500 plays so far. It’s a cute song about how the singer is “small, but mighty” with a video worth watching.

It seems that while Flannel Graph are not explicitly a Christian band (as this word doesn’t seem to appear anywhere on their home page), biblical stories inform a number of their songs. Their first full album is entitled “Ribs of Adam” and it contains a few songs with clear connections to the Bible. This focus is even more apparent on their 2013 EP “Five Foot Three” which includes a thoughtful reimagining of Psalm 23 entitled Saints Out of Sailors. 

The song to know, which I find simultaneously clever, creative and moving, is Apple Pie – a modern adaptation of the Parable of the Lost Son in Luke’s gospel. The lyrics are poetic and the pairing with the playful, folksy melody is inspired. 

 Apple Pie

by Flannel Graph

I told my dad I didn’t love him anymore 
And I grabbed all the cash 

And I ran and slammed the door 

And I spent it like 

Yea, I spent it like a movie star 

Yea, I spent it right 

I spent it right in all bars 

And I was so hungry 

So thirsty 

The ladies, they adored me 

And the men all wished to be me 

They burned with all their jealousy 

I had everything that a man like me should buy 

And I lived like a King in America with Apple Pie 

But my heart was small 

And my world was smaller than before 

And my fence was tall 

To keep out the people who were wanting more 

I knew a girl 

Oh, Katie was her name 

She was quite the whirlwind 

And she wanted to state my claim 

And she said 

Oh baby 

Oh maybe 

You and me could get married 

And we’ll settle down and bury all the warrants in our history 

But all the party lights went out 

And I was left alone 

And the amount of money that I had 

Was the amount of love I was shown 

And I had nothing 

Oh nothing 

Yea, I had nothing 

Yea, I had nothing 

No 

But I had something 

Oh, I had something 

Oh something 

Oh, I had something 

Oh, I had something 

Oh, I had something 

Oh, I had something 

Somebody 

So I gathered up all of my pride 

And I hitchhiked to a town where my dignity had died 

And he was waiting 

Yea, he was waiting 

And he ran and kissed me

I love the last line. That’s the heart of the parable, right?

In the spirit of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, I’m planning on playing this for my students when we talk about grace, forgiveness, mercy – especially during the upcoming season of Lent.  Perhaps you might as well? 
 

(Late) Friday FunLink – Outstanding Cover Video of “God Only Knows”

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As I was looking around on Spotify tonight, I stumbled upon a stunning video recently produced by the BBC. As it’s still Friday, I figured I could fit in one more FunLink today.

The song, “God Only Knows” – ranked by Rolling Stone as the 25th of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (between “Dock of the Bay” and “People Get Ready” with “Like a Rolling Stone” at #1) was recently covered by an all-star, mostly British group of singers and musicians. Not only does it sound great, but it’s beautifully filmed. It’s well worth less than three minutes to view it – if only to see the venerable and complex Brian Wilson sing the final line.

Here’s the key to the photo of musicians above:

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And here’s a pretty cool, brief “making of” video:

Finally, just because it’s the end of the week, here’s a vintage video (2006) of Wilson and The Corrs performing it live. The video isn’t great, but the audio is fine:

Apps You Should Know: Ten Ambient Sound-Makers and Other Meditation Aids

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Readers of this blog will recall that I am a passionate proponent for teaching mindfulness and meditation to students. I’ve blogged about it here a number of times. And I have many more links describing the benefits of it as well as how to teach it. Someday, I plan to post these too.

For now, I’d like to show and tell about a number of iOS apps which can be effectively used to support meditative practices in you or your students. While I provide links to more info about each (as available), you’ll need to go to the App Store to search for and download them yourself.

Even though I use an Android smartphone, I have the apps featured here on my iPad only and not my phone. Therefore, I cannot speak to whether there are corresponding Android apps for any of these.

I’ve selected apps which are easy and effective to use, free of charge, and have either zero or minimal/unobtrusive opportunities for “In-App Purchases” (NOTE: This is accurate as what I’ve seen in the apps and also only at the time of publishing this). I hope you enjoy exploring these apps too:

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Peace – Ambient Sounds   – Free and without In-App Purchases

This is a pretty bare-bones app with only a handful of sounds. As it is free, clear of ads and w/o in-app purchases, it’s a good, basic, “starter app” to produce background sounds for meditation.

 

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WO.Audio (Red icon version) – Free and without In-App Purchases. NOTE: Search iTunes App Store with the “iPhone only” option selected.

For a free app, this one is surprisingly robust. It has both sounds and music along with options for users to create their own combinations which can be saved to the app.

 

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AmbiScience 300 Lite – Free and without In-App Purchases.

The free version of this is pretty slim on options as it functions mostly as an enticement to download their fuller versions. Yet, this app is one of the few I’ve found which also has the option to blend binaural sound waves into the mix of music and ambient sounds.

 

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White Noise Market – Free and without In-App Purchases

I’ve not used this app as much as some of the others, so I cannot speak to the depth of its functionality. That being said, at first glance it clearly has a range of sounds and functions which surpass many of the other free apps on this list. And it has this interesting map of the sources of the sounds offered by the app:

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Naturely, aka Nature Clockstand – Free without In-App Purchases.

Offering a range of sounds, an attractive image representing each sound, and a built-in timer, this app is another one with a high level of usability. I like the natural images which correlate to the audio as sometimes I’ll meditate with my eyes open and gaze at art or an image.

 

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Stop, Breathe and Think – Free with minimal, unobtrusive In-App Purchases

We’re now into a slightly different category of apps. Many of the remaining ones include audio, guided meditations, timers, record keeping of time/date meditating, and other features geared especially for novices to meditative practice. This app has a friendly, light-hearted interface. The user may “check-in” by answering a few questions and then receive a guided meditation tailored to their current need. Or, as this shot shows, the user can bypass the questions and simply select a style and length of meditation:

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Breathe2Relax – Free, no In-App Purchases

This app, while not strictly geared towards mindful meditation is designed with relaxation in mind. Designed with scientific research, this app is better to experience than to describe. So, if the screen shots above interest you, download the free app and try it out. If breathing is important to you, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in it.

 

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Smiling Mind – Free without In-App Purchases

Not only does this app have the best name of the bunch, but it includes a number of other unique features. While the mediation counter and resulting badges are similar to what is found on “Stop, Breathe and Think,” Smiling Mind is the only app I’ve found with meditations specifically geared to different age levels (see the 2nd shot above). Within each older age group is a “course list” of downloadable, guided meditations designed to teach and encourage a meditative practice. It also includes a “social media” function so your friends can observe and encourage your meditation.

And the voices are Aussies, reminiscent of Andy Puddicombe, creator and founder of Headspace.

 

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Mediation Timer Free for iPad – No In-App Purchases, ad supported

This simple, yet elegant app does one thing well. Although it doesn’t offer guided mediations or ambient sounds, it’s an excellent free timer. I use it every day to measure my 10 minutes of mindfulness. The free version is ad supported and has a couple fewer minor features than the inexpensive full version (which I purchased). I like how the user can set the time as well as sounds to mark intervals within the meditation. I use a deep chime sound for each 2:30 and then a specific bell at the end of the full 10 minutes. The app keeps track of my time and provides a number of key data points upon request. And I particularly like the option to easily post my meditation time on Twitter or facebook.

 

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Calm in the Storm (Stress Management) – Free, without In-App Purchases

This app is also different then the others listed here as it is designed specifically for people who suffer from high levels of stress and/or anxiety disorders. As you’ll see in the third shot above, there are guided meditations and relaxations within this app. These are set within the context of anxiety management and development of a plan to address anxiety and stress as they arise. For some, this app may literally function as a life-saver.

Do you have experience with any of these apps?

What additional apps have you used for ambient sounds and/or meditation?