Tastes Like Musical Chicken

I don’t know if I’m getting older or what, but the more and more I hear Christmas music (which is only one month out of the year), it seems to be homogenizing into this Hip-Hop/R&B/Pop musical fruitcake. With the exception of those Christmas classics from decades past (think Burl Ives, Jose Feliciano, Nat King Cole, and the like), it seems that Christmas music is not quite Christmas-y enough.

For example, I heard “Oh Holy Night” this week. I know this song from the hymn book and have played it numerous times. This version, however, was the Kelly Clarkson/American Idol version and I was like “WHY ARE THEY MAKING THE BIRTH OF JESUS ALL SULTRY???” Singing a Jesus-related Christmas song with the phone-sex operator voice is NOT a good match.

Therefore, I am putting my foot down and making an official statement:

(It just ain’t right)

Unless you’re Isaac Hayes singing “Mistletoe and Me”. THAT is the only exception.


From Rags to Riches… To Rags Again [Part 2/2]

What would happen if we hold the “three generations theory” up to Biblical illumination? Let’s find out. The main thing to remember as we dissect this theory to find out what the Bible says about it is to whittle the three parts down into a “researchable chunk”. Let’s take the first part of the theory:

THEORY (1/3): The FIRST generation works hard to achieve wealth.

A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. -Proverbs 10:4 (ESV)

The English Standard Version (ESV) says this verse so pretty. Check out the New Living Translation version.

Lazy people are soon poor; hard workers get rich. -Proverbs 10:4 (NLT)

So this verse is pretty straight forward. Do nothing, get nothing. Do something, get something. The FIRST generation has this concept of “hard workers get rich” and this is where our “three generations theory” cycle begins.

THEORY (2/3): The SECOND generation reaps the benefits of the first generation, but loses the work ethic.

For simpletons turn away from me—to death. Fools are destroyed by their own complacency. -Proverbs 1:32 (NLT)

But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! -Revelation 2:4 (NLT)

The Proverbs scripture is another one of those straight forward and to the point thoughts, but I don’t want you to miss the Revelation scripture. Let’s read it in context (and pay careful attention to how it fits in with SECOND generation complacency):

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands:

“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.

“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches. But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.

-Revelation 2:1-7 (NLT)

Doesn’t this letter sound like it’s written to a church that “gets it” BUT could lose it because their love at the beginning has, over time, decreased. “You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!” is a hard pill to swallow, but in this passage there is a way to get back to where things need to be: “Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.”

So, in essence, the SECOND generation is a DECISIONAL generation. They could never do what the FIRST generation did as far as “establishing a vision”, but if they don’t maintain the love and zeal that the FIRST generation had, that will lead to the “destruction of the original vision” in the THIRD generation.

THEORY (3/3): The THIRD generation squaders, spends, consumes the wealth with no concept of working for it.

Lazy people are soon poor; hard workers get rich. -Proverbs 10:4 (NLT)

So we’re back at the Proverbs 10:4 scripture yet again because it is one of those complete thoughts. Do nothing, get nothing. Do something, get something. The unfortunate part about THIRD generation mentality is that if they consume all of the FIRST generation money, they’ll have to go to “Part the First”… WORK (and more than likely, not work that their family originally established… just working a 9-5). For a generation that doesn’t understand WORK or “the value of a dollar”, that’s going to be a very rude wake up call.

So what is our ultimate conclusion here? In three generations any wealth that has been acquired can be lost. The Bible backs that up. So what are we to do? Perhaps if we were to visualize it, we could think of it like this:


The bottom line is simply this: KEEP WORKING. If you’re working to establish a vision KEEP WORKING. If you’re working to maintain a vision KEEP WORKING. Even if you haven’t achieved all of your goals KEEP WORKING. As long as you you’re working, God can continue to work through you. When you get complacent or give up is when you run into THIRD generation trouble.

On a personal note, it’s interesting that most of the verses related to the “three generations theory” are found in Proverbs, the Biblical book of wisdom. What that tells me, in addition to everything that’s already been mentioned, is that a wise man continues to work hard and a fool lets it all fall apart.

Don’t be foolish.

From Rags to Riches… To Rags Again [Part 1/2]

I know it’s December and I promise to get to the ooey gooey Christmas bloggy goodness, but this has been on my mind recently and I decided to do a little research on it. I either read or heard a while back that “the third generation loses what the first generation worked so hard to build”. Couldn’t tell you where I read or heard it, but it stuck out in my mind so much that I had to research it and check it for myself to see if there was any validity to it.

So I started with a simple search that went like this:

“1st generation works, 2nd generation maintains, 3rd generation is spoiled”

That lead me to http://www.ejmas.com and an article written by Douglas Tong titled “From the Teacher’s Corner 24: Three Generations”. There Mr. Tong explains the very thing I’ve been looking for in great detail.

For the full article, please go to: http://ejmas.com/pt/2012pt/ptart_tong_teacher24-1210.html

The actual proverb is a Chinese proverb that says:

Fu bu guo san dai
Translated: “Wealth does not pass three generations”

(I don’t speak Chinese so I sure hope that’s what it translates to…)

That has been transliterated into numerous cultures each placing their own spin on it. For example:

“Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations”
“Rags to riches to rags in three generations”
“Clogs to clogs”
“Kimono to Kimono”
“Rice paddy to rice paddy”

You get the picture. The general theory of these sayings go like this:

The FIRST generation:

Works hard to achieve wealth.

The SECOND generation:

Reaps the benefits of the first generation, but loses the work ethic.

The THIRD generation:

Squaders, spends, consumes the wealth with no concept of working for it.

Pretty clear cut, right? Not to mention a pretty vicious cycle (if you find yourself on the wrong side of this cycle). This “three generations theory” is well known around the world and throughout time. From my research, it looks like it’s been the underlying cause of the destruction of families, businesses, kingdoms, and empires.

But what might we find if we hold this theory up to Biblical illumination?

5 Things I’m Not So Fond Of About Thanksgiving

As we all know, Thanksgiving was this last past Thursday. Amid the turkeys, gravies, stuffings, various side dishes and desserts, I took a lot of observations. Usually I’m pretty observant, but, knowing that I have to write a blog, I try to kick my observations up a notch (so I’ll have something to write about). Therefore, I’d like to share with you “5 Things I’m Not So Fond Of About Thanksgiving” (in order of “this bugs me” to “this makes me pull my hair out of my head”).

Are you ready for the countdown?… Let’s go!

#5 – The Guilt… Oh The Guilt

So Thanksgiving is one of those days where you eat, eat, eat, and eat some more. Because you don’t get that level, quality, or capacity of food on a regular basis, it leads to overeating. Overeating leads to tummy aches. Tummy aches lead to remorse. Remorse leads to (drumroll please) GUILT!

(Oh yeah… I definitely felt guilty last week.)

#4 – Traveling

Not that any of you out there in blog land would know this, but I travel a lot. Everything from the morning commute back and forth to work, the weekly commute back and forth to church, or to the many places where I teach music (which can vary depending on the time of year). Needless to say, I travel all the time, but there’s just something about traveling when I should be resting that’s just… uncivilized.

#3 – Traveling with Non-Drivers

So to add to all of this, there’s nothing worse than traveling on the road with non-drivers (or, as my parents like to say, drivers who got their driver’s licenses from JCPenney). They either drive too slow, incoherently, or don’t think ahead (making them cross over 3-4 interstate lanes to get to an exit). Lord have mercy!

#2 – Traveling with Non-Drivers Who Have Nice Cars

So this is a new pet peeve of mine, but it’s creeped up my “Not So Fond Of” list pretty quickly. In #3 I mentioned drivers that drive too slow. Well add to that those same drivers are in cars that are KNOWN to “run”. For example, WHY OH WHY are you driving a (take your pick):

Any vehicle with a V8 (or even V6) engine
Any vehicle with a Hemi
(add additional fast cars here)

…and going 10 UNDER the speed limit? Anytime I can pass you in my aging vehicle as you plunk along make me… impatient.

#1 – The Commercialization of the Holy Days

Did you know that the etymology behind the word “Holiday” comes from the combination of “Holy Day”? Even if you didn’t know that, Thanksgiving is a day set aside to give (drumroll yet again…) THANKS. Therefore, it’s hard for me to watch the commercialization of Thanksgiving and the even greater offense of the commercialization of Christmas (but that’s a blog for another time). Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and I recently learned about Small Business Saturday. Ultimately three days to help you skip the entire point that if it weren’t for Thanksgiving Day, none of these “commercial holidays” would even exist. It diminishes the meaning of Thanksgiving because if you think about it, what are you really saying?…

“I am thankful… but as soon as I buy that 99% off TV that I have to fight my fellow family, friends, neighbors, and strangers over I’ll be even MORE thankful.”

Splicing the SACRED with the SECULAR [Part 6/6]: Conclusion

If nothing else, I hope that this blog series has caused you to think about what you do and why you do it. Of course, this is geared towards my fellow church musicians (pianists, organists, keyboardists, etc), but as a little bit of a conclusion, I want to submit this thought:

If you sold vaccuum cleaners, would anybody care about any of this stuff?

The short answer: Probably not.

Fortunately, we’re not talking about vaccuum cleaner sales, we’re talking about soul business through the medium of music. In the first blog of this series, I mentioned that I was guilty of splicing the sacred with the secular. As a musician, it comes with the territory IN THE SENSE THAT you want to put your best foot forward and display your best abilities in any and all musical situations. Sometimes when you’re digging for musical things to do in the middle of a performance, you revert to what’s comfortable (and comfort levels vary from musician to musician).

The turning point for me was when I started really studying my Bible (not to be a preacher or a minister of music or any kind of church official… just to be a better Christian). One thing that I’m continuing to learn is that we are all interconnected on this planet. One person has the ability to affect many, many others either directly or indirectly. Even if you just affect one person, that one person can affect others in what is commonly referred to as “The Butterfly Effect” (where small changes can have astronomical effects; aka Chaos Theory).

I suggest that when it comes to sacred music that you just be conscious of what you’re doing. This is NOT to negate any musical knowledge that you have outside of the church (because real musicians listen to a lot of different styles of music). Sure, you can splice a secular song in and nobody would even know what it is. In fact, in today’s church you would probably get a commendation from the older crowd and a head nod of agreement from your counterparts, but WHAT IF one person was thrown off? WHAT IF one person stumbled because of the music you played? WHAT IF one person turned away from Christ because they heard “the club” in the church? Would that be enough for you to remember the words in 1 Corinthians 8:11?

So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. (NLT)

Is it really THAT serious?

Could you live with yourself if it was THAT serious?

(just a thought)

Splicing the SACRED with the SECULAR [Part 4/6]: Little Foxes

When it comes to the splicing of the sacred with the secular, there is one particular Biblical scripture that comes to my mind.

 “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.”

-Song of Solomon 2:15 (KJV)

So what in the world could this verse in the Bible be talking about. Song of Solomon (aka Song of Songs) is not a book you hear quoted everyday, but I’ve heard this verse explained before and I think it applies to what we’re talking about here in music. Check this out and follow me on how it’s connected with our subject at hand:

A fox, at it’s tallest, is no more than 2 feet from the ground up.

A grapevine can grow up to, and beyond, 115 feet in it’s native environment.

So how can a little fox spoil something that’s a little over 57 times its height?

Easy. The little fox is closer to the root. No matter how tall a thing becomes, if you attack the root, it cannot stand very long. This brings up a third school of thought that I would like to submit for your review.

 The Third School of Thought: The condition of your heart for God affects the condition of your music for God.

When we’re talking about SACRED music in the church, adding SECULAR bits and pieces to it attacks the root. Just like dark and light cannot be in the same room, sacred music and secular music cannot be in the same song.

…but wait… let’s substitute the definitions in and read that last sentence again…

Just like dark and light cannot be in the same room, [connected with God] music and [no religious or spiritual basis] music cannot be in the same song.

Now this gets down to the condition of your heart for God FIRST then the music you play for God.

Splicing the SACRED with the SECULAR [Part 2/6]: Psychoacoustics

If you’re not familiar with Psychoacoustics, then, as a musician, you owe it to yourself to get familiar with it. Wikipedia says that:

Psychoacoustics is the scientific study of sound perception. More specifically, it is the branch of science studying the psychological and physiological responses associated with sound (including speech and music).

To read the entire article, please go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychoacoustics

The bottom line is that Psychoacoustics is that branch of science that proves that we, as humans, react to sound and, ultimately, music. If we were to visualize what that looks like, it would probably look like this:


For example, think about what you would do if you were to hear the following sounds:

1) A crying baby

2) Nails on a chalkboard

3) A mosquito buzzing in your ear

4) A car slamming on brakes and screeching to a halt

5) A police car, fire truck, or rescue squad siren

6) Your cell phone ringer

7) The sound of the voice of your significant other

I’m sure that as you were reading that list, the very thought of those sounds produced in you either an emotional or a physical response. Consider this… you were just reading that list and it did that. So let’s consider music. Think about what you would do if you were to hear the following music:

1. Scary orchestral music (think Hitchcock’s “Psycho” suite”)

2. An instrument out of tune

3. The squeak of a reed instrument

4. A tuba

5. The ascending slide of a trombone

6. The blaring loudness of a trumpet section (think of the theme to “Rocky”)

7. The electronic synthesized sound of a keyboard

Were you able to think of how all those musical sounds made you feel? Did you come up with a musical memory for any of them? Even if you didn’t react to anything on the list, you do react to whatever music you tend to listen to on a regular basis. I have a workshop that I teach at various churches that deals with the subject of Psychoacoustics and the reaction is always fun to watch because EVERYBODY REACTS TO MUSIC… which brings us to the basis question for this blog series:

Is it OK to splice SACRED music with SECULAR music?