Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Existential Crisis (Conclusions) part 1... Art and Spirituality

I have been waiting to write this post for some time now. I really wanted to let myself marinate... break down... and digest these conversations.

I appreciated these conversations and am sad that this chapter of questioning has come to an end. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to everyone, hopefully I can come to a different kind of crisis soon, then I can start asking a new line of questions.

I decided to write out my conclusions into separate blog posts, sorry if this is a pain. I’ve been spending a lot of time working on this post, and I feel like it will be better for me and you. It will make me feel less intimated by the blog, and it means you will get more blog, more quickly; win, win.

One of the most prominent connections that stands out to me, is humanity’s seeming timeless obsession with art that Dmitri mentioned, and our deep need to connect with the spiritual world that DJ believes. I am convinced that these two go hand in hand.

Since spirituality is such a vague word and concept, it is difficult to define what this connection means. But I am willing to speculate...

“You don’t have a soul, you are a soul, you have a body” -CS Lewis-

I think that all humans are/have spirits/souls, and are living in both the spiritual and the physical world at the same time.

I believe that through our souls we are connected.

To the Earth
To Animals
To Each Other
To God

This connection can be forgotten though, ignored.

Through these conversations I have come to believe that art is a physical manifestation of our spirituality; a portal that pricks the thick veil of reality allowing us to experience this intimate connection.

When I was a child I loved Zelda. LOVED IT. I didn’t know why, I didn’t care why, all I knew was that spending an entire summer figuring out the ins and outs was a summer well spent.

For those of you who don’t know, Zelda is a video game. There are several games in the catalog, but the basic premise of each is about a boy who is unremarkable, unimpressive, overlooked, learns he is needed for a great quest.

The quest is dangerous, and will require great courage.

In hindsight:


An unremarkable boy who hopes he is courageous enough.

It was through art I discovered myself. Even though I didn’t know it. Art, I believe, awakened my passion.

And these passions have made me the man I have chosen to be.

As I wrap this up, I think, who would I be without art? Who would we be? While the answers to these questions are irrelevant, the ramifications are non-negotiable.

Art is priceless.

To Be Continued...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Existential Crisis (Part 3)

When I got back from Denver the first person I talked to was Jackie, who graciously picked me up from the airport. I got a chance to talk to her about a lot of different things. It was a really awesome conversation actually. We got to know each other differently in our two hour car ride.

I talked to Jackie about my conversations with people. She was surprised by how moved I was by some of the conversations. She was surprised because she said she had been telling me so much of it all along...

Jackie also mentioned something profound, and I of course forgot...

The next conversation I had was with Bryan Throckmorton. Bryan was a good person to talk to, because in a lot of ways Bryan doesn’t really care about art... I don’t mean that in a bad way. It is just the way Bryan is. He read his first fiction series this last year.

Before I decided to publish this blog I asked Bryan if I could say that he doesn’t like art. He reluctantly agreed... He wanted me to be clear that he doesn’t lose sleep over art, but doesn’t want it to leave schools.

What came from Bryan’s conversation actually had nothing to do with art, but more to do with wants. Bryan talked about a book called quitter, by Jon Acuff. Basically what I got from Bryan is that we should incorporate the things we want to do in everyday life, talk about them with co-workers, friends... I’m not sure where all of that is ends up going, perhaps I should read the book...

The last conversation that is relevant to this blog came in kind of late in the game. It was an excellent time for me to have this conversation because I felt like everything was wrapping up, and this last conversation was the final adjustment to my new course of thinking.

My final conversation (in relationship to this blog) was with DJ Shultz. I was kind of surprised this conversation happened. I say that because I wasn’t expecting DJ to read my blog, and was pleasantly surprised when he asked me after church if we could meet up and talk about it.

DJ had one thing to say:

It was the perfect time for him to say it.

DJ said “human beings are spiritual beings and art is our connection to the spiritual world.”

To Be Concluded

Friday, April 13, 2012

Existential Crisis (Part 2)

While in Colorado, I had the opportunity to visit with a group of my friends/music students from metro, at yogurt-land, (the college I went to) I brought up the value of art question. I figured this would be a good time and a good group of people to ask, who better than a group of people who have decided to devote there lives to art. I didn’t get many answers...

I was honestly a little surprised...

In all fairness all I could think about at Metro was keeping my head above water (Metro was a really hard school (which is one of the things I really loved about it (I would not be the musician that I am today without that school))). In the midst of school the last thing I was thinking about was the value of art. I knew that I wanted to study music. I often wondered why, but I ran out of time...

In the conversation at yogurt-land I brought up what Rebecca had said about the value of the creative process, Melia (a lovely soprano, who is a performance major) piggy backed off of that idea, and mentioned how my creative process (being that I am composer) inspires a different type of creative process for a performer. I hadn’t considered that.

As I write this I realize that I am omitting something.

The last conversation I had in Colorado was with Katie Kline at the original waffle house (I miss that place (Bacon Waffles(!))).

I really like Katie, she is really good at being honest, and seemingly doesn’t know how to not speak her mind. Her response to me was what I have been omitting: She asked if I enjoyed composing...?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Existential Crisis (Part 1)

I actually wrote the previous blog a awhile ago.

Since then I am actually back on the composing wagon.

For the past few months I’ve been dealing with what I have deemed an existential crisis. Perhaps not a dramatic one, not one where I am questioning my worth, or why we live on this planet, but I am asking why compose?

What value does art bring people? I became interested in music because I believed that it could change the world.

I was 19 when I began to believe that I could literally change the world with music. I am 26 now, and I wonder if I was just a naive kid.

I feel like art these days is just used to entertain, distract and escape. I think those things, because I feel like that is all I use art for.

A few weeks ago I posted on my facebook, “what is the value of art?” It was the beginning of a long series of conversations with others about why they think art is important.

I recently went on a trip to colorado, and had the opportunity to discuss with many others why, or if art is important, it was a really great experience, and I gained a lot from my conversations with others.

One of the first things I came across that was helpful for me was my friend Dmitri: Dmitri is a talented and disciplined artist who went to RMCAD (Rocky Mountain School of Art and Design) he noted how art has transcended every culture and that there hasn’t been a single civilization without some kind of art.

While I can’t put my finger on why, I find this idea is intriguing, and oddly inspiring.

Dmitri also noted that every artist struggles with what I am struggling with in some way, and that (he believes) successful artists figure out some way to deal with it.

Another conversation that was really helpful was with Jackie’s Mom, which was no surprise to me, I’ve always been inspired by Rebecca. She is one of those people that I have had conversations with, and the course of my life is changed by something that she said.

Rebecca mentioned a few things

She talked about the creative process and how it is important for each individual; how the creative process is enlightening in the journey to self discovery, and that is always valuable. My friend Bryan Grosbach, said something similar, and the more I think about it, I agree.

Rebecca also asked me about important moments in my life, and things that brought about change. Unfortunately my memory doesn’t work like that, so I asked her what moments in her life brought about change. She didn’t entirely have an answer, but she did remember a song that helped her deal with a really rough situation. She remembered drawing strength from that song.

Since this is a legitimate existential crisis, just one or two answers isn’t enough. I kept searching.

A brief side note:

For those of you that don’t know; I believe that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, I believe that he was dead, but is now alive, and not metaphorically, I believe that He is literally alive, and the one that the descendants of Abraham were waiting for.

I say that to say this: a lot of my conversations shifted towards God, and God’s purpose for me, and glorifying God, and for whatever reason, right now, that isn’t enough for me.

Another conversation that had a lot of meaning to me was the conversation I had with Jake Denham. I don’t remember how it started but we realized in the midst, that we were both in the same place.

For those of you that don’t know Jake: Jake owns his own carpet cleaning business, and has made more than stable income off of it for several years now. Jake and his wife Hilary recently had a baby, her name is Addie (she is a cutie). Jake and Hilary both work for the carpet cleaning company and are able to support themselves completely off there business, it is safe to say that it is successful.

In the midst of the success Jake couldn’t help but ask himself, what’s the point?

While I am not ambitious enough to explain everything that Jake was dealing with, I will say that we understood where the other was coming from, even though our creativity mediums are hot cold different.

Jake and I share a deep infatuation with Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and at one point Jake said “that series is so epic, it changed my life.” Jake might have regretted saying that to me, because I instantly latched onto it.

“How?” I said.
“How has the dark tower changed your life?”
“I can’t think of a specific thing, or a specific moment, but everything, every experience, whether or not I can remember it has shaped who I am right now. And I know that The dark tower is a part of that.” Jake looked at me with love in his eyes, and we both wept (unfortunately this was in the middle of King Soopers (grocery store for you Illinoisans (and we weren’t the only ones weeping... )))

Something has been building in me.

I wonder about moments that shape who people are.

I wonder about those moments that absolutely change the course of lives.

The moments that people decide to be different, different than who the have been.

I want to know my your (yes you) moments. Tell me.

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


When I started studying composition, I became infatuated with the idea of mastering music. Music Mastery drove me, it was a beast that needed taming, and I was the man to do it.

I have stepped back from composing for a time, because I am asking myself why? Why compose? I feel like no one cares, and it doesn’t do anything. (I am not looking for some half-hearted reason where someone tells me that they care, (I’m not exactly sure what I am looking for. (Just know that this isn’t a ploy to manipulate people into telling me that they care about my music.)))

When I say it doesn’t do anything I mean this: I recently built a headboard for me and the Mrs. and loved doing it, I loved creating something with my hands, the smell of the saw dust, hammering that wooden harlot into submission, and at the end, I have something to show for it, something that is being used, and holds my books.

When I compose there is no practical application to my music, I slave away, surrender my whole mind to conquering another piece of music. Only to what? Try and get it performed? Submit it to a competition only to hear nothing back. What’s my endgame here? I mean, i don’t write music because I want it to sit in a folder on my computer.

But here is my problem, I am shy, and timid. I hate putting myself out there, because I am never good at talking to people right away, and I hate asking people for things. The idea of introducing myself to a group of musicians and asking them to play my music literally paralyzes me with fear

And here is my enigma: my desire to write is waning, because I see no results in writing, but trying to get musicians to performs my music literally paralyzes me.

The only real solution is to break out of my shell, and stop surrendering myself to fear.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Tops of 2011

This by far has been the most shocking year of my life.

There are so many new things, and major mile stones that mark this year, so I want to list off my tops of 2011

Favorite Album

        Bon Iver
                Bon Iver

                I discovered this album sometime in June and listened to it for almost four months straight. The whole thing is so                 creative and the album really feels incomplete when you listen to just one song. It really wasn’t a contest for me this                 year, this album was easily my favorite.

Honorable mention:

                Ghosts Upon the Earth

                If Bon Iver wouldn’t have released their self titled album, this might have been a favorite of the year. It is chilling, and                 sobering, but also magical, and alive.

Favorite moment

        Like I said a lot happened this year... I don’t have one favorite moment.

                Writing a wind ensemble piece and hearing it read through

                Graduating from College

                The moment Jackie and I walked through the door of our home.

Favorite Composer

        Johannes Brahms

                I have been listening to his symphonies, his requiem, his lied, and his piano pieces, I can’t get enough of his music.                 He was truly a master.

Favorite Video game

                The Skyward Sword

                It is funny that I even have a video game section considering that I think they are a huge waste of time, but anyone                 who knew me in my youth knows that I couldn’t get enough Zelda. The newest game was really creative, and a lot of                 fun to play. It is only thanks to Bryan Throckmorton that I was able to play, he has graciously loaned me his wii for                 the time being.

Saddest moment

        Leaving Denver

                By far leaving Denver was on of the hardest things I have done. I really miss my Denver friends, I started to name all                 of you but it took a really long time, so I stopped. But just know that if you are a Denver Friend, I miss you.

Favorite TV Show


                I watched a lot of TV shows this year, and nothing quite does it for me like Dexter does. Breaking Bad was great, But                 I don’t care as much about the Characters as I do Dexter.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Sorry it has taken me so long to write this post, We have moved out of Grandma’s and now live in our own home! Yay!

In my last post, I made a joke about my teacher shrieking in terror because I said that I write in Sibelius.

For those of you that don’t know, Sibelius is notation software. There are two major notation software programs out there, Sibelius and Finale, both of which basically do the same thing. Composers will argue back and forth why whichever one is better. I don’t really care about that so that is all I am going to say about it.

The point of this post is to discuss something entirely different.

There is a major debate among composers about notation software and whether or not it should be used when writing. Some composition schools won’t allow students to use the software, and consequently some students won’t go to those schools.

To be completely honest I wouldn’t go to one of those schools. I don’t know if I know how to write without software... It is kind of embarrassing but I am completely dependent on it. I can sketch out ideas on pen and paper, but writing an entire piece without playback is something that I can’t even begin to fathom.

For those of you that don’t know, Sibelius and Finale do MIDI playback for you as you write. Which means that you get immediate results and don’t need to try and plunk out the notes on the piano.

I see problems with this method of writing... First of all our composition forefathers did not have have playback, yet were able to write symphonies, opera’s, concerto’s, and everything else without the handy use of it all being played back.

While the MIDI is helpful, it is also misleading. I might be hearing my oboe part too loud in my playback, so I write it quieter than other instruments, but in fact the oboe is already a quiet instrument, so it can easily get drowned out. The problem being that the playback is dishonest in how loud an instrument is, or what it actually sounds like, and unfortunately I respond to this misleading information.

The next point and probably most worrisome of writing in the software is writing by ear... Using the playback to write means I am writing with my ears, rather than my mind. This is the point I think about the most. It is the point that scares me the most. I can’t help but wonder how much writing like that hurts me as a composer.

I wonder about that because several composers that I respect and admire do not use software.

We had a guest speaker one semester that doesn’t use anything but a pencil, staff paper and his kitchen table (not even a piano). He played a string quartet for us, and it was fascinating! Beautiful! Interesting!

I admire that skill.

Beethoven wrote his entire 9th symphony whilst completely deaf! This is the same kind of skill. One that is, I believe a true mastery.

I can’t help but wonder about it though.

The creative process is so different for each individual, and I wonder how much of that skill can be attributed to his creative process, and how much is plain... practice... or craft for a lack of better words.

For some composers, the music is just in their heads, and they have to get it out. For some (like myself) there is no music in there, but it is playing with something, like a piano, or a guitar, or a computer that pushes my musical imagination which drives my creative process.

So I am not sure that writing like that would even work for me... But I am not against trying it. I can’t even begin to fathom if it will even work, but I know I will be stronger on the other side.

The best way for me to handle it I suppose, is to just do it, and come at it with no expectations.

It will probably be a while before I try to write that way, but I am vowing to try it.

Maybe a year of writing with no instruments, and no computer... I’ll definitely need to start small

Maybe in 2013...

That’s all for now.

Merry Christmas Friends.