Long days and pleasant nights!!

Thankee, sai!

VICTORY!!!
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Today, I recorded, mixed, and mastered the last of the 96 demos for the online component of the hymnal!

They're not all where I want them to be, so I will probably go back and redo some of the guitar parts and/or vocals.  But all of them are decent enough that any person can learn how to play the songs by listening to them.

Now to go spend time with the baby girl, free of this major distraction!

Well...
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The hymnals did indeed arrive today, as expected!  In three rather large and heavy boxes, no less.  I'm giving 20 copies to the seminary because it was through them that these costs were covered.

If anybody still reads my (very) sporadic updates, and if you're interested in buying a copy, leave a comment, or message me on Facebook (username EWRodgers), and we'll figure something out.

They are on their way!
lionswardrobe
I've been charting hymns out for guitar for nearly 4 years.  Last Wednesday, after many edits and much time waiting, I ordered the first print run of The Attic Guitar Hymnal, Volume 1 from Snowfall Press.  They should be here tomorrow!

Next on the agenda is to finish recording all the hymns (89 of 96 down, 7 left to go) and get all the bass parts written (maybe 10 of 96 down).  By then, the website should be up, and I can go full tilt into promoting this thing!

Hard copies will be $30 each (+$5 for shipping within the U.S.) and will include all the digital extras (bass parts, mp3 demos, PowerPoint files of all the lyrics, and the pdf master of the hard copy).

I haven't decided what to make the digital-only version ($18, maybe?) or whether I should sell the individual hymns on an a-la-carte basis.

Regardless, this is a huge deal!  These hymns have given my life direction and an outlet to serve the Church since my seminary career met its end.

Okay, baby's crying, so I gotta go, but I'll post something else soon!

This 'n That...
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Wow, it's been a while since I've posted anything about our lives...

Well, anyways, Alex is now almost nine months old and is able to sit, crawl, and pull herself up to standing on coffee tables, couches, etc.  So as of today, the crib is now on its lowest setting.

We went down to Texas to visit both sides of the family for Christmas.  Alex took the trip down there like a champ, and while the trip back was significantly worse, it still wasn't too bad.  She now has several new, noise-making toys with which to annoy me.  Ugh...

Like her daddy was, she is completely awestruck by German Shepherds and shows no fear around them at all.  They aren't terribly interested in her, but they are very tolerant of her when she approaches them.



She now has three teeth--the middle and right side incisors on the bottom.

Finally,  I've been saving up money for quite a while now hoping to get a new 6-string guitar.  My Larrivee 12-string (an L-03-12RE) has been awesome, but my old Seagull just hasn't been keeping up lately.  The cedar top just soaks up the sound, even with new strings, the electronics don't work well, even with a new battery, and the bridge and neck need some serious work to get it to play in tune.  It's been a good guitar, but it's still only a mid-quality instrument.  Time to upgrade.

I'm sold on Larrivee's guitars for several reasons, so I knew I wanted a 6-string to match the one I already had.  I've been looking on Craigslist and saving every bit of the money I received for birthdays and Christmas, but nobody in St. Louis was selling anything I was terribly interested in.  Before this last Christmas, I had $510 saved up, and I'd priced a new one at about $1,200 (+tax).  So, quite a ways to go.

Before we left for Texas, I checked the Craigslist there and found a 6-year-old L-03 SP with factory installed electronics, and the guy was asking $700.  He'd taken good care of it and had a tech at Guitar Center check it out, so all my questions answered satisfactorily, I got myself another guitar.  With the gifts from this Christmas, I not only covered the rest of it, but I also have enough left over for a good start toward a new computer.



I bought her on December 21, 2013.  Her name is Solstice.
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Hymnal Progress
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The hymnal is getting close.  My (extremely busy and pregnant!) cover designer Liz needs to send me the final edit of the cover, and my (extremely busy but not pregnant) web designer George needs to get back to me on the website.  After that, I'm sending off for 100 of them, and people will be able to buy them on the website.

Once the website is up and running, I'll throw myself headlong into recording the rest of the demos.  Until then, here is the playlist of mp3 demos from the pdf sampler I posted online (here*).



And here's another random one I liked enough to post on its own...



And another...



And I've been learning how to master my recordings.  Sorta...  The recordings on SoundCloud haven't been mastered, and I'm not even sure I'm doing it correctly, but they sound better to me than they did before I started messing with them.

Oh yeah, and since Flickr started giving everybody 1 TB of storage space for free, I started updating the page a little bit more frequently--more than Facebook, since Flickr allows people to see the photos in original resolution.  So here's the link again: http://www.flickr.com/photos/76978034@N00/.

Pax Christi!


*-  The display is a bit dodgy if you view it in your browser, so you'll want to download it.  I also uploaded it to the Facebook group "Attic Hymns," so you can get it there without having to sign up for Scribd.

Ramblings
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This is the newest hymn I've posted on SoundCloud.  Listen through to the end because the guitar part changes up a bit in stanza 3 and then gets really out there for stanza 4.

The hymnal will be printed very soon!

Contemporary Worship
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For months now, Jennifer and I have been attending a home church, led by a called and ordained Missouri Synod pastor, and under his watch, I've continued to develop my guitar hymnal project.  Sometimes, though, he is asked to preach at other churches, so we end up going there instead of his house.  The church that brings him in to preach most often uses contemporary worship.  I don't really tend to like worship services with a praise band, but I've seen it done well.*  So I usually reserve judgment until after the service.  Now, after two worship services, I lay it out here.  And before I begin, I left off all the names intentionally, so don't even ask.

Below are some of the thoughts about our two most recent visits, adapted from what I wrote in my journal.

Two weeks ago: If I were ever to doubt the importance of my work with hymns, I just need to remember that tonight we never once sang the name of Jesus and never sang anything about God that would contradict a Muslim or a Deist or an ancient Stoic.**  At least, not before the sermon.  During Communion, we sang the old Bill Gaither hymn "Because He Lives."  Not bad but also not all that good.

And man, it was loud!  It was loud to the point that prolonged exposure could cause damage to my hearing, to say nothing of my baby daughter's.

Anyways, it's not enough to say that God is amazing, even if you say it loudly.  Every religious person in the world can affirm that.  It's Jesus--His co-eternal existence (with the Father and Spirit), His incarnation, His death and resurrection, His ascension and immanent return--that sets us apart.  Generic worship is a denial of Christ by omission.

This week:  The content of the songs is a bit better this week.  They at least referenced Jesus (by name and various titles, like Messiah, Lamb of God, Immanuel, etc.), and they mentioned the cross.  But they still centered around us--our actions, our devotion, our feelings.

But as I get a larger sampling of contemporary worship practices after several years of absence, a lot has changed.  A lot of the praise songs written in the last 5-10 years have no compelling melody.  When I compared the more recent songs with older ones like "You Are My All in All" or even some of the older Chris Tomlin songs like "You Are My Treasure" (just to name two), it struck me that they're not even in the same league.

The genre is now largely comprised of fragmentary concepts, incomplete sentences, boring melodies, and puzzling references to Bible passages cherry picked, seemingly at random, with no kind of larger Biblical narrative or direction.  It speaks from one emotion--elation--and has no definitive object, only the numinous.  This is not Christian.  At best, it's Montanist, and at worst, it's Gnostic.

Even references to Jesus are often vague and divorced from the Cross.  Or else the cross is given no greater emphasis or importance than any other thing Jesus did.

In Conclusion:  It's taken me a while to articulate my thoughts on this matter, and I'm still kinda shooting from the hip.  If my criticism seems rather harsh, please understand that I'm actually something of a moderate among others of my tradition (and even among those of the same stripe within my tradition).  But there is cause for alarm.

Even though we only attend a house church, I take my role as a worship leader very seriously and strive every week to emphasize what's important and to enrich with a broad wealth details.  I probably wouldn't have mentioned anything if only one week had been bad and the other week had been basically on-target.  Every worship leader has a bad week, just like every pastor preaches a bad sermon.  This bugged me, though, because both of my experiences with this particular worship leader were alarming.

Song is not just a creative expression of the faith but is very formative in a person's life.  It is no accident that the longest book of the Bible is a book of songs and that the book entirely dedicated to romance is called "Song of Songs" and that a large portion of the prophets is in poetry.  Despite the centrality of the spoken word to Lutheranism, people can recall music far more easily.  Songs affect and impact people far more than sermons.  So when worship leaders choose songs week after week like the ones we sang these two weeks, it reinforces an egocentric belief system and stunts our growth in Christ.

Admittedly, Chris Tomlin and I would probably disagree on what is "central" to scripture, as well as how best to communicate that message.  And it's not exactly like he's saying anything blatantly false so I can't exactly fault him.  The heart of the problem is that the heart of the Christian message is missing.  I keep hearing this music without other songs in the service to act as a corrective or to focus us in on the central message.


*- The most notable example would be a church I attended while Jennifer and I visited a friend in California.  The songs they chose, whether intentionally or not, actually came together to serve loosely the same functions as the parts of the Liturgy--Invocation (duly Trinitarian), Confession/Absolution, Introit, etc.  It was impressive.

**- There are a lot of great worship songs that don't mention Jesus by name (Luther's rendering of Psalm 130 and every English translation from Luther's text, for example), and there are a lot of terrible songs that mention Jesus a lot.


Okay, my rant is over.  So allow me to be a capitalist for a moment.  If you're a church guitarist or know a church guitarist, buy my guitar hymnal in a few weeks, when I've sent off for them.

Early for Christmas... I know...
lionswardrobe
...but it is one of my favorites.  And at least I waited until Advent, right?


Lorica
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In case you didn't already catch it on Facebook, this is the new hymn with some serious guitar help from Aaron Adams!

Hope y'all enjoy it!

New recording
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New recording.  I've been working on it for a while now, and this will not be the final version.  But it's what I've done so far.  I have others just waiting to be polished up a bit.

This time, we have a guest singer too!  Hopefully, there will be more like that in the future, but that's still a ways off.

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