The Power and Importance of Music – Lecture

Posted on October 13, 2014 at 3:41 pm, by Ben

I frequently receive questions about music from other Christians brothers and sisters that go something like this: Does God care what music I listen to? Is it a sin to listen to ____ genre? Do genre and aesthetics matter? Are there biblical principles that govern how we make and listen to music? Is music moral, or amoral? Does it matter what music we listen to? Can we listen to music written by non-Christians? Is all musical meaning subjective and relative?

These are some tough questions to be sure, and ones that the American church at large has not offered much substantial teaching on in recent generations, despite how important and omnipresent music is in our everyday lives and modern culture. Back in March of this year, I very ambitiously attempted to tackle some of these questions at a local event in a two-part series on music, in all likelihood biting off a good deal more than I could chew. The first part was focused more on the theological and philosophical considerations regarding music and our involvement in it as Christians (which I believe is the more fundamental lecture), and that is what I’m posting today. The second part was focused more on the science and mechanics of music (which is really, really, cool, BTW), but that talk relied on visuals and audio very heavily and will probably not be making it’s way online–at least not anytime soon.

Personally, I feel woefully inadequate to properly address many of these issues, but I do really want to help those out there (like me) with big questions and few answers, so hopefully this talk will provide–at a minimum–a starting point for the discussion and the introduction of some very important concepts. Though I cannot guarantee a response, I do appreciate any emails or comments with questions, critiques, additional viewpoints or considerations, as I believe there is still a lot to learn and I want to make sure I’m not making arguments that fall apart when examined, or saying things that are untrue.

SDG,

Ben

Polycarp: Destroyer of Gods

Posted on April 25, 2014 at 1:09 pm, by Ben

I’m very pleased to announce that I’ll be coming on board the independent feature film Polycarp: Destroyer of Gods as the composer! I’m just beginning the early writing stages for this film and it’s looking to be a great experience. The emotions of the story and it’s characters are deep and rich and the geographic setting is evocative, which make scoring a treat. Here’s a short synopsis of the film:

A young slave girl, Anna, is rescued and adopted by Christians in the 2nd century Smyrna and befriended by their aged bishop, Polycarp. As Anna is taught by Polycarp and her new family, she struggles to reconcile her beliefs with those of the Christians. When the Roman proconsul demands that all citizens worship Caesar to show their allegiance to Rome, Polycarp and the Christians must find courage to stand for their faith against the growing threat of persecution. Anna is forced to come to grips with the truth and choose whom she is willing to live – and die – for.

Of significant note, the film currently is running a kickstarter campaign (only 9 hours left!) to help fund remaining stages of production. Be sure to support the film and check out the unique rewards and incentives for backers that will not last much longer.

Building the Machine – The Music

Posted on April 8, 2014 at 9:24 pm, by Ben

I recently had the pleasure of writing the music for HSLDA’s new documentary on the Common Core Standards, “Building the Machine.”

“Building the Machine” introduces the public to the Common Core States Standards Initiative (CCSSI) and its effects on our children’s education. The documentary compiles interviews from leading educational experts, including members of the Common Core Validation Committee. Parents, officials, and the American public should be involved in this national decision regardless of their political persuasion.

I had a great time working and collaborating with director Ian Reid on the project, from developing the sonic texture of the score, to the spotting session, and all throughout the scoring process. As we discussed the needs of the film, we decided that the music needed to be a subdued mixture of hybrid/minimal/ambient textures and tones for the most part, which provided an exciting challenge and opportunity to explore sounds and music that were a bit of a departure from the richer, more orchestral and melodic music I tend to write. I used more synth and hybrid elements, muted strings, felt piano, primarily utilizing the softer dynamics of all these instruments. There were also sections that needed to sound more mechanical and unrelenting–like a machine–which required a lot of experimentation with percussive and metallic sounds to arrive on the final sound. Below is a short medley of some of the music from the film.

Visit www.commoncoremovie.com to discover more about the project!

The End of Myself – New Song and Competition

Posted on November 27, 2013 at 5:12 pm, by Ben

I recently had the privilege of teaming up with good friend and powerful tenor Daniel Craig to compose an original song titled “The End of Myself.” We came up with the melody, basic chords and structure together, and then I created the orchestration and he performed the vocals. We wrote this song for many reasons, and wanted to share a few of them:

First, we want to glorify God directly with the works of our hands, practicing excellence in our craft to do our work as unto the Lord (Col 3:23), and to create something that declares his truth in a professional and beautiful way… to the best of our limited ability (we’ll be the first to admit that we still have a lot to learn).

Secondly, had a message that we wanted to convey to our listeners. Specifically, to remind a self-sufficient world that only when we are weak in Christ, are we truly strong (2 Cor. 12:10).

Thirdly, we believe that Christians need to be writing more songs that combine quality words, quality music, and quality production in a cohesive and appropriate way. I commonly hear good words combined with shoddy music, or good music combined with unclear (or downright false) words, but songs that present a wise and professional marriage of both are a rarity. We wanted to contribute to the reversal of that trend.

Fourthly, we believe in the importance of Christian collaboration. I have long been a sort of lone-wolf when it comes to writing music, but I’m learning that there is also strength in locking arms with other Christian craftsmen to combine ideas, skills, resources and prayers. In fact, some things can ONLY be accomplished by the unity of many.

But we have another desire, and here is where we need YOU to help us out. Danny and I are praying about where to take this collaborative relationship in the future, but we need to know how much interest and demand for music like this exists in the Christian market.

Right now there is a great opportunity to gauge that interest and get feedback: “The End of Myself” is currently one of ten semi-finalists in a competition run by Christian pianist, producer and marketer Greg Howlett. Anyone can vote online, and whoever gets the most votes receives:

* a professional studio-produced project valued at $6,000 that includes the following:
* 2 days in a studio (one of two that I personally use).
* My long time engineer Jason Prisk as recording and mix engineer.
* Me as producer (A producer takes care of all the details so all you have to do is record.)
* Me as your coach for picking out songs, helping you arrange, etc.
* Graphic design
* My help marketing your new project.

So please visit the voting page and listen to all the entries. If you genuinely believe that ours is the most worthy of this prize, please vote for us and consider sharing the competition link https://apps.facebook.com/my-polls/2013studiorecordingcontest with your friends and encouraging them to do the same. (NOTE: the poll is hosted by Facebook but you do NOT need a Facebook account to participate)

Thank you all and to God be the Glory!

Berlin Woodwinds Expansion B: Soloists

Posted on September 23, 2013 at 4:39 pm, by Ben

I recently had the great pleasure of creating a demo for Orchestral Tool’s newest sample library, “Berlin Woodwinds Expansion B: Soloists.” The title is actually a little bit deceptive–though “Expansion” may make it sound like you need to own BWW for these instruments to work, that is not the case… and it’s not just a couple measly add-on patches, either.

Included are Legato, Sustain, Staccato, Portato, and Grace note patches for Flute, Alto Flute, Oboe, English Horn, and Clarinet, making this almost more like an entire “lite” woodwind section than an expansion. All the patches are good, but the real draw here is the legatos, which are butter smooth and insanely expressive. My wife can testify as to how giddy I was acting as I played around with them for the first time–especially with the Oboe and English Horn, which are made of win(d). To create more robust legato patches and to eliminate phasing issues, Orchestral Tools recorded this entirely new set of samples in a drier setting, which proved to be a very good call. But just to guarantee that these drier sample would match the acoustic space of BWW, they sampled and included a Teldex Hall IR which you can toggle on or off in the Kontakt GUI (speaking of which, the full version of Kontakt 5 is required to play this library).

CONCLUSION: This library is superb, holds up incredibly well as a stand-alone library, and contains the most beautiful and musical sampled solo woodwinds I’ve ever heard, which I’ll be using for years to come.