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Posts from — June 2011

A brief tech rant

<Warning: This is a tech rant. If you don’t use Facebook, this won’t make sense. It’s also off-topic, but this is my blog so I’m exercising my right to switch gears briefly.>

Let me start off by saying that I haven’t minded Facebook’s previous interface changes. Some took getting used to, but I could understand why the changes were made. I definitely don’t think FB is a perfect product, but I enjoy it for what it is — a tool to help me stay in touch with lots of friends around the world. Plus, it’s fun.

However, their new changes are TERRIBLE. I honestly can’t figure out the need for nor the reasoning behind them.

Apparently, these changes aren’t visible to most people yet. So I’m hoping that FB is just testing them out on a few (un)lucky users to see how big a fuss we make. And because these changes are so awful, I’m willing to make a small splash in the hopes that they change their mind about making them live across the board.

The worst thing about the new layout is that there are three news feeds, and I can’t organize any of them. Actually, “news feed” is a misleading term. Most of the information that shows up is either 1) stuff that doesn’t matter to me or 2) redundant:

(Click to enlarge)

The sidebar news feed, which acts suspiciously like Twitter, is a real-time feed of everything people are doing — liking, commenting, friending, whatever. But it doesn’t limit the information to only people you know. It tells me if my friend Bob likes his friend Ed’s picture, even if I have no idea who Ed is. The information revealed is way more than I need, or should, know. But you can tell who’s actually online and possibly ignoring your chat requests. Just call it the stalker-bar.

It’s also difficult to scroll the stalker-bar up and down. The scrollbar only appears if you hover your mouse in the right place, and it doesn’t always work. The stalker-bar also replaces one of FB’s more useful features: the birthday notifications.

Another annoying change is that the main news feed is no longer chronological, at least on top. It’s sorted by FB’s special “importance” algorithm — i.e. what shows up is what FB thinks is “Top News.” If you want the most recent stuff, you have to scroll down. Slowly, or you’ll miss the switch (click to enlarge):


What really irks me is that I don’t have any control over how my news shows up. I can’t sort the main news feed to show just the most recent items. I can’t view just the status updates, just the photos, or just the videos.

In summary, more information but less important information + no control = Disaster.

Maybe this is Facebook’s way of creating buzz to combat the release of Google+ (which I haven’t tried). If they go live with these changes, I’ll bet there will be buzz, but not the kind they want.


June 30, 2011   No Comments

10 Principles for Church Singing

Kevin DeYoung offers some helpful and wise principles to consider when choosing music for congregational singing.

The whole list is worth pondering over, but I especially needed to be reminded of the first point: Love is indispensable to church singing that pleases God. I’ve written before about the struggle of focusing on musical/technical matters and personal taste. These are important and merit thoughtful discussion, but they are not of primary importance.

Consider the quote DeYoung shares from C.S. Lewis’ God in the Dock:

“I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit.”


The Ten Principles (read Part 1 and Part 2):

  1. Love is indispensable to church singing that pleases God.
  2. Our singing is for God’s glory and the edification of the body of Christ.
  3. We ought to sing to the Lord new songs.
  4. Church singing should swim in its own history of church singing.
  5. Sing the Psalms.
  6. We should strive for excellence in the musicality and the poetry of the songs we sing.
  7. The main sound to be heard in the worship music is the sound of the congregation singing.
  8. The congregation should also be stretched from time to time to learn new songs and broaden its musical horizons.
  9. The texts of our songs should be matched with fitting musicality and instrumentation.
  10. All of our songs should employ manifestly biblical lyrics.


June 30, 2011   1 Comment

Classical Music = More Milk = More Concertgoers?

OK, this has to be one of the most intriguing classical music marketing ideas I’ve ever seen. Trying to get new patrons to their new concert hall, the folks at the Konzerthaus Dortmund played off a study that classical music helps cows produce more milk. They brought their music to the cows, bottled up the results, and won themselves (according to the ad) a nice new audience:

I’ve got to say, based on packaging alone, I’d buy some:

What I’m curious about is if the classical-music milk tastes better than normal milk, and if different composers yield different results. Does Bach-Milk have a rich but structured flavor? Is Mendelssohn-Milk clean and crisp? Is Shostakovich-Milk concentrated and slightly acidic? I propose some blind taste-tests. Maybe next year.


June 28, 2011   2 Comments

12 Signs You May Not Want That Gig

This past weekend was the start of the summer wedding season, which got me thinking about the interesting and occasionally unbelievable experiences I’ve had over the years. Most of my clients have been wonderful. But sometimes there are early signs that you may want to think twice before signing that contract. Other times you find out a little too late — but at least you can get a good story out of it.

All based on real-life experiences:

  1. The event is scheduled to be outdoors in Seattle in late spring, and there is no rain plan.
  2. The client calls to ask about your availability over a year before the event. Before 8am. On the weekend.
  3. A member of the bridal family sidles up during the prelude and asks you to play fast because they don’t want the entrees at the reception (in the next room) to get overcooked.
  4. Client asks if you can glissando during the entire wedding ceremony to provide a romantic, watery atmosphere.
  5. A member of the wedding party calls asking about your availability less than 24 hours before the ceremony, saying they are desperate for a musician. When you name your price, they try to bargain you down. When you refuse, they say they’re going to shop around and get back to you. (They called back.)
  6. You request a flat, dry surface to play. Client asks if sand counts. When you say no, they then ask if you’d prefer grass, which might be a little wet, or sloped concrete.
  7. You arrive at the venue an hour before the wedding is scheduled to start. Venue is locked. The only people in sight are other vendors walking around the parking lot, confused.
  8. After you’ve explained your pricing and drawn up a contract, client asks if you accept massage therapy as payment.
  9. Clients say they don’t have any specific music requests. A few weeks later, they say they now have a couple and will email the titles. After much prodding, clients finally send a list of fifteen pieces ranging from symphony movements to Stevie Wonder hits to random indie finds on YouTube.
  10. When you ask where you can park to unload your instrument, client sends you a detailed map with directions from an overflow lot half a mile from the actual event site.
  11. You tell a client you need about a 4′ x 4′ area to fit your instrument, bench, and stand in the proper configuration. They call back and ask if a 1′ x 16′ area is ok since it’s the same square footage.
  12. You encounter interpretive dancers dressed as peacocks, and it’s not the ballet or the opera. (This experience deserved its own post.)

(This post was inspired by Zeldman’s 20 signs you don’t want that web design project.)


June 27, 2011   5 Comments

To crave and to have

“To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing — the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again.”

-Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping

June 26, 2011   No Comments

Cafe Hopping (6/24)

Summer may have officially begun; but here in Seattle it’s hard to tell. We’ve had a couple gorgeous days along with an intense rainstorm this week. Ah well.


June 24, 2011   No Comments

Instrumental music for blended services

(Here is a recent live recording of John Rutter’s A Gaelic Blessing, adapted for violin, cello, and harp. Thanks to our A/V team for doing it for us! The space where we meet isn’t good for music recordings, so hopefully we’ll get a cleaner take soon.)

One of my ongoing challenges is finding instrumental music appropriate for weekly church services. Because my church’s worship style is blended (mostly contemporary worship songs mixed with some hymns) classical music that I’d normally play for preludes, weddings, and more traditional church services often doesn’t feel appropriate. We’ve found that choosing religious-themed music and displaying the words while playing helps make what we’re doing flow better within the context of worship.

Also, I like to collaborate with other musicians at church when I can (mostly strings, but a growing number of wind and brass). Sadly, there is simply not much worship ensemble music available through traditional harp music vendors that is ready-to-use.

Enter: Sheet Music Plus.

I’m not fast or skilled enough at this point to churn out my own arrangements every time; so for the past few years I’ve relied heavily on the choral music section at Sheet Music Plus. The vocal lines usually work well for strings with minimal extra work. You can also refine your search by various choir type (i.e. unison, 2 part, or 4 part).

My favorite feature of SMP is that I can preview the first couple pages of the score, and often hear a sample. That has saved me a lot of money since I can quickly determine whether or not the accompaniment will easily adapt to harp.

Here are a few that have worked especially well for harp and strings with little or no editing needed. Any should work with piano too. I plan to add to this list as more come to mind (and I try more out). If you’ve got suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

All Occasions:



June 23, 2011   No Comments

A special Father’s Day

(A co-post with my brothers)

About a month and a half ago, our dad discovered a tumor in his jaw. It was an unusually aggressive form that required quick action and fairly extensive surgery.

This past Friday the tumor was removed. The surgeon is pleased with how everything went, and Dad is now at home recovering and cracking jokes as usual. The healing process will be lengthy. But we have much to be thankful for, including an early discovery of the tumor, knowledgeable physicians, and extremely supportive family and friends.

So Dad, we thank God you’re home today, even though your typical Father’s Day steak dinner will have to wait a few months. But we’re even more grateful for everything you’ve taught and demonstrated for us, including:

  • Generosity. Dad has sacrificed a lot to provide us with necessities and comforts of life and recreational / educational opportunities (i.e. opportunities for vacation and vocation).
  • Love for Mom. They are an example of God’s love shown through the marriage relationship.
  • Eye for detail. Dan: I don’t like it when something I do gets scrutinized, but I think some of that has been passed down (genetically or by example). It’s sort of a double-edged sword (the more things you notice, the more you feel you are liable to act on), but in general it’s good not to be too oblivious to your surroundings…
    Steve: I agree with Dan . . . I find that I’m more detail-oriented than even most of my peers at law school.
  • Ability to see the big picture. Dad can be really detailed, but he’s also constantly coming up with good ideas. He has a vivid imagination and can see multiple solutions to a problem.
  • Being supportive. There are probably lots of Asian parents who wouldn’t want their kids to go into music, but he’s been supportive of both Ruth and Tim. And he’s supported all of our career choices, even though none of us decided to become a dentist.
  • Always thinking about how things can be improved, whether it’s dental equipment or us. Haha.
  • A genuine interest in our interests. Tries to learn about the fields we’re going into by reading random online articles. 🙂
  • Always thinking of ways that our family can help and be an encouragement to others. Notices what other people need and acts on it.
  • Good life balance. Dad has always worked hard, but has never been a workaholic. Work has never been more important than family or church or people.
  • Sense of humor. Has a good attitude towards life and isn’t too proud to laugh at himself.

Happy Father’s Day!

June 19, 2011   2 Comments

Cafe Hopping (6/17)

Weekly roundup of (mostly) arts-related chatter around the web:


June 17, 2011   1 Comment

Tchaikovsky and Tsujii

How exciting — the International Tchaikovsky Competition is streaming online for the first time this year! Taking place every four years in Moscow, the Tchaikovsky is one of the major events in the classical music community. It started out with tracks for piano and violin and has now expanded to include cello and voice. This year’s event lasts from June 14 – July 2, 2011.

Watching the early stages of this competition reminds me of the last major competition I followed thanks to web streaming — the 2009 Van Cliburn piano competition. (Incidentally, Van Cliburn’s career took off after he won the very first Tchaikovsky competition in 1958.)

The most heartwarming story of that competition was that of blind Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii, who eventually won one of two gold medals awarded that year. While there were several other pianists who possessed more technical polish, I don’t think any other competitor delivered more moving, inspiring performances. (Check out his Chopin Berceuse!)

A memorable moment in the competition was Tsujii’s chamber music round, a performance of Schumann’s piano quintet with the Takacs string quartet. It was a remarkable accomplishment for all the musicians, especially considering that they had to work across a language barrier and without the normal visual cues chamber music usually involves. As Tsujii is often quoted as saying, “There are no barriers in the field of music.”


June 16, 2011   No Comments