Tracking New Blues

20140729_154449Fair warning: due to schedules and a major move into our new studio space at some point this will likely be a long process… but tracking has begun for my new, raw and rootsy blues project. The first tune we’re working features this 3 string ersatz dobro which I built last year. We recorded it acoustic, mic’ed up. I admit I’m excited 🙂 

Coffee’s on!

-Glenn 

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Creation- Creativity Points

Full disclaimer: as an artist (musician in my case) I find patterns everywhere. Make no mistake, what follows here is -not- exegetical unpacking of certain phrases from the first chapter of Genesis in context, nor do I mean for it to be.

Rather, I find in the nature of God as He reveals Himself via the Bible elements that we, created in His own image might benefit from if considered with regard to art-making.

As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

“Creation Creativity Points”
Glenn Kaiser

sparks

Phrases from Genesis 1:

“In the beginning”

GK- In any creative work there is a spark of some sort. Something inspires the artist’s creativity. I would venture that with God, it was and is love, and not merely love for love of Himself, self-expression or even beauty, but at core, love for His creatures, humankind in particular. But every artwork has a beginning. It may well NOT end up or finish like it looked in the early stages of creation, nonetheless, it’s a start. We have to start somewhere though at times there is no telling where either we or our creative work(s) will end up, nor how they will be interpreted. Such is life. Create!

“God CREATED”

GK- So at the very beginning of creation there was a Creator. We are small “c” creators. There is a great humility in this (or should be as we consider both ourselves and our creation/s). We create because an element of God’s image is in each human regardless of how flawed, broken, fallen or imperfect that creativity may manifest itself in our artwork. He created. We create. We were created, male and female, in His image. We create with at least an element of His image in us and a measure of our own image in our work. But it is likely our works of art also yet contain that sliver of “gold in the dross” regardless how far we may be from loving relationship with Father, Son and Spirit.

“Formless and void”

GK- Does this not describe a work of art waiting to begin, to happen? From (in terms of element) nothing He creates something. In my case it’s not always “good”, while it was said of Jesus “He does all things well”. There is a sense of “form” in any work of art. From what was not, the form is filled with something and therefore is no longer void. Perhaps a need is met, an answer is offered, a better and more relevant (at least for someone/s) question is brought to mind.

“Darkness [yet] depth”

GK- “Void” as most humans conceive of it, is likely a matter of darkness -and yet I see promise and possibility in the word “depth”. What “depth” speaks to me is more thought, concern, a width, breadth, broadness, layers of possibility much as one finds in the ocean after God was finished creating and stocking it. Might there be depth in our artwork?

“Spirit of God hovering”

GK- Theologically, Christ-followers (and not uncommon for others of faith) believe that by His Spirit, that is, God Who IS spirit (as Jesus taught) was present, “hovering” (Hebrew: to grow soft, relax, hover, brood, flutter, move, shake). So the “wind” (Gk. pneuma, for “spirit”) blowing, moving, unseen but certainly at core affects “the face of the waters” in this Genesis account. Artistic expression often starts with peace but moves into inspiration, even agitation. It is not passive, does not leave things alone but touches and begins to shape and bring change. The Spirit was there and moved. He still is and still does, sometimes with us, sometimes without us, sometimes through us. This is a matter of both faith and relationship/cooperation. Great art moves us and moves others.

“God spoke”

GK- While I believe certain pentecostal and charismatic speakers are off-the-rails with what I consider extreme word-faith teachings about creating by speaking something into existence (in the exact sense that God indeed did), I still think here is something so obvious that it’s often overlooked: oratory (speaking), writing, lyricism and such are -art- forms. The Artist of all Artists, the Creator-God of the universe imagined, then spoke into the void and everything we see exists. To be clear, I think all science can at it’s foundations do (and often does well, sometimes not so well) is discover what He has done. At times the scientific method (perhaps in reality “methods”) bring tested, proven information as to the practical ways elements seem (theory, sometimes ending up facts, other times proven themselves only temporary theories) as to what in my view, God did and does. We can give a physics answer to how wind works, we cannot accurately, authoritatively discover at very core, -how- the big bang (which may well have happened in my very unlearned opinion) -banged- in the causal sense. I would posit God spoke and “boom”. Back to the point which is God did something, He moved, He did not merely think nor dream nor imagine, but worked and did so with His words and power beyond mere speech. Again, spoken words, written words, sung words, etc., as fact, fiction, comedy, whatever, all can rightly be called works of art and there are of course many modes (forms) of artistic offering. Creativity is at the core. I will only add that God alone needs not neither does imitate or copy anything or anyone. Quite different when compared to human artists, no? I won’t elaborate at this time, but this is a huge and massive point to consider when thinking about art and art-making. I’ll simply mention humility and a listening heart as opposed to thinking we are God and only answer to ourselves re. art and creativity are part of the picture (pun intended!).

Results: “light”

GK- I will continue to argue and disagree with those who teach all God does is light in the sense of “beautiful, wonderful, no ill or seemingly troubling affects” from what He either does or certainly allows in this life. The light and beauty of the cross is as clear as the misery, agony and brutality of it. This is a both-and world, and our art reflects this. The largest number of biblical lyrics are STILL “laments”! Yet it is absolutely clear in His Word (The Bible) that He -is- love, that everything He does He does well based in His love with respect to human beings He created in His own image. So God decided dark was not all that was needed, and created light. On the other hand, night did not disappear even after God created day. From all I read in the entire scriptural record I see nothing but light where God and those of his creatures who love and serve Him live before His throne. Yet I do not see only light or continual light in the metaphorical nor practical sense in every other place in the universe or on/above our planet. We still experience this thing called “night”. Darkness and not only light -ARE- and our art even as redeemed Christ-followers of faith lacks integrity if we only bring or express “light” into each and every creative work. That side of truth isn’t served by pretending light is all there is in human experience. At the same time, as I ponder this I begin to think about the many writers and speakers who make the foundational point that artists and art often (re. maturity of both artist and art) can, does and/or will bring “light” to people interacting with such artwork by seeing things in a new way, from a different angle, “in a fresh light” if you will. Horrid paintings or a photo or play or sad dance in some way depicting a dying child may not seem to in one sense bear “light” but such may move people to finally act in compassion and servant hood towards the child or to help bring good and positive change to the situations whereby the child met her agony and death. This would not normally be considered by Christians speaking only of God representing Himself in “beautiful” art work. There is great dissonance in nature, not merely harmonious song. I will argue it is not always an act of the devil that such apparent non-light exists. Pain is frankly, one of many ways we learn to seek Him and not merely our own interests. When we finally listen to Him speak (even when we don’t want to hear His Word…) light is the result.

Jesus’ own words “Follow Me” mean we are free to follow or not follow. We can walk in the light or in darkness.

Do we love Him and serve Him and others via our art? How do we as people (aside from our creative works) best reflect His love? How might we give place to His voice speaking via our creative artworks?

I think these are questions worth considering as we imagine and create.

Gloria Deo! -Glenn

August and Sept. Shows

GLOBEfestPosterThere are a couple pending, many confirmed GK solo and some GKB dates coming over the next couple months. Stay tuned 🙂 Here’s one of them with GKB and also Ami Moss and The Unfortunate, five other artists as well. Enjoy your summer!

-Glenn

Take Your Pic!

Or… make it 🙂20140721_205446

And no, not talking about a “selfie” here.

A pastor friend of mine who is thinking about learning slide guitar asked if a 3 string cigarbox guitar like I build and use would be good to learn slide playing on.

I can offer about a zillion reasons why these little instruments are excellent music learning/teaching tools, but the fun of building and the simplicity of rehearsing along with the discovering of where the basic chords for a 3 chord song are, learning and memorizing where the notes are with only 3, 2 or 1 string take a lot of the pain out of being a newbie.

Further, customizing when using a paper or wooden (or hybrid) cigar box, even a solid shoebox, smaller square or rectangular mailbox, even soda or tin can -can- work. Broomhandle or 1×1 inch necks. Eye bolts with wingnuts make great tuners. I’m serious.

Cookie or tea tins being metal put out a different sound than wood or cardboard of course. Buttons, coins, metal thumbtacks make great position markers… anyhow you get the picture of do-it-yourself, paint, colored markers, bits of mirror, reflective metal, there’s no limit to the way you can dress the box or tin up.

Anyhow I told him Yep, look at my blog for a little article I’ll write (this one).

So on to the title of this blog-

Yesterday I had an hour to cool out for a bit, just relax. D.i.y.’ers love creating stuff.

I’ve used every sort of guitar pic on the planet, but as I’ve been building, doing live shows and recording more and more with d.i.y. guitars I decided to keep an eye out for material to make pics.

Yes, you can buy a 35 dollar stamper gadget to do this, but in that you can buy cheap scissors at garage or yard sales, etc., (and I have a sharpener for ’em) and as we recycle a lot of plastic and I had a couple old expired gas/credit cards as well as an empty larger Vaseline hand cream bottle, I made the pics you see here roughly based on a more rounded-tip version of a store-made plastic triangular pic I like.

I’ve made pics of various material- plastics, cds, dvds, etc.. If you get fussy you can use sand paper to truly make ’em precision in shape, etc.. I created these four in about 4 mins. per pic, rough and quick, no sanding needed as they’re done enough for my personal use. I tossed a couple away that turned out a bit too small for my liking, ended up with a dozen serviceable pics for free.

It takes a little practice and like anything, there are pros and cons but I frankly love the cost, have great fun making what I use -and the price can’t be beat! I always seem to have some sort of pic material available if needed, and it’s environmentally cool too.

Ideas to try? Thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Thoughts on Legacy

Sooner or later you’ll think about what you left behind in your life, the legacy, overall content of your values, goals, habits and perhaps inspiration for good or ill with regard to how you influenced people you loved most.

Families and friends head the list, then others whom you may have worked with or in some way affected over your span of days on this planet.

While I am aware blues legend Johnny Winter recently died, I must say I have neither any sense of impending doom nor immediate danger to myself, rather, the concept of legacy is something I’ve thought about since my earliest days.

When your main thing in life is communication via either speaking, lyrics and singing or writing you might naturally consider impact, even worry over positive or negative output.

If you love and want to love God and people more and more (rather than either stagnate or love them less) you think and pray, edit and re-think, pray and edit before you hit “send”, online or in metaphoric terms.

Nobody best edits themselves, not even editors. The finest surgeons cannot operate on themselves. This is where collaboration and wise, gracious but brutally honest friends provide the most important input into my life. All this to say I’ve been served amazingly well over my lifetime with such friendships and editors.

That said, if anybody reading this has ever been on the receiving end of one of my many blundering, flawed, rambling bits of communication (if you could even call it that at times) you’d easily understand my regrets, remorse and concern over such flat tires throughout my life.

Nobody is a full-on failure, but equally no human is without sin, especially in what they’ve said or done (see James chapter 3 for starters).

And so over my (currently) 61 years of family, marriage, speaking, singing and writing I look back on a legacy that is traceable.

Because communication is the funnel-down of what I’ve done most in my life, Jesus’ words about God’s judgment over “every careless word” uttered has long been a conscious issue. Alas, if not for God’s mercy, nada!!

But here’s the other part of the picture.

The vast- and I mean at times overwhelming, humbling and “how but for the grace of God do I receive this…” kind encouragement from people who have come to saving faith, healing on various levels, help in understanding and wading through life’s troubles via something I said, sung, did or simply paying them a bit of attention at some point is just an incredible gift. A gift. Often in my view, a truly undeserved gift from Abba (meaning, Father God).

I have so very often failed in love, kindness, gentleness, compassion and grace and I know it. Certainly nobody knows themselves as God -truly- knows them. I’m not so foolish as to believe all the good stuff in the press and reviews, recognize some of the “fan mail” is merely that and nothing more. I also fully recognize folks project halos or conversely, horns over the heads of people they’ve decided are Christ-figures or demonic, so I carry no illusions about that either.

I think one way of considering our true legacy if boiled down in simple terms is perhaps two-sided:

Perhaps one’s legacy is the truth of what people think and say in terms of your actual influence in their lives -and in the end, it’s literally what God thinks about your influence during your life span.

For me, that sums it up.

I would expect there are those who have been inspired by you and I to be loving, giving, sacrificial, kind and helpful as well as those who may well think you and I been quite the opposite in each of these areas. I expect the reality is that we’ve each and all been both depending on the moment.

What does God think, or what might He think on the day you see His face and give account?

I’ve thought about that a lot, and think it very helpful along the path.

Respecting Him, His Word and the integrity of both is crucial, for He will never change nor end. There is an end to our legacy.

The longer I live, the more I’m thankful for Jesus and what He brings to mine. Let me be very clear- there is no righteousness in self, but in Christ.

He alone brings life to legacy!

I have never been more convinced that in the end, what He says will matter most 🙂 Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

Form Vs. Content

roadFirst the punchline: I personally believe form is important but does not in itself “fix” nor often answer what ails us as individuals or groups. Content, substance is the key.

What follows is my meandering thinking as to how I’ve come to believe this.

Many of you know I build cigarbox and found-object guitars and basses. There are certainly better or lesser forms for strength, or beauty, or better material for either paint, decoupage, etc., this or that form of tuner or placement of sound hole(s) and the rest. These all make a difference in both playing and sound. Yet as is often stated in cigarboxnation.com “There are no rules” not meaning this may work better than that, rather that you must give yourself the freedom to try, to experiment to imagine and build in a different way. This is what brings a lot of the fun and life to sticks, strings and what-have-you.

ARE there basic rules of strength in design? Of course. But after that there is a vast, vast variety of ways of getting a valued finished product.

DOES structure, form, matter? It indeed does, but when considered (wrongly) as substance, it must not trump relationship- especially relationship with God and others. If changing a form truly changed a heart… but it cannot at core.

The fights are often about form and who got their way, not what was best or most God-honoring or people-serving, and I say this from traveling the world, meeting all sorts of people in all sorts of groups and hearing the war stories from individuals and groups, leaders and non-leaders from about every angle of a decision or conflict you’d care to discuss. SUBSTANCE is often neglected on the basis of a form somebody or a group of some bodies is willing to die for.

If our life is truly about the Lord and others, decisions must be made on the basis of substance over mere form. Does form inform (effect) substance? Certainly, but I’m convinced the accent must be on substance, or using the other term, content.

It’s early morning as I write this blog and one of my grandsons wandered in our room. My wife (Grammy) is sleeping, so he quietly came over to me and we had a hug and kiss. I silently pointed to her and made a “Shhhh” gesture with index finger to my lips and smiled. He smiled and shook his head “Yes”, gave me a hug and quietly left. He’ll be back later. We experienced substance, not merely form.

As I’ve said countless times, the majority of church fights over centuries have had more to do with form than substance, more with attitude than structure. Here are only a few verses that affect my personal thinking regarding life, community, decisions both individual and group be it band, coffeehouse, business, you-name-it, all caps are mine for the sake of highlighting:

Col. 2.17- things which are a mere SHADOW of what is to come; but the SUBSTANCE belongs to Christ.

Many if not most humans worry over change. We often fear it, run from it, cling to what is NOT foreign to us. There is a sense of control and security in this.

Musicians and other artists like myself often pioneer, launch into fresh, new, creative ideas and some of those ideas and works are lousy, not so inspiring to others, and all-sorts-of-other negative… you get my meaning! But some -some more are actually a blessing, a gift to be valued, worth someone’s time and in the end may even prove epic in their positive effect. Now, there is no certain, absolute way to know which is useless (“all things work together for good”??) vs. what’s truly a good and even long-term gift of grace to others… but someone had to come up with the fresh concept.

This is where old wineskins often burst. Pioneers often get shot. Doing things differently puts that person (or group) at risk as much as hanging on to tried-true-old-even no-longer-fruitful-methods of structure and form are. Creative types love to rebel against the same-old-same-old, sometimes merely because they’re rebels. They may cause more harm than good, problems and pain rather than healing and building-up! Sometimes they’re bums, sometimes heroes.

2 Tim. 3.5- holding a FORM of godliness, but having denied its POWER. Turn away from these, also.

Hmmm. A kind of negative here from Paul to his child-in-the-faith Tim. He’s saying “Be careful who you choose to hang out with bro., some of these people are phoneys, don’t truly follow Christ and give a surface form of being a Christian but in fact are not disciples and for that matter, care more about themselves and personal gain than about Jesus, others and trusting in the power of God the Holy Spirit to bring about a changed life”. This does not mean I choose to hang out with lazy, self-serving ARTISTES, dis-functional prima-donnas who love rolling in their own sense of grandiosity and dreams to the exclusion of loving, confessing, repenting, growing in servanthood and personal responsibility. It means quite the opposite.

SUBSTANCE does not mean looking for “the COOL factor” and making sure I’m only interested in those who have it. That would be focusing on form rather than substance.

1 Cor. 7.31- and those who use the world, as not using it to the fullest. For the mode of this world passes away.

Change will come and is coming. God really doesn’t need my nor your permission.

There really IS freedom in Christ to create, to move outside legalism while not neglecting the tithe, so to speak. Some of you know which verse it is I’m referencing here…. there are so many along such lines… The point is that human constructs of form and structure are not in and of themselves sacred though we often give them that sort of homage. “THIS style of music, THAT style of architecture, THIS is THE WAY TO DO X, Y or Z and there is NO OTHER WAY…” Ahhh, beg pardon?!

Jesus said “A NEW commandment I give you”, boiled the ten commandments down to two (wow!) without erasing the ten. Consider:

Mt. 13.52- He said to them, “Therefore, every scribe who has been made a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who is a householder, who brings out of his treasure new and old things.”

I started what was a heavy-metal band that sought to share the Good News of Christ via lyrics, but a band that sounded far more like Led Zep… MILES away from southern gospel music or what would have been heard as church music. There were only a handful of bands like this at the time. Some of our lyrics were evangelistic, some were very topic-oriented on things like apartheid, the failure of success, being disabled and treated poorly because of it, homelessness, on and on. Some of the lyrics were meant to challenge the lack and need of simple John 15 discipleship among believers who heard the songs.

Some folks loved it and have ever since, some wanted to fry us one way or another and still there’s “nothing new under the sun”!

I have friends (and a few enemies alike) who have constructed tombs out of this or that form of “doing church” where I personally find little biblical evidence for the template (form) of doing it precisely as they’ve done it. Does such form assure godliness? It cannot. Mere form never can.

Some basically proclaim “THIS IS THE WAY TO GO and NO OTHERS HAVE VALUE”. Really? Chapter and verse, sound exegesis please!!? “This is the way, walk in it” does not contextually mean holding to a form, rather, it’s about attitude, heart-relation to God and His way of thinking, speaking, choosing, living, loving neighbor as self.

Note, “new and old things”, not merely new, not merely old.

Most forms in life, shift, change, move. There are plenty of good and bad reasons as to why. People are often quite insecure and worried if not ready to fight and destroy over structural change.

I am in no way saying some structural change isn’t needed. Consider bridges in the U.S. road system and the fact several due to lousy and/or deteriorating structure untended have fallen -some with death occurring.

What I -am- saying is that our information, knowledge and learning increase over time and as we apply these and other elements to our lives we change, grow and yes, both lose as well as gain. There is no clean, clear way to escape perceived negatives in facing positive change. On the other hand (are you hearing the word “balance” in any of what I write?) some things truly ain’t broke and don’t need fixing. This is where creatives are sometimes more bent on personal fulfillment schemes than loving God and people. “Because I can, I WILL” is a brat-kid attitude that eats rather than feeds.

I do think competing forms (old-new, new-old) do not have to be brought about in anger, acrimony, blood and fatality. In our sick, self-serving world there are those who think otherwise.

Meanwhile, I’d say my own sense of faith, hope and love, even joy- comes from God’s grace in imagination, creativity, trying new things (and expecting to fail in many of them along the route) as well as the knowledge that life is worth living when one loves and shares gifts of value among valued friends. It’s an “up” where frankly, truly Pharisaical forms are often a bit more of a “down” as I perceive them.

So why the pic of the winding road at the top of this post?

It’s admittedly an old, worn-out metaphor… and I use it due to its familiarity. See, a sort of “form”, no? Life winds like some of the roads, up, down, over left, over right, sometimes cutting back, yet always moving forward. This is how we get from one point to another. The terrain affects how we travel. There IS good form, the safety of the road markings, signage, etc., and of course rain and snow and extreme heat all affect the way we travel (or cannot) on any given road. The form of the vehicle is important too! And yet the attitude of the driver is more important. Substance.

Some people fear this or that road. Some love the risk or sense of exploration. The same person may love the same road one day and fear, maybe even hate it the next or vice-versa. There are times and places and people in them who are called to build and create new roads. Some decide to take on the task early, some late and others will never build a road at all due to the discipline, work and sometimes risk and dangers of doing so.

At one point I was fretting over the potential of making mistakes with the discipling of another. In one of the most clear “God speaking” moments of my life, I heard Him say in my mind “If you’re afraid of making mistakes you’re afraid of making disciples”. Whew. So risk is part of the calling, eh?

It always gets back to the substance of attitude, relationship, God’s love, truth, grace, forgiveness, repentance where needed, being willing to move down the road and even create new ones fully facing the risks, embracing the crosses and focusing UP and OUT rather than “me-me-me” IN.

Content brings a contentment along with it. “Godliness with contentment is great gain” writes Paul.

Forms are not without value but the accent must be on content. This is my personal view.

Things to consider 🙂 Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn