Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Getting a Testimony of THE BOOK

The Baron blogged recently about having faith without the miracle. He used as an example the many times that priesthood blessings are given, but not “fulfilled”.

His discussion of that angle is quite intriguing, and that brings up some similar things that are coming about in my wife’s family right now. I won’t mention names, and the people in question don’t get on the net, much less see my blog.

My mother-in-law is going through a sort of “crisis of faith” in that she’s been an active member of the church all her life, and in spite of some bumpy spots, has been faithful. Yet the other day she asked me why she’d never gotten a witness of the truth of the Book of Mormon.

When I asked her to go on, she said that she’d never had a manifestation of enlightenment, no flash of Spiritual “Ah-hah” that made her say, “It’s true!” She’s read about those all of her life, she’s heard people talk about it all of her life. But it has never happened to her.

I think she was surprised when I said that it had never happened to me, either. Now, I’ve had some pretty powerful spiritual experiences, but none of them in direct relation to me asking about the truth of the book.

But, I have a strong testimony of the book. Because I read it a lot, and when I do, I feel good. Sometimes that feeling is great and wonderful, and sometimes it’s just calming and settling. But I know it’s true. I’ve never had a *POW* moment that told me so, but over time, I’ve just come to know it, as I’ve come to know the book.

It’s something that she’ll have to sort out for herself, but I hope that my story helped her.

Then, today, I met up with my father-in-law, long since divorced from my mother-in-law, who has been various stages of inactive for many years. When I saw him, he was carrying a large-print copy of the Book of Mormon with him. I commented on it, and he said he’d decided to read it all. It turns out that all these years that he has been either an active or inactive member of the church, he has never read it all the way through.

So, I’m excited for him to begin his journey to his testimony, as I’m also excited for my mother-in-law to discover hers. I really suspect that they’ve both had one for years. It’ll be very interesting to see them as the uncover it.

Mark Hansen

Monday, December 27, 2004

The Songs of Zion

This is what I’m going to call a new segment of my blog. I really enjoy following the trends in LDS music, and I’d love to share that with you. As I get new CD’s, I’ll review them and then if you get them, you can tell me if I’m full of it!

“Change” by Stephanie Smith
Produced by Jonathan Shults and Stephanie Smith

Even though Stephanie and I are not what you’d call “old friends”, we’ve known each other a few years. I think we first met on the LDSmusicians.com yahoogroup. Anyway, I’m always excited to get a chance to see her play live. In fact, I even had the chance to promote one of her concerts. I remember once about a year ago, one snowy winter night, that another friend of mine and I went to American Fork, UT to hear her play in a small bookstore on a sort of “double bill” with Greg Simpson (another one of my favorites), and Shane Jackman. At the time, she was working on a second CD, and she brought with her some of the scratch mixes that she and Jonathan had recently finished.

I was just blown away by them. The two tunes she played were energetic and edgier than her first CD, and I was way excited.

So, then, a few weeks ago, she sent me a copy of the final release of the CD to review here in Mo’ Boy! I was pretty stoked to crack it open and hear the tunes. And I’m not disappointed at all.

“Change” is kind of an appropriate title for her album, as she’s been going through a lot of it since the last CD. This one is edgier than the last, which was good, but I felt a little held-back. Now, don’t for a minute think that “edgier” means “hard rock”. That’s not her style. It’s an “alt/pop-post-lillith-fair-singer-songwriter” kinda groove. With intelligent lyrics. And cool surprises for chord changes. And heart. Don’t tell anyone, but a couple of times I teared up listening to this. Ok, I’m old and sentimental…

The lyrics overall deal with a positive outlook on life, but not rose-colored at all. This is a work that acknowledges trials and difficulties, but takes the high road. One of the best of that sort is “Let Me Know”. It’s about God leading you to the promised land only to find that it’s barren. Then you plant the seeds He gives you and it blossoms. God may lead us there, but he doesn’t expect us to rest when we get there. It made me think of the wagon trains heading west to finally arrive in the dusty valley by a dead and salty lake.

She did a cover of her own song, too, in “Better Off Alone”. Originally on her first CD, the newer version is bigger and with more intensity. It’s one of my favorites of hers live, and it was cool to hear it again, new on this CD.

“Sidewalk Pictures” is about the fragility of art. And yet, somehow, we keep on doing it. This one has some really cool chord changes in it. Very fresh things you don’t expect.

There were a couple of tunes that I didn’t get, like “Save Your Own”. That one made me wish I knew the story behind the song. I might have understood it if I had. Still, melody and the tune carried me through. “All I Find” was another one”.

She just recently got married (one of the changes I was referring to), and that threads through several of her songs. I like hearing love songs that are very clearly about being married. Most love songs are so vague they can be about any kind of love. But committed and documented love is somehow different than “living together” love, or even “just dating” love. And it’s nice to hear that reflected in song. And even though she’s only been married, what, a couple of years, and I’ve been married over 15, these songs still spoke to me, as well. The best of these is “Anywhere”.

Go to her website for song samples and gigs. If you live in the Utah County area, she gigs a LOT, and travels some, too.

Mark Hansen

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas

I'd just like to wish all my readers out there in the blogosphere and the bloggernacle a very merry and politically-incorrect CHRISTmas!

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

“Because the world needs more Mormon novels”

Those were the words that I read over at A Motley Vision a few minutes ago. And it really struck me.

He said it in the context of encouraging LDS writers to join a Write-a-Novel-in-a-Month challenge being put on. He was spelling out the reasons why writers should participate.

At first, when I read that line, I thought he was being sarcastic. Because there seems to be so many mo’ novels coming out almost on a daily basis, does the world really need one more? But then, he added, “even if they don't end up being published.” That showed me he meant it. It’s true. More needs to be written, even if they don’t end up being published. Or, even if they only end up being self-published on the web, or whatever.

I’ll go one step further and say that they need to be written even if they aren’t any good. Because that’s the only way the writer will ever get any better.

And, as I always do, I turned my thoughts to music, and I paraphrased that sentence as, “Because the world needs more Mormon songs!”

See, a long time ago, a good friend of mine compared art and creativity to a giant lake. And there are streams and rivers and puddles and springs that feed the lake. Each drop of water that pours into the lake is some kind of work of art that got created. Some are big drops of clear, pure water, others are not so big and maybe not as delicious. But they’re all feeding the lake. And if the rivers and streams and puddles and springs (the creators) stop creating, stop feeding the lake, then the lake dies. It dries up.

So, every act of creativity is a great thing, no matter how good or bad or publishable or whatever it is. Because on one level, it boosts the whole. It feeds the lake.

And if you take that analogy and show it on a larger scale, beyond the mo’ market, the creative lake that the world has is getting more and more polluted. And the best way to clean it up is to feed it more and more pure water.

Yes! The world needs another Mormon novel. It needs more Mormon songs. Sculptures, paintings, poems, plays... It needs thousands more.

Mark Hansen

Monday, December 20, 2004

Blogging and Elections: A Final Thought

I’ve been reading a lot about the elections and the roles that blogging played this last time around. I’ve come to the personal conclusion that the blogs had a big impact on the election, but I don’t believe they changed or determined the outcome.

First of all, the bloggers provided a vast network of grass-roots information disseminators. Facts and opinions were shared. News stories broke and were then debated. Candidates themselves hosted blogs, even though most of those that I saw were handled by staffers rather than the actual candidates. It’s like there’s this big light that is shone on the elections and the candidates, and this time, the focus of that light got shifted. Instead of shining on and reflecting off of the major media outlets, it shifted a bit to focus more on the people. It was more than ever, a return to a people’s election.

But both sides caught on. Republicans, Democrats, everyone. Left, right, up, down, were all blogging. If only one side had been doing it, and that side had won decisively, then it would be easy to ascribe victory to blogging. We could say then that they had been the determining factor. But that wasn’t the case. Everybody did it, and it was a way narrow margin.

But I hope that the face of politics is forever changed. I hope that the voter-informing-voter trend grows. I think that leads to a more informed populace and that makes for (at the very least) more exciting election nights!

Mark Hansen

Friday, December 17, 2004

Unified Harmony

OK, now I’ve got more fodder for my internal arguments of “Unison” v. “Harmony” and the relative Godliness of each one.

I went to see the MoTab Christmas Concert tonight. Great show, by the way. I saw another aspect of the argument. I saw, throughout the night, and at various times, moments in which the choir and orchestra combined more or less equally to create great art, and other moments where a soloist was clearly the focal point.

One thing I always admired about the choir, on a philosophical level, was that it represented one of the ideals of the organization of the church. And that is that the choir is a body, not a person. It’s a big mass of humans. We speak of “the choir” as if it were a single entity, but there’s not one person that stands out. The sound we hear, the tableau we see are many creating a sound. Each individual voice singing a different part with a different tambre, and nobody’s really the focus.

In fact the choir just recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, and shows no signs of slowing. People come and people go. On the other hand, could you imagine the Rolling Stones without Mick? Ever see one of those classic rock nostalgia tours where there’s only one original member of the band? It’s just not the same, is it?

There’s something cool and resonating for me in that observation. There isn’t a “Star” in the MoTab. The Tab as a whole, is the star.

Then on the other hand, there’s something very exciting about seeing someone shine. Someone stand out and really express. The soloist tonight was very impressive in her vocal technique. Out to be, she’s won, like, four Tony’s… And she got lots of applause. Two standing ovations. Nobody did that for the choir alone…

That tells me there’s also room for the lone performer, sharing their soul with the audience.

So, my conclusion out of all this is that probably in the heavens, there will be choirs and soloists. There will be times when everyone sings the same melody, and times when the harmonies and polyphony will be celestial. A time when all will be united as one voice, and a time when one single voice will unite us all in one great audience.

And I hope to be singing through it all!

Mark Hansen

Thursday, December 16, 2004

A New Way to Sample LDS Music

I recently discovered a new website for sampling current LDS music. Actually, new website isn’t really the best way to describe it. New system is better. You can find it at http://ldsdiscradio.com.

I’d been to the website, and I’d signed up. For a nominal shipping fee, they send me a CD (I got two of them, actually, at first). Just last night I got my first one and threw it on. There was about 50 minutes of audio program on the CD. When I spun it, it played just like radio. A couple of DJ’s bantered while introducing the songs, and there were even “station” promos, and a couple of ads.

What I enjoyed most about the CD, though, was the songs. Especially the variety. There were a number of mainstream styles represented. There were a couple of urban/R&B/Hip Hop tunes, some more middle-of-the-road rock and pop, some of the current acoustic folk/pop, and even some grunge and a novelty tune. What was distinctly (and thankfully) missing was the sappy Afterglow-like piano ballads of the 80’s and 90’s. Not a one of those. Woo Hoo!

Also, these were all “indies”. None of the “big names”. I put those in quotes because nobody in LDS music is truly “big”. I mean, even Julie De Azevedo has a day job. Personally, I liked that aspect of it. But then, I’m a fan of the new stuff, the oncoming wave, the cutting edge. Often it’s not as polished, but what it lacks in that department, it more than makes up for in sheer guts and freshness.

Here’s some comments on some of the tracks:

Jennifer Lemon: I didn’t catch the title of her track, but I’ve always loved her voice. She’s got the brand, too. Check out http://jenmagazine.com sometime, for the young women in your house.

The boys played a track by The Hinkleys that could only be described as pop country with a bit of an edge. I really like their stuff. Tight vocals with some smokin’ guitar and keyboard work.

Carey Judd is an interesting new singer/songwriter. There were two of his tracks on this mix, one was a Peter Breinholt-y acoustic folk alternative sorta thing, and the other was just him and an acoustic guitar, but with an almost Offspring kinda feel. Very cool.

I was pleased to find not only was Fast Sundae included, but they chose what was probably my favorite FS song, too, even though they slated it wrong. They called it as “The Burden of Babylon”, but it was really “Childish Things”, an absolutely killer modern grunge thing about growing up and putting away your childish things, all the while becoming truly childlike.

Besides Jen Lem, there were some other urban tracks, including a battle rap from TJ Fredette (I blogged about him a while back, remember?), and a thing by someone named “Fingermix”. That last one kinda confused me. I wasn’t sure quite how it fit, lyrically speaking, with the other, more LDS, tunes. It was a dance tune, all about a girl who loves her man even though he steps out on her. Nice production, but I was put off by the message. Hmmm…

Overall, I was pleased spinning the CD. Normally, DJ’s annoy me, but I actually liked their banter and their background info. I had some initial suspicions of their business model, though. I wasn’t sure where the funding for the long term was going to be coming from, but I guess there’ll be LDS-related ads both in the program, and in some of the papers that came with the CD. Even though I didn’t mind the few ads they included in the program, I hope they go more with the printed ads. For some reason, I also have to return this CD to get my next one. I’m not sure why. Perhaps the guys at LDSDiscRadio.com can jump on the comments here and explain that one to us.

Also, I’d like to see them not only tell me the title of every tune, but also, as they’re mastering the CD, drop a song marker at the start of each tune.

For me, though, those complaints are mere nit-picks. The best part of getting the CD was hearing new songs and discovering new artists (along with a couple that I had already heard). And shouldn’t the music be the focus anyway?

I truly hope this effort works out for them. I know I’ll be in on it as a listener, and I also hope to have some of my tunes on a future mix!

Mark Hansen

A Post Script:

If anyone out there has an LDS-oriented CD, or even a downloadable single, contact me, and I’d love to review it, alongside of my regular keen observations and news on the LDS pop culture scene!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

WalMart Rules!

A friend of mine here at work sent me this Rolling Stone article, published back in October. I was fascinated by it, intrigued by it, horrified by it, and excited by it, all at once.

It’s all about how WalMart is trying to dictate the prices of CD’s. They’re essentially demanding that the labels distribute the CD’s at under $10.

First of all, I was excited to see someone finally tell the record labels that the people want music to be less expensive. I remember when CD’s first came out, they were $20. We were told that as the format became more prevalent, the prices would drop to be similar to what LP’s were going for at the time. Did that ever happen? Nope. Even though they did drop some, it was no surprise that they never got that low.

Even now, with people beginning to accept $1 downloads instead of stealing the songs for free, the lower-price models are starting to become necessary!

Second, I was horrified that a business that has so little long-term interest in the music industry has so much power over it. The article said, “…Because if Wal-Mart cut back on music, industry sales would suffer severely -- though Wal-Mart's shareholders would barely bat an eye. While Wal-Mart represents nearly twenty percent of major-label music sales, music represents only about two percent of Wal-Mart's total sales. ‘If they got out of selling music, it would mean nothing to them,’ says another label executive. ‘This keeps me awake at night.’"

But since WalMart sells a lot more than just music, they don’t have to do any special effort to help promote or develop artists. No signings, no special co-op advertising, nothing.

Third, I was intrigued by the shift in the music industry. Intrigued means both frightened and excited at the same time, by the same thing. For example, a typical record store, according to this article, carries about 70,000 titles. A single WalMart, however, only carries about 5000 titles. That means that there will be fewer places for less-popular artists, and the big names will rule the shelves. A kind of scary thought for a small-timer.

But on the other hand, that also means that will drive more people to online sources of music, which will be good for the indies who are already accessing that medium to great advantage.

In WalMart’s defense, I’ve seen some local LDS artists in their Christian section, as well as some Christian indie labels and artists, too. For example, I got my Toby Mac and Superchick(s) CD’s both at WalMart.

And while I’m thinking of that, it brings me to my Fourth Point, I’m a little bit glad for the censorship that WalMart brings with it. WalMart, pretty much, only stocks the edited versions of the extreme CD’s. Their clout has caused music producers to create two versions of the music. One for general release, with the warning label, and one for WalMart.

This is truly an exciting time to be a musician.

Mark Hansen

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Seeing is Believing

A long, long, time ago (I don’t even remember when), I blogged about some friends of mine, singers/songwriters from Idaho. Brad Thompsen and Steve Brown, who together are known as Border Crossing. At the time I blogged about one of their songs, "The Other Way Around".

It’s long been one of my favorites of theirs. A very powerful lyric sung very simply with slow acoustic guitar accompaniment.

Anyway, today as I taught my gospel essentials class, we were talking about faith and belief. And that, combined with an article about a famous atheist deciding there actually is a God from A Soft Answer, had me thinking a lot about belief and faith and knowledge.

One of the things that struck me was the reason that Anthony Flew (the atheist) gave for accepting that a supreme organizing power exists was that there was too much order and detail in the world, essentially, for there not to be. And that reminded me of the verse that says something to the effect that all things testify that there is a God. I wish I could remember the reference. I did a search for it, but got too many results to plow through at this time of night.

So, back to the song. The song is all about how those that believe, begin to see, rather than those that see, begin to believe.

I hope they don’t mind me reprinting the lyrics here:

The Other Way Around
Steve Brown/Brad Thompson

There are more trees in Georgia
Than I care to count
You can look forever
And never figure out
Which way the sun comes out
Or where it’s going to rise
But I’ve seen Georgia sunsets
That’d make you cry

There’s a girl in California
Who loves to watch the beach
To feel the wind in her hair
And the sand beneath her feet
She smiles at the sun
Smells the salty air
But her eyes have never seen
What she knows is there

But Sometimes seeing is believing
Sights we’ve already found
Sometimes seeing is believing
Sometimes it’s the other way around

There’s a little boy I’ve heard of
Back in Tennesee
Who has the gift to find beauty
In everything he sees
Man says, I’ll give you fifty dollars
If you can show me God
He says, I’ll give you back a million, sir
If you can show me where he’s not


So, I played the CD to end my Sunday School class, and it really put a nice cap on the whole message of how important faith is. And how easy it is to trust your faith, and how you don’t need to see everything to believe it.

Thanks, Brad and Steve!

Mark Hansen

Saturday, December 11, 2004

OK, just so that you know that I’m not a total musical Scrooge, we just had our ward Christmas party, and a local high school madrigal choir came out to perform. It was wonderful.

They did a few traditional ones, and a few new ones. But they were a lot of fun and innovative, too. They did an arrangement of the “William Tell Overture”, better known as the “Theme From the Lone Ranger”, but they sang the notes with “ding” and “Dong” and things like that. Then they pulled out kazoos for part of it.

My boys just had a great time watching it, and Jacob was laughing out loud through much of the performance.

So, there’s still some cool Christmas music being made out there…

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Harmony and Unison

The other day at choir practice, our director was trying to decide if she would prefer a certain hymn in our Christmas program to be sung in parts or in unison. In a sort of offhanded way, she asked, “I wonder if the heavenly choirs will be sung in parts or in unison?”

I responded to the effect that I didn’t dare open that particular can of philosophical worms in a choir practice…

So I’ll blog about it instead.

I mean, there’s all kinds of levels here. On the musical side of it, there’s plenty of fodder for both sides. Parts bring lush and rich harmonies, counterpoint, and fullness to a piece. There’s a depth to it that you simply don’t get with one single melody line.

But there’s a power to unity, too. For example, when I was in high school, as a cellist in our orchestra, we played a piece, an arrangement of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”. I don’t even remember who did the arrangement. After the exposition, it went into so polyphonic explorations, typical of a good development section, but the recap was absolutely amazing. The entire orchestra, including the winds, all played the entire thing. Loud, slow, and in unison. Maybe it was the contrast that made it feel so big and powerful.

Another example. Many years ago, when I was still living in Indiana, my friends and I took a roadtrip to see Yes in concert in Champaign, Illinois. It was a great show, but one part stuck with me as a monumental moment in my life’s ongoing musical experience. That was Chris Squire’s bass solo. Now, typical bass solos are a time when the bassist really gets to show off his chops. Hands are dizzy and notes fly like snowflakes in a blizzard. And Chris Squire was certainly no slouch. He could match fury with the best of them.

But he comes out, and with a single light on him from above, plays “Amazing Grace”. He plays it easily, slowly, and I might add, very loud and low. The house shook. No flashy embellishments. Nothing but the song.

And it was INCREDIBLE.

But then look how often a pop singer sings without accompaniment, or how often true unison orchestral performances happen. Look at great inspired works like “The Messiah”, which expertly flips from monophony to homophony and polyphony at the drop of a baton.

So, the big philosophical question that is the extension of all this is: Does God want us lockstepping together or does he want us individually adding to the whole?

Personally, I feel that if He wanted us lockstepped, He would have backed Lucifer’s plan in the first place. I like the thought of many different voices combining together harmoniously to add to the whole. But it seems that there are a lot of us Mormons who don’t take to kindly to differences. To our credit, there are a lot of us who do, too.

And I also admit that, in music, there are times when a single melody can communicate very strongly.

Just a thought… or two…

Mark Hansen

Monday, November 29, 2004

Christmas songs I love to hate

The Christmas tunes started in the radio stations a little earlier this year. On the whole, I object to this. Not because I’m upset that Christmas starts too early, or that Thanksgiving pretty much becomes little more than a pre-Christmas. No, I don’t have any problem with that. I mean, Christmas is a time of kindness, giving, and sharing. I say, let’s get that party started in January!

No, the reason I dislike 24/7 Christmas music on the radio is that, by and large, I can’t stand most of the Christmas music they play.

Again, I truly love Christmas Carols. I love to sing them in Church. I love to hear the choirs singing them. I love it when music reminds me of what I’m celebrating. It really touches me.

But I Hate (notice the capital “H”) most of the insipid pop Christmas tunes that get mixed in with the good stuff. And even the term “mixed in” is relative. Often it’s more like an occasional good one mixed in with a string of annoyances. For me, anyway. Your mileage may vary.

Here’s my big list:

1. “Santa Baby”

Is it possible to pour more sleaze into an icon of childhood? Gimme a break! I remember this was performed once at a church party. Please!

2. “Jingle Bell Rock”

This little swing number is definitely NOT rock. For those that might be questioning, let me clarify: It is NOT rock. Not even close. It IS, however, cheesy. Just for the record…

3. “White Christmas”

I actually like this one. As a song. But by now, even only a few days after Thanksgiving, I’m already sick of it. Great tune, done to death. Give it a well-deserved rest.

4. Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”

Another one that deserves retirement. I liked it the first year it came out. The first couple of hundred times the first year that it came out. Hang it up, Bruce. It’s done…

5. “Silver Bells”

This one and “Chestnuts Roasting” are great examples of maudlin syrup that just sends me screaming into the frosty air. Which leads me to…

6. Anything sung like a lounge singer

That covers most of the rest. But wait, there’s more!

7. 90% of the soft jazz versions of Christmas songs.

I’ll admit that once in a while, one comes along that has a clever or fresh arrangement. Most don’t. Sleeping pills, almost all of them.

8. Christ-centered Christmas songs sung by people who live sleazy

OK, now I’m getting a little judgmental, but I get sick of hearing about how this or that celeb spends their year drugging and sleazing their way through life, then tries to be all spiritual at Christmas time. It just doesn’t come across very sincere. It’s like their contract requires a Christmas album, so they’ll sing about the Savior, but they really don’t believe it.

And not that anyone has to be pure. I mean that’s what the season’s really all about, right? But when you can see that someone’s really trying to keep their life in tune with The Lord, and they sing about Him, then you can feel it. And I like to listen to it then.

So, I know I've probably made someone mad by singling out their favorite. Which songs do you choke down each holiday season?

Mark Hansen

Friday, November 26, 2004

Rhyme and Meter

I have to admit a certain respect for modern poets who write in rhyme and meter. First of all, there are so few of them, and second, there are so few good ones.

I mean, I'm a songwriter. And I've long believed that songwriting is poetry. In all the songwriting books I read and classes they attend, they tell me it's not so. Songwriting is NOT poetry. Most of the time they've just said that Songwriting has too many parameters, like rhyme schemes, metering, and strophic structure.

Yeah, so what? So do sonnets. What's your point?

I mean, to me, songwriting is just poetry within certain rules. Just like a sonnet has rules, just like a haiku has rules. Pop tunes have rules, too. And within those rules there is a lot of flexibility.

But, there is one difference between pure poetry and songwriting. One is meant to be read, and the other is meant to be sung. In other words, there are elements of the art that go beyond the printed word. Melody, harmony, accompaniament. A poem is just words on the page.

But even that's changing. Is poetry truly words on the page, or words in the air? With the advent of Poetry Slams, where delivery is almost as important as content, doesn't that add another element to the art?

So, back to my original point. I'm a songwriter, and I write in rhyme and meter so that it will fit with my accompaniment, and so that it will fit with the rules of songwriting. It has been a very long time since I wrote a pure poem, that is, something never intended to be set to music. And from time to time, I write a song where the lyrics could stand without the music, as a pure poem. Not very often, but it happens.

And as I read poems, I occasionally find a good one, a real gem, in rhyme and meter that wasn't intended to be set to music, or at least that hasn't been set just yet.

I was out surfing the blogs a few minutes ago, and I found a new poetry blog, named "Vanity, Thy Name Is 'Cameron's Poetry Blog'", and it had some great stuff in, you guessed it, rhyme and meter. Check it out.

And that also reminded me of another good friend that writes poetry, also in rhyme and meter. His great dream is to be a hymnist. Great stuff. Check him out at http://users.mstar2.net/brucewrites/. I actually had the chance to set one of his hymn texts in traditional four-part harmony. It was a great experience.

Great stuff.

Mark Hansen

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Jodi's Christmas Present

Warning: Spoilers. If you're Jodi, or one of her friends, stop reading NOW. Or I will get ornery...


I was over at Renee's Midwest Bloggin, and she made some reference to Geddy Lee. I saw that it was a link, and being a rush fan, I clicked it. Then she ranted about how much she doesn't like Rush.

But anyway, the blog entry that it linked to was really about earworms, or those twiddly little song hooks that stick in your head and don't go away. She also asked what earworms we'd had lately. And I'd had one, tonight, in fact. It's kind of a long story, but I think it was kinda fun.

I was at Greywhale (CD shop) with my wife. We were doing some Christmas shopping, mostly looking at DVDs and video games for the boys. And I suddenly saw a Howard Jones compilation CD. All the good ones were there, like "Life in One Day", "No-One Ever Is To Blame", and "Things Can Only Get Better", etc...

I HAD to buy it for my wife for Christmas. Not only does she love HoJo, but his concert in Park City was one of our first dates.

So, I'm thinking, how can I buy this without her knowing it? My first thought was to sneak it around the store under my coat. No, that would get me arrested. Finally, I thought, rather than work against the staff of the store, I would enlist their aid. "Hey, dude, hide this behind the counter. And don't let that lady over there see it!" He smiled a knowing smile and took the CD.

Then I walked over to my wife and she asked me something about buying this or that video for the boys. As I reached to take the video out of her hand, she pulled it back. I could see there was something else under that video, but I couldn't make out what. Obviously a present for me...

I smiled. "So should I leave the store first, or you?"

It's a song we dance to every Christmas.

But then, in the car, I started reminiscing about the concert, and the hook from "Only Get Better" started going through my head. It took everything I had not to hum, whistle, or otherwise vocalize the song, because I knew that if I did, she'd know instantly what I'd bought.

It was tough, but I pulled it through!

And anyways, I was going to just post this story as a comment on Renee's blog, but Blogger got all wiggy on me and started throwing error messages. So, I put it on my blog instead!

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Another quick shameless plug. I just installed another new tune to my website. This one's a slower ballad called "The Taker". It's actually one of my favorites as far as the writing is concerned, but I'm still to close to the recording process to see the production too clearly. I'll leave that for you kind folks to judge...!



Monday, November 22, 2004

One United Generation

Some of the commentors, emailers, other bloggers, and friends of the Mo' Boy blog have, from time to time, asked me to mention when things happen in the LDS music world, especially where they can find good edgy LDS music.

In the past, I've hesitated to be too self-promotional.

I'm bagging that now, in favor of shameless plugs!

I just posted a new song at my website! It's called, "One United Generation" and it's currently slated to become the title track of the upcoming CD. I was going for a kind of Hendrixian rock anthem sort of feel. You can tell me if it worked or not.

Mark Hansen

Return of Scriptures for Musicians

We constantly talk about the need to read scriptures in context. We talk about how to fully understand them correctly, we need to understand the verses around a particular passage. We need to know the story the verse is sitting in.

I’m always reading this or that criticism of our church which is based on taking a scripture out of it’s context and re-interpreting it. That’s not good.

But every once in a while, as I’m reading, a verse will jump out at me and tell me something that makes me think. And it’ll take me somewhere totally different than the rest of the context around it.

That happened to me again the other day as I was reading the D&C, in section 117. A part of verse 13 reads: “…And when he falls he shall rise again, for his sacrifice shall be more sacred unto me than his increase, saith the Lord.”

So, in some cases, sacrifice is more valuable to the lord than increase. Or, in terms I can understand, effort is more important than results.

Well, now that’s a great discovery. That means that if I work hard at my music. I try to be the best musician I can be, and I try to get the (hopefully) inspired messages of my music to people who can be touched by it. If I put in the effort I can, without neglecting my family and my callings, then that is more valuable to the Lord than how many concerts I play to how many screaming fans, or how many CD’s I sell.

It’s just a reminder of where the priorities must lie.

Mark Hansen

Monday, November 15, 2004

Speaking of Competition...

OK, I’m still reeling from the shock.

But I’m getting better.

I know, I get so tweaked over such small things, but still…

I read in A Motley Vision that Deseret Book bought Excel Entertainment. They also had a link to an article at the DB website. I was just blown away by the news. Out of the blue, what a total surprise.

And I gotta admit, I got real mixed feelings.

My first thought was, “OH, no! Now EVERYTHING will sound like Deseret Book!” I mean, for many years, Excel was the “other guys” that were doing things that DB couldn’t get away with. Then, as I thought about it, I realized that frankly, some of the more innovative stuff that’s been coming out of the “big leagues” in LDS music has been coming from Deseret Book, and that Excel has gotten more and more locked into their own little acoustic folksy tradition. They’ve gotten mellower in the last few years, less edgy.

I wonder what that will mean for the artists. The article said that most of the artists will transfer over to the Shadow Mountain label. Will DB drop any of them? Who will survive the transition? That leaves one bigger label, and two up and comers, Sounds of Zion’s IMS label and Halestorm’s Hale Yeah! Records. Then there’s a few smaller distribution companies.

Of course, it’s a tough time for record labels right now. With sales down, they don’t often have the capital to sign new artists or the gumption to take more risks. And in the mormon world, doubly so.

Still, when I think about it, I’m not sure that this move will impact me, personally. I mean, neither Excel nor DB was pounding on my door with their latest bid to sign my CD. I didn’t forsee that in the near future, either. But I hope it also doesn’t mean that there’s less choice for me as a potential buyer of LDS music. And I guess that’s my greatest fear.

The DB chiefs were saying that, "The real winners in this merger are the families who are interested in wholesome entertainment."

I truly hope so.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Jacob, Two Years Later

I was looking back at my blogging (Mo’ Boy is now over two years old) and I was reading back two years ago. I found this article about Jacob, my youngest son.

I found it to be really interesting, because this morning, I got him up, unhooked him from his CPAP machine and his night feeding pump, changed his clothes and his diaper, set him up in his “Jiggle Jacket” (it’s a vest with a machine that pumps air in and out really fast to loosen the mucus in his lungs), and turned on the Cartoon Network so he’d have something to watch while he jiggled.

Then I took his brother, Brendon, to school.

When I came back, I put on his DAFO’s (little ankle braces) and his Spiderman shoes over them, and his coat. When his preschool bus came, I strapped him into his powered wheelchair and sent him off to school.

This Christmas Day, he’ll be five years old. Next fall, he’ll start kindergarten.

It’s very interesting to see how he’s grown. His little chatterboxing hasn’t stopped. His vocabulary is extensive, even for a “normal” preschooler. He still can’t crawl, and he has trouble still even rolling over. The other day at a church party, I watched him maneuver his powered wheelchair with amazing confidence.

He now gets Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy each twice a week. We’re saving up money to take him to an intensive PT program in Arizona in Feb. There are stories that after a couple of sessions of this program (called “Conductive Education” or “CE”), children often learn to walk. What a dream that would be!

So, it just touched me to think of my own words as I wrote about him two years ago, “He tackles life with a courage born of not knowing he’s not supposed to be able to do things. He takes his sufferings in stride because he’s never known anything different. So after a lesson like that, why do I let myself go on whining about MY life?”

And that’s pretty sharp, considering the self-pitiful moping I’ve been doing for the last couple of days.

So, Here’s to you, Jacob!

Mark Hansen

Monday, November 08, 2004

Religion And Politics

Everyone and his dog these days has a post-mortem opinion of why the Democrats lost in so many of the recent elections. I'd like to cast mine out.

I think that it was basically religious issues that killed Kerry this election. Of the four big issues this election (Iraq, the economy & taxes, gay marriage, and abortion), the latter two are, at their core, religious issues.

And that presents a big problem for the Democrats.

See, the democrats have to preserve this face of being progressive thinkers. And often to do that they have downplay the role that religion plays in their lives. A Democrat has to make sure that Church and state are separate. A Democrat has to appeal to atheists as well as believers of many different faiths.

But a Republican has no such concerns. For them, being religious, and especially Christian, is one of their biggest selling points.

That's why Democrats have to appear to take sides where they don't personally believe. Like saying that they think abortion is wrong, but that it should be a choice. "You can't legislate morality", they say.

But with both the presidential election and the anti-same-sex-marriage referenda, it's clear that there's a majority (small though it may be) that thinks certain points of morality should be legislated. And I think that in their efforts to distance themselves from the right wing, they don't allow for that.

Granted, it was a close one in the presidential this year. I think that shows that in social issues, and issues of foreign policy, that the country was pretty evenly split. That's why the moral issues were making such a difference, and a big factor in why Kerry lost.

I, myself, decided not to vote republican because even though I agree with their stance on abortion and gay marriage, there are other issues that are very important to me. Like I said in blogs past, there really wasn’t one candidate that truly represented me. But then, I’m not sure there ever has been. I’m kind of a hard one to nail down!

Mark Hansen

Saturday, November 06, 2004

No commentary today, just a heads-up.

Over at Mormon Life at the DB website, they've started a couple of their bigger names to blogging. Michael McLean has been doing it for a while, it seems, posting about twice a month, and John Bytheway has just started this weekend. Yesterday, in fact.

As both are good writers, I enjoyed them a lot. Nothing controversial, but still a fun read.

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election Day!

OK, here’s an idea.

You want people to get out and vote? This’ll do it.

Make Election Day a bigger deal. I’m talking a federal holiday. That’s right, a full-on, close-the bank, take-the-day-off-with-pay, fire-the-grill-up federal holiday.

And there should be celebrations with fireworks and parades and concerts. Big events that you can’t get into unless you’re wearing one of those cool little “I Voted Today” stickers.

See, I think we’ve got it all backwards. On July 4, we celebrate the birth of this nation, right? We celebrate the history of America. And I applaud that. I think that’s a great thing. But we’re celebrating an historic event. Something that HAPPENED. Something in the past. On Election Day, we’re celebrating something that’s HAPPENING. Something now. On Election Day, we should truly be celebrating what it means to BE AMERICAN. We declared our independence from a King and set up a constitutional republic.

OK, I’m going to write my congressmen.

That is, as soon as they announce who he is!

Mark Hansen
"...'Cuz if Ya Mind Yer Own Business, Then Ya Won't Be Mindin' Mine..."

OK, I voted.

Now, usually, I would be pretty eager to tell who I voted for. But not this year. This year has been too divisive, too intense. I know that if I say, no matter what I say, there’ll be people that’ll come at me.

I don’t mind people comin’ at me, in theory, if it made any difference. Like if I were undecided and trying to make up my mind, and someone calmly supported their opinions, I could deal with that. That might even sway me. But much of the commentary this election that I’ve read has been more vicious than years past. People aren’t so much trying to share opinions and convince others as they are trying to criticize and call names.

People have been much too much into labels and pigeonholes than the complexities of balancing issues.

Well, I balanced out the issues, and I looked at them in light of my own family’s needs, and I made my decision.

And what that is, is nobody’s business but my own!


Mark Hansen

Friday, October 29, 2004

"Rendire Mi Corazon..."

In the most recent of his articles on hymns, Orson Card made a comment that rang true with me. He noted that a lot of the hymns that we tend to sing as “Priesthood” hymns are very martial. I’ve thought about this for a long time, and I’ve noticed that a lot of our hymns are very military. And that has always bugged me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a hymn with a good movin’ beat. I just don’t like the “Always marching forward, trampling the evil foe under our righteous feet” kinda texts.

As I look back on them, though, I can kinda see where a lot of them are comin’ from. I mean, many of them were written in the early days of the church. That was back when you either had mobs chasing you out of your city, or you had federal armies marching into you haven as an occupying, oppressive force bent on crushing your “rebellion”. The church had a lot of enemies growing up. And a lot of the songs of that day reflect that.

Even songs that might not have been written in that era certainly took root in our culture then.

“Hope of Israel, Rise in might, With the sword of truth and right…”

“Onward Christian soldiers, Marching as to war…”

Sometimes I just get a little tired of the “Us v Them” mentality that we so often wear like a chip on our shoulders.

Fortunately, many of our more contemporary hymns are much more introspective and full of testimony. “I Believe in Christ” is one of my favorites.

And we don’t have to be marching with swords, spears, or guns to sing a song with vigor. Every night in the MTC, the floor of our dormitory would gather to sing a hymn and say an evening prayer. Every Thursday it was “El dia de los nuevos”, when the new missionaries would come in. We would always sing a certain hymn, and we sang it with such power and enthusiasm that it has been permanently etched in my testimony to this day. I can still sing most of it in Spanish twenty years later. But it wasn’t one that is traditionally associated with an energetic rendering. It was “Secret Prayer”, aka “There is an Hour of Peace and Rest”.

Oh, well…

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

It's Nice To Feel Alive

10/25/04 11:01 am

I'm on an airplane right now, winging back to Salt Lake City. I've been in Orlando, Florida since Friday, doing a symposium for my work.

I didn't do my presentation until Sunday afternoon (yes, sometimes we have to work on Sundays). It was all about promoting your website.

Part of what I spoke on was blogging.

And that got me thinking. Isn't it cool how empowering technology can be?

I started by thinking about blogging. About how it means you don't have to have a journalism degree and years of experience to write an opinion column and be a famous and widely read author. I mean, these days, any idiot with internet access and an attitude can start spouting off opinions. I know. I'm evidence of that.

And now that my readership is mushrooming exponentially (I think it's up to, what, 12, now?), I should consider harnessing that vast political might into something truly powerful.

...Or not...

But nonetheless, it's very exciting for me to think that technology allows me to write my blogs, record my songs, post them both to my website, and in so doing, cast my virtual bread upon the digital waters.

And it's very exciting when some of it floats back in. Like when a kid I've never met face-to-face set up a gig for me at a youth conference. Or the brothers from India that emailed to tell me hoe much they liked the song. Or even when someone simply responds to one of my blog posts.

It's nice to feel alive.

Mark Hansen

Thursday, October 21, 2004

"...And We Are Merely Players..."

There’s a posting over on Baron of Deseret about an aspect of Mo Movies that’s beginning to crop up, that being the moral relativism that get associated with casting choices. The lines are blurring between actor and role.

Now, this is nothing new. How many of us have assumed that since an actor plays so many roles that are similar, that they themselves are that way?

But for some reason, we want those that star in “OUR” movies to reflect “OUR” lifestyle as well. And we get upset when they don’t. In Baron’s blog, for example, the lady writes in upset that the actress that played Jean in “The Other Side of Heaven” will be doing a role with nudity. Many were surprised to find out that the younger missionary in “God’s Army” is actually Jewish. On an anti-mormon website, they were reporting that the girl that played Eliza in “Legacy” has done some nude scenes, and the guy that played Joseph Smith was openly gay. All were non-members.

Part of it comes from misconceptions. Many people are assuming that it’s THE CHURCH that is out making these movies, not private companies.

Part of it comes from us wanting to put the best face in front of the world.

I think that also it comes from our old pioneer notions of self-sufficiency. We want to do it ourselves, for ourselves. We don’t want to think we need the outside world. We don’t want to imagine that someone other than us can tell our story. It is, after all, OUR story, isn’t it?

There’s some discussion going on right now on the LDS Musician’s group about how some LDS artists, and their labels, are turning to Nashville’s Contemporary Christian circles for songwriters. The cry is, “Aren’t our own songs good enough that we have to go looking to the outside world?”

Others say that by working with the outside world, we are making contacts that are ultimately sharing the gospel, and dispelling our image as a tight-knit, defensive group.

I, personally like a lot of CCM. There a few songs that I’d even consider covering. There’s some great stuff coming out, and I wish that LDS artists would learn from it. I wish our scene were as vibrant and diverse as theirs, and I believe it will be someday.

I can watch a show where intellectually, I know that these people are not members, and I can still feel the message in the performance. When the younger missionary finally kneels down and prays and gets his own testimony, it’s a powerful moment. Carried beautifully. By a Jewish actor.

But I also admit that I really like it when LDS people make LDS art. It brings it all together, I think.

Mark Hansen

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Tempest in a Teapot

I had to chuckle when I read this from the SL Trib's
Rolly and Wells:

"On second thought: Before the Utah Valley State College Student Council invited Michael Moore to speak, several others were contacted first. One was Sean Hannity, but his price, as quoted by his agency to the council, was more than $80,000, nearly twice what the council could afford.

"So, said student President Jim Bassi, the council settled on Moore. It was then that Hannity offered to speak for free and save Utah County from the voice of a liberal."

This is so funny on so many levels.

For those not in Utah, not following Utah events, or that simply don't care about Michael Moore, let me set you up. There has been quite a fuss here lately over a decision of a small school in Utah County to invite Michael Moore to speak. Much of Utah county (the heart of Mormondom, really) is up in arms that the school would pay so much money to bring in such a lying scum as him. There have been protest rallies (attended by few) and protest protest rallies (attended by even fewer) and a lot of media coverage.

Funny thing #1: There has been so much media coverage of the controversy, in fact, that it has had the impact of selling out the tickets to the lecture.

Funny thing #2: A large part of the hue and cry was that it cost so much money to bring in Moore. There has been an indignation expressed along the lines of, "Why should we pay $50,000 for some guy to stand up and talk for an hour or two?" Nobody deserves that much money to sweep in for a day. Hmmmm. Don't the Stones get a couple of hundred thousand? And their promoters charge $80 to $100 a ticket, not the five bucks that the Moore show is getting.

Wake up. That's what you pay speakers these days.

Funny thing #3: I'm just laughing my head off that the great and noble Hannity's first offer wansn't the generous price of "Free", but actually beat Moore's price by over $30,000! It was only when he heard of the controversy and saw the opportunity for big publicity that he became so giving.

I haven't seen "Farenheit 9/11". I've heard some really credible voices saying that it's not a credible film. If that's so, then in the long run, Moore could well do more long-term harm to the Democrats than short-term good. The republicans might do well to simply let him.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

More Mo Legends...

My colleague here at work did a couple of quick searches and found some interesting things about not only mormons and 9/11, but also a bunch of other good LDS urban legends.

I love reading about stuff like this. And I'm also amazed at how often I fall for it, too! :-)

If anyone out there has any more stories about Mormons and 9/11, or any good Mo' legends, post it here. I'd love to hear more!

Mark Hansen

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Bonus Mormon Legends Question:

In Elder's Quorum meeting today, someone retold that old story about all of the church members that worked in the World Trade Center called in sick the day of the airline attack. Now, somewhere in the back of my head I seem to remember a Utah newspaper article about some local families that had lost loved ones, and it seemed to me that the article mentioned that some were LDS.

I'm curious anyone within "the sound of my blog" remembers any of this, or any other version of the story, and has any personal experience one way or another.

Sometimes I wish there was a Mormon Snopes to check these things out...

Mark Hansen

"...And the Winner Is..."

I was at a party last night with a bunch of my mo’ friends. Great people and it was tons of fun. The conversation drifted momentarily into politics, and the debates. I’ve learned not to wade in too deeply when people talk politics. Too often we don’t know what we’re dealing with, both in terms of what’s really going on, and what the other person is feeling. In other words, arguing is worthless.

I remember the adage, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still…”

But all that was kinda floating in the back of my mind when I went surfing the bloggernacle this morning. I found it really interesting that mo’ bloggers on both sides of the political bird (right-wing, left-wing) were claiming decisive victories in the last debate. I guess we hear what we want to hear, right?

Here’s some examples: Orson’s Telescope does admit that the Kerry victory wasn’t quite so decisive as last time, and suggests a drinking game where viewers take a swig every time a candidate says a clich├ęd sound bite. He’s working up rules for teetotaling mormons.

This Liberal
not only claimed victory, but spoke of the historical retrospective of the Bush presidency as if campaigning for another face on Mt Rushmore. OK, I’m exaggerating. A little.

What is the truth? It’s out there, all right. I guess we’ll have to wait to November to know… Of course, last election we had to wait until almost January!

I love watching politics!

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Consecrate My Performance – Scriptures for Musicians

After the gig the other night (see my Studio Blog), I got to thinking about performance and the nature of music. I got to thinking about motivations, and the purity of the music itself.

And I was reminded of a scripture I read not too long ago. It really grabbed me because of the word choice. Nephi uses the word “performance” referring to do any task for the Lord. Home Teaching, preparing a Sunday School Lesson, having Family Home Evening… But as a musician, the term “performance” has a more direct, more literal meaning. It means, well, my performance. Here’s the verse:

“But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.” --2 Nephi 32:9

In other words, if I’m performing prayerfully, then that performance is consecrated to MY benefit as well as the benefit of the listeners, and the growth of the Kingdom of God. As I type, that reminds me of yet another scripture…

“Nevertheless, ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you.” --D&C 62:3

So, if I’m bearing testimony in my song, and I’m doing so prayerfully, then my performance is for the welfare of my soul, and my sins are being forgiven. These were concepts that, while I knew, hadn’t really sunk in yet, and I hadn’t really applied to the music. If I pray and sing, and bear testimony in my songs, then I consecrate and purify my soul.


Let me tell ya… If I ever knew anyone whose soul needed purifying, it’s me! It’s nice to think that I can get that for a song!

Mark Hansen

Friday, October 01, 2004


I just received this in my email:

>How ironic is this??!! They're getting their own Christmas stamp, but don't
>dream of posting the ten commandments on federal property?
>USPS New Stamp
>This one is impossible to believe.. Scroll down for the text.
>If there is only one thing you forward today.....let it be this!
>REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of PanAm
>Flight 103!
>REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the World
>Trade Center in 1993!
>REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the Marine
>barracks in Lebanon!
>REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the military
>barracks in Saudi Arabia!
>REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the American
>Embassies in Africa!
>REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the USS COLE!
>REMEMBER the MUSLIM attack on the TwinTowerson 9/11/2001!
>REMEMBER all the AMERICAN lives that were
>lost in those vicious MUSLIM attacks!
>Now the United States Postal Service REMEMBERS and HONORS the
>EID MUSLIM holiday season with a commemorative first class
>holiday postage stamp.
>REMEMBER to adamantly and vocally BOYCOTT this stamp
>when purchasing your stamps at the post office.
>To use this stamp would be a slap in the face to all those
>AMERICANS who died at the hands of those whom this stamp honors.
>REMEMBER to pass this along to every patriotic AMERICAN you know.

This is in reference to the USPS's stamp commemorating the muslim celebrations of Eid al-Fitr, and Eid al-Adha. For more info on the email circulating and the festivals, go to: http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/eidstamp.asp

The thing that really chaps my hide about this is that it stirs up that good old american hatred and love of vengeance. I guess that by boycotting the use of the stamp, I'm somehow supposed to be showing my love of my country?

What about all the millions of peaceful, law abiding, US Citizen muslims in this country? They go on about their daily lives, contributing to the community, being productive, raising good kids, and, I might add, voting and paying taxes. Many have decried the extemist practices of the terrorists. Don't these people love their country, too? Don't they feel patriotic? How should they show their patriotism?

That's my Grrrr this week...

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

How Can We Be Equal If We’re Separate?

There’s an interesting article in Meridian Magazine that’s all about how we as Latter-Day Saints interact with those of other faiths, on a more official level. It talks about Ecumenical Councils, and Interfaith Choir Festivals, and all kinds of service and activities where churches get together and celebrate faith.

It seems to me that this is an exciting time. I can remember not too long ago (mostly in President Benson’s administration), where church members kept to themselves. It seemed that there was a sense, even spoken as a directive, that we shouldn’t participate with other churches. That individual church members could be involved in community, if they chose to, but that they did so not as representatives of the church.

But I guess that’s all changing, and we’re being encouraged to participate with other folks. Now, I guess, I’m hearing that stakes actually have their own PR people. Am I misinformed? That this’s an actual stake calling?

If that’s true, then I’m sooo for it! What better way to show other Christians just how Christian our lives are? I think it’s high time the church became an active part of the world around it. A city on a hill can not be hid. Don’t hide your light under a bushel. Put on our beautiful garments, Oh, Zion…

Except in this case, our “beautiful garments” might turn out to be work clothes! From the looks of the Meridian article, much of the interfaith mingling is over service projects. What better way to teach the gospel, than to see it in action!

Another thing I like is the idea of ward and stake choirs participating in other church’s services, and in interfaith choirs and music festivals. That’s not only sharing our light, but in my kinda style! Sign me up for THAT!

Mark Hansen

Thursday, September 23, 2004

LDS Music links

I've found a couple of links to some sites/blogs that I found really interesting.

For a long time, I've been very interested in the fringes of LDS music. Songs and sounds that are not the norm. Of course, there's my own rock music, (insert shameless plug). But lately, I've been wanting to hear some other sounds. I've often wondered if anyone was doing LDS rap. I've always thought that would be seriously cool.

I found one!

His name's TJ Fredette (not much of a nom d'street, though, if you ask me) and you can find him at http://www.theimaginationcreations.com/ . While that's his regular website, you can get a full song download at: http://www.ldsmusicworld.com/artists/tj_fredette.html . The song is called "Drop to My Knees", and it is great. Tight performance, smooth production. Great.

Then, over at the "Baron of Deseret" blog there was a series of posts (with some fascinating comments) about Heavy Metal and the church. Since I've been a headbanger for years, I found it very interesting, and his frustrations resonated with me like a overdriven "A" power chord grinding into screaming feedback.

Anyways, check it out and smile along with me. And, of course, if you have a link to some other LDS musician that's out on the fringes, just give me a post (promote yourself, too).

Mark Hansen

Monday, September 13, 2004

Best and Worst: Your Call!

I was just over at Dave Barry's blog reading through the responses to another one of his best songs/worst songs questions, and having a good laugh at people's comments. Even when they ripped on my own personal favorites, the comments and the reasons why were so funny, I didn't mind (Like the guy at his wedding who told the band that if they played, "Color My World" they wouldn't get paid!).

So, that got me thinking.

Since I have such an overwhelmingly vast readership (*cough*cough*), I thought it would be fun to do a similar unscientific poll. Simple, really. Just two questions.

1) What is your favorite Mormon song, and why? It can be any song by a Mormon, for a mormon audience, or anything else vaguely related to Mormondom. Makes you think, makes you cry, whatever.

2) What is your most hated Mormon song, and why? Any song that curls your skin/hair every time you hear it. Doesn't matter that someone else thinks it's the most "spir-chal" of all.

Post your responses in the comments below.

My own responses:

I'd have a very hard time picking a favorite. There are a lot that I can choose from that are REALLY REALLY good, and which one is my favorite varies with my mood. I could choose "Better Angels of Our Nature" by Greg Simpson, or "I See God Anyway" by Julia Davis Allen, or"Who Am I?" by Border Crossing, or even "How Firm A Foundation", from the hymn book.

But, I think right now I'm going to choose "Sweet Hour of Prayer". I love the song, and I love the fact that it has a slight bluesy feel, even though they tried to arrange it out of there. :-) When Brendon was first born, I used to sing that one to him in the still of the night to get him back to sleep after feeding him.

I'd also have a hard time picking the worst song of all, if it weren't for "Little Purple Pansies". There are a lot of LDS songs, particularly in the pop genre that I really love to hate. I remember one Sunday, my family was in the living room listening to one of the local radio stations on thier "soft sabbath sounds like sleeping pills" program (at my wife's request, mind you). My son says, "Daddy, my tummy hurts."

I said, "I know, honey. It's OK. This music makes me want to hurl, too!"

He laughed. My wife threw a pillow at me.

But in spite of all of that, no song can quite muster the bile like "Pansies". Imagine yourself as a young ten-year old boy. Your mind is filled from dawn to dusk with "boy" things. You know, phasers, karate-ninja-turtles, etc... Then you come to church and you go to primary and they expect you to sing this sweet little ditty about little purple pansies.

I have since sworn an oath that I would someday exact revenge by recording a total punk rendition, complete with speeding drums, chunk guitars and screeching vocals. Only then would my inner child be cleansed...

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Perspectives and Perceptions

I just had a very unique opportunity to step outside my shell and see life from a different perspective and through someone else’s perceptions.

I got to have lunch with a Palestinian.

My wife’s cousin married one, named Issa, and he’s here in America, in Utah, now. And I decided to treat him to lunch. He’d been here to visit a year or so ago, so I’d already met him, but it was nice to spend some one on one time just visiting with him.

Often we look at the situation in the Middle East, and we base our ideas of what’s going on through the eyes of the US media. Some say that it’s slanted right; others say it’s slanted left. I say it’s simply slanted toward the money.

But in any case, it doesn’t always give us the big picture. The Palestinians and the Israelis have been fighting and arguing over the land there since before World War II. It was during that war that Germany occupied the land, and was subsequently captured by England. And it was England that made it a state for the displaced Jews, and named it Israel. And the moment it happened, it was plunged into war, and has been pretty much ever since.

But before we go about casting aspersions and judgments on this people or that people, consider how you would feel if you had to get paper permissions if you wanted to drive through the checkpoints between Salt Lake City and Provo. Imagine you had to play for services like water and electricity, and were forced to pay taxes, but weren’t allowed to vote. And imagine if you were to look at another half of the population of the same land, and they didn’t have those restrictions. And imagine that you couldn’t leave your home at night because there was a curfew in force, allowing the military to legally shoot you on sight.

Imagine all that happening here in America. Do you think that Americans would settle for that? Or do you think that we’d be raising up our fists in defense of freedom, liberty, and legal rights?

Now, before anyone gets upset at me because I’m not “taking their side” or telling me that I’m “un-American”, let me say that I don’t approve of suicide bombings or terrorism. I don’t think that those methods will get anyone where they want to be either.

I’m just saying that before we pass judgment on a people, let’s shift our perspectives and change our perceptions a little.

Mark Hansen
Beggars, beggars all

Why is it that we’re ashamed to help people?

I don’t mean to judge or criticize, because I’ve felt it, too. You see someone begging, and you feel sad for that person, and you want to help, but you don’t because you’re also embarrassed. We’re afraid that it’ll just go to booze, or that if they really wanted help, they’d go to an overcrowded shelter to be turned back out...

Or any of a host of other reasons.

I got this because I read a blog today that reminded me of this. Ezra’s Ramblings.

I just got reminded of the verses in Mosiah where he reminds us that we are all beggars, and not worthy of help from the Lord, but for some strange reason He gives it to us anyway.

I copied these verses from the church website scriptures:

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.

21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.

22 And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.

23 I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.

I mean, how much more clear can a prophet of the Lord be?

But still, I don’t always follow that advice, either.

Mark Hansen

Thursday, September 02, 2004

My friend wrote me this letter:

We just recently finished the Fifth Annual LDS Music Festival in American Fork, UT. It was a lot of fun, though not as well attended as it could have been. I performed, in fact, I got to open up the evening showcase, and immediately following me was a relatively new band. Not long after that, one of the members of that band, a friend of mine, emailed me because he'd gotten a rather disturbing email. Because of the content of the following messages, I’ve withheld a lot of names (by my choice, not theirs).

What follows shows me once again how varied and intense are the feelings people have regarding the mixing of religion and art, and what happens when one person’s artistic vision clashes with the interpretation of another.

Here’s the email letter I got:

Hey Mark,

I'd invited some single ladies to the fest and only one of them showed up. Here's a message she sent me about it.

You know I get the rock n' roll in my soul just like you do and it's disturbing to get this kind of reaction. How would you suggest dealing with this?

Your friend,

(Name withheld by MoBoy)

And here’s the copy of the email he’d received (edited only for grammar, spelling, and to remove names):


I stayed the entire sat program with my friend and the individual acts with guitar and one solitary singer had more spirit of the Lord to the music and message of the Lord.

I truly feel that you guy are spinning your wheels unless you want to cater to low lifes of the world who cant tell the spirit of the lord when it is missing.

Sorry, I thought you were a nice guy. I just watched and felt aghast-and I'm pretty liberal with the Christian rock I listen to on kycc. You guys need more hopeful notes in the music, less repetition and yes, less of your wild screeching guitar-- the spirit of the lord isn't screeching guitars and I am tolerant of that in its own genre--but don’t do it in the NAME OF THE LORD. FOR PETES SAKE, MELLOW OUT THE MUSIC, MAKE IT MORE UPLIFTING.

I was depressed the entire next Sunday just thinking of the stress the music caused to my spirit.

You guys just got to get it together so you do more good than harm in 'GODS" NAME. Breaks of bells in the music, less constant droning repetition of screeching guitars, more uplifting notes, way less dissonant notes, way less HARD ROCK, in this thing you call Christian rock.

That is all I have to say. I will tell everyone not to see your stuff....

Not an enemy, I just feel you are an enemy to god in the name of you guys’ Egos.

Chew on it for real, pray about it for real.

And your photo is also misrepresenting of yourself.

Find integrity before it is too late for your group!

I will fight against this type of music,

(Name withheld by MoBoy, emphasis in the original)


No, don’t hold back. Tell us how you really feel…!

Now, I’ve dealt with this issue before. I’ve been on the receiving end of it before, both directly and as I’ve heard others talk. I’ve struggled with the issue for many many years, and really only within the last year or two have I come to peace with it in my own heart. The Lord speaks to many different people in many different ways, and I don’t have the right to define how He’ll speak to anyone but me.

Others, obviously don’t feel the same way.

So, I responded to my friend:

Oh, amigo...

This is a hard one, and one that you'll have to sort through in your own heart over time.

I have struggled with this on a number of levels.

First of all, there's the fear that they're right, that the Spirit can't communicate through a rock sound. All I can do for you is to testify that it's not true. I have felt the spirit communicate to me through rock songs many many times. Too many for me to doubt any more.

The difficult part for you is that you can't simply rely on my testimony. This is something you'll have to ponder and pray about in your own heart.

The other part of this that I struggle with is the knowledge that there are people like this out there, and that in the course of my "career", or at least my efforts, I will encounter them, and they might well hinder me. Many won't be as vocal, but they'll still be the ones that won't book me to come to their ward and give a fireside, or they might encourage others not to schedule me, or complain to their bishop when someone else does.

Again, that's not something I can influence directly. I can only remember to pray constantly as I'm writing, as I'm recording, and as I'm rehearsing and performing so that *I* never lose sight of who I'm really doing all this for. This is something I truly struggle with.

This letter is a part of your education, your artist development. It's your chance to look inside and strengthen your own testimony and your own resolve.

So, how would I deal with it? I would deal with it on a personal level. I wouldn't write her back. There's no need to. She's going on her path, and you go on yours.

I'm sorry that her message got so personal. It was like she couldn't deal with it on any other level, so she got personally attacking and insulting. I know that hurts, but in time, you'll be able to let it go and persevere.

As a fellow rocker for the Lord,


Not long after that, he wrote me back:


Thanks for your reply. I too have questioned from time to time if what I was doing was right. But every time I do I feel like it's something I have to do no matter what anyone else says (enough people are saying they like what we're doing). It has long been my desire to influence others for good through music with uplifting messages that they could relate to including those people of whom this lady was referring to. I feel that it's part of my mission in life to share the music that
has been given to me in whatever form it has come to me (be it a song like "Cast My Bread Upon The Waters", which was performed in Sacrament meeting by my ward Choir or "Back In the Game", which sounds similar to Van Halen). If everyone can't relate to everything I've written, so be it.

I would liken people who feel the need to criticize others or complain to their bishop about music they don't like to the Pharisees. (I thought your song about this was a great choice for the LDS Styles CD).

I look forward to continued association with you.

Your friend and fellow LDS rocker,

(Name withheld by MoBoy)

There’s so much I could say, but nothing really that I could add.

Except maybe to say, “Why can’t we just all get along?”

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Scriptures for Musicians, Part II
“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”

As I was cleaning out my email box earlier today, I came across this string of postings I’d gotten myself tangled up in. As I read it over, I realized it was a big part of some things I’ve been wanting to say in my blog. Rita and Bruce are members of a forum of LDS Musicians I’m in. I’ve excerpted their comments as they were quoted in my response.

--- Rita wrote:

…I can't even sing anymore and that breaks my heart. If I could get a blessing to restore my average singing voice so I could sing songs of praise to God and the things I hear in my head I would!

---Bruce wrote:

EVERYONE ON EARTH CAN SING. It is only mankind's perception of 'quality' that is in question. Some of the most wonderful singers I know have, technically, the most wretched voices - it is their love and testimony that make them beautiful. AND THE LORD LOOKS AT THE QUALTIY OF THE HEART; NOT THE QUALITY OF THE VOICE.

---I wrote:

OK, I'm going to way get in trouble for this one, I know. But it's something that over the years I've
come to feel very strongly about:

Some scriptures:

Psalm 66:1 "Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands"

Now, I'm not a biblical scholar, nor do I know much (or anything, really) about translation from ancient Hebrew, but I find it very interesting that the text uses the word "noise" rather than the word "music". Part of me thinks that it's because the Lord wants it to be joyful, (here's the dangerous part) and he doesn't care if it's professional.

Another scripture:

D & C 4, my comments added:

1 “Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.”

This is usually applied to the work of the building of the Kingdom, and missionary work. But let's apply this to the work of creating great music for the edifying of the saints.

2 “Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.”

As we jump into this work of creating great music, we have to do it, as all that we do for Him, with everything that we have.

3 “Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;”

The only requirement for the calling is a desire to sing/write/create for His glory.

4 “For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his
might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul;”

The need for good music is there. There are people ready and waiting for it. If we dive in and provide that need in any way we can, we will be blessed.

Now here's the good (and dangerous part): This next verse is where the Lord lists all of the qualification requirements for participating in this great and marvelous work and wonder:

5 “And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.”

Hmmm... I didn't catch the work "skill" in the list. Let me check again. Hmmmmm... Nope. What about "talent"... Not there. Maybe He phrased it differently. Maybe He said "Beautiful voice", or "good at it". Checking... Nope. Still nothing.

6 “Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.”

Now here He's listing all of the qualities that will benefit someone who's wanting to join the work. These are things that, when applied, will make their work for the Kingdom more effective. Hmmmmm... Nope. Still no mention of "skills". "Talent"? Whoa, not there either!

Now, there is a mention of "knowledge", and "diligence". I think that means that the Lord wants
us to learn and work hard, so that we can continuously get better, and more effective in our service.

And as He helps us get better, He wants us to stay humble, and recognize where those talents and skills came from, and what they need to be used for.

7 “Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.”

This is the most beautiful promise of all. If we want the "skills" and we want the "talent" so that we can turn around and use that to bless the lives of others, all we need to do to begin that process is to ask for it.

So (more dangerous stuff, so you might not want to read this), if someone ever tells you that you're not any good, or that you're "not professional enough" or that you "sound bad" or whatever, realize that even though some people might think that, God doesn't care.

Let me say that again:

God Doesn't Care

He gave you one, three, or five talents, and he expects you to do your best with them. Notice that
the one with three got the same reward as the one with five. The only one that got punished was the one who hid his one.

So, sing out!

Make a Joyful Noise all ye lands!

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Scriptures for Musicians Part I

I was reading the Book of Mormon last night, and I came across a scripture that jumped out at me.

Our Elder’s Quorum instructor would call that a “Gem”.

So, I stumbled across this gem, from First Nephi, chapter 6. This is where Nephi is talking about what stuff is written on what plates. They’ve just come back from getting the plates of Brass, and Dad has just finished looking them over and discovering what’s inside. Nephi doesn’t want to include it all in this record, so he just glosses over it. Then he explains what things he’s going to write about…

4 “For the fullness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved.

5 “Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world.”

Now, in context, it’s clear that he’s talking about writing scripture. But in the context of my own place, it struck me that it applies to songwriting, too. Why do I write songs? Well, for self-expression, sure, and for fun, too, but ultimately, it’s to help people come to God. That’s what would really be cool.

So, why should I write things that the world likes? Why should I worry about writing pop tunes so that they’ll sell? Why don’t I write what’s pleasing to God, and let the notes fall where they may?

Well, first of all, I need to make sure that I know what God wants me to write. If I’m off kilter, spiritually, then I’m not going to be an effective conduit through which songs can come.

It’s just musings right now, but it struck me, and made me once again contemplate my motives and my drive.

Mark Hansen


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