Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Whither the Listener?

Over on the LDS Musicians yahoogroup we’ve been having this discussion as to how important the audience is or should be to the musician. Should they target their writing to a particular audience, or should they create independent of who’s listening?

I’ve talked and written about this one a few times, like here and here, but I thought I’d share here, the post I made to the group:

Writing for the Audience v Writing for Yourself

This has been a really interesting discussion. Like I do on so many other issues, I find myself sitting on the fence on this one as well.

John Newman and I used to have this discussion, based on the old question: “If a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody there to hear it, does it make a sound?”

At first, my argument was to the effect that it doesn’t matter if there’s anyone there to hear it. As it falls, it still creates waves. It’s simple science, and there’s no discussion nor philosophy involved.

But John countered that those waves are nothing but changes in air pressure, until it gets picked up by an ear and re-interpreted as sound. He said that it doesn’t become “sound” until it is heard.

The philosophical implication there is that without a hearer, there is no sound, only pressure waves. That means that it has to be a communication. It’s not just an outpouring of noise. The D&C kinda talks about this, too. In section 50, starting at verse 17, He talks about how the preacher and the listener both need to be in tune with the spirit for the communication to happen.

Now, there is some value in writing songs that are very personal. They help us sort out things in our minds. They are truly self-expressive. Sometimes, I write songs like this and I know that nobody else is ever gonna “get it”, and I’m fine with that. I’ve written some songs that are so personal that I’m not sure I’ll ever share them. Sometimes, I do, and it surprises me how many other people can find meaning in it. “Toy Soldiers” is a good example of this. I’m constantly amazed how many other people find themselves in what was originally a very personal song.

Other times I write songs that are intended to go out to particular groups. “He’s Out There” is a good example of that.

Most of the time, I write what hits me. While I’m writing or editing, I try to be clear enough that my audience can understand it, because I think it’s important to communicate. I AM thinking of my audience, but I’m usually not driven by it. Does that make sense?

Perhaps the real question that we should be asking is: “If a singer sings in the woods and there’s no one there to hear him, does he make a difference?”

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A New Song! "Too Late Smart"

When I was a little kid, I can remember my mom saying one of her sayings: “I’m too soon old and too late smart” whenever she did something that she thought was a big blunder. At the time I didn’t really get it. I thought all adults, especially my mom and dad, knew everything! They were the smartest, coolest people ever. If only the world would just listen to them, then it would be a great place to live.

Then I got to be a teenager. Suddenly my parents became total idiots. They had no idea what end was up. I was going to take the world by storm. I was going to make a difference! I was going to be the one that the world rallied around! The Lord had a very important mission for me.

It wasn’t until long after my mission, and well into my married life that I started to learn how fundamentally clueless I was (am). It was then that the wisdom of that saying started to sink in.

And now, many years later, as I look at my where my life is, sometimes I wonder what I’ve been doing all this time. And I wanna smack myself on the forehead like David Byrne and say, “Well… How did I get here?” At times like these I start to think of those times when I thought adults knew everything, and I start to think that now I’m too soon old, and too late smart.

I guess that’s a pretty normal thing for a guy to go through at my age.

Anyway, a long time ago, I wrote a song about it, and then about a year ago, revised it to reflect my newfound wisdom and acceptance of the drab and normal life my choices have brought me. My important save-the-world mission? I still don’t know what it was or is for sure. But raising my kids to be happy and faithful followers of the Lord is a daily challenge, and it’s the most important thing I can do right now. And I'm very grateful to have the help of my very, very patient and loving wife at my side.

So, anyway. Here’s the new song!

I like it a lot, actually. It’s a solid, driving rock tune, with a killer mix. Nuthin’ mellow about it! Check it out, and feel free to post your own comments and experiences!

Mark Hansen

Friday, July 18, 2008

Songs of Zion

Live Out Loud

Looks like Deseret Book (in the form of Shadow Mountain) is picking up on the pre-teen pop craze. I just got this email encouraging people with kids from 7-13 to go and fill out a survey to help pick the cover for a debut CD from a new group they’re promoting. They’re called LOL (for “Live out Loud”) and it’s three young kids. I have NO idea what they sound like, as the CD hasn’t been released yet.

A part of me just wants to LOL, myself, and just roll my eyes. But then another part of me remembers that I had thought of the idea myself a few months ago, and I just didn’t have time to pursue it. I think it would be a blast to produce a project like that.

I also think of my two boys, and how much they'd love a cool project like this, if it's done right.

If I hear any news when it’s released, I’ll let you know.

So, FWIW, here’s the links to the surveys. One of them is for grownups to fill out, and the other one is for kids.

Grownup Survey

Kids Survey

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Religion and Politics...

I’ve been thinking about some things, political things, lately, and I started contemplating these two (seemingly) contradictory scriptures:

“O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh.” 2 Ne. 4: 34

- And -

“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;” D&C 58: 27

On one level, these seem to say the opposite thing. The first scripture says to rely on the Lord for all guidance and success. The second scripture says to go out on your own and do stuff.

I got to thinking about this when I started thinking about the nature of politics and religion. If we are all praying to the same God for guidance in our world and our politics, why are so many of us getting so many different responses? If we’re not supposed to trust our own “arm”, then we should rely on Him, right? So, why all the differences?

It even makes me wonder if I should be praying for help as I choose my candidates. As I’ve been contemplating it, I’ve come to two parallel conclusions that seem to answer it in my mind.

Some things are directed by God.

Some things He leaves up to us.

See, God’s all about us learning things. That’s the whole purpose in the creation of the earth. I think a large part of that is letting us make choices and letting us make mistakes, as well as find successes. There are some things that He definitely takes a strong hand in. This happens on the big, historical picture, as well as on the scale of the individual person. There are some things He just doesn’t care about, like what color shirt I wear. In between all of that, there are a lot of choices that we have to make, and He often lets us make them on our own. Sometimes, He even inspires us to make certain choices that are right for us, but which might not be right for someone else. Sometimes he lets our choices be clouded by our own life’s experiences. Why? Because that’s how we learn from them.

So, I think that I shouldn’t be praying about which candidate He wants me to vote for. Instead, I should be praying for clarity and understanding so that I can make a better choice based on my own life’s learning.

Mark Hansen

Monday, July 07, 2008

To Spaz or Not to Spaz…

I have a “child with special needs”, and I’m sad. Not because I have a “child with special needs”, but because I don’t know what to call him.

I just read this article about Tiger Woods referring to himself and his playing on a particular day and using the word “spaz”. The article goes on to tell about how many people are up in arms about it. It also referenced a survey that lists a bunch of other words for this sort of condition that people find offensive.

I think it’s time to invoke the Mo’Boy Doctrine again. I mean, c’mon people, let’s get a life, here.

What frustrates me most about who can use what word, and who gets offended by which word is that I realize that underneath it all, the words don’t matter. What matters is that we want to insult each other. No matter how many words we put on “the evil list” we will continue to create or adapt others to be offensive, we will continue to find more offensive words, because people are still trying to be offensive.

Think of it. If kids like mine hadn’t grown up being insulted on the playground, then when Tiger said he felt he was playing like a “spaz”, no one would have batted an eye. If no-one wanted to insult an African-american, then the word “nigger” would be just as meaningless. No matter who said it, or to whom.

The bottom line? We need to be nicer to each other. We need to not insult each other. We need to not get offended as much. We need to not worry about picky little rules of words, when words really aren’t the issue.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

How to Win the Iraq War

I found this article to be interesting. It’s cool to hear some positive stories about what’s happening in Iraq, first of all. But it’s also cool to hear about the story behind those positive stories. I mean, I like that violence is down. But I also like that traffic and commerce and interaction is up. I also like to read about what’s causing it.

It’s pretty easy to simply say that the troop surge is taking hold. Yeah, us! Go, Team! But there’s more to it than just that. As I read the article and saw the list of things that the forces are supposed to be doing, I smiled.

  • "Serve the population: give them respect: gain their support."
  • "Live among the people: you can't commute to this fight."
  • "Walk: stop by, don't drive by: patrol on foot and engage the population."
  • "Promote reconciliation: we cannot kill our way out of this endeavour."

I’ve heard these things before. Sure, with different words, and different specifics, but the same sentiment and approach. Where was it that I heard these things? From my mission president, twenty years ago, in Honduras.

Could it be we were doing something right way back then?

Mark Hansen


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