Culture Faith Music Musings

Derek Webb: Feedback

Derek Webb released his new instrumental electronic worship album today, entitled Feedback.  Before the album dropped, Derek wrote a bit about his intentions and thoughts behind the album.  After giving it a few listens, I had a few additional thoughts, as well.

First, I think that Derek has really dialed into how to successfully price and differentiate various product tiers in order to 1.) maximize value to his customers, 2.) encourage customers to consider the upper tiers, and 3.) provide a range of options that will satisfy customers regardless of whether they prefer a physical product over a digital one, lossless audio to high-bitrate mp3, or could care less as long as they get the music immediately.

Like I said, I really, really like how Derek has priced his product tiers. Tier 1 gets you an immediate high bitrate MP3 download for $10.

For $15, Tier 2 gives you the option of getting the album in lossless format immediately, adds a physical cd, and includes 5″x5″ prints of the two companion art collections, 18 art prints in all. That’s alot of additional product for only $5 more.

Tier 3, at $30, gives you all the above, plus a t-shirt, plus digital high-resolution files of the paintings, plus multi-track stems of the album tracks for remixing, plus several video interviews and short films.

I personally chose Tier 2, but I strongly considered Tier 3.

Now, on to the music itself:

On the whole, I like Feedback. I like what Derek is trying to do, and I appreciate how different it is from the status-quo in the Christian music arena that Derek often finds himself in. However, as a person who listens to a fair amount of post-rock / electronic / ambient music, “Feedback” didn’t blow my socks off (on the first listen, at least). I’m still figuring out how each musical piece interacts with or represents its respective title, and I’m trying to see how this album will “draw me into worship.” I’m not sure yet. I certainly think that I’m going to need to give this a few spins before I make a final judgement.

This is a largely untapped sound for the Christian market. That being said, I would say that this sort of stuff is done more powerfully in non-“Christian-specific” arenas by other artists (Hammock, Sigur Rós, Balmorhea, Jesu, Max Richter, The Album Leaf, Eluvium, Helios, etc.). To be honest, I find some of that stuff quite worshipful, at times. Derek’s Feedback project is interesting, especially in how it is framed, but I wouldn’t say it is groundbreaking, as a whole.

Now, what is interesting to me is whether Derek is using Feedback as a sort of bridge for Christians to learn to appreciate and pursue the sort of expression found in this other arena and find the beauty in it, to draw Christians out of their tendency towards sub-culture. I might be overthinking this, but that’s what I’m considering right now as I pore over the music.

In the credits to Feedback, Derek thanks Mako Fujimura, which I think is really cool. Mako is one of my favorite artists; I love the way he integrates his faith into his art without distancing himself either from Christians or members of the larger arts community. He makes good art that speaks for itself, and I like that Derek is trying to channel and highlight that. I am well aware that I’m not Derek’s “standard listener;” stylistically, the breadth of the music I listen to is atypical. For some that listen to “Feedback,” it may be mind-blowing and completely out in left field. I just wish he had gone a little farther and hit a homerun.

In sum, one of the key things to acknowledge about Feedback is that is a paradigm shift from much of the “noise” of established stereotypical CCM worship music. I think it’s healthy to dispel a narrow conception of what “worship” is and take it outside of the box. I admire Derek’s art and what he’s done since becoming a solo artist; Derek has the ear of people in the world of music and art, both Christian and non-Christian, and that’s a wonderful thing. As Derek said on twitter yesterday, “there are christian and secular people who make art. there is no christian or secular art.” Let’s support good art, regardless of where it’s made.

By the way, my favorite tracks after the first few listens are 1, 4, 5, 7, and 8. What are yours?

Culture Life Musings

Three Strands

“Three passions, simple but overwhelming have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge and unbearable pity for the suffering of humankind.”

Bertrand Russell         

Culture Life Musings Reading

Words to Live By: Wendell Berry

Some wise words on how to live life, by Wendell Berry:

Breathe with unconditioned breath the unconditioned air.  Shun electric wire.  Communicate slowly.   Live a three-dimensioned life; stay away from screens.

This, certainly, is not my life.

But I’d like it to be.

The first steps are the hardest.

Culture Faith Life Musings

John Piper, “Why and How I Am Tweeting.”

John Piper recently began twittering under his own name, and he wrote an accompanying post on the desiringGod blog laying out his reasoning for entering the “twittersphere,” which I found insightful and a good read.  My favorite part is quoted below:

Now what about Twitter? I find Twitter to be a kind of taunt: “Okay, truth-lover, see what you can do with 140 characters! You say your mission is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things! Well, this is one of those ‘all things.’ Can you magnify Christ with this thimble-full of letters?”

To which I respond:

The sovereign Lord of the earth and sky
Puts camels through a needle’s eye.
And if his wisdom see it mete,
He will put worlds inside a tweet.

140 characters. Awesome.


Culture Life Media Musings

On Twitter as a news source.

Twitter fills an interesting niche in the world of online social networking. On Twitter, individuals micro-blog in 140 character bursts, and their readers only follow the people they choose to in their own customized “feed”.

Given how easy it is to post a message on Twitter and have it be broadcast almost instantly to one’s followers, Twitter becomes a medium of content delivery that is both faster than e-mail and wider reaching than an instant message conversation. Numerous people have taken advantage of the power of Twitter; Barack Obama announced his running-mate over Twitter, for one, and thousands of people followed and identified with the daily goings-on of the Mars Phoenix Rover via an employee at JPL posting on its behalf. Twitter has been used to humanize large corporations, give a heads-up to deal-seekers, and reiterate a company’s commitment to being interactive with its users. Even news organizations have taken to twitter, from new start-ups to well established members of traditional media.


This way Twitter is being used in this last instance is both promising and potentially scary. Here’s why.


It’s wonderful to receive news as it happens. Twitter allows for news to be relayed faster than traditional media outlets are able to report. For example, a few weeks ago I heard about a plane crash on Twitter five to ten minutes before it hit the news. Twitter allow the “person on the ground” to be heard by those around the world in record time.

This is a great, great tool for citizen journalism. The problems manifest when you tradeoff speed for reliability. It’s easy for rumors and misinformation to be spread around the internet, anyway, and by providing the means for anyone to become a reporter, the standards of journalism and reporting that traditional news outlets are held to are not enforced. The pressure to “get it out first” sure doesn’t help, either. 

Last week, I received an Amber Alert via Twitter.  While Twitter is a good medium to transmit Amber Alerts, this one turned out to be a hoax.  Just yesterday, my friend Mark made this tweet:

trappermark Twitter news conflict: @cnnbrk telling me 9 dead in Turkish Air crash. At same time, @nytimes says just 20 hurt.

So not all reporting can be trusted, that’s a given.  As long as people fact-check and confirm the things they hear, there’s no problem with being presented with conflicting information.  Unfortunately, my experience tells me that most people do take what they hear at face value.  Maybe regular users of the internet are different, I don’t know.  Being able to quickly sort out fact from fiction is essential to using the web effectively as a research tool.  As the web extends deeper into every facet of our daily lives, this skill becomes more and more important in shaping how we see the world around us.

I say, bring on the citizen journalism.  Let’s just make sure we do it (and read it) responsibly.