An interesting interview with Out of the Grey

Anthony Ko, Alex Ko and Scott Hsieh… who are you? How did you find my page? E-mail me, because I’m intrigued.

Long boring entry. Wrote about FiCS first. Some worship stuff at the end. Read the end if you’re involved with praise because I need your opinions.

Sometimes Dave has so much insight into social situations it’s amazing. Other times he is so absolutely wrong it’s also amazing. I’m not just talking inaccurate, I mean so totally wrong it’s beyond belief. I think his last entry was one of those.

Dave writes: “it wasn’t about me getting power again (danny, you fool)”

Excuse me? I don’t think I even thought this for a second when you asserted youself, you dork. Yeah I joked about you being chancellor, but why the jab? The point is, Dave pretty much completely misunderstood my thinking. Another point in which he was wrong: I honestly think that it was only a minority of people who felt lonely during the ski trip. Maybe I’m wrong about this. But I could tell (at least I think I did. There’s this interesting article in the Mercury a couple days ago about how incompetent people don’t know they’re incompetent – they tend to be more confident about their skills than more competent people. It’s very true, and something I’ve talked about before. But anyway, it’s made me second guess myself like mad since reading it. But I digress.) who was lonely at certain times, and I don’t think it was everyone. I for one, didn’t at all. But maybe that’s just me.

Dave writes: “And therein lies the inital problem of FiCS. I’m going to second guess Jimmy Ahn at this point, but, in the end, i think he would agree with me. i think it was a mistake of FiCS our sophomore year to try to get too big too fast. this isn’t jimmy’s fault.”

Oh my goodness. Again, what I’m about to say is only opinion, but my bold claim is that it’s the exact opposite that happened – FiCS got very big precisely because of Jimmy. I’m not saying that was bad or good, just that it was what he thought would be best for the fellowship, and like all decisions, it was both bad and good. But come on – from a very early point Jimmy did what he was good at – reached out to freshmen pretty aggressively. I would wager that most of the class of ’99 would count Jimmy as a significant influence their freshman year. He was pretty hard core about getting them in FiCS. If it got big, Jimmy had a lot to do with it. Again, it’s both good and bad, just what he thought was best.

“but, we were stuck, and, the solution jimmy came up with was make us serve early.”

OK, we need to get into history here, but I really think what Jimmy thought was best for our class was to get us all to serve in some type of positions really early. But this idea was totally independent of the class below us being big. That is, he didn’t come up with this idea because the class was big. In fact, this solution preceded Welcome Night.

We had this one meeting in I believe it was Linnea’s room, and all of our class was there, save a few members, and literally every single one of us was placed in some kind of committee, and we had these hadnouts that described the duties and functions of each committee. For example, me Ohms were on the worship committee. Someone (Jane?) was on like Literature and Arts Committee. But seriously, every single person was on a committee. I still have the handout, by the way – it’s interesting reading. But everyone, Jane, Karine, whoever, they were all on some kind of committee.

Dave probably doesn’t remember this meeting because he was one of the few people who weren’t there. I think. Valerie was another one. Not coincidentally, they were the sophomore reps that year. The reason being, they were literally the only people in our class who weren’t on a committee already. That’s pretty much the only reason they were reps.

Anyway, this is my bold claim – honestly, FiCS was Jimmy’s fellowship our first 2 (maybe even 3) years, and everything that happened, a lot of it had to do with him. In particular, Dave’s analysis of what I mentioned is wrong – it’s not that the class of ’99 inexplicably got really big and Jimmy came up with us (’98) all serving to cope, but I think the second idea was the plan from the beginning, and what’s more, the big class below us was something he tried to do, not just some random chance.

I know Jimmy reads these on the rare occassions, so maybe he will say what happened – only he can really say for sure. All we can say is what actually did happen.

I’m totally with Dave in regards to his main points – we grew too fast too early, and that our class was forced to serve too early, without getting a chance to bond. But I disagree with his analysis somewhat.

I really do think we got too big too fast, and I’ve written about that before, so I won’t rehash too much. But I still remember how shocked I was after welcome night, when both George and Lina, my two little sibs, said they liked it a lot and felt good about committing to FiCS. They were both among the first to be committed to it. As I’ve stated before, I just assumed that nearly everyone that came to Stanford committed Christians already would go to IV or maybe Crusade. So them saying they were coming to FiCS just surprised me.

The other surprise I’ll never forget is that one time in Braun, the time we packed the room – it was standing room only. Among other people, Dave Wang from Houston was there. That was when all of us realized that whoa, FiCS is gonna be bigger than we thought and we need a bigger room. I had family time with, among other people, Chi-Hua, and he shared how he was struggling with choosing fellowships. Again, this totally shocked me, so much so that I still remember it. I assumed everyone would go to IV, especially Chi-Hua, what with his family’s legacy. (That legacy is probably a reason why he didn’t want to go there.) Just surprise.

I was even more surprised when, the next year, Dana Yip and Keith Lee started coming out. Do you older people remember this? Am I the only one that was completelly surprised when these 2 people starting going to FiCS?

But it got too big too fast, and our class, in the leadership positions for 3 freaking years, had to do too much too soon, I think. It was tough because with so many people, there wasn’t enough for them yet. With older girls, sure, but in a lot of other ways, also – we hadn’t really established how we were going to do things, so I think it was hard. Even worse, we just played it by ear a lot, a lot of ad hoc type of stuff that I think made it harder for the fellowship in the long run. Again, just my opinion.

And we had to do too much too soon. I kind of think it shows. Some people are made for leadership and they did fine, but some people were thrust in roles they weren’t ready for, like Dave. What happened was, it either crushed them, or they left the fellowship, never to come back. I think getting struggling or unready people to serve is just a bad idea.

You probably don’t know this, and I only know because some older Berkeley people told me, but what used to happen at Berkeley is that the class reps would always be people who were kind of struggling. The idea being that if they were to serve, it would kind of strengthen them, get them back in the fold. That is a bad idea. If you’re ever tempted to do something like this, don’t. It just doesn’t work out.

Anyway, we kind of did that, getting everyone in our class serving, and I don’t think that was a good idea. Too soon, and too much. I honestly think (I don’t know if other people will agree) but it was always really hard serving in what we did, for our class. I think a lot of times we felt alone and maybe slightly overwhelmed. But I’m thinking of all of us, and it was just hard, because we hadn’t established certain things yet. Most of all, we didn’t have support, but that wasn’t possible because we started so early, and because we were so big.

Thank God for Linnea and Leo. Linnea is just a natural leader / organizer. Seriously, during FiCS elections that year, was there any question who the president should have been? She was seriously incredible. And Leo is just a natural small group leader, I think. Because his heart bleeds for people. Thank God for Ben, also, because unlike the rest of us, he never shied from leadership roles when he had to do it (I’m mostly talking about small group). He just sucked up and did it, well.

Come to think of it, FiCS survived only because we had some seriously incredible people. Anyone who knows Jimmy knows he was amazing, and the more you know him the more you realized he did. It was absolutely insane. Linnea was also absolutely incredible – that she did all she did starting as a sophomore just kind of boggles my mind. Keren Ji was absolutely critical our sophomore year, and again, one of the most amazing people I have met. Just think about all the stuff that needs to get taken care of for FiCS – it’s a lot. Somehow, in those early days, with less people to do it, it all got taken of. Those were some amazing people.

Here’s where I disagree with Dave. Well it’s not disagree, it’s just, I think that even had Jimmy and the rest of us not tried to get big that year, we would have anyway. I think there was a vacuum in the Christian community that FiCS just happened to fill, and it doesn’t matter what we did, it would have filled that void, and we would have gotten big.

Look at just about every big university in the country and there’s at least one Asian American fellowship. Who knows why, but there is. And honestly, they’re pretty much all the same, when you come down to it. They all feel the same, and it’s the same types of people. Anyway, when we got here, For some reason, there wasn’t that type of fellowship here. Yeah, there was AAFC (do underclassmen realize this used to exist?) and KCU (Kim Myers’ fellowship) but they weren’t fitting the bill, for some strange reason. All the typical Korean American Christians were either going to IV / Crusade or not at all.

Anyway, all I’m saying is that FiCS fit the Asian American Christian group that’s at every campus, the type of thing people are used to from high school, and that’s a big part of why everyone came. And why people continue to come, regardless of who the leaders are. That’s my claim. Anyway, I think we would have gotten big regardless, so there’s nothing we could have done about it.

The other point in which I disagree is that had we been smaller and not led right away, we would have been “ready, prepared, and (most importantly) CONFIDENT to lead groups.” I don’t know, maybe this has to do with my view that the growth was inevitable. But I just wonder, how the heck would we have been more ready had we waited? Time alone isn’t enough, and there weren’t enough people older than us to really take us under their wing to help us. Worse, we didn’t even have time to do it. So like, Pastor Dave started up a discipleship group freshman year. Who had time to do it? Some people. Sure as heck not me. Dave wouldn’t have had time either. The only person who stuck with it was the almighty Ben Hur. Anyway, we were all like that – too busy with other stuff, and there was no one to help us. I don’t know, but I think we wouldn’t have been any more ready than we were, simply because we had waited. Time alone won’t do it – there’s gotta be something else there that wasn’t there for us. But that’s just my take.

But anyway, a lot of good things happened despite us sucking. Honestly, my view in retrospect is that whatever happens with structure and all that doesn’t make that big a deal; in the end, things will pretty much be the same no matter how things are structured. Kind of bold view, but that’s what I think.

But one thing I think I’ve realized that does make a difference is prayer. Seriously, one of the good things we did from early on is pray a lot, and I think this made a lot of difference. People were blessed, I think, and it’s not a coincidence. Anyway, my claim is that if FiCS is shrinking, or not doing as “well,” it’s because too much time is being spent talking about action and structure and not enough time is being spent praying.

I guess my ho-hum attitude towards FiCS isn’t because I’m not in it any more and don’t care, although this is partly true, but more because from what I glimpse and overhear, it seems like the current leadership is moving back towards more prayer, and that’s good. And I really think if people pray enough, things will turn out O.K. Of course it can always be better, but it’s not worth stressing over. Not that anyone is.

Gosh, I write a lot when Dave riles me up. What else riles me up? Maybe I should write about some praise things that bother me.

It should be illegal to end a fast song by gradually or suddenly slowing it down. Seriously, there is no more efficient way to suck energy out of the praise time. Either it’s an unsatisfying feeling to the end, or it makes starting a new fast song strange. Keep the same tempo until the very end of every fast song. Just learn to end it together. Seriously, don’t just suddenly slow down on the last line. Bad. Best thing – medleys, so one song goes straight to the next. Keeps energy high and continuity, which is important.

The key to good music in general and praise in particular is that variation is a good thing. So like with Sonatas, I can’t remember my music theory but Sonatas have a 3 (or is it 4?) part structure. It’s something like Introduction, Exposition, and Recapitulation, or like that. Anyway, the structure of the Sonata is such that the ending act mimics the first, but it’s never quite the same. And it shouldn’t be played exactly the same way. Because this is boring.

So with hymns, I try to play each verse slightly different. What I do is the first time through, play pretty much what’s written on the page. The second time through, I spice it up a little, adding more eight notes, making it sound more fluid. Also, after the first verse, I don’t always play the melody, although usually. The third time, I try to flow even more, and move to higher registers. On the fourth verse, I slow down slightly, and play low octaves, doubling the bass note with my left hand and big full chords with my right, so it’s a lot more full, and I play a lot more louder. Every verse, slightly different. That’s a key idea.

Anyway, praise is no different – although you’re singing the same verses and choruses, you want it to sound slightly different each time. Because the same is boring. So you can like vary the instruments playing, or play slighty different (my favorite song to do this in is the bass in There Is Joy In the Lord. During that period of time when I played with Kris Song, we’d just read each other and do spicy things. Like when everyone cuts out and you modulate, we’d go with this eight note rhythm like a power chord riff. And we’d go to cut time. And play like alternate bass notes on like the last chorus. Stuff like that.) or, most importantly, vary the dynamics. Playing soft is your friend – if you play soft, the loud parts are even more powerful. But a lot of the time, people just bang away playing the same thing at the same loudness the entire song. This is bad. I cannot understate how powerful dynamics can be.

At any rate, listen to some good praise song recordings and you should notice how the verse and choruses are different each time. On the good recordings, at least. Like with Open The Eyes Of My Heart, it starts out just guitar and keyboard, a single vocal. Builds to multiple vocals, singing in unison. Gradually puts in more instruments and sticks in harmonies, stuff like that. But each time has a slightly different feel. It’s subtle, but people are playing slightly different stuff. Do you hear the organ or the fiddle in that song? There’s just a lot of cool stuff going on in there.

Anyway, change things around a little, so it’s slightly different each time. It adds a lot of power to the music.

When the guitar is the primary instrument, it needs to be way up in the mix. What I mean is, when there are no drums, the guitar drives the rhythm, so everyone needs to hear it well. So it needs to be very, very loud, louder than you might think necessary, because otherwise, the people clapping are setting the tempo, not the guitar. This is not good. So turn the guitar up really high. Everyone needs to hear it at all times, when there are no drums.

OK, here’s something I’m not sure about but what I’ve done in the past, and maybe someone can correct me. Henry especially, I’d like to hear what you think about this. But with mixing voices for praise, what I’ve done is set the leader’s level at a nice high level so you can hear him. I similarly set the primary female vocalist fairly high, not as high as the leader, but pretty darn loud. These two people are the key vocalists, because they’re who the people follow.

Which, let me digress, is why I dislike Not Be Shaken. It’s just really hard to follow. If there are no girls, it’s literally impossible to follow. All because of the chorus part where the girls start the singing. Even with women, it’s hard. Like if you want to repeat the chorus, the leader somehow needs to signal the women – it just usually doesn’t work out well. You can’t be spontaneous with it, and that’s not good. Anyway, it’s a good melody, a good idea, but just hard to follow in practice, is my opinion.

Anyway, getting back to mixing the vocalists, I think having a lot of vocalists is actually a good idea, where I didn’t used to. So my philosophy when I mixed a few times for KCPC was that after the primary male / female, the role of everyone else is to blend and not stick out at all. So what I did was, I would equalize each voice independently, and aim for a good mellow sound. So like girls I would take out the high ranges a lot, and the low ranges for the guys, and pump up the mids. You know, fiddling with each voice until you got this good mellow sound.

For the levels, what I did was listen to all the vocalists, and raise the level of the secondary vocalists until I could just make them out in the mix. I didn’t want to be able to hear them distinctly, but by switching between solo and all the vocals on the mixing board, have them at a level where I could just make them out if I concentrated. When I did that for all the secondary vocalists, it got a good mellow, blending sound, which was really good for harmonies.

Anyway, there was one time I did this at Saturday practice, and at the end of one slow song, the vocals sounded so good, they actually commented. “Wow, that sounded good!” Not to toot my own horn, but… actually that’s a lie. I’m tooting it. Anyway, I think the mixing of the vocals goes a long way towards how they sound. To state the obvious. But really, it sounded awesome that practice.

But I don’t know, I know next to nil about sound, and I just kind of came up with this on my own, which is why I want Henry to lay down the truth and tell me how it is. I’m interested.

The bass in a big auditorium tends to sound too vague, if that makes sense. There’s so much echo on the low end that it doesn’t sound distinct, just a dull low sound. There’s not much you can do about this, I suppose, but I was wondering how it would sound if the treble were turned up and the bass down on the bass amp, so there was more of an attack sound, letting the natural echo take care of the low end? Just a thought.

Whoever’s mixing needs to listen with their head out of the headphones more than it’s in, because how it sounds outside is the only important thing. One key thing to recognize is when the speakers are crackling. This means something is turned up too loud.

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