MY CONSTANT WILL BE
B A R R Y B R A K E . C O M

 

 

things i did in 08.
a moustache-twisting journal of the few things in my life worth mentioning

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yeah

 

land of smiles.
six weeks honeymooning in thailand

120 days in the valley.
diaries from my cancer journey

mad skills.
bbbbarry thRoWz U sOmE dEeP hOuSe

 

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composed the sacred harp suite

I've been interested in that great American hymnal for years now. Shortly after I got a facsimile of the 1860 edition, I started thinking about what it would be like if I did a piano suite based on some Sacred Harp tunes. Edvard Grieg's Slåtter, Opus 72, has always touched me with its playful seriousness, its honoring of the weird Lydian-mode sound of Norwegian folk music, and its honoring of the melodic and thematic genius of the material, as classical music often does with folk, refining and polishing it to bring out its grain. It's a way of, as Browning's Fra Lippo Lippi puts it, "lending our minds out" by calling attention to something that strikes us. So I wrote the Sacred Harp Suite. I found myself in a position to guest-host Texas Public Radio's Classical Spotlight, and premiered the suite. The response was so good that I'm writing another, and shaping them both up for publication. Take a listen.

 

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read his dark materials

I'd heard Philip Pullman's series praised as an anti-Narnia, condemned as an anti-Narnia, praised for its superb fantasy imagination, condemned for its atheist message, praised for its high moral seriousness. In general, I'd agree with all the above: Pullman gets right some of what Narnia got wrong, but falls into the same trap Lewis fell into, which is that when you have an Important Message to share the art comes second to the message (a trait that threatens to capsize the final volume in both series). But it's fine writing, set in a beguiling context, rich with detail and spot-on psychological insight. Since so much of these novels are rooted in the soil of Paradise Lost, by John Milton (of whom it was said that he was on Satan's side without knowing it), it's only appropriate that Pullman winds up being on God's side without knowing it: the overall shape of the tale is unmistakably Christological. I do hope the movies continue somehow; contrary to parents' worries, Pullman might make believers of us all.

 

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filled in for kathy couser

A dear friend quit KPAC and began teaching drama. KPAC was in need; I had some time before we left the country; equation solved. For three months I hosted a daily afternoon classical show. I've always loved sharing my enthusiasm for music. I also love their 17,000 classical CD collection, one of the largest and best in the country.

 

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didn't write a sing act

This is huge. Baylor's All-University Sing has been a major part of my life, and I've been a major part of Sing. I did the musical arrangements for an act in 1988, a gig that blossomed into five or six acts a year thereafter. In later years I didn't always do that many. But 2008, my twentieth year of arranging, the only act I arranged bailed out, and so I didn't write their charts or vocal parts, or direct the pit. Weird! It's definitely a mixed feeling, because on one hand the time-to-money ratio is actually not too favorable and I was always stressed out right around Christmas, but on the other hand, it was such a blast. I'll arrange again, but probably never reach my 90s involvement. Wow, I can't believe I said that.

 

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lived in 5 different houses

One thing that made our extended trip possible in 2008 was that we fixed things so we'd have no rent or mortgage or bills to pay while away. So, when we moved out of the Rock House in 07 we rented a condo for 6 months to close out the year. The first three months of 2008, as we prepared and packed and stored, we stayed with my parents for a bit (1), then with Catherine's parents for a bit (2), then off to China where we stayed with hospitable friends (3) for a few weeks while we found an apartment of our own (4) to settle into. When we got back we landed at Catherine's parents again (2a), and found a delightful place of our own by December (5) and began the giant process of unpacking and unstoring and moving. Whew! Of course, buried in that account is the funnest fact of all: in case you hadn't noticed, we...

 

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lived in china for six months

Every year we try to go somewhere fun for a month or so. This year, though, Catherine suggested that we go to China for several months. Why on earth not? We showed up in Beijing with no particular plan, no gigs, no friends, and six pieces of luggage. Within days, we had new friends, new plans, a great music scene to explore, and a dynamic city to engage in. We climbed around on the Great Wall. We marveled at ancient temples and palaces. We listened to centuries-old opera and folk song. We ate dumplings, noodles, peanuts in seaweed, minced chrysanthemum, lotus seed mooncakes, egg crepes, pea cake, spring onion pancakes, Peking duck, and at least our weight in rice, not to mention drinking more than our fair share of tea. We also met up with some creatives: instrumentalists and singers and actors and artists who were wonderful companions and sources of energy and pleasure: Billy, Jess, Hu Hao, Ha Ha, Anna, Zac, Tore, Nathalie, Moreno, David, Mico, Fran, Bex, Tushka — each name rings in my heart like a bell; how grateful we are to count these as friends.

 

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went to the olympics

With half our year spent overseas, it makes sense that half the things on this list took place there. Right near the top of the list has to be the 2008 Olympics. We were on a rooftop next to the Forbidden City for the opening and closing ceremonies and their resplendent fireworks; we saw events small and big, from a sparsely-attended archery shootout to the track and field finals in the Bird's Nest, where we saw world records being broken.

 

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met olympic medalists

A highlight of my Olympic experience. I was at a swinging party at a fabulous club when I saw several improbably wholesome people wearing ribbons. Yep: the gold-winning women's rowing team, fresh from victory, and a men's rowing medalist as well. I got to congratulate them in person and tell them they did their country (and their out-of-shape species) proud. I even got to hold and examine some gold and bronze medals. Read more.

 

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spent time with cathryn and shizhou

It's cruel that Catherine's dearest friend is a world away, but it was a kindness last year. Cathryn traveled from Dali to Beijing (that's like going from New Orleans to New York) just to welcome us to the country and show us around. We then got to spend bits and pieces of time with her and her husband over the course of our stay; and we capped off our China adventure with a delicious two weeks in Dali, where we saw a very different China and drank up the company of two people we love very much.

 

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ruined my foley shoes

Well, they're not ruined. They're actually in beautiful shape, having been re-soled. But the deal with this particular pair of shoes is that they made the exact sound that shoes make in the movies. You know, that so-realistic-it's-not-quite-real sound that gets added in by foley artists, that never quite lines up with the way the actors are walking. Those shoes were a never-ending delight to me, because everywhere I walked it sounded like I was in the movies. But no more. Something about the new soles changed them back into regular old real-life shoes.

 

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flew over the north pole

In the plane on the way over (thanks to the kindness of our extremely cool friend Amber), I noticed that the video map showed that we were indeed right on top of the world. Amazing! I flew over the North Pole. If only I'd thought to bring my compass, I'd have been able to find out whether it goes crazy at 40,000 feet.

 

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had clothes made

Beijing is in a magical spot right now: it's a major world capital, with diplomats and ambassadors and business tycoons who want bespoke suits; and its economy is such that a musician can afford them. I took full advantage of this fact, and came back with several near-perfect suits and a mess of shirts and ties. What a pleasure, to have such superb clothing made just for oneself! See a fashion show.

 

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was in a play

One evening an acquaintance called and said he just knew I was perfect for the part of a reality-show host for a live theater production that was currently in rehearsal. Turns out I was, even though I'd never done theater before. Boundaries expand. Catherine and I enjoyed traveling to the beautiful lakeside place where the show was held, and we enjoyed hanging out with the remarkable cast of talented and genuinely funny actors. Further, I was unexpectedly gratified to stand in front of a responsive crowd and make them laugh, smile, and think more deeply. Man I miss that. Read more.

 

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lived my 15,000th day

I usually celebrate these milestones by spending the day in some remarkable way. This time was an exception but no exception: I cuddled with my favorite girl, I relaxed in our apartment listening to a flutist in the courtyard play centuries-old folk melodies, I ate a delicious meal, and I reflected on what a blessed 15,000 days it's been.

 

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wrote music

Theoretically, that's not surprising: writing music is after all what I do. But some years are years of shoring up, and some years are years of exploding creativity. In 2008 I composed new liturgical settings for the Hill Country church where I led worship; I wrote new jazz songs that reflected my Oriental surroundings; I whipped out the above-mentioned classical suite in less than a week; I wrote folklike melodies, a smooth-jazz head for a sax player friend, a commercial soundtrack, a song based on one of the new president-elect's favorite scriptures, and several extemporaneous songs for jazz audiences.

 

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coded an elegant king james version in html

It's one of the great works of the English language, and one of the greatest works of humankind, period. One day, I thought I should make it a nice html file that has advantages the many online Bibles don't have. So I did. Check ye this.

 

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was a voice actor

Off and on I've inquired about doing voice work in the States, but have never scored a gig (beyond doing radio work). In China, my shiny American voice was perfect for English instruction CDs and cartoon episodes — it was a great way to indulge my inner show-off while getting to do something I've always been interested in.

 

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was apart from catherine for 25 straight days (and over 8 weeks total)

I'm shocked by that figure, though not surprised, because I certainly felt it while it was happening. Catherine had to come back to the States for her regular medical treatments three times while we were in China. Each of those trips took several days, but one was epically long, and just when I thought it was over there was a plane delay that resulted in another three days of separation. Terrible! We spent more waking hours together in 2008 than many couples do in a decade, but the days apart — whew.

 

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drank mojitos

I'd enjoyed their leafy taste before, but this summer we found a mojito gold mine: nearly everywhere we went served particularly good ones, each with its own character. Especially in the sweltering Beijing summer, they hit the spot.

 

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turned 41

I know forty is supposed to be the big landmark, but when you're forty-one you are not just forty: you're In Your Forties. So now I'm in my forties. With my life very probably more than half over, I think again and again how fortunate I am, how blessed with talent and riches and love and family and friends. Oh, to use these gifts responsibly, to enjoy them fully, to share them completely!

 

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What a year. Dedicated to the glory of God.

so, what did you do?

 

 

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