Creative Spotlight // Josh Wright
Josh Wright is one of the co-founders of Creative Collected. His vast array of experience has yielded him the title "Jack of All Trades." Yet there is one area of expertise where we deem him a "Master." Ableton Live. To tell you more about Ableton, we have asked Josh a few questions.
Q: For those who don't know, what is Ableton and who should use Ableton?
First of all… HI, and welcome to Creative Collected!
Ok, sorry! Back to the topic at hand! Ableton Live is a Digital Audio Workstation unlike almost anything out there! It’s the go to software for running tracks and loops, and is a fantastic platform for hosting software instruments and samplers.
Ableton is a software that has so many uses, it's hard to put a single label on it! If you lead worship, and run tracks, it's for you! If you play keys, it would work great for you! If you play drums (like me!!) and want to use it to run tracks, play keys, keep time, and play drum samples, it can definitely do that too!
There’s a whole list of reasons that Live is the go to software for this, so I’ll just name a few:
Very efficient resource management (doesn’t bog down your computer easily),
Very stable platform (doesn’t crash easily),
Incredibly flexible routing options,
Linear and nonlinear expressions of time.
That last one is one of the things that really makes Ableton unique. You can use Ableton in one of two “Views”. Arrangement View, is what most people are used to, coming from other audio programs. It's that linear expression of time that I mentioned. You start on the left hand side of the screen at 00:00, and move through time, to the end of your song on the right side of the screen. Pretty standard stuff! The second “view”, known as Session View, is where things get interesting. In Session View, things look more like a giant musical spreadsheet, than something from an audio program. This allows Ableton to take on a very, non-linear characteristic. For example, you could start your song in the chorus, then go to the bridge, and finish with the verse! Not sure why you’d want to do that… but it's an option for sure! In the near future, Creative Collected will be putting out some training materials on how to operate Ableton in both modes, so if you’re a bit confused…stay tuned! Or you can message me directly, and I’d be more than happy to help!
Q: How did you first start using Ableton and what motivated you to keep learning about it?
I got interested in Ableton (although at the time, I didn’t really know what it was) about eight or nine years ago. I went to see David Crowder in concert, and was quite impressed at what Bwack was doing while playing drums! I went home, did a bunch of research and discovered this magical world called Ableton and the rest is history!
I guess the motivation to keep going with it has just been a constant inability to leave well enough alone! I attended school at Hillsong International Leadership College in Sydney, Australia. While there, I would play for some chapels and services, which also meant I’d need to run tracks. At that time, running tracks and loops for college and some extension services was fairly new, and standard procedures weren’t really in place yet. Most times, the tracks would be played as a one-shot samples, with no flexibility in the arrangement. I started experimenting, looking up videos on YouTube, conversations in forums, and articles online. For my third year project (think senior exit project), I successfully helped transition Hillsong to use Ableton full time in their services. Seeing that transition take place really fired me up to see such powerful tools made available, and understandable to the global church! My motivation to keep with it, was to always continue finding better, and more flexible ways to use tracks and other elements in a worship setting. This however, has grown to see the greater church (no matter the size!) well resourced in many different areas. Sure, Ableton is one of those areas, but certainly not the only one.
Q: What role does Ableton play in your creative process?
Ableton really is a majority of my creative process! Im one of those strange creatives. You know the ones that really love spreadsheets and charts. Chaos and flurries of ideas actually kinda stress me out a bit! Ableton feels a bit like home for me. Haha! All kidding aside, I love using Ableton to automate as many aspects of the creative process as possible. This allows the worship leader to focus on connecting to their congregation, not just on what knobs and buttons need to be pressed. My goal has always been to turn the Ableton setup into another instrument on platform, able to ebb and flow with the team, and the Spirit’s leading.
Q: What's your perspective on worship music within The Church as it is now and would you like that perspective to change?
Oh wow! That’s quite a question! I think there’s two aspects of this that need addressing. First of all there’s the question of Message vs. Method. As christians, we are called to spread the gospel and reflect the character of God. So… our message doesn’t change. It is woven into the core of who we are, and what we believe. The method however, is not. I mean, if we look back over the course of history, at music in church, there was a time that guitars were very looked down upon! Now however, it’s strange to see a worship leader without a guitar in his/her hands! Still singing to the same God, but in a different way. The Bible talks about singing a new song of praise. “Sing God a brand-new song! Earth and everyone in it, sing! Sing to God—worship God!” Psalm 96:1-2 msg. I don’t think we were designed to do the same thing year, after year, after year. Again, its message vs. method. How you do things can, and should change to suit the culture and context - but the message should never change.
This kind of leads us into the second aspect to be aware of. Motivation. The why behind your what. So, the method that we use as creatives, to deliver the gospel can and should change… but why is it changing? I believe that as creatives in church (on the worship team, the hosting team, pastoral care, kids, the parking team and anywhere in between!) we need to have a clearly defined ‘why’ for the things that we are doing. If you want an acapella choir singing on stage, Awesome!! Why? If you want lights, a hazer, and a fantastic sound system, that’s incredible!!! Tell me your reasoning?
I think there is a perspective shift that needs to happen for sure within church culture today! Many churches adopt one of two mentalities: 1. “This has worked for the last “x number” of years, so why change it?” or 2. “This is what we saw (Fill in the name of a popular, well known church here) doing, so we should do it!”
As church creative teams, we need to be in tune with our own congregations. It’s absolutely fine to get ideas and inspiration from other churches, and to draw from our history… but we have to guard our motivation. We need to make sure that we aren’t copying what someone else does, just because, or doing what we’ve always done, just because. That is my prayer over creative teams. That they would get a keen sense of what their congregations needs, and find methods that can make those needs a reality.
To find out more about Ableton Live check out our resources page.