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Music or Madness

Time-Alignment and Comb-Filtering:

Sitting in an empty auditorium this morning while my youngest, Lydia, soundchecks with the worship team before church. Listening and watching, my eyes lift up to the ceiling…no, I’m not transfixed in a heavenly gaze…I’m looking at the speaker cabinets and thinking about physics. 🔊🎶🎤

Ok, physics and community.


This used to be my world…instruments, amplifiers, microphones, cables, monitors, speakers, subs, buttons, knobs and faders. Although my day to day has shifted from the inglorious life slinging gear on the road- the lessons of those years remain a learning lense I return to often.


In order to maximize clarity and support the best delivery of the music, the speakers have to be aligned so that they are all broadcasting the music at the same time regardless of where they hang…one unified wall of sound is the goal. Professionals will measure the distance of each speaker cabinet to the kick drum and use a PA processor to adjust the time delay on each cabinet to synchronize that desired wall of sound.

Why? ….thats where comb-filtering comes in. (aka phase cancellation)

When the music is coming out of two speakers slightly delayed from on another by a few milliseconds, where the sound waves blend in the room, some of the sound waves cancel one another out. This is basically how sound canceling headphones work- canceling out sound intentionally.

Where does this connect to community?

Just like great music- the goal isn’t uniformity. Melody, harmony, rhythm and dynamics blend together and often it is the added texture of imperfection they adds a nuanced texture to the music that elevates the beauty and authenticity to it.

But there needs to be alignment or else the intended music consumes itself from within before it can be experienced and enjoyed.

There has to be an anchor…a binding point.

Without that common calibration, the harmony begins to degrade…the intended music is literally gutted- hollowed from the misaligned signals.

In community, there is a balance between beautiful contrasts and the need for anchoring points of alignment.


In an organization there is the binding foundation of mission/vision/values that allow for the dynamics of each team member to play their part with diverse beauty.


Collaboration between organizations is often begun from a place of hearing two groups of people playing the same music....the prospect of collaboration then becomes the challenge of searching for aligned distance to a common "kick-drum".


One of the hardest challenges comes when we find people we like, playing the same song as our band but no matter how much we I've the music, the two bands can seem to align around the right shared anchor. In those scenarios, the collaboration is t going to work if that anchor can't be embraced together. differences aren't bad- dynamic contrast is essential for beauty and distinction. But we have to take time to ask if the differences are textured distance that adds depth and nuance or is it a central dofference that will pull away from the substance of the overall broadcast?




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