In the more local post-Mars Hill orbit, former Mars Hill Portland shut down and Tim Smith shifted over to Door of Hope.
I've enjoyed visited Ethan Hein's blog since I discovered his work through ... rants about him at SlippedDisc. I wrote "Ethan Hein on receptivity to Ellington and jazz, a reminder that the debate about jazz continued what happened in late 19th century debates about ragtime" early in the year and it's ... music wonky, but some of what he's been writing has helped me think more about my concern that a lot of battles about music, music history and musicology seem to cluster around different practices of musical literacy. Ethan's blogging also inspired me to write about Monk, because he wrote about Monk, who fortunately turned out to be a composer and musician we both revere. :)
"Ethan Hein on Monk being remixed and covered ... some thoughts about that as a classical guitarist who revere's Monk as a composer"
For Valentine's Day I had a ramble called "a Valentine's day musing on real divorce in the wake of Real Marriage, "we" weren't better than "them" after all, like I figured was the case back around 2002, and the gimmick of marriage books is still part of the star-making machinery of Christian pop publishing for red and blue state audiences"
Somebody ... wrote a review of John Borstlap's The Classical Revolution that was published at Mere Orthodoxy at the start of 2019. Said somebody also reviewed Roger Scruton's Music as an Art, too.
Also in February ... somebody wrote a series called "Optimus Prime and the Religion of Toys"
From March, "Peter Kwasniewski the monotony of pop music emotion vs pure/profound art music emotion and a counterpoint by way of Paul Hindemith's comments on mediating convention and emotional content" That's another entry in what I'd call interacting with or disagreeing with ideas presented by contributors to The Imaginative Conservative.
April was a bit more of a month for musical analysis, specifically Matiegka pieces that are in sonata form
Op. 20, No. 21
Op. 20, No. 24
There are plans to get to other Matiegka sonatas somewhere in the future but 2019 those two sufficed because ...
in the month of May somebody wrote a review of a box set of the solo guitar music of Matiegka with some reference to Stanley Yates' fine edition of the complete Matiegka sonatas.
In June, from the summer edition of National Affairs, Philip Jeffery had a fun read on American arts policy before, during, and after the Cold War with a comparison and contrast between the literary ideals of T. S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams as to what American letters and arts ought to look like. The end of the Cold War precipitated a crisis in arts funding, arts patronage and philosophy in the United States at the level of national policy because, short version, the US had been so committed to defining, backing and mediating arts policy in international Cold War terms during the Cold War the end of that era brought with it crises of purpose that became what we have since been calling "culture wars". I wrote a few thousand words on that back in June this year.
There was also an interesting Twitter exchange between Warren Throckmorton and Justin Dean that sparked some new analysis on the governance of the former Mars Hill. Dean related via Twitter that the MHC board had proposed that there would be a deal in which Mark Driscoll could keep preaching and teaching at Mars Hill but would have to step away from any managerial role in Mars Hill as a corporate entity. That, for those who didn't read the post, gets discussed at considerable length over here:
July brought a guest piece by Brad East at Mere Orthodoxy writing against Christians consuming pop culture ... and it got me thinking that Christians inveighing against pop culture via Twitter was weird. What I have been observing since I did my years' long Adorno binge is that conservatives and traditionalists with cases against pop culture in general and any specific pop cultural thing tend to recycle, whether they realize it or not, the arguments and assertions of Theodore Adorno.
But as the Mere Orthodoxy folks swear by the positive influence and writings of C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer it's been on my mind in the last few years how very badly Schaeffer dropped the ball in his sweeping narrative of Western arts by never engaging with the work of Richard Wagner at the level of music or philosophy. Schaeffer also badly dropped the ball in dealing with the life and work of John Cage who, to be clear, has never been one of my favorites but I think it's important to address Cage's legacy in terms of reactions to what many Americans have come to believe has been the hugely stifling legacy of German idealism and German arts in academic contexts.
In July Mark Driscoll got back in the social media news cycle a bit by declaring he thought the TULIP was garbage. Thus, "Mark Driscoll repudiates Calvinism and calls Young Restless Reformed little boys with father wounds and join networks where they're all brothers with no fathers, revisiting Driscoll saying why he started Mars Hill" That Driscoll has defined his brand and person in connection to what he is now calling "father wound" is something we've looked at over the course of a decade and it's interesting, if frustrating, to see that as he has ditched his old scene and worked on cultivating a new audience he keeps recycling the core ideas but shuffling off elements like Calvinism that, though he was defined in the press as being some kind of neo-Calvinist, was not how he started off. That's been one of the challenges of chronicling the life and times of Mars Hill/Mark Driscoll, that journalistic inattention and propensity to recycle memes has meant that Driscoll's ambivalent-to-rejection stance on the limited atonement part of the TULIP meant that Driscoll was presented as more Reformed than he actually was, although he clearly had no real problems accepting funding and supported from Reformed and neo-Calvinist groups when it suited him.
Driscoll was big on courtship from about 2002-2007 and his take was in many important ways a new post Joshua Harris take on courtship with steroids, so it was noteworthy that Joshua Harris announced he no longer considered himself a Christian and also distanced himself from his notorious book ... even though his ability to sell millions of books is part of how he's since been branding himself.
What has struck me about Joshua Harris is that there's a kind of reverse-engineered Sexual Market Value Jesus 2.0 that Mark Driscoll and Nadia Bolz-Weber have been able to shill that might not have been possible without Harris blazing that trail in the previous century. That Harris has a marketing firm, well, maybe selling stuff is the one thing he's really good at, but it did begin to seem as more things came to light that the confessional aspects of his social media use were hard to separate from what began to seem like some kind of viral marketing for his newest marketing venture. Others are free to feel differently, of course.
I've been blogging on the writings of Theodore Adorno and Jacques Ellul a bit this year. The Marxist and the Christian anarchist differed on a few things, to be sure, but they both had interesting arguments against what might be thought of as anti-humanistic technocratic/authoritarian tendencies in the arts in "administrative society" or technocracies. One of the points at which I regard conservatives and traditionalists in the arts as arguing in egregiously bad faith against Adorno's work overall is when they pin the blame on Adorno for the emergence of total serialism in post-tonal music. Adorno wrote more scathing and damning remarks on integral serialism and aleatory in the 1950s than anything Roger Scruton or John Borstlap has managed to write in the last fifty years since Adorno's death.
So, I wrote a piece: Between forms of non-choice: Adorno’s criticism of serialism and aleatory as techniques that obliterated the decision-making subject, Leonard Meyer’s observation on the abjection of choice in modernist musical history, and some brief thoughts on jazz. The title tells you what you want to know if you're already at the TL:DR point just looking at the title. Adorno lambasted aleatory a la John Cage and also lambasted serialism of the Boulez variety and ripped into Stockhausen, too. But ... Adorno could not bring himself to regard jazz as a serious art form though in his later writings he could express respect for the musicianship of the better jazz musicians. Adorno's relationship to jazz has been fraught at best and third wave critical theory scholarship is in the process of attempting to somehow rehabilitate Adorno's criticism of jazz in connection to, or what he saw as its disconnection from, anything "genuinely" black from Adorno being seen as a racist elitist twerp. Whether or not that successfully happens remains to be seen. I've got Eric Oberle's monograph on Adorno and negative identity I plan to get to in 2020. I don't want to just dismiss Adorno as an elitist racist chauvinist with some anti-Slav prejudices ... although that's been tempting! The thing is, since the Scruton/Borstlap wing of writers at the Future Symphony Institute have done and said nothing more than rehash Adorno's brief against serialism and aleatory without Adorno's erudition or scathing tone the task of demonstrating that Adorno was wrong will take some time--Adorno was wrong in passing judgment on the "what" of jazz but the "why" of his condemnation of popular song as prefab music that feels for the listener can and should be addressed. His esoteric rants on the fracturing of modes of music cognition deserves to be taken seriously but that's something I'm saving for another occasion.
Something else Adorno was clear about was that twelve-tone technique was something he thought could liberate music provided music did not become it's slave. Thus "Adorno in Philosophy of New Music, "... music must emancipate itself as well from twelve-tone technique." comparing that to Ellul's observations on art in technocratic societies"
Building a bit more on what I was writing about in "the post-Weinstein #MeToo era as a Donatist controversy for Western art religion" I spent some time mulling over the ways journalists and to a different extent scholars mull over collective guilt in connection to artists.
on artist-idols and collective guilt--collective guilt for journalists, scholars, consumers, and how writers talk about collective guilt in cases like R. Kelly and Sherman Alexie
The short version is that journalists who have spent careers writing about stars have done some soul-searching about what abuses and exploitation stars and star systems perpetrate and perpetuate on people in ways that implicate everyone. Now having played a role in chronicling the life and times of the former Mars Hill Church scene there is a lot to be said about how the people in the pews have decision-making power through their checkbooks and their attendance. I didn't really do anything more than document things as they happened and thousands of other people made decisions to leave Mars Hill when it became apparent to them that Mars Hill Church was not interested in really reforming as much as it seemed to be committed to brand protection where Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill was concerned. But ... having never wanted to be a minister or a preacher or a deacon there is a disconnect I can feel when pastors and former pastors talk about guilt and abuse.
People who have sought roles in the machinery of power might be tempted to think that the ideologies within the machinery are the "cause" of abuse. They can be but only in the sense of being the pretext. I have begun to wonder from time to time whether journalists and people within the systems of power have an incentive to transfer guilt to a royal "we" that includes anyone who reads their work. Having never liked R. Kelly I find it hard to feel responsibility for what R Kelly has been said to have done to girls. I never bought his music and don't like his music. I agree altogether that there is such a thing as collective guilt but I have been wondering whether or not in music journalism and cinema journalism "everybody knew" can be transferred outward to an even bigger "everyone" as part of the process of coming to terms with a guilt that may be, more strictly speaking, an intra-media empire guilt. Ex soldiers can see entire military systems as guilty of mass murder. Ex-preachers can see religion as altogether domineering. People who worked in higher education can have a sense that the business is about making money more than teaching students. Imputing to an entire culture a totalizing guilt is tempting but I have tried to avoid doing that. There's some truth to entire systems being guilty but my having read Sherman Alexie books could, at most, make me a small part of the celebrity Alexie used to try to have sex with people he shouldn't have been trying to do that with, to go by reports in the last couple of years.
As I've looked at how people who used to be at Mars Hill have spread out and gone to different camps I have noticed that some of them were drawn to the late Rachel Held Evans. Others got interested in Nadia Bolz-Weber. I have made no secret that I regarded Rachel Held Evans and Mark Driscoll as the kinds of popular level Christian writers we need less of in contemporary pop publishing. Her death this year was terrible and yet the way journalists wrote about her and the way some Christians blogged about her made it seem as though she was far more important in her death than she may have actually been in her life where social media and mass media are concerned.
It is difficult to know whether or not even ten years from now her work will be influential or significant. Like Mark Driscoll she'd mastered the ability to communicate in a vernacular style on issues pertaining to being an American and choosing to identify as Christian. Thomas Nelson had no difficult selling A Year of Biblical Womanhood and Real Marriage alike. Over at iMonk she was praised as being one of the uncool but do the uncool really get invited to serve in advisory spots in the Obama administration? If in the present age there are "court evangelicals" who are associated with Trump (though how Paula White qualifies as evangelical is a bit mysterious to me), Rachel Held Evans could be seen as a court evangelical or court Episcopalian of the Obama administration ... yet holding court seems to be pejorative on a selective basis ... .
With the mainline Protestant denominations having been in a generations long demographic death spiral, Rachel Held Evans leaving evangelicalism, or at least leaving conservative evangelicalism, to join a more progressive wing and land in the realm of Episcopalianism could be seen as a flipped script for the celebrity conversion, like the football player who points to Jesus on the field or the famous media figure who converts only in the case of RHE it was a woman who was in the evangelical fold where things are red state and she went blue state. GetReligion has written about how RHE was covered by the press plenty but what stuck with me about that coverage of the coverage is that it highlighted that RHE can be thought of as a kind of Christian media figure "transfer growth".
Terry Mattingly at GetReligion discusses a WaPo piece on mainline circuit riding pastors, the generations long demise of the mainlines, and I consider a celebrity transfer from evangelicalism to Episcopalianism
The mainlines are still in a demographic death spiral which may also be coming for evangelicalism of the more conservative variety because at some point there's no real reason to keep reverse-engineering Jesus to be the blue state or red state American when you can just decide to be one of those two kinds of American. Some regarded Rachel Held Evans as a prophetic voice just as some regarded Mark Driscoll as a prophetic voice. The more time goes by the more I have the conviction that these are prophetic voices speaking up for specific ways of being American that are wrapped up in Jesus talk, which is not to say I'm willing to consider either the late RHE or even Mark Driscoll as not being Christians as such. My skepticism has grown over the star-making systems that annoint these kinds of people stars and how people debate the worthiness or unworthiness of the stars more than they enquire into what people have decided they should be able to do with that celebrity. This isn't just in churches.
The Mars Hill spin offs have mostly done well so the idea some might entertain that Mars Hill blew up and all that's gone, well, you're wrong if you think that. Driscoll has a new book out and has talked about, among other things, the Absalom spirit. He also did some kind of 180 from the high praise he had for Wendy Alsup in 2008, and apparently it wasn't long after Wendy and Andy left MHC in 2008 Driscoll was reported as having decided that they left because Andy couldn't keep his woman in line. By shifting to a charismatic scene Driscoll might be poised to develop a bigger audience at some point in the next twenty years than he cultivated in the last twenty years--he's even got an oracle from a supporter in the new style who said as much.
However, for the most part the plan is to wait until 2020 to get back to anything to do with Driscoll's legacy in the PNW or correspondences between nu-Driscoll and a re:surgence of ideas from the MHC days.
In the last few years Wenatchee The Hatchet has managed to shift back toward arts and music writing and so ... when the inevitable explosion of conservative reaction to the NYT 1619 project came along I didn't address that so much as express frustration at the entry on music.
I've been reading on music, music history and music journalism more since Mars Hill collapsed and what has struck me is that a lot was going on in terms of debate and movements. While I was trying to keep up documenting the peak and decline of a megachurch system in the Puget Sound area there were debates between rockists and poptimists and a continuation of debates about whether classical music was dead or jazz was a tool of the establishment in the 21st century and so on. Reading academics and music journalists debating things made me feel grateful I didn't become an academic, even though I love reading about music and studying it and am interested in theories and idea.
But ... the NYT 1619 project left me frustrated because I came away with a sense that there's a black and white narrative sold in the materials that I am not convinced, on the topic of music and music history, does much more than sell the idea that African American popular music vs white European classical music are somehow opposite poles. Who in Europe, for instance, really sees things that way (besides John Borstlap, I've already read what he thinks from The Classical Revolution. :) ). With half my lineage being Native American and half being white I have been struck by what seems to have been some mythmaking on the part of mid-twentieth century musicologists and scholars. To put it rather plainly in a specific case, the notion that slide guitar technique descended from African monochord instruments or a diddley bow could be true ... but when scholarship in the last decade combs through interviews with blues musicians who repeatedly say their bottleneck technique is playing "Hawaiian style" then maybe, just maybe, the eagerness to use a master narrative of white vs black has erased Native American and Native Hawaiian contributions to American popular music in the last fifty years, an erasure that scholarship may only be working to correct here in the twenty-first century.
There's stuff I had hoped to get around to writing about this year that I didn't write about so much. The Matiegka guitar sonatas, for instance, and the Gilardino guitar sonatas, and the Bogdanovic sonatas and more on Koshkin's preludes and fugues although on that last topic there's an opportunity for renewed activity! Next week Asya Selyutina's CD of preludes and fugues 1 through 12 is available by Naxos! Also out next week is Kostas Tosidis' CD of the five guitar sonatas of Atanas Ourkouzounov. Now that the brand in the Puget Sound area fractured back in 2014 I've finally had time to get back to writing about the kind of music for guitar I said I wanted to write about way, way back in 2006 when I started blogging at Wenatchee The Hatchet.