Sunday, October 13, 2019

George Walker-Piano Sonata No. 2

It's thanks to Ethan Iverson's blog that I've heard of George Walker and his music.  Walker passed away not too long ago and my hope his work can be more widely heard.  In the interesting of sharing his music, here's a video courtesy of Albany Records. 

Leo Brouwer Sonata for Guitar (No. 1) w read-along score

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39NQMS7UVew

I'm going to get to blogging about the Brouwer sonatas in more detail, I hope, someday.  But for now let's have a little video of a performance of one of the sonatas.  Last year I wrote a moderately detailed analysis of Brouwer's Fuga No. 1 with help from an online video that had audio and a read-along score.

https://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2018/07/leo-brouwer-fuga-no-1-for-guitar.html


Julia Duin at GetReligion highlights articles discussing African discussions of repenting of African participation in the slave trade, some thoughts on Native American slavery and a proposal that the West has retained slavery but redefined it

By way of Julia Duin at GetReligion, she mentions a WSJ piece by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani titled "When the Slave Traders were African". She also links to a piece from last year at The New Yorker by an author describing her family in Africa reckoning with a family history involved in the slave trade.  African families who have discovered their families were involved in the slave trade have, when Christian, been reported to have deliverance ceremonies in which to confess family participation in the slave trade and repenting of that participation.

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/personal-history/my-great-grandfather-the-nigerian-slave-trader
...

My relatives disagreed about the cause of our family’s curse. Most believed that it was because of Nwaubani Ogogo’s slave trading. Some suspected that it was his broken alliance with Njoku. My father thought that it might have resulted from his human sacrifices. Sunny was not sure the family was cursed at all. “If our problems are because of the sins of our fathers, why are the white people making progress despite the sins of their fathers?” he said. Nevertheless, they agreed to hold a deliverance ceremony, and settled on a plan. On three days near the end of January, from 6 a.m. until noon, family members around the world would fast and pray. My father sent out a text message in preparation that included passages from the Bible. He has never been overtly religious, and it amused me to watch him organize a global prayer session. I teased him about the fact that he would have to skip breakfast, which was usually waiting for him at the same time each morning. “I’m a saint,” he declared.

On the first day of the fast, members of my family met in small groups in London, Atlanta, and Johannesburg. Some talked on the phone, and others chatted on social media. Thirty members gathered under a canopy in my parents’ yard. With tears in his eyes, my father explained that, in Nwaubani Ogogo’s day, selling and sacrificing human beings was common practice, but that now we know it to be deeply offensive to God. He thanked God for the honor and prestige bestowed on our family through my great-grandfather, and asked God’s forgiveness for the atrocities he committed. We prayed over a passage that my father texted us from the Book of Psalms:

Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults.
Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression.


During the ceremony, I was overwhelmed with relief. My family was finally taking a step beyond whispering and worrying. Of course, nothing can undo the harm that Nwaubani Ogogo caused. And the ohu, who are not his direct descendants, were not invited to the ceremony; their mistreatment in the region continues. Still, it felt important for my family to publicly denounce its role in the slave trade. “Our family is taking responsibility,” my cousin Chidi, who joined from London, told me. Chioma, who took part in Atlanta, said, “We were trying to make peace and atone for what our ancestors did.”
...
This is interesting to read about because during the 1990s there was a spiritual warfare phase among evangelicals and charismatics (keep in mind these groups can often overlap but are not actually exactly the same).  Cutting soul ties was one of the things that was considered important in spiritual warfare of the Rebecca Brown M.D. variety.  Whether or not it accomplished anything can be debated separately from an observation that even in American Christian spirituality there's a concept of group guilt or family guilt.  Mark and Grace Driscoll have their new book out, Win Your War, with Charisma House and it will be interesting to see if beyond a general affirmation of group guilt (don't doubt that they affirm it) will include any discussion of confessing group guilt for involvement in the slave trade or perpetuating slavery.

Because Native Americans have been presented in popular liberal writing as the victims of American colonial and imperial expansion (which they obviously were) less attention has been paid to the almost universal practice of slavery in Native American groups.  I didn't find out that all of the tribes of Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest had words for the concept of "slave" across all thirty-five some recorded languages from Native American relatives.  There has been some effort to say that slavery was introduced by the Spanish but that doesn't fit with the scholar Alexandra Harmon's account of early Native American and European business dealings in the Puget Sound region.  I.e. there have been some Native Americans who, when presented with the history of slavery in the aboriginal groups of this region, have attempted to pin the blame on the Spaniards.  Now there's a centuries long litany of atrocities perpetrated by the Spanish against Native Americans across the western hemisphere but ... if we're going to take the idea of group guilt seriously and also take as given that slavery systems are evil then Native Americans have had a share in the group guilt of slavery.  

The Cherokee, of course, abolished slavery in response to the Emancipation Proclamation and slavery was phased out by the Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest. It could be said, and has been, that the United States fought a Civil War over the issue of slavery and other countries didn't do that. Well ... yes ... but other nations found ways to abolish slavery without fighting civil wars so, if anything, that could make the United States seem all the worse of having had one when a comparable civil war didn't happen in the United Kingdom or Canada or France.  The Spanish and the Belgians didn't have civil wars over the ways they treated colonial subjects in Africa, did they?  

But before the contemporary Western powers feel too confident about abolishing slavery at a formal level, couldn't it be argued that the credit systems in place have commuted slavery into new forms?  The United States field of scholars has fixated on slavery as an explicitly race-based and racist system of exploitation and subjugation over the last century or so that any discussion of systems of slavery seem to be filtered through the Civil War and defenses of a very specific type of race-based slavery.  Part of African reckoning involving participation in the slave trade involves coming to terms with the historical observation that the kind of slavery Africans sold Africans into turned out to be a different kind of slavery than the forms they were traditionally participating in.  

In many a form of slavery you ended up in slavery as a prisoner of war captured in a raid (one of the most common ways to become enslaved if you were involved in a battle between Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest); or you were born a slave in a cultural system in which the children of slaves inherited the states of the slave parent; or you were sold into slavery because either you or your parents could not afford to feed and clothe you, which is, perhaps, more commonly attested in Asian literature (which, for the sake of discussion includes the Middle East as we know it in the West, i.e. the accounts of slavery in the literature of the Abrahamic religions).  

But something I've been mulling over is that although it's easy for Western citizens, particularly secularists, to regard the casual acceptance of slavery in ancient near eastern societies as evil not all secular commentary on the acceptance of slavery spends much time on the ways in which the Western economic world hinges on lending money at interest or how this was universally condemned in the context of Abrahamic religious beliefs until about the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries as the mercantile system began to evolve.  People who condemn slavery but are okay with lending at interest, two-cycle billing on credit cards, and lending systems that financially indenture people to paying for houses they still have to pay property tax on could be seen, and has been seen in some progressive and conservative perspectives, as a commuting of slavery or a series of ploys that disguise that slavery still exists.  

As I get older I consider how all the way through my thirties I wasn't aware that Native American slavery practices were commonplace, that Native Americans enslaved each other and enslaved blacks and in the Pacific Northwest there were some reports that Russian sailors were enslaved from time to time by Native American tribes.  That the tribes of the Pacific Northwest phased out their slavery practices in the generations after an unsuccessful bid at making slavery illegal did not manage to be enforceable on the Native groups doesn't mean that those slavery practices didn't happen.  

In other words, I had gotten the impression that on my dad's side the Indians didn't own slaves so why would we, as Americans in the most generic sense, be responsible for slavery in the South?  Well, I didn't know that there was slavery the world over or that in many key respects slavery continues to exist and will continue to exist and that the innovations of the Western powers has been to disguise it rather than abolish it--I have also come to increasingly strong belief that slavery will never be abolished and that economic and caste-based slavery systems will always be with us.  Contemporary discussion and debate American practices of slavery have tended to be maintained in explicitly racial categories which, as I get older, I begin to suspect can lead to two things.  

First, discussion tends to move in a direction in which groups debate or decide whether or not, on the basis of defining slavery practices only in terms of the American South, their particular group can be considered culpable of group guilt in association with that specific slavery practice at the expense of considering slavery as a global and universal human practice that is often defined or disguised differently from context to context.  

My discovery that Native Americans practiced slavery and of a sort in the Pacific Northwest that was considered callous and inhumane enough that even whites who were otherwise okay with slavery or racial segregation found the practices terrible forced me to reconsider at a personal and more general political level whether the American tendency to only discuss slavery in terms of the race-based slavery of the plantation systems of the American South has occluded our cultural capacity to discuss racism and slavery by focusing too narrowly on the topic in literally and figuratively black and white terms.  Native American slavery was not more excusable simply because it was not predicated on one ethnicity subjugating another with the rational of skin color differences.  Native American slavery in the Pacific Northwest as also not more humane because ownership of slaves could be passed along matrilineal lines.  It turns out it's not just rich white ladies who can have domestic workers helping them, Native American free women in the Pacific Northwest had servants they got to handle tedious scut work, too, it turns out.   That housecleaners and nannies can be regarded as part of a well-heeled family could simply confirm that the servant caste level of workers continues to exist and that we just don't call these people slaves because the status is not the result of a race-based stratification system.

Second, there's more to re-labeling what would have been done by slaves into domestic work at work, there has also been exporting what might have been done by slaves to overseas production.  In blunter terms, we've exported the routine, menial work overseas or designated it to migrant workers through a generations long process of deciding at a cultural level that real Americans shouldn't have to make a living doing such repetitive work, if possible.  This has been an area where slogging through someone like Adorno has been useful for me, considering that what ideology can be used for is to disguise the ways in which what would have been called slavery in the past gets commuted into new economic and social categories in the present.  This is not necessarily going to lead to a strictly progressive or conservative approach, though.  

People who actually believe that, if you just go to the right sort of liberal arts college and get the credentialing there, you'll get a well-paying job and have your life set for life, most likely have had the benefit of having that life-script work out for them.  That's not how it worked for me, but I am not so sure it's a sign that the system is uniquely terrible for that, every system is evil in all sorts of ways.  But the moment of discovering that you, personally, will not end up doing what you hoped to do in your college years is still a sour moment, and the process of realizing that the school wants your money whether or not you get a degree in the field you studied for can leave you cynical. 

One of my fellow middle-aged friends told me that he looks back on this promise that he accepted at face value, and he now regards that as one of the greatest scams Generation X bought into.  We can spend decades of our lives paying off student debt getting degrees for which there's been few jobs and should we complain that this seems to have been a long con by vested economic and academic interests we'll get some rebuke that we're middle-aged guys shaking our fists at passing clouds.  Maybe so, but this can also be where writers critical of the way capitalism works would point out that that's the nature of the scam.  It's possibly in the nature of neoliberalism to propose that if you got that arts degree and aren't being paid to do your art that your art must not be good enough.  Maybe there's a lot to be said for that but Haydn was technically more of a master of ceremonies servant whose job included writing party music.  His day job wasn't actually composing music and that gets at something else that, the older I get, seems more and more to be a misdirection in arts education in the United States.  

This gets at something else I've been thinking about as an American watching Americans discuss and debate slavery.  If slavery has been disguised in so many ways then it becomes harder to point out that it still exists. To put this in terms of Abrahamic religions, Americans who point out that the Torah and the New Testament and the Koran all make some reference or other to slavery is something I've seen American secularists highlight as a reason to regard these books as terrible.  As I've considered the slavery systems recorded as used by Native Americans and the ways slavery seems commuted in Western societies, my perspective is that Jewish and Christian writings that took for granted slavery existing in all economic systems does not strike me as "approval" as a pragmatic observation that these caste systems are unavoidable.  What that can entail is this, I propose, recognizing those inequalities exist brought with it case laws that set limits on what was acceptable in light of that inequality.  Native American slavery practices varied widely across the continent but in some tribal traditions there were ways for slaves to work toward free status and in other tribes if you were a slave your status never changed and your children would be slaves, too.  Free persons could own slaves but if a person were captured in battle the free person became a slave as a captive of war.  People write about the precarity of the contemporary gig economy but there could be a precarity to being a free-person or a high status person in Native American contexts in the Pacific Northwest, too.  

If our society does not admit it has any forms of slavery then legal constraints on what can be done to those who are functionally slaves but not recognized as slaves could be overlooked.  

Having abolished an explicitly race-based form of slavery doesn't mean slavery has not persisted in other forms or that it won't persist until there are no humans on the planet.  That won't make it less evil but one of the evils of our time and place may be, as I have increasingly come to believe that it is, that we find more inventive ways to disguise slaveries from ourselves individually or collectively.  I don't see Jewish and Christian writings that take the reality of slavery as given and then insist that we set limits on what can be done to slaves as a sign that these ancient societies were more barbaric that contemporary Western societies.  I actually, at the risk of making a statement that could seem rather harsh, think that it's more likely a sign that contemporary Western societies steeped in systems like fiat currency, lending at interest, credit systems and educational tracks can imagine they have abolished slavery are simply better at lying to themselves by saying there's no longer slavery like there was before--like there was before isn't the same thing as saying nobody has the functional and practical status of being a slave.  

I have, as I have admitted before at this blog, been reaching a conclusion that power brokers and pundits in the two-party system have been making it a side-business to scapegoat each other for systems of slavery rather than consider the shared participation of developing and perpetuating slavery systems and disguising them.  If African families are confronting in direct ways their family histories of participation in slave trade something comparable could (but I confess I suspect probably won't) happen in the United States.


Kyle Gann-Hyperchromatica playlist up on Youtube

You can head over to Gann's site to find PDF scores and audio for the work
https://www.kylegann.com/Hyperchromatica.html

It's also up as a playlist, too
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlki9MvkTiU&list=PLQFDZRvnBnexiBy1v_DzY-1aMGd8NjMYx


Hans Haug-Fantasia for Guitar and Piano w read-along score

Duets for piano and guitar aren't exactly rare but effective, memorable ones can be.  The Castelnuovo-Tedesco Fantasia for guitar and piano is the pinnacle of the medium, in my estimation, but there are a good deal of other worthy pieces in the genre.  Ferdinand Rebay has composed some fun duets for piano and guitar.  Diabelli's works may seem on the light side but they are pleasing enough if you can get past a post-Beethoven dismissal of Diabelli as an uneven hack which, honestly, he often was but that doesn't mean his best moments aren't worth hearing  Hummel wrote a charming duet for piano and guitar I might have to link to at some point.

But, for today, let's listen to Hans Haug's Fantasia. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cdgj3nS2RVs

Friday, October 11, 2019

Atanas Ourkouzounov: Postlude in Green, hommage a Takemitsu-performance with read-along score

Since every note Toru Takemitsu wrote for the guitar was a gem it's understandable that guitarist composers have paid homage to his music.  Atanas Ourkouzounov wrote "Postlude in Green" and here's a video of the work with a read along score. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_25Oe8ICvM

The work is on the CD Autoportrait II. 

I have heard, from reliable sources, that the CD set of Atanas Ourkouzounov's five guitar sonatas is going to be ready this December through Naxos, recorded by Kostas Tosidis.  I am so getting that album when it comes out.  I've been enjoying Ricardo Gallen's two-disc recording of the complete Leo Brouwer guitar sonatas and to have a recording of Ourkouzounov's guitar sonatas will make for a pretty good year for classical guitar sonatas for 2019! 

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Mahalia Jackson, "Let the Church Roll On"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgJF8F7HhTE

If there's a preacher in the church and he won't preach right, now tell me what we gonna do?
Here's what we will do ... !
We won't do that, we'll just ... pray for him ... and let the church roll on.

As humorous novelty songs go this one has stuck with me for decades. 

Since I'm reading an academic monograph about Mahalia Jackson, sharing some of her music seems like a thing to do at a blog. 

at LARB Adrian L Jawort discusses YA lit, sensitivity readers and mentions something about how First Amendment protections don't necessarily exist in reservation contexts for Native Americans

https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/the-dangers-of-the-appropriation-critique/

...

While no work is immune from critique, the Native American art world is witnessing a dangerous trend of “appropriation” arguments escalating toward de facto censorship. Many people will outright agree with and defend the statement by Joy Harjo, a Muscogee Creek and US poet laureate, who wrote in a 2017 blog post entitled “Erasure,” “What about enlarging the purview of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 to include the literary?” [emphasis added] This act was initially proposed to prevent forgeries of Native arts and crafts. The penalty for a first-time offense is a fine of up to $250,000 in addition to a five-year prison term; a business could face up to a $1 million fine for producing counterfeit crafts. Suggesting that the IACA apply to literature would put potentially controversial art under the government’s microscope. Unenrolled tribal descendants who don’t appease the colonized concepts of blood quantum requirements would fall under this act — unless they catered to political pressure to appease cultural committees like Saad Beez Hózhǫ́’s propaganda-like definition of art should be.
While Harjo’s suggestion was made with the best of intentions — whoever thinks their intentions are meant to hurt? — her proposal could theoretically ban Roanhorse’s books from being produced: under those rules, she wouldn’t have the authority to write about Navajo culture. While it’s unlikely this suggestion would ever be deemed constitutional, it must be noted that on most Indian reservations there are few legally coded free speech rights, so attitudes like these are not an anomaly. (For instance, a Blackfeet man once sat in jail for five days after a post on Facebook complaining about tribal corruption.) Moreover, consider the optics of the US poet laureate advocating government control of literature-as-crime, while those nodding in agreement or condoning it by silence are not right-wing fascists but academics and fellow Native American writers. This is not only failing to see the forest for the trees, but also setting a wildfire to burn it down. [emphasis added]
...
I'm reminded of something Richard Taruskin wrote about how in the history of European nations it turns out that if you go far enough to the left and the right the extremes somehow had a history of agreeing that the way to improve European culture would be to exterminate Jews.  When I have written about what I regard as problems in using a post- Herder post-Wagner conception of the authentic, and how the post-German Idealist Romantic conception of the authentic "folk" has had the script flipped so it's not the white German symphonist but the black American musician working in popular styles, my concern is that the core script has been retained, yet that is precisely the script about authenticity and legitimacy I think we should be rejecting. 

In the last ten or so years it has seemed that artists and writers of fiction have sought a kind of journalistic credentialing for their art, something that imbues their work with a sense of relevance and urgency that can catalyze social and cultural change.  Identity politics, for want of a better phrase, across the left and right can seem to leave us in a moment where what in the past might have been some kind of "orientalism" is only really practically avoided by dint of demographics of identity.  If you "are" the demographic you are writing about you are free to speak your truth.  If you aren't and you're writing about a group that isn't your ethnic, religious, cultural or other heritage than there are groups across the left/right spectrum that can harbor suspicions that you have not adequately met the criteria for a range of sumptuary codes that determine whether you are legitimately able to write about X because you are yourself X. 

There is no pan-Native Americanist movement that I'm aware of and it's not something that might take off.  Even within the Pacific Northwest there are a variety of tribes that don't necessarily get along with each other, for instance. 

In some Native cultural contexts, such as the Pacific Northwest tribes, there can be a tradition or custom in which a song can only be heard by those to whom it is bestowed the right to hear or learn the song.  Others, or outsiders, if you will, don't get to hear the song.  Which is a way of saying, for regular American readers, that there are concepts in Pacific Northwestern Native American cultural traditions of what we in the contemporary U.S. might define as concepts of intellectual property.  Not every Native culture has these concepts but it's something that shows up in PNW Native customs. 

In his monograph on Native American as imagined in European and American classical music Michael V. Pisani wrote about how for many musicians and composers and music critics the idea of basing any kind of concert music on Native American musical materials was a bad joke, a notion beyond all serious consideration.  The Indianist movement, which the name telegraphs, in American composers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, was committed to developing types of classical music that drew from Native American musical traditions.  Such a movement would now be, as the phrase has it, problematic. 

I've never been much for writing fiction, though I've considered it, but I'm glad to not be a writer of fiction when I read things like the article above and discussions of sensitivity readers.  It reminds me of reading about the stifling aspects of Socialist Realism in Soviet musical life, but what makes this newer ideology seem actually more pernicious is that it is, as I've indicated above, a kind of get-out-of-orientalism-in-the-arts free card that is based on being able to establish your ethnic or racial bona fides rather than rejecting Herderian conceptions of a "folk" authenticity for art. 

When Leonard B. Meyer wrote about the Romantic era as a historical period and romanticism as an ideology he described an ideology of elite egalitarianism and he proposed that although there have been cycles of romanticism and classicism over the ages what has made the Romantic era different is that in many respects the ideologies of the Romantic era are still with us, still saturate our thinking about the arts, and this despite a proliferation of styles that could be considered modernist or anti-romantic in terms of style.  Yet a John Cage can be a sign of what Meyer called late late Romanticism in terms of ideals and ideology.  I confess that I have found many of the ideas of the Romantic era repellent and I hope I can be granted some understanding about that because half my lineage being Native American I got to hear and read about what Europeans and Americans managed to do in spite of the idealism of their ideals.  It's not that classicism can't be racist or repressive, classical cultures from Greece and Rome could be plenty colonial, imperial, repressive and all that. 

Myths of authenticity and legitimacy regarding "folk" clearly saturate debates about which Native or non-Native writers are thought of as having a "legitimate" or "authentic" claim to be able to write about Native people, culture, stories and situations.  That prominent Native poets and writers can be sympathetic to an expansion of an existing law into imposing restrictions on literature that would all but inevitably run afoul of the First Amendment gives a range of conservative writers what, if pressed in a moment of pundit-vs-pundits, a liberal or progressive might deny is happening, a case study of a kind of "liberal fascism", and a kind of race essentialism that dictates who can't write about a race by dint of cultural arbiters deciding the person isn't pure enough an exemplar of the ethnicity to have any figurative or literal business writing about X. 

some recent writing regarding Relevant Magazine involving race, editorial direction, and a member of the Strang family reminded me of Drew G. I. Hart's comments on Rob Bell vs John Piper

https://slate.com/human-interest/2019/09/relevant-evangelical-magazine-strang-racist-controversy.html
...
In [Andre] Henry’s Medium post, he wrote that working at Relevant made him feel like a “token” at an institution afraid to alienate its largely white constituency. “No D.C. stuff,” he was told, a warning to avoid polarizing political content. Three months into the job, Henry wrote, CEO and founder Cameron Strang shot down his plans to publish daily Black History Month content in February, mentioning a concern for “people who aren’t interested in that.” Soon afterward, Henry wrote, he was stripped of editorial decision-making power, though he remained a writer and podcast voice. “I’ve come to accept that many young-ish, white, evangelical leaders with large platforms … are simply not committed to being antiracist, but only in appearing non-racist,” he wrote, “and they’re using us as props for the show.”
...

[Cameron] Strang is the sole owner of Relevant, so he is unlikely to leave the company altogether. He founded Relevant in his early 20s—he’s now 43—and has worked there for almost his entire professional life. He is the son of Stephen Strang, the founder and CEO of Charisma Media, which publishes a magazine with a charismatic Christian perspective, including an emphasis on healing and “spiritual gifts” like speaking in tongues. Several former employees told RNS that Cameron Strang once fired an employee for being a negative spiritual presence in the office; around the same time, they say, Stephen Strang and several colleagues came to Relevant offices and appeared to “pray out the evil” from the space. (A representative for Stephen Strang told RNS he had no recollection of the event.) Stephen is also the author of God and Donald Trump, which Politico Magazine called “part spiritual hagiography, part Fox News bulletin and part prophecy.”

...
So Relevant is owned by someone who's the son of the person who runs the media company that has lately published Mark and Grace Driscoll's newest book on spiritual warfare? 

Now I've linked to some criticism Adolph Reed Jr. has leveled at antiracism in the past, which he regards as an ideological stance embraced in lieu of there being any functionally meaningful left criticism of the establishment.  Reed Jr. and John McWhorter have written critically of antiracist trends that have developed in the last twenty years and as best I understand their work it's not because they are against liberal or progressive development in race relations.  McWhorter has written about how whiteness has become a kind of original sin in a civic religion in which expiation of that sin is only provided by listening to a select range of black intellectuals. 

I have been reminded of something Drew. G. I. Hart wrote all the way back in 2011.

https://drewgihart.com/2011/03/25/evangelical-split-piper-imperialism-a-search-for-postcolonial-christian-expression/

...
I can understand why younger white evangelicals would want to break away from this brand of American Evangelicalism [John Piper]. While I can appreciate many of the theological nuances expressed by this zealous group of white 20 and 30 somethings, they have their own set of problems. Before we get too excited about this coming shift in influence over American religious life, we must acknowledge that the practice of hegemony and domination will still continue through these “emerging leaders”. Overall, I have been pleased with the theological shifts being expressed, because they express desire for racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity in the Church… wanting the Church to be ONE church, which we were called to be.  However, it did not take very long for me to realize that the proclamations and the practices of this group were not lining up. Everything that is done is done to cater to white middle class suburbia. They cater to the priviliged despite affirming Jesus’ call to serve the least of these. As far as hegemony goes, Black and Latino pastors and theologians still continue to be uninvited to the infamous “table” Even these newly formed tables under banners of emergent or missional are starting off on the wrong foot, being almost completely homogeneous. Of course these Evangelical 3.0’s have learned from their predecessors that you must at least grab a token black for your entourage or program (however the 2.0’s actually did a better job at pulling in tokens), often this GED effort of token representation is not even being done at many of their gatherings and events. Unfortunately the white control and supremacy over religious life in America is not going anywhere if left on track.
...

There's also another piece discussing Strang from a former Relevant staffer.

https://amongtheolivetrees.com/on-the-subject-of-cameron-strangs-sins/

Now I have complained in the past about how in connection to Native American histories and communities it can seem that the power brokers in American conservative and progressive circles, and here I'm going to be more specific and say more or less white liberals and conservatives in op-ed sections, have a history in the last twenty some years of finding ways to scapegoat each other for what is ultimately a shared legacy or racist ideas and policies.  It's more politically and economically lucrative for white liberals and progressives to agitate their base by saying the racism is all on the conservative side, while conservatives have a cottage industry of punditry invoking Margaret Sanger and saying the liberals and the progressives are the real racists.  How about we consider the possibility that the racism of white progressives, white liberals, white conservatives and white reactionaries will be different across the political spectrum as a reflection of the economic, social and political aims of those groups of people?  Drew G. I. Hart's comment about how evangelicalism 2.0 was better at pulling in token black and latino voices than evangelicalism 3.0 sprung to mind reading about the Strang family and Relevant for what I hope are obvious reasons, that the lip service paid to people of color participating in Christian media publications compared to what Christians who aren't white get to do can be a reminder of why, for instance, black Baptists began to develop their own publishing industry in the early 20th century (I'm reading Mark Burford's academic monograph on Mahalia Jackson published by Oxford University Press, so it doesn't just so happen that that reading has providentially converged with the reading that's inspired this blog post).

It can make sense that when you feel like you'll never get a seat at the proverbial table you set up a new table.  I was reading earlier this year about how the American composer Arthur Farwell set up a publishing company in order to publish the kinds of American musical works he did not think fit in with the Germanophile tendencies of music publication in the United States in his time and place. 

I have to admit I've hardly ever read Relevant in my life because, well, it's never seemed relevant to me.  I admit I'm sort of a semi-stick-in-the-mud Presbyterian who is reluctant to be too involved in local church life not so much because I don't like going to church but because ... well ... peruse all of the Mars Hill blogging and you might get a clearer sense of why my church life might be a bit cautious. 

It seems as though the role the Strangs play in Christian media is the story here and that there's a story behind the story ... although what that is isn't something Wenatchee The Hatchet has the time, energy or resources to really dig into. 

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Greek chorus characters in genre film, or why MJ in the new Spider-man franchise isn't actually a character most of the time

I have nothing against Zendaya Coleman as the new MJ.  I sort of like an entirely new character that's more of an April Ludgate figure than the Mary Jane Watson of the comics.  As Emma Stone so memorably put it, Mary Jane Watson is a skank.  Anyone who has read the old school Spiderman comics can see how and why Emma Stone could have arrived at that conclusion. 

But the thing is, as my brother and I watched the newer Spider-man films recently, my brother pointed out that MJ isn't a character, she's more a set of writerly tics and commentaries about various things in which she, like Yoda, gets to be the smartest person in the room at any given moment and for that moment.  Such characters often appear across genre tales.  I mentioned that this makes the new MJ a Greek chorus rather than a character actually active in the story. 

The tricky part is that this is still "an" MJ character in a Spiderman cinematic franchise so she's supposed to be a love interest even though there's nothing explaining why this Peter Parker would ever be interested in this MJ (who, for those who don't recall, spends a good chunk of time giving insults to people).  This is even more mysterious than why Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker would be mooning over Kirsten Dunst's MaryJane in the Raimi films.  Personally I got why that Parker would like that MJ.  She may have dated other people but she was always nice to him at a personal level and the childhood crush part seemed easy to believe and for my time and money the two leads sold me on the idea that these two people liked each other, even loved each other, but were not entirely convinced that they should be a couple.  I don't get that sense from Holland and Coleman and it's got nothing to do with either actor.  Holland sold me as both Parker and as Spider-man.  Coleman has nothing to do except offer post-Joss Whedon style quips.  She seems like she'll have more to do in the forthcoming Dune adaptation from Denis Villanueva. 

Yes, in Far From Home MJ gets to do something, make a discovery or two or three, but the homage to John Hughes style teen comedies was too thorough-going.  The script foists a rival on the narrative that isn't necessary and that takes time away from Parker and MJ getting any time together.  The "will they" or "won't they" is a foregone conclusion but that the relationship won't go anywhere seems a foregone conclusion.  MJ is a high school student fixated on Peter Parker much like Parker was fixated on Liz Toomes.  Since these are kids who don't know what they want from life or how the world works they can be forgiven for acting their age but these are characters freighted with half a century of obligatory comics continuity, much like Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy could only die.

The trouble is that as action films the scripting is so tight and strict there isn't necessarily the space to let actors make things up as they go along.  The screwball elements of the Iron Man franchise seem largely to have been the result of letting actors like Downey Jr., Paltrow and Bridges wing it for large stretches of time and going with whatever worked best as they played off of each other.  To point out the obvious, none of these people have been neophyte actors for a generation.  Paltrow was Emma Woodhouse on screen ... twenty-five some years ago.  Now personally my favorite Emma Woodhouse in terms of casting is easily Kate Beckinsale but this wasn't supposed to be a post where I sound off on my personal preferences for casting in Jane Austen adaptations.  Here my point is to highlight that as fun as the new Spiderman films can often be (casting Donnie Dark as Mysterio was a great move) the films are a good example of how much post-Joss Whedon genre film scripting seems beset with quips that have been thought through more carefully than the characters who have to say them for comedic effect and how stories are full of moments that are not just "unearned" but are fraught with axioms that tend to fly in the face of the basic mechanics of plotting ... though that might be more an issue with the folks who have worked on the Lego movies ... which would be its own separate topic.

Since I've never much liked MJ in the comics I can't feel offended that Zendaya Coleman plays an MJ who isn't a white red-haired woman with a crush on Peter Parker who is nonetheless unwilling to commit to him for years at a time because of her unique personal hang-ups and background and is willing to string along Harry Osborne until such time as she can date Peter and who is somehow not given the Regina George treatment by Gwen Stacy for MJ's brazen attempts to steal her boyfriend away from her before her very eyes.  I'm not writing any of this as someone who hasn't read all of the classic Lee-Ditko run on Spiderman.  Some people think Peter and Mary Jane is the "one true pairing" and I have never been on that team.  Gerry Conway found it easier to kill of women characters than to do anything interesting with them but other writers had no apparent difficulty with Gwen.  The issue where Flash comes back from having joined the Army, insults Parker, and gets dressed down by Gwen who tells him she'd been hoping the Army would have made him into an actual grown-up who would stop insulting her boyfriend is easy to remember.  Gwen has only "had" to die because fans of Spiderman have taken as given what was a publicity stunt.  There were considerations of killing off MJ or Aunt May at the time and Conway decided to kill Gwen because he never liked the character, noted that Gwen was based on Stan Lee's wife and, my own opinion, Gerry Conway was just terrible at writing women characters. 

As Steven Grant once put it, the fans have had a delusional notion that Peter Parker's problem was he had trouble with girls despite the fact that for half a century all of his closest relationships have been with women, and not just MJ and Gwen.  There's ... Aunt May.  There's ... Betty Brant, his first girlfriend.  Parker has gotten along with women fine, Grant pointed out, his real problems have been that he's broke all the time and to that I would add his problem was often that the would-be father figures in his life tended to go crazy and become super-villains.  That part, actually, is what the Tom Holland era films nail perfectly, that Parker finds himself fighting men who in other contexts could have been mentors and who even like Parker at a purely personal level but who feel obliged to kill Spider-man in their super-villainous line of work because they can't abide his interference.  Thing is ... for the flak people tend to send at the Raimi movies in the last two decades that was something the Raimi films pulled off pretty well, particularly with both the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus.

Holland may have a stronger performance as Parker and the wall-crawler ... but the new films maybe lean on that at the expense of other stuff that earlier cinematic versions of the character took more care about. 

But I admit if Sony brought back Michael Keaton as the Vulture and convinced Alfred Molina to come back as Doc Ock and Beck is "We never found the body" and Mysterio comes back, I admit I'd probably see that movie as a matinee. 

Saturday, October 05, 2019

The Friends theme song, in which the clapping is transformed into Clapping Music by Steve Reich

Having never been much of a watcher or fan of Friends, this transformation of the clapping from the theme song into Clapping Music by Steve Reich is amusing.  Kudrow's attention to the antics of Gracie Allen can be noted without necessarily caring much for the show or cast at large.   Anyway ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H95F2UTHhxE

You'll get the idea by the end of the first minute or so.

Friday, October 04, 2019

some thoughts on academic musicology, music analysis and a persistent problem with turf war battles in American musicology when we could be exploring possibilities of stylistic/formal fusion

Ethan Iverson has written that he harbors skepticism about academic musicology even when it's wonderfully written stuff by the likes of Kyle Gann and Richard Taruskin.  I partly agree, but I want to give a specific example of academic debates and discussions surrounding a specific book.  Along the way I hope I can take a shot at articulating what it may be that Iverson finds dodgy about academic musicology by way of a semi-lengthy tangent into ragtime.  I've gone on and on about ragtime from time to time at this blog so nobody who has read this blog will be shocked that I'm going to get to ragtime often enough.  With that perfunctory introduction ...

Elements of Sonata Theory is a dense and long book.

There has been some spirited interaction with and objection to claims made by Hepokoski and Darcy in their dense and long book.  Julian Horton has written, for instance, a piece titled "Romantic Sonata Form and the Tyranny of Classicism" that is about how Elements so favors the Classic era it skews discussion and perception of Romantic era approaches to sonata form and 19th century approaches.  Since Horton has written quite a bit about Brahms and Bruckner this would ... not exactly be a surprise.  For those curious to read Horton's piece go here.

http://dro.dur.ac.uk/23077/1/23077.pdf

"Tyranny of classicism" is kind of a strong way to put things and since in American musicology post-Susan McClary there are American musicologists who might regard the entire topic of sonata forms as a "tyranny of classicism" Horton's title can come across like an intra-classical music battle that could not literally be more academic.

Paul Wingfield registered some concerns about the Mozart-centric approach of Hepokoski & Darcy in 2008.  As Wingfield put it, "The main aim of my concluding remarks is to sketch an alternative approach with particular reference to sonata‐form works of the first half of the nineteenth century."

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1468-2249.2008.00283.x

Fans of and advocates for Romantic era music can find the approach of Elements troublesome and inaccurate.  At the risk of invoking some claims made by writers like Cornelius Cardew and John Tilbury in Stockhausen Serves Imperialism, there might be another way to approach Elements of Sonata Theory besides academic musicology and theory battles about whether the proposed elements properly account for 19th century sonata forms. 

What could we do with the concepts in the theory in discussing contemporary music?  The usefulness of the theory may not merely lay in whether it lets us account for a Brahms symphony or a Lizst piano sonata, although it may do that or it may not--there's also such a thing as taking Types 1 through 5 as flexible scripts that can be used to develop sonata forms in styles that historically have never been considered suitable for sonata forms or even inimical by nature to sonata as a developmental process.

To be more blunt, I read Elements of Sonata Theory and was able to use the concept of "rotation" and the range of sonata types and formal components described in the book as a springboard for composing ragtime sonata forms.  It's a simple process to determine that the P and the S with C regions can correspond to the A and B strains of a ragtime, or the AA and BB space that the respective strains occupy.  Instead of literal or embellished repetitions of an A or a B strain the space where repetition would happen can be treated as a "zone" that can serve as a modulating transition or a developmental episode.  AABBA in a Joplin style rag can become an exposition with a first theme, a transition, a second theme, and a developmental space that can forestall the return of the A material until it can become both the return of the A strain that would be conventional in a ragtime piece and also the recapitulation of the first thematic group typical of a sonata form.  The S material could be regarded as the B strain and, crucially, we can observe in early rag that it was not uncommon for composers of rag to end works with a recapitulation of A or, more commonly, B strains.

In Rags and Ragtime: A Musical History (9780486259222) David A. Jasen and Trebor Jay Tichenor catalog the rags and forms of the rags written by early pioneers of the style.  What is most notable in their discussion of Charles Leslie Johnson is they point out that his most common structure can be graphed out as AABBACCBB.   You can find this on pages 38-46 if you want to read through the structures of Johnson's rags for yourself. 

So if one of the early ragtime composers made a habit of closing with B strains (i.e. Theme 2 material) in close to half his composed rags as chronicled by Jasen and Tichenor then we have a precedent for arguing that a ragtime sonata form should be simple enough.  Rather than C material we could transform what in a Joplin rag would be the second B and return of A sections into a development section and what would traditionally be a CCDD passage can become the recapitulation of A with a non-modulating transition that leads to B (i.e. Theme 1 and Theme 2 respectively).  Theme 2 could be repeated so as to affirm the kinds of structural repetitions that are typical of classic ragtime. 

Now having spent a good chunk of my own time studying sonata forms by guitarist composers such as Molitor, Matiegka, Diabelli, Carulli, Sor, Giuliani and other late 18th/early 19th century guitarist composers I can say that the Type 2 category has been a useful category in guitar scholarship and it has been since the advent of Hepokoski and Darcy's Elements that I've noticed any long-form analyses of guitar sonatas at all.  Fans of 19th century symphonic and piano music from the Romantics may object to a Mozart-centric approach to Elements but the elements are useful even when used to analyze recent works.  I can use the concept of "rotation" to explain how sonata movements work in living composers such as Dusan Bogdanovic and Angelo Gilardino, which I hope to do some time in 2020.  There is no requirement in Hepokoski and Darcy's book that you have to use all the elements of sonata theory they propose, after all.  If some elements are useful then use them, if not, then don't.

What I have found useful is the general theory that sonata forms can be approached as flexible scripts rather than rigid plans and, to that end, I've been playing with writing sonata forms in ragtime styles.  It is also possible to take the concept of "rotation", the proposal that themes appear in a set order across exposition, development and recapitulation, and use this in ways that are not specified by Hepokoski or Darcy but which are obviously latent in the concept itself.  Let me put it this way, the concept of "rotation" can let a composer create an exposition that has a theme in a ragtime style which could be transformed into a blues theme, even a theme played using bottleneck technique, in the recapitulation.  The concept of "deformation" is flexible enough to provide for the possibility that when Theme 2 returns it can be drastically changed in terms of style and could become a new secondary developmental space in which Theme 2 can become the basis of variations. 

To give a musical example where all of the above happens ... go over here.  Ragtime sonata exposition with three themes is presented that is followed up by a development; recapitulation brings back Theme 1 and when Theme 2 is set to return there's an interrupting episodes with bottleneck technique that invokes Theme 3 from the exposition as a slide guitar solo before launching into Theme 2 as a set of variations on a hymn from Southern Harmony in the style of Blind Willie Johnson as a separate variation form that is completed with the return of Theme 3, which is no longer in ragtime style but has been recomposed to fit more into an early 1970s R&B or funk sound. 

I get that Julian Horton thinks that Elements doesn't adequately account for things that go on in Brahms or Bruckner, for instance.  I like a lot of Brahms.  Brahms is one of the few nineteenth century composers I actually do like.  Bruckner ... eh ... if you're into Bruckner, alright.   I get that Wingfield feels that Elements slights Clementi and I dug into Clementi's Op. 40 piano sonatas because of the blogging of Kyle Gann.  I would actually advise guitarists to skip Mozart and study Clementi because if you want to learn how to work with monothematic sonatas (a term Hepokoski and Darcy reject, I think, without sufficiently compelling reasons) you'll benefit from studying Clementi and Haydn.  Given the limited resources of the guitar studying those composers will, I think, be more beneficial.  Guitarists can often be accused of bashing the same narrow range of riffs over and over in popular music and classical guitar literature so, hey, if you're going to do that anyway, Clementi's way of comprehensively reworking and developing a single set of gestural ideas is something guitarists could only benefit from. 

Yes, I agree that the concept of "rotation" is too hard and fast as used by Hepokoski and Darcy.  But as I've already mentioned, the concept of rotation shows up in guitar sonatas by Bogdanovic and Gilardino, whose sonatas are decidedly not in anything like traditionally tonal musical languages of the eighteenth century variety. 

As I was saying before, there's no requirement all of the "elements" be used at the same time.  I have found it most useful to combine the Elements approach to macrostructure with William Caplin's microstructural observations about classical forms.  Caplin is strong where Hepokoski and Darcy are vague and vice versa.  Matthew Riley freely availed himself  of both approaches in analyzing the minor key symphony in Vienna in the era of Haydn and Mozart, a book I am going to have to write about at some point in the future.   When Riley talks about the role of the major key tutti passage that often appears in transitions in minor key sonata movements of symphonies he points out that the tutti passage can often play the role of creating a propulsive continuation phrase in a recapitulation.  If your experience is more with popular music then I'm going to be free-wheeling here and say that the role of the "tutti" in transitional passages in minor key sonata movements from symphonies could be likened to any tutti passage in a James Brown song where he shouts "Take me to the bridge!" or just "Hit me!" and the whole band kicks in with a rambunctious bridge passage to the next part of the song. 

The fact that I just made a comparison and linkage between Haydn symphonies in minor keys and James Brown songs should give you a clearer idea of what I am interested in doing.  We have the conceptual and theoretical tools in contemporary music analysis to develop ways to approach sonata forms drawing inspiration from ragtime, country, blues, soul, funk and any number of other popular or vernacular styles.  This could be easily done but it won't be done by academic musicologists because ... to go by the way academics are discussing Elements of Sonata Theory in particular, turf wars abound about whether the elements and the theory "work" and if they "work" for nineteenth century music or not.  In other words, these theories are being debated and discussed by theorists as theorists, not as composers or practicing musicians. 

When I finished reading Elements of Sonata Theory my first inspiration was not to use it to analyze Clementi or Bruckner, my first inspiration was to go write a sonata using ragtime that could then transform into Texas style gospel blues in the recapitulation.  That's what I wanted to do ... but the small sampling of writing about Elements I've referenced highlights an implicit contrast that I have attempted to make explicit here.  Where academics could debate whether P and S and C can't be reversed in a recapitulation I think more in terms of P could be a theme by Thelonious Monk, S could be a theme by Ellington, C could be discarded or be an original theme or something--the idea being that if the "time space" a la George Rochberg's theory about music occupying space in a linear/directional musical work can be invoked, then there's no reason Theme 1 and Theme 2 in a sonata can't be jazz standards. 

Given that Haydn and Clementi wrote monothematic sonata movements, there's no reason that a suitably selected head tune by Ellington or Monk couldn't become the self-contained basis for a slow sonata movement, for instance.  The things you could do with "Pannonica" as a sonata-fantasia movement ...  You could compose a sonata form in which Theme 1 could be Ellington's "Morning Glory" and Theme 2 could be "`Round Midnight" for instance.  If jazz can often seem trapped in the routine of continuous variation then break out of continuous variation by transforming that continuous variation into some kind of sonata form.  You could do some kind of Charles Ives approach and develop a cumulative form in which all sorts of riffs and ideas develop in quasi-sonata formats and eventually culminate in the revelation that the foundational theme is something by Monk or Coltrane.  Instead of playing "Giant Steps" ad infinitum the way jazz bros do what if it were used as a springboard for a two-part or three-part invention? 

Of course I have favored ragtime because the majority of ragtime is gloriously public domain, so if I wanted to compose a big solo guitar sonata on a ragtime by Joseph Lamb that's public domain I'll do that rather than try to tinker with music that is still under copyright.  That's a pragmatic reason to favor writing ragtime sonata forms but it's an important reason.  Ragtime is part of the musical roots that grew into jazz, and ragtime also has had a formative influence on Tin Pan Alley songwriting and country.  Rag is the musically liminal space between classical and jazz and popular music in American music and it's a gorgeous musical style and tradition I've loved playing with much of my adult life.  There's no need to experiment with jazz theme foundations for sonata forms if it's just going to run afoul of copyright issues when the wealth of early and classic ragtime has, since 2019, passed into the realm of the public domain. 

It's not that I want to tell Bruckner fans to shut up or stop liking Bruckner, it's that debates about whether someone's theories about sonata forms explain Bruckner or Brahms isn't the only way to discuss theories.  I've made a point of using Hepokoski and Darcy's work and William Caplin's work as a springboard for exploring the possibilities of incorporating ragtime into sonata forms because if I can take ideas from Joseph Lamb or James Scott or Scott Joplin and make sonatas out of ragtime strains then the path to doing something similar with themes by Ellington or Armstrong or Hardin or Charlie Parker or Monk or any other jazz masters has become that much easier to navigate.

I hope I have made it somewhat clear that boundary defining gambits don't just exist in classical music, they exist in jazz and in every other style of music.  An academic approach can set down boundary markers for jazz, rock, blues, country, hip hop, pop, classical, aleatoric music, you name it. 

If we can figure out how to write sonatas and fugues on ragtime riffs then it should be a matter of dedication, effort and time before something comparable could be done with bass lines in an Aretha Franklin song or guitar riffs played by Don Helms. 

We can let scholars debate whether this or that theory adequately explains what was going on in the music of the past and that's what scholars can do.  I'm interested in playing with the possibilities that some of these theories about music from the past can open up in music-making in the present.  If we can't recover the lost Scott Joplin piano concerto we can, at least, attempt to compose ragtime sonatas that get in the general direction he might have been able to go in had he not died so young. 


Thursday, October 03, 2019

Mark and Grace Driscoll book Win Your War is out through Charisma House with some endorsements from Larry Osborne and Eric Metaxas among others

About twenty years ago when I first heard of Mars Hill Church and met Mike, Mark and Lief I did not imagine that things would go the way they have gone.

I also never imagined that one day I would see photos of an older Mark Driscoll and think that he looks, increasingly, like Pat Robertson.

Although Mark Driscoll gave an hours-long teaching session back in 2008 on spiritual warfare there's a book out, and the new book is on spiritual warfare.  Whether or not Mark Driscoll still believes that having womens' ministry in a church is "like juggling knives" is something I can decide to find out later.

Gerry Breshears has decided to endorse the new book, which you can see if you look at the preview options for the book at your local online retailer.

There's some promise that the new book will be full of insights drawn from personal experience.  What this promise reminds me of is that I had to listen to the 2008 marathon back when it was first released and it was one of a variety of reasons why I decided I could not and would not renew membership at Mars Hill Church.  In time, of course, I began to believe it was necessary to chronicle a lot of the things I observed that I believed the conventional and even alternative press were not adequately addressing but there's the whole blog for that.

The new book may feature a good deal of ideas and concepts that are not particularly new to Mark Driscoll.  There were ideas he shared among leaders that were not necessarily being broadcast for the congregation at large.  One of the more notable statements he made in the 2008 session was asserting that there was a demonic lie out there that the executive elders of Mars Hill didn't love the people of the church called Mars Hill.  The extent to which Mark Driscoll seemed to demonize dissent was a compelling reason to withhold renewing membership even without knowing what later came to light about the kangaroo court trials against Bent Meyer and Paul Petry respectively.  For those not already familiar with those words:






I think one of the great myths that has come about (it's a demonic lie) is that myself, the executive elders, the senior leaders we don't care about people. [emphasis added] I was the only one who did ANY counseling until we had 800 people. We still do tons of shepherding, counseling, spiritual warfare, conflict. But we try to do so in a way that is humble, that isn't "and here is who I served and here are the demons we cast out and here's the list of people that I've healed." That's demonic. The truth is I love the people as much--actually, more than anyone in this church. And the senior leaders, the campus pastors, the departmental leaders, the executive elders love the people in this church as much or more than anyone else in this church. [emphasis added] And one of my great concerns is not just, "Can you hold hands and help sheep?" but "can you also flip the staff over and defend against a wolf?"  You HAVE to have that discernment, that courage, and that ability to tell someone: "You are in sin. That is false doctrine.  You are not qualified to be a leader. If you do not repent you are not welcome here. And I will speak truthfully to those who want to follow you because my job is for the well-being of the sheep."



That Breshears is willing to endorse a Mark Driscoll book in the wake of the 2013 plagiarism controversy and the early 2014 ResultSource controversy seems ... unfortunate.  

Now I mentioned that Driscoll increasingly reminds me of Pat Robertson and I mean by that that as he ages and grays his hairline has reminded me of Robertson, and the ... kind of Sun Belt grin reminds me of Robertson.  I did not expect this but I grew up in one of those homes where The 700 Club was often watched and, well, I can't say that 1999 Mark Driscoll would receive well any kind of comparison between him and Pat Robertson but times and people change, they assuredly do.

Describing being visited by a disabled middle-school girl as though she were an angel is not something that Driscoll was apt to share from the pulpit.  He shared some stories about encounters with demonic or strange forces from his childhood in the 2008 teaching session.  Should you want to read about that for free you can read the extensive transcript of the 2008 spiritual warfare teachings and the audio is also available for free, if memory serves, at marshill.se and links to the applicable content by way of a post tag and audio are available at a separate page at this blog.

I grew up Pentecostal (Assemblies of God, in the western Oregonian area which, I've long since learned, was the general area that also produced the Pentecostal textual scholar Gordon Fee) but have since gravitated to the Reformed tradition and am more or less Presbyterian.  I am not a cessationist as would normally be defined.  However, I did have significant disagreements with spiritual warfare as formulated in Pentecostal circles and the 1990s were, for those who recall them and were exposed to spiritual warfare instruction, a kind of peak in the publishing fad and also showing up on the heels of recovered memory counseling techniques.

I would not be surprised if Driscoll would still be open to using recovered memory counseling approaches.  Reactions to his semi-notorious "I see things" commentary from 2008 tend to focus on the visions and whether he really has them or not and although I've written about that at some length in the past my overarching concern is that in 2008 Driscoll espoused approaches to spiritual warfare and pastoral counseling involving techniques that have been pretty thoroughly discredited in the last thirty years where recovered memory counseling goes.  

For earlier writing, should you want to read it, that I've done on this range of topics.

Mark Driscoll, "I see things", cessationists, prophets, and recovered memories

http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2011/12/mark-driscoll-i-see-things.html

Healing of memories and recovered memories as a form of deception and counseling abuse

http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2010/05/healing-of-memories-and-recovered.html


2-5-2008 spiritual warfare Part 3 part 3 commentary 1, getting the "i see things" out of the way, leveraging recovered memories & the possible political significance of "i see things" in the wake of the 2007 firings.

It's in the context of Mark Driscoll's instruction to Mars Hill leadership in the wake of the 2007 firings that it's enlightening to read his claims to being able to "see things".  The things he claimed to see were things related to physical and sexual violence and infidelity, to go by the 2008 teaching, though Driscoll has claimed to have received prophetic dreams as well.  Driscoll has also said from the pulpit that he has prayed for God to kill someone on at least one occasion and claimed that God answered his prayer.  
So as far back as 2005 Driscoll had said from the pulpit he prayed one time that if a person would not repent God would kill the man and that God did so.  This claim was softened by the time it was alluded to in a Driscoll book.  
Spiritual Warfare
February 5, 2008
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Christus Victor (Part 3)


19:19
On occasion I see things. I see things. Like I was meeting with one person, and they didn't know this but they were abused when they were a child and I said, "When you were a child, you were abused. This person did this to you, physically touched you this way." They said, "How do you know?" I said, "I don't know, it's like I got a TV right here and I'm seeing it." They said, "No, that never happened." I said, "Go ask them. Go ask if they actually did what I think they did and I see that they did."  They went and asked this person, "When I was a little kid did you do this?" and the person said, "Yeah [slowly], but you were only like a year or two old. How do you remember that?" They said, "Well, Pastor Mark told me." I'm not a guru. I'm not a freak. I don't talk about this. If I did talk about it everybody'd want to meet with me and I'd end up like one of those guys on TV, but some of you have this visual ability to see things. [emphasis added]

20:13
There was one woman I dealt with, she never told her husband that she had committed adultery on him early in the relationship. I said:
"You know (she was sitting there with her husband), you know I think the root of all this is Satan has a foothold in your life because you never told your husband about that really tall blond guy that you met at the bar. And then you went back to the hotel, and you laid on your back, and you undressed yourself, and he climbed on top of you, and you had sex with him, and snuggled up with him for a while, and deep down in your heart (even though you had just met him) you desired him because (secretly) he is the fantasy body type."

I said:
"You remember that place, it was that cheap hotel with that certain colored bedspread. You did it--you had sex with the light on because you weren't ashamed and you wanted him to see you and you wanted to see him."

She's just looking at me, like ...

I said, "You know, it was about ten years ago." I see everything.
She looks at her husband.  He says, "Is that true?" She says, "Yeah. He was 6'2", blonde hair, blue eyes. Yeah."

Some of you, when you're counseling, you will see things. You will literally get the discernment to see things. I can't even explain it. It doesn't happen all the time.

Sometimes your counselee, they will see things. I found this with people, I'm, okay,-like, "I'm gonna ask the demon questions, you tell me what they say."  They don't say anything. I say, "What do you hear?" and they say, "Nothing, but I'm seeing stuff." "What, oh, oh. What's that?"
"I'm seeing, you know, when I was little, my grandpa molested me. I didn't know that."
I said, "Well, let's not assume it's true. Go ask your grandpa." Grandpa says, "Yeah [slowly], when you were little I molested you." Grandpa was assuming they'd be too young to remember so he'd only molest grandkids up until a certain age. But they saw it. Supernatural. It's a whole other realm. It's like the Matrix. You can take the blue pill. You can take the red pill.  You can go into this whole other world and that's the way it works.

So I say tell me everything you hear, tell me everything you see and sometimes I see things, too. I see things, too.  I've seen women raped.

I've seen children molested. I've seen people abused. I've seen people beaten. I've seen horrible things done. Horrible things done.

I've seen children dedicated in occult groups, and demons come upon them as an infant by invitation and I wasn't present for any of it but I've seen it, visibly.

Upon occasion when I get up to preach I see, just like a [makes "whif" sound] screen in front of me, I'll see somebody get raped or abused and I'll track `em down and say, "Look, I had this vision, let me tell you about it." All true.  One I had, I was sitting in my office at the old Earl building.  This gal walks by, nice gal, member of the church. This was when the church was small.  And there just like a TV was there and I saw the night before her husband threw her up against the wall, had her by the throat, was physically violent with her and she said, "That's it. I'm telling the pastor." And he said, "If you do, I'll kill you." He was a very physically abusive man. She was walking by and I just saw it. Just like a TV.
  [emphasis added] I said, "Hey! come here for a sec. ... Last night did your husband throw you against the wall and have you by the throat, physically assault you and tell you if you told anyone he would kill you?" She just starts bawling. She says, "How did you know?" I said, "Jesus told me." I call the guy on the phone, "Hey, I need you to come to the office." Didn't give him any clue. [He] comes in. I said, "What did you do to your wife last night?  Why'd you this? Why'd you throw her against the wall?" And he gets very angry, they're sitting on the couch, he says, "Why did you tell him?"  I said, "She didn't, Jesus did." Jesus did.

There are people who are hyper-spiritual total freaks. They make stuff up.  They hear from demons. They pretend to have insight and discernment and there are some people who have real gift of discernment, and I'm not saying I'm 100% always right with it, but some of you are gonna have gift of discernment and you need to, you need to grow to learn in the use of that gift. Sometimes people will hear things. Sometimes people will see things.


And for all that in 2008 ... Result Source happened.  Driscoll and company thought it was basically just fine to rig the New York Times bestseller list so that Real Marriage could become a bestseller.  For that matter, Mark Driscoll still had a plagiarism controversy sparked by a fateful interview with Janet Mefferd.  Driscoll's visions, as he's described them, tended to revolve around sexual infidelity and abuse and not things like copyright infringement or wire fraud or dubious fundraising ethics.  That those visions were part and parcel of a larger counseling approach that involved recovered memories can be easily forgotten in light of the blunt claims themselves.  

But something else was not clear in 2008 to those who were still at Mars Hill, which is that the combination of Driscoll having a history of claiming to "see things" and "reading their mail", combined with a claim to be able to pray that people in unrepentant sin could be killed by God, cumulatively suggest a context within which Mars Hill leadership was being told by Driscoll in roundabout terms that he could decide that dissent was satanic as a matter of principle and that if that satanic dissent wasn't repented of there was a tacit option of praying dissenters could be divinely dealt with.  Overall, the sum of Mark Driscoll's 2008 instruction in the wake of 2007 governance changes and trials suggests a pattern in which dissent was literally as well as figuratively regarded as demonic and satanic. Now that Grace Driscoll is listed on staff handling womens ministry it is probably no longer the case that Mark Driscoll thinks that having a womens ministry at all "it's like juggling knives" or that it's the cesspool where all the gossips and busybodies are ... although given how integral personal anecdote is to Mark Driscoll's instructional approach someone could legitimately ask whether gossip is actually inextricably woven into his way of discussing any biblical text.  If one were to take away Mark Driscoll's talk about real estate acquisitions and leadership additions from a sermom circa 2006 you might find a sermon goes from about 71 minutes to 27 minutes when all the Mars Hill Church specific stuff is edited out.

There are, in other words, some compelling reasons the likes of Gerry Breshears and Eric Metaxas should have thought better of endorsing a new Driscoll book on spiritual warfare.  

Whether Mark Driscoll's views are different now than they were in 2008 is something that, maybe, could be tackled at some other time.  For the time being it's not something I'm tackling.  I find it interesting that post-plagiarism scandal surrounding A Call to Resurgence and Driscoll's other earlier books, Mark Driscoll has shifted away from manifestos for church planters and pastors in favor of variations on the self-help manual.  His endorsers are also more observably from charismatic or new apostolic circles, which makes the stragglers still willing to endorse him from the Mars Hill era stand out.  There's no James MacDonald endorsement this time around like there was for Spirit-Filled Jesus, for instance.

There is a lot here that you can read if you want to go through a chronicle of stuff Mark Driscoll has said and done from the Mars Hill Church era.  He's repositioned himself on a few issues such as the TULIP but since he self-identified in terms that church historians and theologians call Amyraldianism it's not actually clear he's changed the substance of what he espouses as much as he's modified the branding to fit a new target audience.  Just because Grace Driscoll is in charge of womens ministry at The Trinity Church does not necessarily tell us that Mark Driscoll is in favor of ordaining women ... although maybe he is and just hasn't clarified that yet.

If he has ... that could be a tell that his doctrinal positions can be significantly influenced by whoever is bankrolling his project rather than on the basis of his own study and consideration of texts ... 



POSTSCRIPT  10-4-2019

Warren Throckmorton linked to a video in which Mark Driscoll described what we're seemingly supposed to take to be an angelic visitation by way of a middle-school aged girl with some physical disability in a statement shared at a Gateway Conference.

https://www.wthrockmorton.com/2019/10/02/mark-driscoll-is-touched-by-an-angel/

Now in the clip Driscoll doesn't mention what kind of disability the girl had.  It might be a quirk of the able-bodied or at least the able-bodied of the Mark Driscoll variety speaking at a conference event that the nature of the disability isn't important enough to mention.  It must have been a visible disability of some kind but that could be as simple as needing to wear glasses but that, colloquially, does not tend to be what people reflexively think of as "physical disability", is it?

In any case, the girl is implicitly, it seems, an angel, because Driscoll described how he read a scrap of paper with a Bible verse on it and when he looked up to thank her she was gone.  Whatever the disability was didn't not preclude the girl from ghosting on Mark Driscoll like he was Jim Gordon and the girl was Batman. 

Although depending on how long he took to read the Bible verse there would have been plenty of time for a kid to walk away.  Slow reader, perhaps. 

Throckmorton and video-poster might have misread the encounter, though.  Perhaps Driscoll meant to convey that it was a "touched by an angel" moment or, just as plausible in a charismatic context, perhaps the implication left for an audience to fill in was that the girl was sent by God as a messenger but not as some more literally angelic angel to give Driscoll a message.  Omissions may be more strategic than explanations.  When Driscoll has talked in the past about how his family had to move three times for safety reasons he omitted how long or short the time span was within which he moved his family during his Seattle years.  Three times during " a difficult season" is scarier sounding to a conference audience if they are allowed to imagine the three moves occurred within a few months from one house to one house than if the moves took place over the course of nearly twenty years.  Moving into three homes sounds more troubled and traveled if it is left to an audience to assume the three homes were singular and consecutive than if a family moved into three homes progressively that they at some point alternately occupied on a seasonal basis.  There were sources who said the Driscolls had a place on Lake Chelan and a home in the Puget Sound area and a source mentioned some kind of place the Driscolls reportedly stayed at in the SoCal area.  Whether that's the case or not is a bit less material than an observation about how Mark Driscoll's stories can be vague enough to allow audiences to fill in a lot of blanks that, were a journalist to ask some probing questions, might not get addressed.

If someone were to even claim that Mark Driscoll claimed to be visited by an angel Driscoll could, right now, say something about how he never, in fact, said, it was an angelic visitor.  It was a girl with a physical disability which, we note again, he didn't specify.