Saturday, September 14, 2019

Ourkouzounov-_Balkan songs (based on folk songs from Bulgaria, Bosnia and Serbia)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJ3ldauIQsc

The settings are for small vocal ensemble accompanied by two guitars.  Both as a former choral singer (high school and college) and as a guitarist I find these arrangements very satisfying.  :)


Damon Linker muses upon the pending death of most rock and roll legends and some assorted thoughts on why I wouldn't be a "rockist"

A slightly older piece by Damon Linker on the pending death of most rock legends.

https://theweek.com/articles/861750/coming-death-just-about-every-rock-legend

...
From the beginning, rock music has been an expression of defiance, an assertion of youthful vitality and excess and libido against the ravages of time and maturity. This impulse sometimes (frequently?) veered into foolishness. Think of the early rock anthem in which the singer proclaimed, "I hope I die before I get old." As a gesture, this was a quintessential statement of rock bravado, but I doubt very much its author (The Who's Pete Townshend) regrets having survived into old age.

It's one thing for a young musician to insist it's better to burn out than to fade away. But does this defiance commit the artist to a life of self-destruction, his authenticity tied to his active courting of annihilation? Only a delusional teenager convinced of his own invincibility, or a nihilist, could embrace such an ideal. For most rock stars, the bravado was an act, or it became one as the months stretched into years and then decades. The defiance tended to become sublimated into art, with the struggle against limits and constraints — the longing to break on through to the other side — merging with creative ambition to produce something of lasting worth. The rock star became another in our civilization's long line of geniuses raging against the dying of the light.

Rock music was always a popular art made and consumed by ordinary, imperfect people. The artists themselves were often self-taught, absorbing influences from anywhere and everywhere, blending styles in new ways, pushing against their limitations as musicians and singers, taking up and assimilating technological innovations as quickly as they appeared. Many aspired to art — in composition, record production, and performance — but to reach it they had to ascend up and out of the muck from which they started.

Before rock emerged from rhythm and blues in the late 1950s, and again since it began its long withdrawing roar in the late 1990s, the norm for popular music has been songwriting and record production conducted on the model of an assembly line. This is usually called the "Brill Building" approach to making music, named after the building in midtown Manhattan where leading music industry offices and studios were located in the pre-rock era. Professional songwriters toiled away in small cubicles, crafting future hits for singers who made records closely overseen by a team of producers and corporate drones. Today, something remarkably similar happens in pop and hip-hop, with song files zipping around the globe to a small number of highly successful songwriters and producers who add hooks and production flourishes in order to generate a team-built product that can only be described as pristine, if soulless, perfection. [link to Linker's piece on Taylor Swift hidden in that last phrase]

This is music created by committee and consensus, actively seeking the largest possible audience as an end in itself. Rock (especially as practiced by the most creatively ambitious bands of the mid-1960s: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and the Beach Boys) shattered this way of doing things, and for a few decades, a new model of the rock auteur prevailed. 
...
The veneration of John and Paul withstanding, I regard The Beatles as pop art via committee, an exceptional capable committee but a committee all the same.  Rock is a formulaic popular idiom descended from the legacy of Tin Pan Alley era songwriting mediated by folk influences from blues, country, gospel and shifts in the jazz era into jump band styles, in other words rock as an accumulation and assimilation of elements of popular styles isn't as unique as rock fans may think it is.  As Randall J. Stephens has proposed in his book The Devil's Music, it would be useful for us to remember that rock emerged from R&B, true, but the early pioneers of rock also emerged from identifiably Pentecostal backgrounds.  The history of musical innovation isn't "just" rebels and rock stars flipping the proverbial bird to the established power, even if rock fans and rockists would like to imagine that any musical history worth telling is that core story.  In Deuteronomy 31, after all, we read of Moses being instructed to teach the Israelites a song, a song that would be a witness against them when they disobeyed, and there's a case to be made that the "song" can be understood as making reference to a song but at a more general level the Torah itself (and if you're game to read a not too technical overview of interpretation of Deut 31 and redaction analysis head over here).

Not every variation of "corporate rock still sucks" is a benevolent cry.  I'll just be blunt and point out that when Richard Wagner wrote his anti-semitic rants he may have thought he was just declaring some version of what we could translate into the contemporary vernacular of "corporate music has no soul". The trouble was (and is) that there are people whose idea of what that means involves a history of vitriolic polemic against Jews.

I should probably put cards on the table, as the idiom has it, and say that I'm not a rockist or exactly a poptimist.  I admire Stevie Wonder and Joseph Haydn, I admire Blind Willie Johnson and Bela Bartok, I enjoy Johnny Cash and William Byrd.  I'm not against canons that have developed through a mixture of popularity and scholarship but I am against what Richard Taruskin has described as the Matthew Arnold style of art-religion.    To borrow some observations written by Michael Markham at the LA Review of Books:

...
poptimism itself emerged as a backlash against a hegemonic order of criticism. The complaints of forced conformity hurled at poptimists today are nearly identical to the ones they themselves were lobbing at the music journalism establishment 10 years ago. According to the poptimists, the preceding “rockist” dominance excluded an awful lot of music, and thus an awful lot of people, in its obsessive praise of “white guy rock” from Led Zeppelin to Nirvana. Left out of serious music writing in the ’70-’90s was disco, funk, hip hop, soft R&B, and romantic balladeers (“chick” music to rockists, the only women who counted being the few who “rock”), a list of what most people were listening to. Austerlitz admits that a strong turn toward “pop” was a necessary corrective step to “undo the original sin of rock ’n’ roll: white male performers’ co-opting of established styles and undeservedly receiving credit as musical innovators.” It was an antidote to what he, himself, calls “‘Rolling Stone disease,’ whereby Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen were treated as geniuses and the likes of Marvin Gaye and Madonna as mere pop singers.”


The result, according to Kelefa Sanneh, in what is widely regarded as one of the first (2004) important manifestos of poptimism, is bad, or at least myopic, journalism. Rockism took little account of the real cultural impact of music in favor of an imagined ideal audience and a museum of “serious” works “increasingly far removed from the way most people actually listen to music.”
...

Part of a rockist mentality could, to allude once again to the work of Randall J. Stephens, focus on rock as emerging from just R&B as if there were no roots in the music that can be traced back to Pentecostal musical traditions in black and white churches.  As an ex-Pentecostal I find this avenue of scholarly exploration intriguing because it reminds me that while I have a few differences of conviction from Pentecostalism as a tradition regarding second blessing teaching and eschatology I still admire the ways in which early Pentecostalism insisted upon dismantling color lines.  There was a swift and unfortunate tendency toward segregation but that's another topic for another time.

Now ... sometimes I'm tempted to write an essay on why Jeff Buckley was the male hipster version of Mariah Carey ... but I don't feel like writing that yet.  I like some Jeff Buckley songs and Carey has some songs that, if they're on the radio, I prefer them to Greenday songs.

I still hate Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll".  I find that I hate music that celebrates itself, more or less regardless of style.  So I hate the Seger rockist anthem passionately.  There are musical works about music that I love, like Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" but that exception more or less proves the rule.  Wonder's post-Motown lover letter to the greats of the big band era is not a song that is about the musical style the song is written in.  It's more like a musical demonstration that so many joyous and beautiful things about 1970s era soul and R&B grew up from ideas you can hear, if you have the ears for it, in Ellington, Miller, Basie, Armstrong and Fitzgerald.  Wonder's song is a celebration of music as a form of musical history that celebrates named influences.  Seger's rock anthem rejects tango, disco and other styles.  If you can't get into Astor Piazzolla, alright. Not everyone enjoys his work.  If you can't appreciate anything about disco, well, okay ... but that gets at another element about the Seger anthem I find detestable, the abjection of other styles as part of what is ostensibly a celebration of "old time rock and roll".  As I've been alluding to early rock history, the boundaries between early rock and Pentecostal music can be a matter of the lyrics.  Ray Charles incensed a few church folks by retooling well-known gospel songs into songs about money, women and sex.

Another reason I couldn't exactly be a rockist is ... to joke about it, Presbyterians basically don't rock, do they?  Fred Rogers became a national treasure but the ordained Presbyterian minister was basically anti-rock in terms of persona and musical style.

So Damon Linker is right to point out the obvious, the rock and roll legends are all gonna die here before too long.  Rock and roll will surely die, contra Neil Young, both as a musical style (it's already faded into the past) and even as an ethos.  For many a Pentecostal to say that someone acted like a rock star would be to say that they had vulgar and obscene ways of talking and that they celebrated carnality, criminality and the kids should be discouraged from behaving that way.  While rockists might celebrate the rebel yell ... that reminds me ... how "sincere" was Billy Idol?  Maybe there's a kind of paradoxical camp to the authenticity of rock.  Linker seems to recognize this but, well, rock is rock to Linker.

If I had bought any pop albums since ... Portishead's 3rd doesn't count ... probably neither does Johnny Cash's desolate American V ... and before that ... Bjork's Vespertine ... I haven't bought a whole lot of pop albums in this century. It's not that I'm particularly against popular songs even.  A lot of my personal exploring has been figuring out what ways there are to burn down the boundaries between "high" and "low" in musical processes and forms so that classical and popular song, to some degree, can have a restored synergistic relationship.  As Charles Rosen put it, this was the possibly singular achievement of Haydn and Mozart, later Beethoven, and Schubert ... but I would contend that successful amalgams of "high" and "low" have persisted since that time and that Rosen was too narrow in the way he delineated his conception of a successful fusion of "pop" and "rock".

As I get older and think back on the 1990s I sometimes have these moments where I think about how Jeff Buckley can be thought of as the indie rock hipster male equivalent of Mariah Carey because basically he was. He did Leonard Cohen covers and Van Morrison covers and sang a Benjamin Britten song, if memory serves, and had a multi-octave voice and his singing was in some ways more polished than the craft of the lyrics he wrote and in all sorts of ways he was the Mariah Carey equivalent but when I was in college plenty of guys and gals who wouldn't listen to Mariah carey would listen to Jeff Buckley.  Yet in terms of cultural suffusion and influence we've heard "All I Want for Christmas is You" thousands of times in the last twenty years.  Carey has had more cultural impact, by far, than Jeff Buckley.  Of course a rockist of the Robert Christgau variety consigned Carey and Buckley to the same swath of not-rock which may reinforce the point. 

But the older I get the more I get a sense from reading about music that there are a lot of extramusical cultural values that are injected into discussions of music and that there has been, as Raymond Knapp has indicated in his work, a legacy of German Idealism playing out in Anglo-American musicology and music criticism that I think people are rebelling against and I am sympathetic to that rebellion.  My concern, because I admit to being moderately conservative about a lot of stuff, is that our moment of American rebellion against the hegemonic influence of German Idealism and post-Beethoven art-as-religion has been retroactively held against the entire Western literate musical tradition.  This runs the risk of replicating ... I'll just call it the moral failures of the German Idealist art-religion venture but on behalf of American popular music over against European art music. 

I've written recently about my concern that Wesley Morris flipped the script of the Romantic era derived mythology of the innovative artist-prophet-hero so that it's black American popular music rather than white European symphonic music.  I believe we should reject the script altogether rather than flipping the script.  I know that there are people who would reject the "classicist" approach but Leonard B. Meyer's proposal that we've never actually left the legacy of the Romantic era and that the Romantic legacy has played out both in terms of the high modernist idioms that evolved out of Romantic ideology on the one hand and on the other hand has given us an ideology of "elite egalitarianism" as well as formulating what Richard Taruskin has described as a Matthew Arnold style art religion, all that is to suggest that what poptimists may have trying to dismantle is the German Idealist project and its baleful effects in American music education and criticism, as chronicled in part by Douglas Shadle. 

I'm okay with that despite the fact that my favorite classical composers include Bach and Haydn.  I don't think Bach or Haydn made art their religion, they had their respective Lutheran and Catholic convictions.  To be a bit playful and provocative, that rock and roll emerged in part from a Pentecostal movement within which worshipping in racially mixed groups was one of the points can be a reminder that, yes, there's a history of religious groups defying segregating impulses, as the Quakers began to do long ago and as Pentecostals did a century ago.  If there is a signal failure in the rockist mythology it may be at precisely this point, that the rockist ideology so lives in the body and celebrates the body that there can be a de facto definition of R&B in terms of a race narrative that can ignore the role religion and class played as part of the emergence of rock.  That rock and soul were pioneered by bad Pentecostals sticks with me, ex-Pentecostal that I am.  As I'm reading Randall J. Stephens' book on Christians and rock it's interesting to read his observation that the group that most readily embraced Christian rock was the group that historically rejected it as a defilement of church music, Pentecostals.  It's not that surprising a thesis that the religious community that helped birth rock would, after a period of rejecting it, manage to incorporate it successfully into its culture by recognizing that if they helped invent it then the music, as music, didn't have to be about sex and drugs and defiance if generations earlier the music was singing about Jesus.  But by then rock and evolved rapidly in twentyyears and so ...

Christian rock has been held in contempt and not without reasons.--the South ark episode "Christian Rock Hard" remains the double myrrh standard satire of how and why Christian rock is regarded as lame, yet the episode also plays with the idea that, if you looked at sales, you might find Christian rock was selling better than "real" rock was. Cartman's bet, after all, was he could sell more albums making a Christian rock band than Kyle and Stan would doing "real" rock.

I'd hesitate to say that Taylor Swift's songs display pristine if soulless perfection ... but then I have joked for years that The Beatles were just a boy band that overcame the constraints of their idiom with a lot of help from George Martin.  Rock has been a corporate enterprise both in social terms and economic terms but it depends on a mythology of the auteur in order to insulate itself from the reality of its economic and social foundations within Western capital; rockist mythologies depend on Romantic Byronic art-prophet-hero myths to protect the music from being recognized as the corporate product that it has been.  Poptimism represents an ideological counter to rockism as a polemical stance by highlighting all of the other popular music that is not admitted into the "rock" category and explores the ideological, political, sexual and other grounds by which something that is 'pop" is not granted the status of "rock".  My hunch is a lot of what is at the core of "rock" is an ideology that Leonard B. Meyer described as emblematic of the Romantic era, the ideals of elite egalitarians ... although that's probably best saved as another topic for another post. 

I'm close to being done with Randall J. Stephens' The Devil's Music and it's not ironic, really, that the Pentecostal movement from which early rock and soul pioneers emerged in the 1950s would, by the 1970s, turn out to be pioneers in Christian rock, ballyhooed though the genre often is.

Rock and roll was the peak prestige style of popular music for two generations thanks to journalistic and academic commitments but it's time has passed.  But as has been reported at The Atlantic, when record companies began to measure actual sales more accurately in the 1990s they began to discover that country and hiphop outsold rock.  When the mediating presence of shop owners began to be taken out of measurement it turned out rock wasn't the top selling musical style after all.  The 1990s weren't the beginning of the end of rock so much as they were the era in which more accurate market measurement revealed that rock was, possibly, never the peak of popular music as much as its advocates thought. 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Arthur Farwell Polytonal Studies XX (E flat minor & A major) and XVIII (F minor & F# minor) played by Lisa Cheryl Thomas

E flat minor and A major
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVl0IsJ410A

Arthur Farwell was a pioneer in a musical movement called the Indianist movement that developed in the early 20th century, although this particular work has nothing much to do with that movement as such.  If you guessed that "Indianist" refers to Native American rather than Indian culture from India you guessed correctly.  Farwell was determined that American composers ought to draw on musical inspirations that were ... not-German.  So while arguments that German music has too hegemonic an influence on American musical education might feel relatively new in musicology in the United States for those reading about that it's helpful to remember that there have been Americans who have felt Americans shouldn't be so beholden to German conceptions of musical canonicity going back a century and more.

F minor and F# minor
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWjgjPozqQM

There's still a Romantic vibe to these studies ... think polytonal Chopin, if you will, more than Charles Ives. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

there will be music posts again, eventually

It's just that I've been immersing myself in some reading.   I've been incubating some posts about sonatas by Matiegka, sonatas by Angelo Gilardino (all five of his sonatas are gems), and there's some stuff about ragtime and classical music I'm incubating.  I've also been working my way slowly through a few books I hope to write about.  There's a dense monograph on depictions of Native Americans in "classical music", for want of a better phrase, that I've been working through.  It's how I learned about Samuel Taylor-Coleridge's work, for instance, and I'll eventually get to the "Indianist" Arthur Farwell, whose work I noticed getting some mention by Joseph Horowitz over at his blog at ArtsJournal.   Thanks to his recommendation I read the new Dale Cockrell book.  Cockrell's book Everybody's Doin' It: Sex, Music & Dance in New York 1840-1917 is a swift read. 

I may write a small bit about Cockrell's book in the future but the main reading project of late is Randall J. Stephens' The Devil’s Music: How Christians Inspired, Condemned, and Embraced Rock ’n’ Roll, which is an interesting read.  Stephens has highlighted how the early pioneers of rock and soul, black and white, hailed from Pentecostal church traditions and that one of the paradoxes of early rock was that Pentecostal leaders felt that Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin were doing wrong by church music singing secular songs about sex that sounded similar to church music, while observers who were not Pentecostal could at times complain that the Pentecostal musical style sounded like dance hall music.

Which gets to Cockrell's sweeping, breezy survey of sixty some years of dance hall music evolving in dance halls, dives and tenderloin district scenes where prostitution flourished and musicians developed recursive dance-driving musical styles to keep business brisk.  Cockrell writes at just moderate length at how much racial integration and interaction occurred in this proverbial underbelly of New York and how much of that cultural history is difficult to trawl through because it was populated by people who, as Cockrell describes them, were beneath the level of public record--lots of men and women who were the wrong class or race or sexuality to get mentioned in respectable society by way of newspaper articles ... save for crime reports. 

I'm about halfway through the Stephens book and it's interesting but if you aren't already conversant in a lot of musical styles and also conversant in the theological distinctions necessary to understand the differences between Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Nazarenes and a variety of other Protestant American movements The Devil's Music could alienate a reader very quickly who isn't able to juggle all of the religious movements and the musical movements at the same time.  I'm not finding it difficult but that's because this kind of book is a perfect nexus of two of my hobbies.  Taking the Stephens book with the Cockrell book it feels like these books are confirming a hunch I've had that in European music many of the innovators of the 20th century came from high liturgical traditions while in American music the most historically significant shifts in American popular music, if Stephens' survey of the ways in which early rock was catalyzed by some very, very badly behaved Pentecostals is accurate, emerged from the low liturgical church scenes, so low liturgy that if you were to ask Pentecostals what their liturgy is they would often likely deny they even have one.  I think I can safely say that on account of having been raised Pentecostal into my early 20s. 

I'm just getting to the part of the book where Larry Norman shows up.  It's a fascinating irony that many of the early rock and soul pioneers drew inspiration from church music traditions and then Pentecostal leadership attacked the early rock and soul stars for stealing church music or for being too worldly but, Stephens' points out, there was some uneasiness among Pentecostals about criticisms from outsiders who had more mainstream religious establishment credentials that the Pentecostal musical style seemed too decadent and dance-hall derived to avoid being salacious or crazy.

So, when I finish the book, I want to write a bit about it.  I'm ex-Pentecostal for a variety of reasons but there's some spectacular stuff about the musical traditions I've never felt any reason to cast off. 

And ... there's still that longer form treatment of the possibilities for fusion of ragtime and sonata forms I'm incubating.  That will now entail some analysis of a piano sonata by Richard St. Clair and a ragtime with interrupting fugue by Henry Martin.  You can infer from that description that in order to do that sort of thing a good deal of score study and listening is involved since I "can" play the piano when I have to but it's not my preferred or most fluent instrument. 

I'm still waiting for the eventual release of a recording of all the Atanas Ourkouzounov sonatas.  I will totally buy that CD when it's ready to come out but ... in light of everything I've just written, if it doesn't come out for a while yet, that's alright.  I'm pretty busy as it is. 

HT Jim West, Katharine Gerbner on Quakerism and slavery, they didn't start off as staunchly abolitionist as they were later known to be

https://www.friendsjournal.org/slavery-in-the-quaker-world/
...
Pennsylvania may have been the first “official” Quaker colony, but it was not the first Quaker community in the Americas. There was a large Quaker presence on Barbados, where thousands of Friends lived. In the 1670s, it was called the “Nursery of Truth” because it was so filled with Quakers.

When Pennsylvania was founded in 1682, William Penn and others used their Quaker connections in Barbados to purchase enslaved Africans. As Pennsylvania’s social and economic structure developed, ties with the West Indies and other trade outlets flourished. The trade with Barbados was a source of pride and a symbol of prosperity for many English Quakers who considered slavery to be necessary for economic development.

I realized that I needed to tell this story. Like other stories that are shameful or embarrassing, this one had been largely suppressed in the Quaker histories that I read. Much of the scholarship about Quakers and slavery in the seventeenth century acknowledged that Quakers owned slaves, but they focused on finding the “seed” of abolition in these early Quaker records.

I decided to ask different questions. Instead of reading Quaker abolition back in time, I thought it was important to understand how these slaveholding Quakers fit into their own time. None of them would have predicted the demise of the slave trade or slavery. So if I really wanted to understand them and the relationship between Quakers and slavery, then I needed to take a different approach.

Why did Quakers accept slavery in this period? How did they justify slavery within their theological worldview? How did their views compare to other European Christians who encountered slavery? I also wanted to think about what Christianity might have meant to enslaved and free Black men and women who joined the ranks of the Quakers as well as other denominations. When and why did they convert? These became the questions that fueled my research.
...
Seventeenth‐century Quakers, I came to understand, were radical but not because they were abolitionists. Instead, Quakers like George Fox were radical because they suggested that Blacks and Whites should meet together for worship.

Quakers were not the only Christians persecuted for meeting with enslaved people. As I began to investigate this issue further, I looked beyond the Quaker records to the archives of Protestant denominations⁠: members of the Church of England (Anglicans) as well as other smaller denominations, like the Moravian Church. As I did so, I realized there were some intriguing similarities in their experiences.

In each case, English slave owners attacked Protestant missionaries and enslaved Christians for meeting together. On the island of Saint Thomas, for example, Moravian missionaries and Black converts were beaten and attacked by White colonists. Slave owners stole Bibles from enslaved Christians, and they burned Moravian books.

... English slave owners thought of Christianity⁠—and especially Protestantism⁠—as a religion for free people, and they worried that a baptized slave would demand freedom and possibly rebel. As a result, they excluded most enslaved people from Protestant churches.

I felt that this was an extremely important aspect of early colonial slavery and that it had not been fully recognized. So in my book, I gave it a name: Protestant supremacy. Protestant supremacy, I came to understand, was the forerunner of White supremacy. White supremacy uses racial designation to create inequality. But in the seventeenth century, the concept of race, as we know it, did not exist. And most significantly, the concept of “Whiteness” had not yet been created. So slave owners created the ideology of Protestant supremacy, which used religion to justify slavery.
...
It was in response to free Black Christians like Charles Cuffee that English slaveholders began to create White supremacy. Soon after Cuffee brought his children to the baptismal font, Barbadian lawmakers wrote a new law, redefining citizenship to include the word “white” as well as “Christian.” This was one of the first times that the word “white” was used in the legal records. The law declared that “every white Man professing the Christian Religion … who hath attained to the full Age of One and Twenty Year, and hath Ten Acres of Freehold … shall be deemed a Freeholder.”

Twelve years later, lawmakers refined their definition of Whiteness further. A 1709 law clarified that a “white” person could have “no extract” from “a Negro,” thereby establishing the “one‐drop rule” as the definition of Whiteness and laying a new foundation for slavery and social oppression that made race seem like a natural category⁠—something that was innate.

What we see here is the codification of Whiteness as a legal category that was specifically intended to exclude free Black Christians from the full rights of citizenship. We often take “Whiteness” as a given, but it has a very specific history. We assume that race is a biological reality when it is actually a political category. Slaveholding politicians actively created the category of “Whiteness” as part of a political strategy to protect slave ownership and restrict the voting rights of free Blacks.

With the creation of Whiteness, slave conversion became less threatening. Whiteness, rather than religious difference, became the new way to justify and enforce slavery.
...
This reminds me of something John Gray wrote in Seven Types of Atheism, that when we retrofit earlier epochs with the concept of racism we can make a significant category mistake not so much because there weren't people we could define as racist but because the concept of racism as we know it didn't fully emerge until the Enlightenment.  

There's more to the article than what I've quoted and it's moderately long but that's a fairly hefty summation of the core ideas for the TL:DR sort of reader.

Her monograph looks interesting.  If I hadn't swamped myself with existing reading projects I might have to add her academic monograph to my reading material.  

Monday, September 09, 2019

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic writes on how the three biggest metros in the United States have been shrinking

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/americas-three-biggest-metros-shrinking/597544/

...

In 2018, the New York City area lost more than 100,000 people to other cities and suburbs—that’s 277 people leaving every day. The Los Angeles and Chicago areas lost, respectively, 201 and 161 residents each day. It’s quite a change from the post–Great Recession period, when an urban renaissance was supposedly sweeping the country and all three metro areas were experiencing a population boomlet.
...
For many years, the New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago areas have seen more departures than arrivals among nonimmigrants. Domestic migration to these metros has been negative for most of the 21st century.
...
...
There’s little mystery about where people are heading, or why: They are mostly moving toward sun and some semblance of affordability. The major Texas metros—Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin—have collectively grown by more than 3 million since 2010. The most popular destinations for movers are now Phoenix, Dallas, and Las Vegas, which welcome more than 100,000 new people each year.
...

Having grown up on the western coast of the United States and lived here my whole life I admit to an occasional perplexity at the status of the big three but New York in particular.  I once heard an aspiring jazz musician say that if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere.  So ... why not make it anywhere, where ever that is, and then only go to New York if you feel like it?  

There's more to the article but the core idea being explored is that the big three metropoli of American legend appear to be waning, for now, at least (and possibly for a while yet). 

some riffs at The American Conservative on a debate between Ahmari and French as being about theology, not politics with some ... lively description

Perhaps we could open with ... some purple prose from ... Matt Purple:

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-imperialistic-sohrab-ahmari/

For months now, we’ve been told that so-called fusionist conservatism—the synthesis of traditional Christianity and individual liberty—is dead. In its place is arising something more muscular, more direct, unafraid to harness the power of government to achieve good ends. At the furthest reaches of this new school are those like Sohrab Ahmari, who recommend a bracing dose of Catholic morality delivered unabashedly by the state. The goal is no longer to defend the boundaries of the public square but, as Ahmari puts it, to “fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square reordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.”
He couldn’t even win a debate. Last week, at the Catholic University of America, Ahmari sat down with National Review scribe David French, a fusionist conservative, and was thoroughly trounced. He was unable to defend his most basic positions; matters of constitutional law stumped him. Asked by French what he would actually do to make America more moral, he recommended hauling the “head of the Modern Library Association,” which doesn’t exist, before a committee of Senators Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and Tom Cotton, which also doesn’t exist. The row between these two began when Ahmari accused French of being insufficiently outraged over drag queen reading hours at local libraries. Yet by the end of Ahmari’s performance, even the most ardent social conservative had to be hoping a gay pride float would crash through the debate room wall.
Ahmari has a habit of being uncharitable to articles published on this website, and being a hardened TAC integralist myself, I’m forced now to draw my sword in defense. Because, really. I mean, really. Conservative commentary is more robust and energetic than it’s been at any point since the 1960s, yet we’re sitting here quarreling over whether a Catholic Church that can’t even govern itself should inform the governance of a country only one fifth of whose population is Catholic and of that only some of which actually practice. This is hoppingly, eye-wateringly idiotic, which is why it thrives on Twitter and explodes on contact with real life. That some of the commentary is trending in this direction should embarrass those of us who are Catholic.
Let’s first be clear what we’re not talking about here. This has nothing to do with thoughtful conservatives who want to use antitrust to break up Google or desire a federal ban on abortion or think the government should slap tariffs on Chinese goods. It has nothing to do with whether nationalism is a salutary force in politics or whether the Trump era will turn out well. It also has nothing to do with the fatuous old question of whether we should “legislate morality” (of course we should; are we to legislate sociopathy?). The contention at the heart of Ahmarism is that the government ought to impose a putatively Catholic conception of the common good unchecked by notions of individual liberty and so-called “proceduralism” (which the rest of the planet calls “the rule of law”).
The enemies of Ahmarism, then, are libertarianism with its emphasis on personal freedom, classical liberalism with its rules of governance, and progressivism with its debauched social ethic. These things the Ahmarists roll up into a ball and term “liberalism,” which they then inveigh against in columns that at first were interesting but now sound heavily mad-libbed. As with all ideologues, they refuse to recognize distinctions—between ordered political liberty and unlimited license, for example. As with all fanatics, they blame the enemy for all that’s gone wrong and credit him for nothing that’s gone right. (This is not, I should point out here, a critique of Patrick Deneen, whose Why Liberalism Failed is more a warning of what’s to come than a theocratic alternative. A conversation between Deneen and French would have been genuinely interesting.)
Ahmari’s politics is the sort held primarily by adolescents. It divides the world into easy categories, one strong (Ahmarists), another compromising (liberals), and a third evil (leftists)—and is there really such a difference between those last two at the end of the day? It’s the speech at the end of Team America rinsed in holy water. ...
For anyone who has seen Team America ... that last flourish is something.  Purple goes on and eventually writes:
... Ahmari is, as Burke put it, one “of those democratists who, when they are not on their guard, treat the humbler part of the community with the greatest contempt, whilst, at the same time, they pretend to make them the depositories of all power.”
What this is really about is cultural imperialism, taking America as it is and replacing it with something it’s never been. ...
Emma Ayers' take at TAC is that the debate was not really about politics but about theology.
Last Thursday, at Washington D.C.’s Catholic University of America, two representatives from different sides of the conservative divide faced off. The New York Post’s Sohrab Ahmari and National Review’s David French sat in armchairs on a Heritage Hall platform, flanking moderator and New York Times commentator Ross Douthat. 
Before the debate even began, there was a pseudo-hysteric energy permeating the room. Everyone’s brow seemed a little furrowed, perhaps because we’d all arrived expecting an ideological brawl. And boy did we get one. French had shown up in a mood of obvious indignation—and understandably so. It was out of nowhere that Ahmari had lambasted his moral and political courage in a May First Things piece. Throughout the evening, sincere anger over that attack peeked through French’s speech, and with each personal goad on the part of Ahmari, his face grew redder and redder. Indeed, when Ahmari cast suspicion on French’s bravery during his service in Iraq, Douthat, positioned between the two, appeared a little afraid for his physical welfare.
Yet in the end, it was all a circus, a pointless display. Because the two men ultimately weren’t arguing about politics, on which they might have found common ground. They were arguing about theology and faith.
...


Politico has run a long-form piece on Jerry Falwell Jr and Liberty University ... and GetReligion's Bobby Ross Jr. regards the lack of named insider sources as a core shortcoming in the piece

There's an extended piece at Politico about Jerry Falwell Jr. and while it makes for an interesting long-read ... Get Religion has in many respects zeroed in on how a lot of the material is from on the record stuff that's been reported by now and a lot of the new stuff is anonymous statements from people who aren't sourced.  A fairly simple for instance ...

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/09/09/jerry-falwell-liberty-university-loans-227914
...
Longtime Liberty officials close to Falwell told me the university president has shown or texted his male confidants—including at least one employee who worked for him at Liberty—photos of his wife in provocative and sexual poses.

At Liberty, Falwell is “very, very vocal” about his “sex life,” in the words of one Liberty official—a characterization multiple current and former university officials and employees interviewed for this story support. In a car ride about a decade ago with a senior university official who has since left Liberty, “all he wanted to talk about was how he would nail his wife, how she couldn’t handle [his penis size], and stuff of that sort,” this former official recalled. Falwell did not respond to questions about this incident.
...
no names named ... apart from Falwell Jr.  Not that Wenatchee The Hatchet didn't hear a Christian celebrity going on and on about how awesome sex is and how hot his wife is in the Puget Sound area from roughly 2000 to 2009 ... what's reported is almost boilerplate for a dude-bro sort of preacher. 

The Get Religion response is significantly shorter ...
https://www.getreligion.org/getreligion/2019/9/9/sorry-but-politicos-long-expos-on-jerry-falwell-jr-lacks-adequate-named-sources-to-be-taken-seriously

That there's a potential case that insider dealing has been going on might merit further investigation ... but if relatively few people are willing to go on record then it will involve a lot of digging.